The City of Fort Smith will keep its Water and Sanitary Sewer Utilities Advisory Committee at least through 2021.
The Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously voted to table a vote on the abolition of the committee until its first regular meeting of 2022. The motion was proposed to the board by At-Large City Director Kevin Settle after Mayor George McGill recommended the city keep it.
McGill said members of the committee, which was formed in April 2019 following an influx of complaints over miscalculated water bills in the city, haven’t had the chance to meet since the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said Utilities Director Lance McAvoy told him he felt “it was a good committee.”
“I recommend we continue this committee at least a year,” McGill said prior to Settle’s motion.
The committee is formed from seven members appointed by McGill and confirmed by the board. At its formation, it was tasked with reviewing programs, policy changes, capital project plans related to consent decree work and other suggestions from Utilities or administration related to water and sewer services.
Board members at the time of the creation of the commission – the same ones who voted Tuesday to table the vote to abolish it until 2022 – said it was a “positive step” to address water bills that were skewed into the high hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
“There was a need for this oversight committee in references to finances with the consent decree and the utility department in general,” said At-Large City Director Robyn Dawson, who said she believed the board as well as the city finance and utilities departments had since made progress.
Dawson prior to the vote assumed McGill had recommended to abolish the committee before he spoke in favor of it. She later voted in support of tabling the vote to abolish the committee after McGill spoke in support of it.
Ward 3 Director Lavon Morton agreed with McGill prior to the vote – he said the committee had “some really interested, engaged citizens – very qualified people” who wanted to be there.
Settle explained the date in his motion was to give the committee “a year and a couple months” to McGill’s recommendation that the committee continue at least a year.