Fort Smith Board OKs land for police precinct, maintenance facility; Creekmore Pool plan approved

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,857 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (March 26) unanimously approved spending $2.85 million to buy a former Crain-Kia dealership in south Fort Smith to be used for a police precinct and consolidated maintenance facility.

In other key votes, the board approved a $5.997 million renovation of the swimming pool and diving area at Creekmore Park, and approved pay raises for city employees and an increase in contributions to the city’s employee defined contribution retirement plan.

LAND DEAL
Located at 8200 U.S. Highway 71 S., the more than 4.4-acre property at the former car dealership has three structures. Two structures will be used for a Fort Smith Police Department precinct and training facility. A third structure, which was an auto service center for the dealership, will become a consolidated maintenance facility for all city vehicles.

“The Police department is excited to have the second precinct and training facility at the former
Crain Kia site and having a centralized maintenance facility will allow the City to receive
economies of scale for the maintenance of over 400 vehicles,” noted a city memo on the proposal.

City staff also said the former dealership has room to address potential future needs.

“At this juncture, the Crain Kia property met our needs perfectly and provided additional space for additional growth, such as a City fueling facility,” noted the city memo.

Overhead view of former Crain-Kia dealership in south Fort Smith.

A former restaurant on Burrough Road, also in south Fort Smith, was acquired for $575,000 in November 2023 to be used as the police department’s southern precinct. That building will now be used as a dedicated 911 call center. Funding for work on the 911 center will be supported with funds from Sebastian County, according to the city.

CREEKMORE POOL RENOVATION
The board unanimously approved a $5.997 million plan to renovate the pool, diving facility and bathhouse area at Creekmore Park. The work on the 75-year-old pool area also includes new amenities, such as a concession stand and a lifeguard break area.

Specifically, the work includes demolition of the 75-year-old bathhouse and diving well dome, construction of a new bathhouse and diving well enclosure, addition of a party/meeting room, and a new lobby.

“This renovation will provide citizens with a quality, up-to-date municipal swimming facility and also position Fort Smith to serve as the premier swimming facility for outdoor long course swim meets. Additionally, the permanent enclosure of the diving well will allow for high school short course meets to be hosted and provide a quality training facility for several local organizations, such as Fort Smith Public Schools, Army National Guard, Fort Smith Fire Department, Parrot Island Waterpark, and Ocean Impact,” noted a city memo on the proposed renovation plan.

Rendering of planned remodel of the pool complex at Creekmore Park in Fort Smith.

Funding for the work is supported by $4 million in extra revenue from the city’s 2012 and 2014 bond sales tax revenue.

Fort Smith Parks and Recreation Director Sara Deuster said the department is going to work with Beshears Construction to have the pool open this summer on “an abbreviated schedule” but construction will begin as soon as possible. Plans to keep the pool open could include portable restrooms and changing stations, she said.

Mayor George McGill said the work is part of several other investments in the city’s parks facilities,

“This is evidence we are headed in the right direction. … It’s going to be a major attraction at the end of the day,” Mayor George McGill

Before the vote, several city residents praised the city for the long-overdue plan to renovate the pool and associated facilities.

PAY, BENEFIT INCREASE
To address “chronic vacancies” in several city departments, the board approved a pay raise for city employees that includes a 25% pay raise for “lower grade positions.” City staff hopes the raises will help alleviate worker shortages in the utilities department, street and traffic control, solid waste, and the parks department.

The raise plan will also boost pay between 5%and 7% for other city employees based on their pay grade. All pay raises begin April 1.

Board members also voted to boost the city’s contribution amount to the retirement plan, which was implemented in April 1997, from 5% to 7%. The city in 2016 cut the contribution from 10% to 5% in response to budget shortfalls.

“The City’s financial situation has greatly improved since 2016. A strong retirement plan serves the City, as an employer, in the attraction and retention of qualified employees while also
contributing to our desire to be an employer of choice in our region. Employees benefit from a strong retirement plan by having a savings plan that will aid in providing financial security when they retire,” noted the city memo advocating for the contribution change. “This contribution will restore some of the reduced contribution from 2016.”