The effort to gather Fort Smith voter signatures has come a long way in just a few days, with organizer Joel Culberson optimistic that more than 2,822 signatures will be submitted to Fort Smith City Clerk Sherri Gard on Wednesday (Aug. 8).
Culberson and several volunteers hope to place on the November ballot an item the requires automated trash collection service in all Fort Smith neighborhoods. On Aug. 2, the group had about 800 signatures with only six days remaining before the signature submission deadline of Aug. 8. On Tuesday, Culberson said they have about 2,500 signatures.
“We will get the 2,822 based on commitments I have received. ... If everyone follows through, we will have the signatures,” Culberson said, adding that canvassers were out Monday night and as of Tuesday morning he did not have their signature count.
In 2006, the Board of Directors voted to institute automated trash collection, or curbside pickup, city-wide. The Park Hill neighborhood, where Culberson resides, was converted to automated collection in 2011, but the board voted to suspend the process and renew manual collection on March 6.
Eventually, the Fort Smith Board of Directors decided to halt automation for about 2,500 of the about 24,600 Fort Smith households.
LAST CHANCE TO SIGN
Automated supporters now are hoping to place their initiative on the November ballot for a city-wide vote.
The group has planned a “Last Chance to Sign” event 5:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday (Aug. 7) night at the Fort Smith Public Library. They are also using the event to push their angle on the issue.
Culberson said he “has gathered evidence that automated trash service is significantly more efficient, less costly, safer with fewer worker injuries, and that it provides more uniform appearance and convenience for citizens with all types of trash collected on the same day. For residents who are disabled or have physical impairments that prevent them from being able to convey their household waste to the curb, the city's Sanitation Department offers a custom service to accommodate their needs.”
Opponents of city-wide automation say that neighborhoods should have a choice when it comes to trash service.
The cost to gather the signatures is about $4,500, with about $1,000 for legal fees and around $3,000 for the paid signature gatherers, Culberson said. He said the group has a budget of about $6,000 to fund the effort. The effort started with a loan from Culberson, but donations are coming in to help cover the costs, he said.
The group plans to submit the signatures to Gard at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Gard has 30 days to verify that the petition effort meets all the legal obligations. If Gard finds a fault with the petition effort, Culberson and the group will have 10 days to amend or correct the listed faults.
Also, the group can continue collecting signatures in the event Gard finds that not enough signatures are valid. However, the group has to submit more than 2,822 signatures to be eligible to amend later with additional signatures.
“Yes, my understanding, per the Secretary of State’s office, is that they can continue to collect those (signatures)” and have them ready to submit if they are needed, Gard explained.