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Letter to Editor | Reader doesn’t want NLR Electric

Dear Editor,

‘Gobbledygook.’ One commonly understood meaning of that slang word is: “Complex, confusing, hazy speech that is purposely intended to ‘cloud the issues’ in order to convert a simple matter into a quite confusing choice.” In other words, If some party has no chance of winning some issue on pure merit, then they introduce enough ‘high falutin’ talk so that common folks will throw up their hands in confusion. By that definition, there has been much ‘gobbledygook’ spouted regarding the very current question (and impending vote) on Sherwood’s NLR electric franchise; and the confusion is being dishonestly introduced by only one side. That should not be surprising, though; because when one side is the clear loser based upon hard facts, then “pure merit” must be discarded. The losers try to cloud the issues using such ‘double talk.’

Here are the bare facts, within a decimal point of accuracy: A typical NLR/Sherwood residential customer with an average monthly usage of only 1,200 KWH per month will pay about $1,948 per year to NLR. In contrast, their comparable costs (for the same amount of electricity) would be $1,595 for Entergy (18.1 percent lower) or $1,719 for First Electric (11.7 percent lower). Those figures would amount to an annual savings of $353 with Entergy or $229 with First Electric. Clearly, both of those companies offer far lower rates than NLR. Those are easily verified facts. So why would your honorable City Council ever select NLR? The answer, of course, is that $470,000 ‘kickback’ that the ratepayers (you and I) will never see. The City desperately needs that kickback to pay for the struggling golf course, which most of us never use. Let me be clear, though: I don’t mind having a golf course. It’s nice. I just think that the golfers ought to pay for it. That kickback amounts to a ‘hidden tax’ (on us) that we did not pass via public vote.

If you question those ‘bare facts’ above, then there are several ways that a diligent ratepayer can verify them. One choice is to call the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) and ask them to estimate how much a residential customer would pay to both Entergy or First Electric for (an average of) 1,200 KWH per month. A second way is to consider what both of those strong companies have urged for almost a year. Their very public and open appeal to the Sherwood City Council has been to simply hire an unbiased professional expert to analyze the different bids. That simple analysis (for a professional) just seems to make common sense amidst this overwhelming avalanche of ‘double talk.’ Instead, the mayor hand-picked a five-man citizens committee to approve what she wanted to do anyway. From my observations, few of those five even understood the basic terminology.

Is paying a relatively few dollars to an unbiased consultant for a more careful analysis worth it to Sherwood voters? Of course. Based upon that same 1,200 KWH per month, the difference in NLR bills and Entergy bills for the 20 year life of the contract would be a total savings of about $7,063 per Sherwood customer. That comes directly out of your individual pocketbook and mine! Multiply that figure by 7,000 customers and you get a total of $49.5 million extra paid by Sherwood ratepayers. Is that difference worth a little closer ‘expert’ study? Apparently not to the mayor; because she also understands that for that personal ‘sacrifice’ by 7000 citizens, the City will get a 20 year kickback of about $9.4 million. Wow! Impressive. How do you justify that? Obviously with ‘gobbledygook’ explanations.

That solid data introduces another very valid question that all Sherwood voters should ask themselves. That is: “Why does NLR care so much about this vote?” The simple answer is that the Sherwood business is a ‘Cash Cow’ for NLR. Just think of all the money being spent by NLR supporters to influence this upcoming election. Multiple phone calls to every home, multiple (expensive) mail outs to Sherwood residents, yard signs suddenly popping-up, etc. Who is paying for this and why? My personal opinion is that the city of NLR’s financial budget will face disaster without that ‘Cash Cow’ of Sherwood’s electricity business. So they are willing to go to blatant extremes to keep this critical revenue. For them, it may be a matter of survival. For me, as a Sherwood ratepayer, I don’t care about their problems. I want MY $7,063 to spend on myself and my family.

Here are four examples of misconceptions purposely advanced by NLR that (in my opinion) can and should be addressed by an impartial consultant: (1) The hype about the cost and process of purchasing the existing NLR infrastructure has been VERY misleading; (2) characterizing the upcoming MISO transmission agreement as highly beneficial to NLR completely ignores the much lower embedded generation costs of the two larger utilities who will indeed prosper; and (3) the very well understood cost decreases already announced by Entergy (especially from leaving System Agreement) have of course been completely ignored. That will increase their quoted advantage verses NLR. These technical issues can easily confuse a ‘layman’; but not an independent analyst. Finally, (4) there are local ‘scare tactics’ aimed at Sherwood City employees to suggest that their jobs may be threatened if there is a franchise change. So to you Sherwood employees I say: “How many raises have you gotten during the past 5-6 years? In contrast, what increases have NLR employees received? Perhaps the difference is due to that ‘Cash Cow’ sending our money to NLR. Instead, you might get your well deserved raises if we just made the golf course pay for itself.”

One last fact is pertinent to address much of that hazy doubletalk. Both Entergy and First Electric are under the stringent oversight of the APSC. Everything they do is under intense scrutiny. Their rates are already significantly lower; and cannot be raised without going through an exhaustive and very public process. In contrast, no one is appointed as an overseer of the NLR rates. If the NLR budget gets in trouble, all that is needed is a quick one night vote approved by a simple majority of their council, who will ALWAYS favor their NLR constituents over Sherwood residents. That should be a major RED FLAG. We should be very careful about a 20 year commitment where we have absolutely no future input.

Readers need to understand that I am an Entergy employee, which I also stated clearly in an earlier letter. But rather than suggesting favoritism, what is more important is that by virtue of decades of professional experience, it makes me an expert on such matters. I cannot be fooled by this dishonest ‘gobbledygook’; so I am telling Sherwood voters to beware. All Entergy and First Electric want is for the City Council to hire an impartial ‘expert’ to evaluate the technical issues, then for the City to act upon that informed recommendation. What could be more reasonable? Thus, if you citizens want to get the lowest cost for the next 20 years, everyone affected MUST get out and vote next Tuesday. Vote against the ordinance in order to keep the bidding process alive. As a Sherwood resident and ratepayer, I will. Why am I involved? Because it means over $7,000 to me. And probably to you, too. You should all be angry by this misappropriation of our money. Go vote!

Charles Woods, Sherwood

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