Residents of Sherwood had the opportunity to speak their minds Monday evening at a public hearing before City Council about whether to hold an election on the franchise agreement the city currently holds with North Little Rock Electric.
“I’m curious as to why this is coming up and why we’re going to spend $25,000,” Lou Mangrum, a customer of North Little Rock.
“They (North Little Rock Electric) have always been there,” he said. “Their service is exemplary.”
“We’ll be a little fish in a big pond with Entergy,” Mangrum said, stating that he thought Little Rock would probably be the top priority.
Alderman Mary Jo Heye asked Mangrum where he got his information.
Mangrum stated that he had received the information from North Little Rock Electric as well as Alderman Mike Sanders and Tom Brooks, who is the husband of Alderman Marina Brooks.
“Why are these people under North Little Rock Electric drawing a petition,” Rod Radlein asked.
Radlein said that he believed that North Little Rock was focused on the local community and that providers from outside of the community could not respond to needs that well, citing the last snowstorm as an example.
He said that Entergy brings most of its repair crews from out of state while the crews he saw from North Little Rock Electric were “local fellas who worked for them.”
“Someone’s got an agenda to open this up,” Radli said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Deb Flynn, who said she signed the petition to put the issue to a public vote, said she doesn’t think it’s fair that the council made the decision without approval from the people.
“We should have a say too,” she said.
“My understanding is that the city is taking $470,000 a year and funneling it to the golf course,” said John Boler, a long time North Little Rock Electric customer. “I don’t believe that.”
He said that there had only been two major outages during his time there.
“Funneling money seems to be the only issue,” Boler said. “Participants are wanting to know where the money is going.”
He said he believed people had been misled and that he had two sons who work with North Little Rock Electric.
“The golf course issue has been put to bed,” Mayor Virginia Hillman said. She said the money goes into the general fund and not to one particular area.
“I have been very involved in the costs,” said Kim Ferguson. “When the ordinance was put before the city council, it seemed like a rush to move forward.”
She said that people were united in the move to hold a vote on the issue.
“My bill is 14 percent more than someone with Entergy or First Electric Cooperative,” she said.
Ferguson said that both Entergy and First Electric Cooperative have 99 percent reliability while North Little Electric has none. She said that she has no complaints about North Little Rock Electric. Her only concern is the higher rates.
“I feel like the city council voted to put money into the city budget,” Ferguson said. “I would like people to have a voice. We will find out what people think. It’s also about managing money well.”
Karilyn Brown, a long time North Little Rock Electric customer, said that when she checked the North Little Rock Electric website that updates were not available. She said she thought the utility was being treated as a “cash cow” for the city.
Charlie Wood, an Entergy employee and Sherwood resident who lives within the area of town serviced by North Little Rock Electric, said nobody knows more about electric reliability than he does. He said that reliability is not an issue for Entergy and that his employer has received 14 awards for its service.
Wood also said he didn’t think that North Little Rock Electric had bad service, but was concerned about its cost.
“I calculated it will cost more than $200 a year if we stay with North Little Rock Electric,” he said.
Wood said if North Little Rock agreed to refund the difference with Entergy and First Electric Coop then he would jump on board and support North Little Rock Electric as his neighborhood’s electric provider.
“The utility is a cash cow for the city,” he said. “They’ll (the city of North Little Rock) have big, big trouble without that money.”
Roger Bynum said customers of North Little Rock Electric are paying 14 percent more than other customers and that the city is getting $470,000.
“I believe it’s very inappropriate,” he said.