Fort Smith citizens will get a chance to vote in November on mandating a citywide automated trash collection system, and possibly put an end to a controversial issue that has plagued the Fort Smith Board of Directors in recent months.
On Friday (Aug. 31), Fort Smith City Clerk Sherri Gard sent a letter to Joel Culberson saying his petition effort has been certified as sufficient and will be part of the Sept. 4 Fort Smith Board agenda.
Earlier this year when the Fort Smith Board voted 4-3 to halt full automation of trash collection, Culberson vowed before the Board to gather signatures to place the issue on the November ballot and overturn the Board action.
Culberson submitted 3,340 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office on Aug. 8, and on Aug. 23 was notified by Gard of being 10 signatures short of the 2,822 threshold. Culberson’s petition also required minor language changes.
The signature shortfall and language issues were corrected.
“After consultation with the city attorney, I have determined that the submitted amendments/corrections to the Initiative Petition filed with my office on August 29, 2012 have addressed the previous insufficiencies as noted in my initial determination letter dated August 23, 2012,” Gard wrote in her Friday letter to Culberson.
The Board action on Sept. 4 is a formality that alerts the Sebastian County Election Commission that the initiative is qualified to be placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
It’s been a roller coaster ride for Culberson, who had little time to collect the signatures. Also, after he submitted 3,340 signatures to Gard’s office, the four Fort Smith Board members who voted to halt the fully automated plan suddenly changed their votes during an Aug. 23 meeting.
“I hate to say it’s anti-climactic, but with the board’s decision to reverse, it is. But symbolically” it has been important, Culberson said Friday afternoon. “And seeing it get to the ballot, getting it to this point, is important to me because so many people got behind it.”
He is planning to issue a statement that thanks the people who were “so important in getting this all pulled together.”
Culberson reiterated that the Vote for Automated group decided to move forward with the initiative after the Board changed its vote because an initiative will require five Board votes to change, rather than four.
“That’s one of our basic arguments, that given all the back and forth with this Board, it just makes it (automated plan) a safer and stronger decision if approved by the people,” Culberson explained.
Don’t expect an aggressive campaign promoting the issue.
“We will do a limited campaign, maybe just before the election ... We will try keep our Facebook campaign going, try to keep it fresh,” Culberson said when asked about the campaign to gain voter approval.