And the winner is…. North Little Rock Electric.
The Sherwood City Council Monday voted by a 5-3 vote to approve a franchise agreement with North Little Rock Electric to continue providing electric service to about 7,000 city households.
The vote ended several months of debate as Sherwood elected leaders were trying to chose among three companies vying for the contract: North Little Rock Electric, Entergy of Arkansas, and First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville.
Aldemen Steve Fender, Tim McMinn, Ken Keplinger, Marina Brooks, and Charles Harmon voted for the agreement while Aldermen Toni Butler, Mary Jo Heye and Kevin Lilly were opposed.
Before the issue went to vote, District 12 Justice of the Peace -Elect Karilyn Brown and long-time resident Amy Sanders commented on the issue.
Brown, who was against a decision being made that night said her “constituents were very concerned the decision is being rushed.” She added that she wanted residents to have a chance to buy in and a chance for the people of Sherwood to speak.
“I don’t want people to think we have not been open,” Harmon responded later. He said the opportunity was given at earlier forums.
Sanders, who supported a decision being made that night said she saw no reason to leave North Little Rock Electric, adding that she and others she has spoke to are “very satisfied” with the service. “There’s no need to change when there’s nothing wrong,” she said.
Heye gave a statement to the council.
“We know that the North Little Rock Electric customers are paying 15 percent higher rates than Entergy’s customers. In 2013 Entergy Arkansas will split away from the Entergy corporate umbrella, this by itself means an additional 5 percent savings for its customers and Entergy Arkansas then becomes an Arkansas-only corporation,” she said, adding that would mean an additional $40 a month for many residents.
“And then we have First Electric Cooperative, who is a mid-size utility. They have a fantastic business model where our citizens become stake holders,” she said. “However, we are looking at choosing North Little Rock Electric, the smallest, the one with the highest rates and with the least amount of protection. Their city council sets their rates and these are not based upon the market, but upon what their needs are for their general fund.”
Heye added, “In the craving of $470,000 we are overlooking the fact that only a small section of the city is responsible for this. Yes, we will get a small percentage of the money in our city’s coffers that are a result of higher bills, but how is that fair to those citizens that this burden is not shared by all?”
Heye continued, “For an average citizen we are talking about a $500 per year savings in their electricity bills. What could those families do with an additional $500 a year?”
Lilly said said $40 means something to a lot of people.”
Lilly said, “Did you vote to get lower rates or $470,000?”
Keplinger said he had been very skeptical of the agreement.
“I’ve looked at all three electric companies,” he said. “I honestly believe North Little Rock will be the best decision.”
“I’ve talked to several constituents,” McMinn said. “Only one person said they wanted to be changed over.”
McMinn continued, “Vote what the people say,” adding he believed it was fair to say Entergy has also done an excellent job.