Fort Smith Board rejects legal review, approves fire training center

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Fort Smith City Director Philip Merry's third attempt to get a review of the city's legal billings and the formation of a committee to review whether the city would be better served by in-house legal counsel or the current arrangement with paying the Daily and Woods Law Firm to provide legal services went nowhere at Tuesday's (June 17) meeting of the Fort Smith Board of Directors.

Merry had previously made an attempt during a regular Board meeting to have the item placed on the agenda, but was sidelined by Mayor Sandy Sanders who said it was not a proper motion since Merry was attempting to add the item at the end of a June 3 meeting.

A study session on June 10 resulted in the item being placed on Tuesday's agenda with a motion by Merry and a second by City Director Pam Weber, though a procedural move later in the week by City Director Mike Lorenz and backed by City Directors George Catsavis, Andre Good, Keith Lau, Mike Lorenz and Vice Mayor Kevin Settle removed the item from Tuesday's agenda.

The only two to vote in favor of adding the item to Tuesday's meeting agenda were Merry and Weber, with all directors with the exception of Good voting against the motion. Good arrived late to the meeting. Settle, who ran Tuesday's meeting in the absence of Sanders, stated all seven directors would have to approve the addition of the item for it to be an agenda item Tuesday. Since the item failed to receive seven votes, Settle said it would instead be placed on the July 1 meeting agenda, though it conceivably could be removed again should four directors contact the city clerk requesting its removal.

In other business, the Board approved a contract worth $1.176 million for Beshears Construction to build a fire training tower facility for the Fort Smith Fire Department at the Fort Smith landfill. According to Fort Smith Fire Chief Mike Richards, the department will use Act 833 funds, which are generated from an insurance premium tax, to build and operate the facility for the department instead of going out of town for training.

The facility would also be made available for a fee to other area fire departments, he added. Other city departments would also likely make use of the building, including the Fort Smith Police Department's SWAT Team, Richards said.

In addition to the initial construction cost, Richards said he was aware that the building would require yearly maintenance and operations expenditures, in some cases having operational costs as a result of outside groups using the facility.

"We're very aware of the fact that there will be some costs involved and we'll have to recover those costs for the wear and tear, but we're willing to work with anyone to do that. One of the important things about this facility is we intend to run it without using any additional general fund money. Once we get the facility built, it's our intention to take our Act 833 money that we receive each year and that's between $80,000 and $90,000, and put that back into the operation of the facility so we don't put an additional hardship on the general fund."

Advertisement:

Page 54 of the 2014 Budget Supplement shows that the fire department already budgets $50,770 annually for operations related to training, which Richards said would no longer be spent on outside training once the training tower construction is complete. He again made the point that the operations costs would be completely covered by the Act 833 funding, though salaries for trainers would not come from Act 833. The budget supplement shows a total training personnel budget of $173,150, which includes $137,570 in salaries.

Based on the cost of the structure and the budget for training operations, the fire department would be able to recoup the cost of construction in approximately 24 years.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.7 (6 votes)

Like This Article? Share It!

Comments

Phil & Pam, You Have My Upmost Respect For Integrity & Trust

Exactly 3 years ago last week, our city administrator and city attorney had the police department to deliver subpoenas to 32 good, decent citizens, forcing those citizens downtown for depositions at the city attorney's office. The reason? There were allegations made the citizens had not followed the letter of the law in collecting names on petitions to overturn a tax our city administrator had tried to force onto the citizens. Now, 3 years later there have been very serious allegations directed at the same city administrator and city attorney and possibly others. Allegations of overbilling, overpaying and lying about such. Whether these allegations are true or false, these public officials must be treated with the same letter of the law, the same high standards, we held those 32 citizens 3 years ago. However, George Catsavis, Kevin Settle, Keith Lau, Mike Lorenze and Andre Good do not want to hold these public officials to the same letter of the law, the same high standards as we held those good, decent citizens 3 years ago. They do not want to request a independent audit to resolve these allegations. It's hard to imagine that a judge or any legal professional would dispute, we must hold public officials to at least the same high standards, the same letter of the law as we hold the ordinary citizens. Thanks Phil Merry and Pam Weber for trying to do the right thing.
Exactly 3 years ago last week, our city administrator and city attorney had the police department to deliver subpoenas to 32 good, decent citizens, forcing those citizens downtown for depositions at the city attorney's office. The reason? There were allegations made the citizens had not followed the letter of the law in collecting names on petitions to overturn a tax our city administrator had tried to force onto the citizens. Now, 3 years later there have been very serious allegations directed at the same city administrator and city attorney and possibly others. Allegations of overbilling, overpaying and lying about such. Whether these allegations are true or ...>> Read the entire comment.

Amen Jack

Could not have said it better myself Jack, but public officials should be held to a much higher standard because they handle the public purse of about 270,000.000.00 taxpayer dollars every year in Fort Smith and there appears to be some leaks in the cash flow.

The real story here is...

how Settle, Sanders and the Board used the Board rules and guidelines to once again accomplish two things: - defeat something brought to the table by Merry and Weber. They get outmanuevered every time - protect Gosack and company from being scrutinized in public that perhaps they are not doing the right thing in examining legal bills. Kudos to winning a technical victory but losing the moral one. Are we paying too much? Is there enough scrutiny? We will never know because these guys are smarter than the public and obviously the two losing Board members. I am so happy they are in charge. NOT!

Observer Was All Over Altes. Is He Picking & Choosing?

Thought Observer would be pushing for a independent audit, but he's been very quite. Surely Observer agrees we must hold our public officials to at least the same high standards, the same letter of the law as we do ordinary citizens. So, what's up Observer?

Its Not Over

till its over and here comes Little Rock Attorney Matt Campbell with a lawsuit against Gosack and crew and the court case should paint the picture on the barn.

Guess What?

Nobody is in charge in this free for all administration and the tail is wagging the dog! Its just a huge money grab in my opinion and the taxpayers are on the losing end.

As clear as molasses

How can a governing body approve a $1.176+ expenditure with such a cockamamie explanation regarding budgeting for maintenance and upkeep. Not to worry, we'll cover it from a windfall from other peoples' money. Not to worry, we'll cover it by charging small town fire department -- don't know who and don't know how much, but it should work out. Tax money doesn't cover salaries, but we've got plenty of that money now -- guess we'll just spread it around. The point of Act 833 is to reduce HOMEOWNER insurance rates through better fire protection...so just how many four story homes are there in Fort Smith? Since we don't know exactly how much maintenance and operating expenses there will be from this tower, do we assume that all other possible uses of these funds were just extinguished? This is how this City gets into financial pickles. Approving half laid out plans.

Good-Old-Boy system alive and well

How much longer are the citizens of Fort Smith going to allow these arrogant, seemingly corrupt officials continue in office? Unless you vote them out Ft Smith, you will deserve what you get, a city mayor and board of directors who, like cockroaches, prefer to operate in the dark. FOIA needs to be applied to these "officials" records. This smells, all the way to Van Buren.

Just a simple fact

None of the returning BoD members were opposed this cycle. With all the talk here, I wonder why no one ran to get them out, or encouraged a close friend who lived in the correct ward to do so?