The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved Tuesday (March 5) an ordinance to form a Public Facility Board Advisory Committee. The ad hoc committee to review or recommend the roles and responsibilities of a public facilities board created for the U.S. Marshals Museum if voters approve a sales tax to fund completion of the museum.
Specifically, the committee will recommend rules for the administration of public funds and publicly owned property along with setting membership and procedural requirements for the board, the ordnance states. The committee will only be formed if a sales tax to benefit the marshals museum is voted for by the citizens in the March 12 special election.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors in December approved an ordinance for the March 12 election regarding a one-time, nine-month, one-cent sales tax to benefit the U.S. Marshals Museum. The sales tax will raise the remaining $17 million needed to complete the museum.
According to information on the tax, an independent public facilities board will be created by the Fort Smith mayor with Fort Smith citizens appointed to it by the Fort Smith Board of Directors. This board will own the facility and grounds, however, the USMM, not the City, will manage the museum. The city has stated the board would only be formed if the sales tax passed.
“The creation of the Public Facilities Board is up to the City, though it must be organized and functioning prior to the receipt of tax collections by the City,” said City Administrator Carl Geffken said after checking with City Attorney Jerry Canfield on the rules and regulations of a public facilities board.
If the tax is approved, it will take effect July 1, and the City will begin receiving tax revenues in August or September. The ordinance passed Tuesday will allow the city to form an advisory committee that would set up the rules and regulations. Though directors voted for the ordinance, the committee would cease to exist if sales tax does not pass.
“Pending the potential success of the initiative for a temporary one-percent sales tax during the upcoming special election, the city and the public will need to have a clear understanding of how the suggested PFB would operate, and a temporary advisory committee would provide recommendations on the following questions: 1. Who will be appointed to the PFB, and how will they be appointed? 2. What will be the duties and responsibilities of the PFB, specifically related to the facilitation of the USMM project, or any other project? 3. Why is a PFB needed? 4. Will the citizens have direct input into the contract/lease between the PFB and the USMM? 5. The city recognizes a need for transparency in the PFB appointments, responsibilities and recommendations. How will this transparency best be achieved and protected in this process?” a memo explaining the ordinance said.
Directors voting for the committee said they were doing so in an attempt to make the formation of the public facilities board more transparent. Geffken said the possibility of the committee was broached because several had said they wanted the public facilities board created prior to the tax election to add to transparency on the entire issue. The temporary committee will dissolve either when the public facility board is established or if the tax is defeated in the election.
During the town hall meeting following the director meeting, Fort Smith resident Dixie Geren asked the board whether the Marshals Museum board had paid the cost of the special election. At the time of the board approved a special election on the sales tax benefiting the museum, the museum board said they would pay the total cost of the special election. Geffken said the city would not be billed for the special election by Sebastian County until after the election and the museum would pay the cost at that time.
In other business at the meeting, Ward 3 Director Mike Lorenz announced his resignation from the board effective following the March 12 regular meeting of the board. Lorenz said he was resigning because he is moving to Oklahoma City. Geffken and Mayor George McGill both said the decision on how and when to fill Lorenz’ seat would be left to the board.
“At the next meeting, when the board recognizes the vacancy, they will be presented with proposed resolutions, and they will vote on how to proceed then,” Geffken said.