Fort Smith sanitation department asks for five new personnel, director search ongoing

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 389 views 

The Fort Smith Sanitation Department on Tuesday (Feb. 27) requested the city’s Board of Directors consider adding five new positions while reducing the overall amount of overtime, a net increase to its 2018 budget of $171,487 ($212,277 for the new positions minus $40,790 in overtime reductions).

Three of the new positions would work on the residential side with a salary-plus-benefits expense of $40,066 for two of the roles and $42,834 for the third. The remaining requested positions would be in the department’s industrial and administrative divisions with salary-plus-benefits expenses of $44,655 each.

At-Large Director Kevin Settle questioned the business sense of spending over $200,000 more so the department could reduce overtime expenses and suggested the department look into costs for outsourcing at least some of the existing workload instead of hiring new positions. Fort Smith Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman, who oversees the department, responded that the overtime cuts were “not the only reason for the requests,” noting employees could be cross-trained to help out with additional tasks as needed.

The requests were presented to the Board during a study session as the search for a Sanitation Director replacement continues. Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken told Talk Business & Politics the city “has resumes on file.”

“We are going through and reviewing resumes now, and if we see there are viable candidates, we’ll see how we go forward,” Geffken said.

The position has been vacant since the May 2017 firing of former director Mark Schlievert. Schlievert was terminated on May 10, making him the second consecutive firing from the embattled department’s top post after Baridi Nkokheli was terminated by then-Acting City Administrator Jeff Dingman for insubordination in December of 2015.

Schlievert’s termination surrounded the city’s controversial recycling issue, which, for three years starting in October of 2014, found the department trashing over 91% of its recyclables at Fort Smith Landfill without telling the public. Most of this occurred outside of Schlievert’s watch. Dingman, who was in the Acting City Administrator post following retirement of the late Ray Gosack, hired Schlievert in April 2016 before Geffken’s first day on the job. Dingman has managed the department ever since, telling Talk Business & Politics in August the timeline for a candidate search to fill the role had “not yet (been) specified … but the process will likely start in the next few weeks.”

It is unclear what the compensation package for Sanitation Director will be once the post is finally filled. While employed with the city of Fort Smith, Schlievert earned an $85,000 annual salary.

As for the recycling issue, the city has hired Third Rock Recycling to process materials. The contract became active on June 26, 2017.