Fort Smith Board considers sanitation schedules, sets special meeting for new jobs project

by Aric Mitchell ( 389 views 

The Fort Smith Sanitation Department requested the Board consider a return to task-based work scheduling used from 1989 through August 2016. The request came at a Tuesday (Nov. 14) study session in which City Administrator Carl Geffken announced a potential economic development deal that would bring 150 new jobs to the city.

The Board spent most of its time Tuesday discussing the merits of moving sanitation workers back to a task-based system that would allow them to end their workdays whenever assigned tasks were complete instead of working a full 8- or 10-hour day. Deputy City Administrator and interim sanitation director Jeff Dingman pitched the idea as a “morale booster” and potential cost saver on overtime.

Dingman said all four divisions within sanitation have high turnover, with residential collections being the highest at 64% for 2017 alone. Dingman added that since leaving the task-based system in August 2016 with no formal Board endorsement of the policy, residential overtime payouts have moved from $65,000 in 2015 to around $57,000 in 2016, and $75,000 through Nov. 6 (the first full year under the non-task-based system).

City Director Keith Lau reasoned if it’s an idea that could boost morale and potentially reduce costs, “why not give them (sanitation) a shot to go out there and measure it?”

Director Tracy Pennartz said she could see the merits of both systems, but advised, “One of the biggest concerns and challenges with this type of system (task-based) is that it calls upon a level of expertise by the managers of the routes to efficiently — weekly, and maybe daily — readjust those routes” to ensure all work is finished with careful consideration of overtime.

Director/Vice-Mayor Kevin Settle warned directors against the system, noting that it could set a precedent for other departments to request something similar.

“My problem is that this is something most companies aren’t doing today. If you have open time, then you’ve got your routes and line balancing wrong. We need to be addressing that instead of opening up free time,” Settle said.

Director Andre Good endorsed the request.

“When you know you can get your day done in five to six hours, you go out there and you bust it. So if I’m working seven hours on Monday and working nine hours on Tuesday, it equals out. So if it can benefit our employees to be off the clock, get home to their families, do what they want to do, and still provide the same level of customer service we’ve been getting emails about, let them do that.”

Also Tuesday, Administrator Geffken announced a potential deal with a still-unnamed entity that will result in “at least 150 new jobs” to the city of Fort Smith.

Geffken requested and won approval from the Fort Smith Board of Directors to hold a special meeting on Monday night, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m. from the River Park-West Events Building. The meeting will be for the Board to consider two resolutions for “an excellent and large economic development project,” Geffken said.

Following Tuesday’s study session, Geffken declined to answer when Talk Business & Politics asked for the name, industry, and potential investment size of the entity as well as the pay scale and location of jobs within city limits. He also would not provide details on whether the entity will be an established presence or a newcomer to the city.