Funding is in place to seek investors for a proposed intermodal port project in Van Buren.

Members of Van Buren City Council voted Monday night to contribute $40,000 to hire Virginia-based Vickerman and Associates for $200,500 to find a qualified entity to fund, design, build and potentially operate the proposed slackwater port to be located on the Arkansas River at the Port of Van Buren.

Previously, the City of Fort Smith, Sebastian and Crawford counties and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority agreed to the payments to Vickerman.

Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman said the proposed port is important and a great opportunity for the region.

Combined with the railroad and interstate services, the Arkansas River provides potential for the future of the region.

Funding will go to Western Arkansas Intermodal Development Authority, which will hire Vickerman and Associates.

At a Feb. 1 study session, John Vickerman of Vickerman and Associates said the port would be an intermodal rail, logistics center, warehouse and integrated river port terminal.

Vickerman said he has worked as a consultant on 67 of the 90 North American deep water ports, including New Orleans and Chicago.

Monday’s resolution also authorized Freeman to make another payment of $40,000 to WAIA, Van Buren’s annual contribution for the operating expenses of the organization.

Also at the meeting, Freeman delivered his annual state of the city address as required by state law.

“We have a great staff in all our city departments,” said Freeman, who praised the fire department for maintaining an ISO rating of 2 and answering 12.5 percent more calls, both fire and first responder, in 2016.

The mayor also had praise for the police department for decreasing calls for service by 2.9 percent last year and keeping the city one of the safest in Arkansas.

Freeman also pointed out Police Chief Kenneth Bell will retire at the end of June.

“He will be sorely missed,” Freeman said. “They will begin advertising for a new chief at the end of the week.”

The mayor presented a detailed report on all city departments, including the city revenues and expenses for 2016.

“City staff does a tremendous job in meeting yearly challenges,” Freeman said. “And, the city appreciates all the partners it has developed over the years.”

The council also:

• Adopted a revised 2016 budget with $17,023,329 in revenues and $17,133,035 in expenses.

• Entered into a contact with Hawkins-Weir Engineers Inc. to provide engineering services for preliminary designs and cost estimates for street, drainage, bridge and sidewalk improvements. Cost will not exceed $25,000.

• Approved the final plat for Legacy Valley Phase V.

• Hired Dale Crampton Co. at a cost of $21,822 to repair the storm damaged roof at the No. 3 fire station on Mount Vista Boulevard.

The council’s next meeting will be March 20.