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Grassroots Sherwood committee gets 1,500 signatures to rescind NLR Electric agreement

<p>Don Berry, chair of COST, which stands for Citizens of Sherwood Together, turned in to Sherwood City Clerk on Thursday 156 petitions for referendum for a special election on Sherwood Ordinance 1953. On all the petition, there totaled about 1,500 signatures. (Photo by Greg Rayburn)</p>Buy Photo

Don Berry, chair of COST, which stands for Citizens of Sherwood Together, turned in to Sherwood City Clerk on Thursday 156 petitions for referendum for a special election on Sherwood Ordinance 1953. On all the petition, there totaled about 1,500 signatures. (Photo by Greg Rayburn)

On Dec. 17, 2012, Sherwood City Attorney Steve Cobb wished the members of City Council congratulations for adopting a 2013 budget.

Perhaps the congratulations were premature as a Sherwood grassroots citizens committee’s action in December could result in a $475,000 reduction from the 2013 budget contingent on the outcome of an expected 2013 special city election. Sherwood voters will be asked to either vote for or against City Ordinance 2012- 1953, which was the legislation that approved on Nov. 26 a 20-year franchise agreement with North Little Rock Electric to provide electric service to about 7,000 city households.

It appears the biggest political hot bottom issue for Sherwood in 2012 could again dominate the city’s business this year.

On Dec. 27, a grassroots citizens committee calling itself “Citizens of Sherwood Together,” or COST, submitted a petition with about 1,500 signatures on it in an attempt to nullify the North Little Rock Electric ordinance.

The committee would have submitted the petitions one day earlier but City Hall was closed due to the blizzard of 2012.

For several months in 2012, the council was trying to decide if it should choose North Little Rock Electric, Entergy of Arkansas or First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville to ink a new electric franchise agreement.

The hotly contested issue that brought angry emotions to the forefront came to a head in November when the city council voted by a 5-3 margin to go ahead and pick North Little Rock Electric.

Don Berry, COST’s chairman, wrote a letter on Dec. 26 to Sherwood City Clerk Angela Nicholson that stated the group tried to contact her office on that day but it was closed due to inclement weather.

“We contacted your office for the purpose of transmitting petitions containing signatures of more than 15 percent of the voters who voted in the last mayoral election in the City of Sherwood, Arkansas,” reads Berry’s letter.

COST’s petition drive would put before city voters language that allows city voters to either vote for or against the proposed ordinance, which reads, “Ordinance 1953 - An ordinance approving the franchise agreement between the City of Sherwood and City of North Little Rock continuing electric services to the areas currently served by North Little Rock Electric.”

Besides the 1,500-signatire petition, COST submitted a proposed 2013 city ordinance that would permit Sherwood to accept the referendum petition regarding Ordinance 1953. COST’s proposed ordinance also would order a special election on Ordinance 1953.

In the proposed ordinance, it states that COST’s petition for a referendum was filed with the Sherwood City Clerk’s office and that pursuant to Amendment 7 of the Arkansas Constitution a sufficient number of signatures were submitted for the issue to be brought before all the voters of Sherwood.

“Pursuant to Amendment 7, as interpreted by the Arkansas Supreme Court in ‘Wright v. Ward, 170 Ark. 464 (1926) it is the sole duty and responsibility of the City Council to order a special election and name the date for such election,” reads the proposed ordinance.

COST’s proposed ordinance has five sections, with the first reading, “The City Council of the City of Sherwood finds, after notice and hearing and pursuant to the certification as given by the City Clerk, that the petition for referendum filed on (date submitted) is signed by the requisite number of petitioners pursuant to Amendment 7 to the Arkansas Constitution.”

It continues, “That pursuant to Amendment 7 to the Arkansas Constitution, and A.C.A. §7-9-111(h), the Sherwood City Council hereby orders a special election to be held on (a specific date), for the referendum on Ordinance No.1953.”

The proposed ordinance would provide that a copy of the document be given to the Pulaski County Clerk and the Pulaski County Election Commission.

It adds, “That the Mayor, City Clerk, and City Attorney are authorized to do all things necessary and proper to carry out the requirements of Amendment 7 and this ordinance. “

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