Mayor McGill says Fort Smith’s customer service must improve, plans to create committee

by Tina Alvey Dale ( 1,859 views 

Mayor George McGill is disappointed in the state of customer service in the city of Fort Smith, and made clear his frustrations during the regular meeting of the Fort Smith Board of Directors Tuesday (March 12.)

“Many people, as I move about Fort Smith, are fed up with the current state of affairs, and quite frankly, so am I,” McGill said. “People of Fort Smith demand change, and so do I.”

McGill said he would be utilizing powers given to him as mayor to have a large control in setting agenda’s for board meetings. In doing so, he will place on the next regular agenda a request to create a standing committee to deal with local water and sewer issues. The committee will be appointed by the mayor and approved by the board and will be a group of engaged, motivated and transparent individuals. The group will be tasked with developing better ways of customer service, customer education and affordability and planning of city improvement projects.

“If there are any members of the current administrative team who feel they will be unwilling or unable to respond to the needs or requests of this standing committee, they should strongly consider moving on to another opportunity,” McGill said.

The mayor said he will request a new administrative position who will work out of the mayor’s office.

“This mayor and this board deserve the support of a talented, energetic and full-time professional working with us toward our major goals,” he said.

The steps will help the city to grow and prosper, McGill said.

“The damage has been done to the reputation of our city due to oversight and mismanagement and adversity that is uncountable. We possess many of the building blocks necessary for the growth of a new and exciting business, but … customer service instills no confidence whatsoever from site selectors and economic development professionals,” McGill said. “We must begin the hard work necessary to repair our reputation.”

During the meeting, the board voted to take steps toward filling the vacancy left by Director Mike Lorenz, Ward 3, whose last meeting was Tuesday night, and to settle a lawsuit with Mark Schlievert.

Lorenz announced at the March 5 he was resigning his seat and moving to Oklahoma City. By state law, the board has until the next regular meeting, April 2, to either appoint director to fill the vacancy or call a special election. The board approved two resolutions — one to set an application period and process for appointing a director for the ward and one to indicate their desire to call a special election. If at the April 2 meeting, the board chooses not to appoint a director, they can proceed with a special election.

Many of the board members said they were conflicted over the decision and wanted more time to consider both options.

The soonest a special election could be held would be July 9. The special election would cost the city $15,000. There would be no need for a runoff election as a simple majority is all that is needed to fill the vacancy, said Sherri Gard, city clerk.

The board also approved a resolution authorizing the city administrator and the city attorney to conclude litigation in Mark Schlievert v. City of Fort Smith and authorizing a settlement agreement. Following mandatory mediation Feb. 27, the city agreed to pay Schlievert $33,500 plus pay the cost of the mediation. Schlievert is responsible for his attorney’s fees.

Schlievert was fired May 10, 2017, once it came to light that the city’s recycling was going to the city’s landfill and not to recycling. He was seeking $553,000, which included lost wages, future wages and mental anguish.