Fort Smith Recycling Lawsuit Continues

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — Attorneys for a woman suing Fort Smith over dumping recyclable materials into a landfill are planning to present more evidence to show they have a case.

Jennifer Merriott’s attorneys filed a response Monday to the city’s motion for summary judgment, which asked the Sebastian County Circuit Court to rule Merriott had no case. The attorneys were given 60 more days at a Jan. 19 hearing to come up with more evidence for their case.

The city dumped nearly 90 percent of collected recyclable materials into the landfill from October 2014 to June 2016. The city didn’t notify residents and continued running recycling trucks, which cost nearly $53,000 a month, according to the lawsuit.

Merriott’s lawsuit asks the city to pay those who were Fort Smith Sanitation customers when the city wasn’t recycling.

“It is manifestly unfair and unreasonable for the defendant to have used part of the obligatory sanitation fees the way it did,” the Monday response stated. “The public expected its fees to have gone to paying for recycling. Instead, the defendant spent the money on maintaining the facade of recycling and misleading the public for 30 months.”

Recycling services are included in the monthly solid waste fee that residential sanitation customers pay regardless of whether they recycle. There is no additional fee for customers who do recycle.

The Sanitation Department operates on an enterprise fund, meaning the fees collected for that department’s services pay for its expenses, rather than a tax, said Michael LaFreniere, the city’s attorney.

LaFreniere said that the city was still collecting residents’ trash and recycling, and that Fort Smith did not use sanitation fees to pay for something other than sanitation services.

Another court date hasn’t been set.

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