A volunteer Sherwood citizens committee appointed by Mayor Virginia Hillman contends that another advantage to staying with North Little Rock Electric is because it is the smallest of three companies vying for the city’s electric franchise agreement for 7,000 city residents.
"The committee sees value in being small, close knit and an integral and wanted part of the [North Little Rock Electric Department] system," states its report to Hillman. "The majority of the committee members express the opinion that Sherwood residents would likely have greater influence, in conjunction with the residents of North Little Rock, regarding any question of rate-making, with the city council of North Little Rock, considering that the [Arkansas Public Service Commission] is independently appointed by the governor for set terms, and is more likely to be prejudiced in favor of large industrial and commercial consumer s of electricity, many of whom have paid advocates to represent their interest before the [commission.]"
The report continues, "Whereas, the city council of North Little Rock would try to be responsive to the voters who determine their continued political viability and to whom the residents of the [North Little Rock] franchise area of Sherwood are uniquely linked."
The report points out that Energy of Arkansas is a publicly held stockholder company with 700,000 customers spanning across the state. First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville has 90,000 customers throughout Central Arkansas. North Little Rock Electric has about 36,000 customers, which are primarily concentrated in the North Little Rock-Sherwood area with Sherwood composing slightly over one-sixth of its customer base.
The report also analyzes customer service that would be provided by the three utilities.
"No analysis of this subject is complete without considering customer service to the customers and to the city of Sherwood itself," states the report.
Committee Chairman Jim Davis said due to time constraints the committee was unable to ask at its Oct. 9 public hearing questions about dispatch locations and priorities regarding response to an outage in the Sherwood area.
"I spoke individually on the following day with representatives of each of the three respondents who were at the joint committee/council meeting," Davis reported. "Both [Entergy] and [First Electric Coop] indicated that, during business hours, dispatch of service technicians would take place from their respective Jacksonville offices."
First Electric CEO Don Crabbe told Davis that in the event of an after-hours outage that its service technicians have their trucks at home and can readily be dispatched from that location.
North Little Rock Electric’s Mike Russ told Davis that dispatching occurs from the utility’s offices at 1400 W. Maryland Ave., which is about half a mile from the Sherwood city limits.
"Mr. Russ went on to state, as is stated in the [North Little Rock] proposal and in the current franchise agreement, that in the event of a large scale outage, Sherwood elected officials are welcome to come to the operations center on Maryland Avenue and view what is being done to restore power to the affected areas of Sherwood," states the report.
Subsequent to the meeting with the committee and council members on Oct. 9, Entergy had invited Sherwood elected officials to tour their operations center in downtown Little Rock.
"It is understood that some members of the council have toured the [First Electric] facility in Jacksonville," according to the report. "The committee believes that service issues are best determined by discussions with the selected electricity supplier and incorporated into the franchise agreement."
The report also looked at the impact the three utilities would have with providing street lighting.
"In terms of service to the city, it appears that the cost of street lighting is very similar, depending on the type of lighting used, from all three respondents," states the report. "The issue of cost of relocation of utility assets located in city rights of way, such as in the case of street improvement or widening, is a serious consideration that should be addressed at the time of contract negotiation. From comments of city officials and personnel involved in the process, it appears that both [North Little Rock] and [First Electric] have a history of cooperation with the city in such matters, while recent history shows that [Entergy] was the only utility that required the city to reimburse their costs in moving utility assets from their previous location to an area outside the actual street cross section location on the project on Brockington Road. Considering that the City of Sherwood has several projected widening projects, including the imminent project on Maryland, this could end up being a considerable cost factor over the coming years."