Fort Smith in the hunt for a director of solid waste services

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 665 views 

Kyle Foreman, director of solid waste services for the City of Fort Smith, has packed up for Billings, Mont., after serving almost five years with the city. Foreman’s last day was Friday (May 14), said Shari Cooper, Fort Smith’s public relations and communications manager.

He took a job in Billings, she said, though she did not know what that position is. Foreman was hired for the position with Fort Smith on June 25, 2018. At the time of his departure, his salary was $97,999.98 a year.

“Kyle was hired at a time when the Sanitation (Solid Waste) department needed a strong leader who also planned to improve and modernize the department. Kyle provided that leadership and we are saddened to see him leave,” said City Administrator Carl Geffken.

The latest change to modernize the department that came during Foreman’s tenure is a move to convert the sanitation fleet to CNG fueled vehicles. On April 20, the Fort Smith Board of Directors approved resolutions to enter into contracts with Clean Energy of California, Inc. out of north Texas for the construction of a CNG fueling station at the landfill and to renovate the sanitation maintenance facility to CNG compliance. The construction of the fueling station will cost about $1.8 million, and the renovations will be $373,280. The station will have 50 slow fill stations and one fast fill station that can be used for other city vehicles that are converted to CNG.

When Foreman budgeted for the station in the 2021 city budget, he budgeted $2.5 million. The project will come in roughly $300,000 under budget and will allow for “hundreds of thousands in savings each year” in the form of fuel and maintenance, Foreman said.

The project will require the sanitation department to complete a fleet conversion to CNG-powered trucks. Foreman, with the help of Clean Energy, applied for $1.604 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant through the Diesel Emissions Reeducation Act, which will allow the city to replace 14 garbage trucks in 2022 and will convert the rest of the fleet either by attrition or realizing other clean energy grants over the next five years, Foreman said. The EPA grant has a mandatory cost share of $3 million to the city, and the diesel trucks replaced will have to be scrapped. The department will learn this month if it receives the grant. If the city does not receive the grant, the sanitation department will not be able to replace 14 trucks in 2022 and will have to restructure the timeline for replacing trucks, Foreman said.

In August 2020, the board of directors approved an ordinance that will raise residential trash collection rates to $15.89 plus tax a month by the first of 2022. The first step of the rate increase began Oct. 1 with rates going up $1.31 to $14.59 plus tax per month. The increase to $15.89 was expected to boost residential trash collection revenue by a total of 19.65% over almost 18 months.

Along with the residential rate increase, yard waste and recyclable materials went to every other week curbside pickup. City-owned recycle carts are available to customers for no additional charge. Customers can have up to five recycle carts, which are available in 65- and 95-gallon size.

Foreman also made available 95-gallon yard waste carts to residential customers. The carts can hold yard waste, leaves, grass clippings and small brush. The carts will be delivered to customers if they call and request one. Yard waste also went to every other week collection. Residential customers receive one 95-gallon trash bin for regular refuse, which is collected weekly. That cart is included with the base rate. Additional carts are available at the customer request.

In October, Foreman presented the board with a capital improvement plan that would need about $41.81 million over the next 10 years. That plan includes truck purchases, landfill development costs and other capital improvement items. Landfill development would include development of Phase A-6 at $3.415 million to be spread over 2021 and 2022; development of the northwest slope and top deck at the landfill at $12.25 million in 2026; and Phase B development at $5.12 million in 2026.
“Kyle Foreman has brought a new level of excellence to the sanitation department. Under his leadership, the city sanitation has thrived and has a plan for the future,” said City Director Robyn Dawson. “He will be hard to replace.”

City administration and the Human Resources Department are still in the process of determining the recruitment strategy for the director of solid waste services position, Cooper said.

The city had a slew of department heads leave in 2019. Wally Bailey, who had worked under six Fort Smith city administrators, retired in June 2019 as the city’s director of planning to become the director of planning for the City of Van Buren. Finance Director Jennifer Walker resigned in July of that year to take a job in Colorado. George Allen, director of streets and traffic control, resigned in August 2019. John Settle, who served as the city’s prosecuting attorney for 11 years, died Oct. 26, 2019, after suffering a heart attack.

Danny Baker was named the new police chief in September 2019, following a nationwide search to replace Chief Nathaniel Clark, who resigned his position in April of that year.

The City’s Department of Development Services was split into two separate departments – the Department of Development Services, which includes Planning & Zoning and Community Development, and the Department of Building Services, which includes Building Safety and Neighborhood Services. Maggie Rice was promoted to director of development services and Jimmie Deer was promoted to director of building services.

Matt Meeker was named the director of streets and traffic and Lance McAvoy was named the director of utilities. Andrew Richards was named the director of finance in early 2020. Former District Judge Sam Terry began as the city prosecutor Jan. 4.

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