The time has come for Sherwood voters to decide if they want a territory in the city to continue receiving its electric service from North Little Rock Electric.
The official voting day is next Tuesday; however, early voting started on Tuesday.
Melinda Allen, director of elections for the Pulaski County Election Commission, said voting started on Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the Pulaski County Regional Building, 501 W. Markham St., Little Rock. Registered Sherwood voters can cast their ballots there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during weekdays. There will be no weekend early voting at this site, according to Allen. Early voting will end here on Monday.
Allen said people who wish to vote early could also now do so at the Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive, Sherwood. Early voting started here at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and voters have until 5 p.m. on Friday to cast their ballots.
Allen added that there would be a temporary change for voters in Precinct 33. She said voters would cast their ballots at First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge, 14322 Arkansas 107, Jacksonville.
Here are the polling sites for Tuesday in the special election:
• Precinct 28, Kellogg Valley Baptist Church, 9516 Bamboo Lane, North Little Rock;
• Precinct 31, Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church, 9921 Sylvan Hills Highway, Sherwood;
• Precinct 32, First Baptist of Gravel Ridge, 14322 Arkansas 107, Jacksonville;
• Precinct 33, First Baptist of Gravel Ridge, 14322 Arkansas 107, Jacksonville;
• Precinct 39, Brockington Road Church of the Nazarene, 9860 Brockington Road, Sherwood;
• Precinct 40, Sylvan Hills Community Church, 8019 Arkansas 107, Sherwood;
• Precinct 41, Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive, Sherwood;
• Precinct 42, First Baptist Church of Sherwood, 701 Country Club, Sherwood;
• Precinct 43, Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church, 7351 Warden Road, Sherwood;
• Precinct 44, Indianhead Lake Baptist Church, 8601 Indianhead Drive, Sherwood;
Precinct 48, Harris Elementary School, 4424 Highway 161 North, North Little Rock;
• Precinct 49, Sherwood Youth Center, 508 Sherwood Ave., Sherwood.
Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said she is optimistic about the North Little Rock Electric vote.
"Overall, I have a good feeling."
Hillman said she has appreciated the efforts of FACES (Facts About Customers’ Energy Services), which she said has done a good job getting out to the public information about the North Little Rock Electric issue.
"I appreciate the job they have done getting the facts out to the people," Hillman said.
Hillman said she also received good feedback following a one-hour "tele-town hall" meeting which took place Monday where she and North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith were available to answer questions from the public. She said she was encouraged that numerous comments were supportive of maintaining the city’s franchise agreement with NLR Electric. Some questions posed included North Little Rock’s $470,000 annual payment to the city of Sherwood’s general fund.
"Another frequent question asked was why are we having this vote when we are satisfied with North Little Rock Electric."
Hillman said she also was encouraged by a poll taken following the conference where 70 percent of respondents supported keeping North Little Rock Electric.
Hillman said she is looking forward to moving past the issue and having city officials put their energy towards other pressing city matters.
"We should have never gotten this far but we did," Hillman said.
Smith said he hopes the people of Sherwood support continuing his city’s relationship between the two municipalities.
"A great partnership, good neighbors and a caring public utility has defined North Little Rock Electric’s many years of service to our Sherwood customers," said Smith. "We look forward to continuing our record of providing outstanding, local customer service to our neighbors and sharing with them any additional revenue to benefit their police, fire and other city services when the voters choose yes on the ballot question before them."
Smith said if Sherwood voters have any questions regarding their electric service or the special election they are encouraged to call the North Little Rock Electric Department at 501-992-4005.
While both mayors are in North Little Rock Electric’s corner, not everyone has the same sentiment.
Don Berry, founder of Citizens of Sherwood Together, said he hopes Sherwood voters cast ballots to end the franchise agreement between NLR Electric and the City of Sherwood.
Berry said if the current 20-year franchise agreement is rejected by voters then current NLR Electric customers could ask for rates that are lower than those paid by the citizens of North Little Rock.
Berry said Sherwood ratepayers should not be required to help subsidize North Little Rock’s general fund. He said ratepayers here should just pay for the cost of generating the electricity.
"It doesn’t seem appropriate for Sherwood to be paying for both," Berry said. "If people vote against the ordinance it can be taken back to the (Sherwood) City Council to allow them to negotiate with the city of North Little Rock," Berry said.
Berry said if city ratepayers stop subsidizing North Little Rock’s general fund then Sherwood’s NLR’s customers would see their rates go down by between 12-15 percent.
"They would enjoy rates comparable to those paid by Entergy Arkansas or First Electric Cooperative customers," Berry said.
Berry said there has been misinformation about the electric issue put out by NLR Electric supporters.
"We provided documentation," Berry said. "They need to be scare 82-year-old seniors citizens and say their power is going to be shut off and they are going to be paying through the nose now."