FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that will require the city of Fort Smith to fix grade four and five manhole and sewer line defects, rather than simply monitor them.

The September 14 ruling decree issues the following three requirements:

  1. Assessing the condition of the sewer system
  2. Identifying control measures to address certain defects
  3. Developing a plan to ensure adequate capacity in the sewer system

The city had appealed the lower court’s 2021 order, challenging the court’s conclusion that “certain severe structural defects” needed to be repaired by a certain date. Fort Smith had sought an “open-ended monitoring and maintenance” program.

This ruling means that all grade four or five defects in manholes and sewer lines must be repaired within four years of discovery. The ruling follows a recent class-action lawsuit filed against the city of Fort Smith related to recycling services. In that ruling, the city owes $745,057 for not properly processing recyclable materials.

Attorney Joey McCutchen filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the consent decree after the city claimed that it could not discuss it publicly because of a confidentiality provision.

“This decision by the Court of Appeals could bankrupt the City of Fort Smith, even with the massive tax increase we just approved,” McCutchen said. “It is time that the City, and its lawyers, become totally transparent with taxpayers regarding the effect that this and other malfeasance will have on our pocketbooks.”