The Future Fort Smith Committee presented their Top 10 list to the Fort Smith Board of Directors and said the committee intends to focus on increased promotion and communication of goals, policies, and actions completed in the coming year.
“These are big ticket items. I don’t anticipate any of these things falling off anytime soon,” Chair John Cooley said in his annual presentation to the board at a study session Tuesday (March 29). “There is not necessarily a particular order of these 10 items. They are all important. I think of the first three as being the most important. Other than that, they can probably intermingle.”
The No. 1 item on the list is communications, Cooley said. He commended the city’s work in the past year to communicate via social media the positive things happening in Fort Smith. The city’s new website, which is currently in development, will help with communications too, he added.
“Communication is obviously a huge deal for us,” Cooley said. “There are a lot of great things happening in our community, and it’s just incumbent on us to communicate that.”
Included in communication are promoting Fort Smith as a whole and showing the positive developments that are taking place in the city and building trust with the public. No. 2 and 3 on the list are economic development and the consent decree.
“Fort Smith needs to continue the focus on bringing businesses and jobs to the area,” as well as continued growth at Chaffee Crossing and downtown and riverfront development, the report said.
The other six items on the list are homelessness; improving existing infrastructure; sidewalks and accessibility; city beautification projects; support for police and fire services; expansion of housing; and expansion of education. Cooley specifically highlighted the need of increasing the amount of diversified housing to handle the increase in population, in particular the increase in housing needed to accommodate the new flight training mission at Ebbing Air National Guard Base.
“Growth is happening that we have never seen before,” said Director Neal Martin. “The more improvements we can make and let people know about, the more people will see us. And that growth will continue.”
The Future Fort Smith committee works with the city on the city’s Comprehensive Plan. According to the city’s website, “The Future Fort Smith Comprehensive Plan is a document containing goals, policies, and actions that define and support a common vision and purpose. The Plan sets a direction that will be used by the City of Fort Smith to proactively manage future change.”
The plan was completed about six years ago and the committee was put into place to make sure the plan was not forgotten, Cooley said. In 2019, the committee updated the plan’s completion matrix.