The Fort Smith Board of Directors agreed at a special study session Tuesday (June 30) to continue collecting recycling with the understanding residents will be faced with higher sanitation fees.
Sanitation Director of Sanitation Kyle Foreman proposed changes to the board June 16 that would change the city’s recycling vendor for household recyclables in the city to Mack Recycling and would limit curbside pickup to mixed paper only. This would include paper products such as mail, office paper, newspapers, etc.; cardboard and chipboard, such as cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, etc.
In that proposal, other recyclables — plastics No. 1 and 2 (water bottles, milk jugs, detergent bottles), tin, metal and aluminum — would be accepted free of charge from residents at the landfill. Material would need to be sorted by the resident into the appropriate bins at the landfill. No. 3 through 7 plastics would no longer be accepted because there is no market for them and they only take up 8% of the city’s recyclables, Foreman said.
Director Kevin Settle objected to cutting back on the amount of recycling collected, saying residents should be incentivized to recycle more not less, and proposed a study session on the subject.
Foreman presented six options to the board Tuesday night along with a look at how some other cities in the state handle recycling. The majority consensus of the board was to go with a recycling plan that would continue to offer curb-side pickup of commingled recycling unchanged in content for Fort Smith residents, but recycling pick-up (and yard waste pick-up) would go to every other week instead of every week. Residents would receive yard waste containers with this option.
Though the option will save the city about $150,000 in sanitation cost, total cost for the program will be an increase of approximately $150,000 in 2021. To offset this increase in cost, a residential rate increase for sanitation would be needed, Foreman said.
The suggested increase, which would happen “at some point,” according to the board, would be 20.56%, raising residential fees to $16.01 a month. That would be a 78 cents increase a month, or a little more than $9 a year. Of that increase, 7% is needed just to make certain the city can do what it needs to in terms of sanitation pickup and for closure and opening of areas of the landfill, City Administrator Carl Geffken said.
The new fee would keep Fort Smith’s residential sanitation rate comparable to rates in Fayetteville, Springdale and Conway rates. Fayetteville charges $10.16 a month for a 32-gallon trash receptacle; $15.52 for 64-gallon; and $22.03 for a 96-gallon. There is weekly pickup of trash, recycling and yard waste. Springdale charges $13.35 a month for trash pick-up with a 65-gallon receptacle and $2.85 for recycling in a 65-gallon receptacle for a total of $16.20 per month that includes weekly trash and yard waste collection and every other week recycling. Recycling fee is mandatory. Conway charges $17 a month for weekly pickup of 96-gallon trash receptacle, 96-gallon recycling and bagged yard waste. Plastic yard waste bags are not allowed.
The city will have to put out a request for proposal for a recycling service based on the new approved guidelines before a contract can come before the board for a vote.