Fort Smith will wait up to 30 days before deciding whether to approve a contract with a company that is helping it revise a federal mandate to make sewer upgrades, allowing the company more time to review the contract.
City Administrator Carl Geffken said after Tuesday night's Board of Directors meeting that the contract is an extension of the one the city has had with Burns and McDonnell.
The city entered into a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in late 2014 and must make an estimated $480 million worth of upgrades to its sewers within 12 years. Sewer rates have increased three times to help pay for the work, and Geffken has said he intends to renegotiate the consent decree because the city cannot afford to complete the work within the time frame without increasing rates again.
The $300,000 contract with Burns and McDonnell is for technical expertise in support of the city’s effort to revise the consent decree, including developing strategies and justifications for changes in compliance and schedule requirements, according to a memo from Utilities Director Jerry Walters to Geffken.
Geffken said Tuesday that he has not yet approached the recently appointed Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 administrator, Anne Isdal, about renegotiating the consent decree but will be doing so soon. Region 6 includes Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana.
All seven city directors voted in favor of delaying the decision. If approved, the contract is not to exceed three years.