A once-defeated contract for engineering services related to the addition of fluoride into Fort Smith’s drinking water was approved Tuesday night in a 5-2 vote.
Two weeks ago, the Fort Smith Board of Directors approved a $1.5 million construction contract with Goodwin & Goodwin for fluoride feed systems at the city’s Lake Fort Smith and Lee Creek water treatment plants. However, directors voted 4-3 against a companion measure to front $249,000 for fluoride-related engineering services from Kansas City-based engineering firm Burns & McDonnell.
When asked to consider the measure again Tuesday, Directors Andre Good, Mike Lorenz, Tracy Pennartz, Kevin Settle and Don Hutchings voted “yes.”
Before voting, some directors questioned the cost.
“You’ve got to sell this to me,” Settle said, “because I’m struggling with that much money for the work that has to be done.”
Utilities Director Steve Parke told directors the project, because it deals with drinking water, is complex and requires appropriate oversight and care.
Directors Keith Lau and George Catsavis cast the opposing votes. Lau said his vote against the contract was not about fluoride, but setting a precedent “for not controlling costs.”
“It just seems exorbitant to me,” Lau said. “Say no. That’s what I’m going to do.”
In 2011, state legislators passed a law requiring water systems serving 5,000 or more customers to fluoridate their public water when funding became available. Last fall, the Board of Directors accepted a $1.8 million grant from Delta Dental for the fluoridation effort. Later, an amendment to the grant bumped it up to $2 million.
It was noted that Delta Dental was aware of the contract and will reimburse 100 percent of both the engineering and construction costs. To meet the grant conditions, Fort Smith has until March 16 to complete the work and begin feeding fluoride into the water supply.
In other business, directors voted 4-3 to authorize Stephens Inc. and Raymond James to split underwriting duties related to water and sewer revenue bonds. The share was previously 80-20 in favor of Stephens.
The board also unanimously approved a resolution confirming the appointment of Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman as acting city administrator. Fort Smith’s city administrator since January 2011, Ray Gosack, retired in July.
At the Board of Directors’ monthly Town Hall forum, resident Noah Steffy asked directors to do away with the city’s Neighborhood Services department.