Supporters of automated solid waste collection met at Sweet Bay by Creekmore Park on Monday (July 2) to sign the petition for a November ballot initiative that would move Fort Smith to citywide automated refuse collection.
Joel Culberson, organizer of the Automated Curbside Solid Waste Collection System ballot initiative, believes the issues previously discussed by non-automated supporters — physical difficulties navigating refuse containers, uneven terrain — could be alleviated through the Fort Smith Department of Sanitation’s Troubleshooter Program, which deals with collection issues automated does not address.
He is not alone.
Fort Smith resident Ken Kupchick, director of Marketing and Development for the River Valley Regional Food Bank, said the efforts of the sanitation department do not receive enough credit, and its Troubleshooter Program is largely ignored.
Kupchick said supporters of non-automated often use the elderly and geography as justification, “but you never actually hear from someone, who’s said, ‘I personally had this issue, and the Troubleshooter Program did not address it.’”
Kupchick continued: “I come from an era when the bread man came to your door. Then, I saw the Jetsons, and you could have things in the push of a button, and that’s where we’re headed. We have to make these logical progressions to get from the bread man to the Jetsons.”
Fort Smith Director Andre Good, a supporter of the ballot initiative, was pleased with the turnout Monday, noting that “we had 40 people respond on Facebook they would be here and sent out about 100 invitations. It’s the conversation that’s important. These people will go back and tell their friends and family, because it has the potential to affect all of us, with rates especially, increase or decrease.”
At Monday’s event, three hopeful City Director candidates — Keith D. Lau (Ward 1), Mike Lorenz (Ward 3), and John Cooley (Ward 4) — added their support.
Lau, who previously signed the petition, attended Monday night’s event, telling The City Wire he would be “leaving early to canvass for petition signatures,” adding that he “100% supports” the initiative as written.
However, two of his Aug. 14 primary opponents do not share his enthusiasm.
In recent interviews with The City Wire, Ward 1 candidate Ken Pevehouse said he is for automated, but believes the city should look in to “automated in the alleyways,” while candidate Liz Berry-Armstrong does not “believe that it’s a one-size-fits-all issue,” though she said she would not support an override if the people of Fort Smith vote the initiative into effect in November.
Good said the ballot initiative would not pursue the possibility of automated to alleyways.
“We already had that question asked to Baridi (Nkokheli, sanitation director), and we’ve already seen as a board that that’s not the direction we wanted to go.”
Good noted that “obstructions, cost, efficiency, the number of trips it would take back and forth to the landfill, and the number of men you would have to use” would be counter-productive, but mostly it was “terrain, buildings, overhangs, and other things that encroach on the easements” that moved the Fort Smith Board of Directors against the automated service in alleyways.
After Monday's event, Culberson confirmed “50 signatures and 12 or 14 people, who have committed to canvassing.” Additionally, Culberson and other supporters will continue to collect signatures at Sweet Bay by Creekmore “on Monday and Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” through the end of July.
The deadline for submitting the 2,822 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot is Aug. 8.