The citizens of Sherwood will be able to voice their opinion on a referendum on the city’s franchise with North Little Rock Electric. The Sherwood City Council set a public hearing on the issue for Feb. 11.

The hearing comes after the council voted 5-3 on Nov. 26 in favor of selecting North Little Rock Electric to provide electric service to 7,000 Sherwood households.

"Nearly 1,600 signatures were obtained during the petition drive," said Don Berry, chair of Citizens of Sherwood Together (COST). "Eighty percent are North Little Rock Electric customers."

Berry claimed that some aldermen had contacted people who signed the petition in order to persuade them to remove their names, questioning its legality.

Alderman Marina Brooks took exception to Berry’s statement, saying that people wanting to be removed from the petition had contacted her.

"There’s no law on that (contacting people about removing their names from a petition)," City attorney Steve Cobb said.

"This body has a petition of sufficient signatures," Berry said.

Alderman Kenneth Keplinger asked what Berry’s objective was. "What will we vote on," he asked?

Berry said the intention was a vote by the citizens for or against the franchise with North Little Rock Electric.

After more discussion, the date for the meeting was set. At the meeting, the council will make a determination of the sufficiency of the signatures. If found to be sufficient, then an election date would be set at the following meeting of the Council.

Mayor Virginia Hillman also gave the State of the City address and said, "The year 2012 once again presented opportunities as well as challenges."

Hillman spotlighted high points in many of the city’s departments.

"The Sherwood Sports Complex is not only the home fields for the Sylvan Hills-Sherwood Optimist baseball and softball teams, but was also home to four local high schools and the Sherwood Soccer Club," she said. "Over the last year, the soccer club has almost doubled in size and has hosted 216 games against other leagues around the state."

"Ninety seven percent of adoptable animals were placed with new families," she said of the Animal Services Department. "The department received a grant to provide each animal leaving the shelter with a new collar and ID tag. Also, a grant was received to assist win spaying and neutering services."

Hillman also detailed improvements to the city’s website along with an employee health and benefits fair that saw 130 city workers attend and 95 received free flu shots.

Hillman also said that 80 percent of her city’s residents are participating in the curbside recycling program, while the district court handled more than 23,700 cases that generated a little more than $2.5 million in revenue for the city’s general fund.

"A rehabilitation plan for half of the sanitary sewer system has been developed and the sewer mains are currently being repaired or replaced," Hillman said. "A rehabilitation plan for the remainder of the system will be completed this year. This is being funded through the sales tax fund."

Crime has also dropped, Hillman said with a 26 percent drop in violent crimes.

In other business: An ordinance appropriating funds from the general fund for the construction of a police substation in the Gravel Ridge area of Sherwood and for other purposes was adopted. A resolution finding the structure located at 10515 Hillcrest to constitute a public nuisance was adopted. An ordinance establishing meeting times, procedures and rules for city council meetings for the city and for other purposes was adopted. An ordinance amending Ordinance No. 729, Section 10.1, regulating accessory buildings and repealing conflicting ordinances and for other purposes had its first reading. An ordinance imposing a franchise fee equal to 4.25 percent of the gross revenues of Central Arkansas Water within the corporate limits of the city had its second reading

The next City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25.