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FORT SMITH -- The Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority is currently waiting to get the next piece it needs to proceed with developing a facility in Crawford County.

Sen. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, executive director of the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority, provided an update to the authority's board of directors on Oct. 14 concerning a $450,000 matching grant it received from the Economic Development Administration. The grant will provide disaster funds to put toward development of an inland port and multimodal facility on the Arkansas River in Crawford County.

Pitsch said the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District went through a process of generating leads for the requests for quotes on both projects utilizing the grant: an environmental review started, but not finished, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an engineering study to extend utilities.

Outside entities submitted applications that were later scored by Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst, Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap, Sebastian County Judge David Hudson, Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken and Board Chairman Jay White.

"We currently have ... an entity that scored the highest on the EPA and an entity that scored highest on the engineering design," Pitsch said. "We are in discussions with them about what that will actually entail with regard to the budget now because this was done without budgetary concerns in the ... [request-for-quotes] process."

Pitsch said a meeting and tour of the project area took place with the entity that scored highest on the engineering study on Tuesday. This entity will send the intermodal authority a proposal letter at some point in the future, with the same thing being done with the company concerned about the environmental review.

"So ... we have tentatively selected someone to the [request-for-quotes] process, assuming we can get the budgets to work for what they're going to propose to us they need to do the work," Pitsch said. "We will come back to you."

"The reason we wanted to deal with it today is we're going to need to reconvene this group to approve expenditures of money based upon their budget proposal, and our availability of an EDA grant. So for now, just know we tentatively have the entities picked. We get the proposal letter, we will convene this group again, probably in the same manner, and we will need a motion to spend those dollars."

Pitsch anticipates getting a proposal letter from both entities "in the next week or two."

The board approved an intergovernmental agreement between the authority, Fort Smith and Van Buren, and Sebastian and Crawford counties regarding submission for the grant during a meeting on Dec. 18. Eighty percent of the total funding of the proposed project, $360,000, would come from the Economic Development Administration grant. The local match of $90,000 would be split evenly among the four governmental entities, with each contributing $22,500.

The board approved an administrative contract for the grant between the authority and the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District during a meeting on July 8. Sasha Grist, executive director of the district, has said this contract signifies that the district would administer the grant for the intermodal authority.

Pitsch said in July that all environmental permitting and design has to be finished before the authority can move to the next phase of construction. The Western Arkansas Planning and Development District would start advertising in August for requests for quotes for the design and engineering study.

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