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Sherwood officials meet with electric utility executives

The three companies vying for a contract to provide between 6,000-7,000 Sherwood residents electric service for the next two to four decades met with Sherwood leaders Tuesday morning in the office of Mayor Virginia Hillman.

Managers from Entergy, First Electric Coop of Jacksonville and North Little Rock Electric were present to answer questions by city officials in addition to present Sherwood officials proposals about how they would provide electric service to Sherwood.

In North Little Rock’s proposal to Sherwood, North Little Rock Electric Manager Mike Russ said it is extremely doubtful that rates would increase again like they did in 2007.

“Thanks to transparent operations and ever-improving service, North Little Rock Electric altered business operations to deal head on with the rate spike of 2007 and we are now positioned to be the low-cost provider to Sherwood for the terms of the contract,” said Mike Russ.

In North Little Rock’s proposal, Russ pointed out to Sherwood officials that his city passed two rate decreases in the past three years and has publicly announced decreases in the future.

“With North Little Rock Electric, Sherwood customers will not be exposed to the skyrocketing regulatory costs of older coal plants,” Russ stated. “Best of all, by remaining with North Little Rock Electric, the city and our Sherwood customers need not worry about the costs nor the regulatory uncertainty associated with disconnecting part of a distribution system and connecting to another provider.”

Hugh McDonald, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, responded via letter that Sherwood residents would stand to save money because of his company’s lower rates.

“In other words, it is not just the $1.5 million in annual customer savings that we can offer to the citizens of Sherwood, or conservatively, more than $200 per year that every new Sherwood customer can expect to save,” McDonald said. “Rather, it is the total package that Entergy Arkansas has to offer Sherwood, its leaders and the residents that Sherwood customers represent.

McDonald added that the Arkansas Public Service Commission on Oct. 26 authorized Entergy Arkansas to move forward with the integration process to join the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc. organization, which is better known in electric provider circles as MISO.

“The company has calculated that moving to MISO will save its retail customers up to $263 million over the next 10 years,” McDonald said. “Alternatively, the city of North Little Rock opposed Entergy Arkansas’ membership in MISO and recently stated that moving to MISO would cause North Little Rock to bear a disproportionate share of high cost generation.”

First Electric Coop CEO Don Crabbe said the citizens of Sherwood would be best served by his company.

“There are many benefits associated with being part of a member-owned utility,” Crabbe said. “First Electric is on the cutting edge of technology — launching automated meter reading in 2004. In addition, a new online bill payment system with mobile app allowing members to view daily usage and pay their bill through their smart phone will launch the first of the year.”

Crabbe said its member/owner business model allows First Electric to return to its members money not needed for electric generation.

In 2011, First Electric returned $3.8 million to its members and studies are currently being done to determine how much will be returned in December.

“First Electric has returned more than $53 million to date,” Crabbe said. “We are service driven — not profit driven and that allows us to provide reliable and affordable electricity to almost 90,000 members across Central Arkansas.”

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