Fort Smith port operator seeks to expedite flood damage repair (Updated)

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 635 views 

Steel shipments at the Port of Fort Smith.

The Fort Smith Port Authority agreed Tuesday (Aug. 6) to allow Ports of Fort Smith and Van Buren operator Marty Shell to gather three proposals for demolition of two warehouses, an awning and other areas at the Port of Fort Smith damaged during the record flooding of the Arkansas River in May.

Shell, who also owns Five River Distribution in Van Buren, hoped the Port Authority would allow him to begin demolition and reconstruction of the damaged Port of Fort Smith immediately under an emergency clause.

“The president declared this a disaster area. To me that says it’s in an emergency,” Shell said.

There was a time urgency in getting the port operational again, Shell said, noting that companies were going to start looking to go elsewhere if things were not up and running soon.

“The emergency is my employees. I need to get those people back to work,” Shell said.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman said he did not believe the work at the port was considered an emergency situation and that standard procedure would have to be followed.

One issue raised was that while the port’s insurance sent adjusters to survey the damage and an estimate had been written, the port authority has not yet received insurance monies. The insurance estimates show demolition will cost about $363,000. Total damages are estimated at close to $4 million.

Dingman guessed the funds would be received in the next week or two but could not guarantee when they would arrive. He advised the port authority to be cautious because there would be no funds to pay for the demolition or possible reconstruction without the insurance settlement.

Shell asked if it would help any if Five Rivers personally guaranteed payment. Port Authority members agreed that work needed to begin as soon as possible.

“We at least owe that to our operator,” said Philip Doss.

In order to expedite things as quickly as possible, the port authority passed a resolution for Shell to gather three demolition proposals. The board will meet again at 4 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 7) to make a decision on which proposal to accept, so work can begin. Shell estimated demolition would take between 30-60 days, after which reconstruction of the warehouses could begin.

“We definitely need to rebuild,” said Authority Chair Larry Combs. “We need to get the facility up and running as exponentially as possible. It will be something the city can be proud of and that will work for this community.”

The port authority approved a resolution to award the contract for the cleanup and demolition of damaged facilities at the public Port of Fort Smith, 200 Navy Road related to the historic flooding of the Arkansas River in May to Haston Recycling LLC in a special meeting Wednesday (Aug. 7).

The bid, submitted by Jesse Haston, owner, said the company would demolish and clean up the flood-damaged building at the site, taking everything down to the concrete slabs, for the scrap value.

“No, I won’t get rich,” Haston said. “But it will help everybody. If I can save you a little money and make a little money, it’s good for us all.”

Haston said if he gets the green light, he can start moving equipment to the site Thursday (Aug. 8) and complete the demolition by the weekend. Four sealed proposals were submitted. Coming in at no cost to the port authority, Haston was the lowest bid.