Being within an estimated few hundred valid signatures away from having the North Little Rock Electric contract ordinance recalled, volunteers of Citizens of Sherwood Together (COST) say they are striving for something – a fair deal with Sherwood electric customers.
Don Berry, COST’s chairman, said the North Little Rock Electric contract is a part of the problem in Sherwood city government, which is why volunteers decided this time to stand up to City Hall.
COST Volunteer Charlie Wood said there still remains a bad taste in the mouths of a significant portion of the Sherwood electric over the millions of dollars spent on acquiring The Greens at North Hills. Wood said a part of the reason Sherwood has a tighter budget than it should is because the city-owned golf course takes more revenue out of city coffers than it brings in. Due to decisions like the golf course, city leaders feel more pressured to take $475,000 tariff offers from North Little Rock Electric.
Of the three electric utilities vying for the city contract, only North Little Rock Electric offered an additional annual tariff payment to the city of Sherwood.
Berry said the city’s push to sign a deal with North Little Rock Electricis a sign of a municipal government that is not responding to the needs of its citizens.
Berry said COST should be given more time than the Jan. 14 deadline set forth by the city clerk’s office because the community group hasn’t been given clear cut reasons why the 300 signatures were rejected.
Once the city makes clear why the signatures were rejected, the 10-day clock should start ticking, according to Berry.
Berry said COST at the present time is not sure of the exact number of valid signatures it needs to get the issue before voters. Collecting nearly 1,500, COST was convinced it had surpassed the number. City Clerk Angela Nicholson said the magic number is 1,413 valid signatures.
Berry said COST should get some answers.
"We want them to give us an accounting of those names submitted," Berry said. "How did they determine if an individual was not qualified?"
Berry said he does not want to get into an argument with the city but desires to see a fair process play out.
When asked what actually does COST want, Berry said he wants to see a process where electric customers are put first and not additional tariffs paid into city coffers.
Berry said he believes a volunteer panel put together by Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman in 2012 to study the electric idea did their best but he feels other individuals should have been consulted.
Berry said he believes a consultant with expertise in the electric field should have been brought on board to help guide the city in making a decision.
Berry said he feels Hillman’s own bias toward North Little Rock Electric made the volunteer committee suspect from the beginning.
He added that some important issues were not addressed by the committee, such as ones dealing with costs associated with the hydroelectric plant.
"There were issued that needed to be addressed," Berry said. "A five-page report is good for an executive summary, but not as an entire report."