Fort Smith Transit still operating, city ordering PPE for employees

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,046 views 

Fort Smith residents needing public transportation for work, food or medicine can still use the Fort Smith Transit. With the exception of the downtown trolley all routes of Fort Smith Transit are running during the COVID-19 pandemic, said City Administrator Carl Geffken.

“We have shut down the trolley downtown. It has been better for us to have our focus on the buses providing service to residents to work or to do their shopping who otherwise would not have a way to get there,” Geffken said.

The city is taking precautionary steps because of COVID-19 events, the transit website states.

“As a part of its normal routine, the department cleans buses, facilities and equipment by schedule, and performs routine fogging of the busses with a commercial sanitizer. The department is performing the same steps listed above as well as additional cleaning of facilities and spraying commercial disinfectant of all buses nightly,” the website states.

The city also asks that passengers observe the six-feet-apart social distancing recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by sitting on opposite seats whenever possible, Geffken said.

“A lot of the time, they can do that. Sometimes they can’t. But we need to be able to get people to work who are essential workers and for people to be able to get food and to the pharmacy. This is a service that is needed,” he said, noting that while transit employees have concerns over safety during this time, they are understanding of the need to keep public transportation running.

The city is also working to ensure the safety of transit drivers. Preparations are underway to put thin plastic partitions, much like those in hospitals, between riders and drivers as a way to protect drivers more, Geffken said. The city also placed an order for personal protective equipment (PPE) on Monday (March 30). That order should be delivered by the middle of next week, he said.

“This is for the protection of all our essential workers in contact with the public — police, fire, transit, collections. We want them all to have the gear they need to be safe. We have sufficient PPEs for our employees (for now), but we did order more,” Geffken said.

In another move to protect residents, keep employees safe, and to slow the spread of COVID-19, Tim Seeberg, general manager of the Fort Smith Convention Center, announced Thursday (April 2) that the convention center and the ArcBest Performing Arts Center will remain closed to the public during May.

“In accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control concerning the need for social distancing, we have decided to close our building until at least the end of May,” Seeberg said. “The only events to take place will be those related to the ongoing needs of city government such as required city board and commission meetings, which will be announced accordingly.

Necessary precautions have been taken to abide by social distancing standards for such meetings, a news release said.

City and Sebastian County officials have announced a Friday press conference to discuss their respective actions related to COVID-19. The conference is set for noon, Friday, in the rotunda of the Fort Smith Convention Center. The press conference is not open to the public. As of the time this story was posted, the city was unsure if the conference would be livestreamed.

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