The City Council voted 10-3 today to set public hearings on forming a municipal utility.

City leaders also approved a $250,000 study exploring that and other possibilities tied to the looming expiration of the city’s electric and natural gas agreements with Xcel Energy Inc. and CenterPoint Energy.

While some council members raised questions about whether Minneapolis was truly equipped to take on the responsibilities of those companies, others emphasized that scheduling public hearings for Aug. 1 was merely one step toward getting the matter on the November ballot and entering negotiations with the utilities from a stronger position.

Council Member Lisa Goodman said she that while she had reservations about forming a municipal utility, “I don’t think it’s our job to try to stifle debate.”

Council President Barb Johnson and Council Members Sandy Colvin Roy and Diane Hofstede voted against the hearings.

Johnson was also the sole council member to vote against the study, saying it was a waste of money because the report was not due until after the voter referendum. Her motion to allocate the $250,000 away from the study toward pothole repair instead failed.