The Fort Smith Port Authority has agreed to take steps to get the Port of Fort Smith back in condition to open for business. The authority signed a contract with Studio 6 Architects to render professional architectural and engineering design services to rebuild two buildings, parking and a truck scale at the Port of Fort Smith.
The facilities were damaged during record flooding of the Arkansas River in May. The contract, approved during the authority’s Thursday (Oct. 31) meeting, stipulates the cost of services not to exceed $140,000.
The port authority approved a resolution to award a contract for the cleanup and demolition of damaged facilities to Haston Recycling LLC in a special meeting Aug. 7.
Once the design work is completed, a construction manager will step in to rebuild. A contract for that service is still in negotiations. Marty Shell, Ports of Fort Smith and Van Buren operator and owner of Five Rivers Distribution in Van Buren, said he hoped that contract would be completed sometime next week.
The port authority authorized Shell to purchase and install a new scale at the port at a cost of $54,000 and to do to necessary railroad work at the site at a cost of $50,000, Shell said. To help with the costs of repair and rebuilding, the port received a grant for $295,593 from the Arkansas Waterways Commission Wednesday (Oct. 30) to “reconstruct and repair the port facility from damage caused by 2019 flood event,” Shell said.
Other grant recipients were:
• Helena-West Helena/Phillips County Port Authority — $304,028 to improve water supply for current and future tenants of Helena Harbor through the phase three of the Helena Harbor Water Improvement Project;
• Osceola Port Authority — $300,000 for port access road improvement and resurfacing;
Chicot-Desha Metropolitan Port Authority —$204,678 to upgrade the overhead bridge crane previously installed in 1995;
• Little Rock Port Authority — $167,713 for construction of a heavy equipment connector road; and
• Crossett Port Authority — $ 55,000.00 for expansion of storage space in Warehouse #2 to meet the needs of the Rescue Unit.
The grant is a matching grant with the Fort Smith Port Authority responsible for matching 10%. Since 2016, the Port of Fort Smith has received $1.227 million in grant funding from the Arkansas Waterways Commission, Shell said.
“It’s taken longer than it should have to get this (rebuilding) started this, but it’s good we’re getting started,” Shell said.
Completion will depend on several factors – how quickly permits can be obtained, weather and construction schedules to name a few – but Shell hopes the Port of Fort Smith will be up and running by July or August of 2020.
“We’re going to be out of there a year to a year and three months. I hope they will be able to move quickly,” he said.
Shell said the port being closed has hurt his business tremendously, but he’s looking forward to the new more modern port that will be in operation next summer. The building being replace were built in 1970 and 1980. A third, newer, building was not damaged in the flood. Though the new construction will fit into the original footprint, they will be design more consistent with 2020, Shell said.
“This has been very difficult, but hopefully (these new buildings at the port) will be something the city can be proud of and that will be great for another 50 years,” Shell said. “Sometimes it takes a little heartache to have a bright future.”