Members of the Van Buren City Council voted Wednesday to consider a $40,000 contribution for a proposed port project on the Arkansas River in Van Buren.
The resolution will be on the agenda for the Feb. 27 council meeting at the Municipal Complex.
Funding would go to Western Arkansas Intermodal Development Authority, which would hire Vickerman and Associates at a cost of $200,050 to find an entity that would design, build, pay for and potentially operate the slackwater port.
The slackwater port would be an intermodal rail, logistics center, warehouse and integrated river port terminal on the Arkansas River, according to John Vickerman of Vickerman and Associates.
Vickerman and Mat Pitsch of Western Arkansas Intermodal Development Authority also have met with the Fort Smith Board of Directors, Crawford and Sebastian quorum courts and Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority about the region working together to bring the port to Van Buren.
Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority agreed Tuesday to contribute $40,000 to a proposed port project.
“If ever there was a regional opportunity, this is it,” Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman said Wednesday. “We need to make this happen.”
Freeman pointed out the city was involved in a study 20 years ago about an intermodal port.
“However, nothing happened because we could not get the players to come together as a region,” he said. “We have the opportunity to find out what the other players think … and make this happen.”
Van Buren City Planner Joe Hurst said the port could have big impact on economic development in Van Buren and whole area.
Pitsch said the goal is for Vickerman to find a private entity that will design, build and operate the port.
Vickerman pointed out the region has railroads and interstates to capitalize on an unused Arkansas River for a growth market.
Pitsch said there are 90 deep-water ports in North America and Vickerman and Associates have designed or been involved with 67 of them.
“He is the guy that knows the people,” Pitsch said. “We’re talking about using his expertise to find a private developer, operator, somebody to do our transportation in this area.”