The Fort Smith Board of Directors took steps at its regular board meeting Tuesday (May 19) to help residents through the COVID-19 pandemic. Directors approved ordinances to suspend occupation registration fees for one year and animal licensing fees until April of 2021.
“Due to COVID19 economic hardships the citizens are seeing in Fort Smith, especially our businesses, the Board requested a proposed ordinance to suspend the 2021 annual business license renewal fee for any existing business with a registered business license … issued in 2020,” stated a memo from Andrew Richards, director of finance.
The $100 annual fee is required in the Fort Smith Municipal Code. The amended resolution, which the board passed unanimously, allows for a sort of buy one, get one free situation. Those who have already paid their 2020 business license renewal fee, are exempt from having to pay the fee in 2021. Those who were unable to pay the fee because of hardships this year can skip paying the 2020 fee and will have until the 2021 deadline to pay next year’s fee without fines or penalty.
In a second ordinance introduced by Director Kevin Settle, the board agreed to delay any pet licensing fee in the city until at least April 1, 2021. The board adopted an ordinance in 2019 related to pet licensing for dogs and cats. Included in that ordinance are pet licensing fees. A program for the administration and issuance of such pet licenses has not yet been implemented by the city. The ordinance will insure that no one in the city will be out the expense for pet licenses prior to April of next year.
The board also approved the purchase of six large heavy duty transit buses during the first year of a contract with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) with an option of buying another bus in 2022. The board approved a purchase of two large buses in September 2019, but the transit department now has the opportunity to purchase six using 100% reimbursable funds as opposed to buying two that would have required a 15% local match or $75,000 each, said Transit Director Ken Savage.
The price estimate of the buses is $500,000. The transit department recently received $5.3 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act “to mitigate losses and to supply the transit department with the tools and equipment needed to reduce risks associated with the pandemic,” Savage said. He said acquiring all six buses at once will allow the city to address concerns of overcrowding of buses and allow for social distancing. The new buses will be 40 feet and are equipped with a rear door, which has become a standard practice for boarding during the pandemic, he added.
This “type of buses contain more seating and are easier for persons with disabilities or persons using a mobility device to board and alight the bus,” Savage said.
The buses have a 14-year use life.