The city of Fort Smith is expected to save about $9 million in a process of authorizing the sale of $160 million in water and sewer refunding for projects required by an Environmental Protection Administration consent decree.

With financial advice from PFM, the Fort Smith Finance Department and City Administrator have chosen Bank of America Merrill Lynch as the lead underwriter for the sale of the bonds.

Stephens Inc. and Raymond James will assist in the underwriting of the bonds. Prior to the release of the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Finance Report this week and other factors, the savings were only expected to be about $4 million.

“The numbers are not finalized but the savings is slightly better, we're approximately $9 million in savings,” Lauren Lowe of PFM in Memphis told the board Tuesday in a public hearing on the bond issue. "That's going back into the new money projects."

The bond sale includes refinancing $67 million of the 2008 water and sewer construction bonds, $82 million for new water and sewer projects and $11 million for premiums, reserves or in case estimates change from changes in the bond pricing.

Although it was a public hearing, City Administrator Carl Geffken said the decision on using Bank of America Merrill Lynch had been decided. After City Director George Catsavis noted Stephens Inc. had many years in underwriting city construction bonds and questioned why the Arkansas-based company was not chosen as the lead underwriter, Lowe said it was because they did not have the amount of experience "at the level Bank of America offered."

"We went with a financial adviser to get the politics out of this situation,” Geffken said.

Catsavis had asked for a Stephens Inc. representative to speak on the competition.

The board will vote on the ordinance to issue the bonds at its July 24 meeting. Finance Director Jennifer Walker said time is of the essence to take advantage of interest rates before they go up again.

In other business, the city official repealed a 1953 ordinance that outlawed the operation of public dance halls Sunday, or any other place in which dancing is engaged Sunday.

City Director Andre Good brought the motion to repeal the ordinance.

"If you don't care to dance on Sunday, that's fine," Good wrote in an email. "We should all respect that. But let's not impose some outdated, outmoded morality code on all our fine fellow citizens."

Good said at the meeting Tuesday this move could be the beginning of repealing other unenforced codes that "impede progress" and "conflict with our focus on moving Fort Smith forward."

Good thanked Fort Smith Sgt. Wendall Sampson Jr. of the Fort Smith Police Department for calling the "Footloose" rule to the public's attention.