Members enjoy 76th Annual Meeting
Incumbents re-elected to board of trustees
More than 300 members and guests attended Washington Electric Cooperative’s 76th Annual Meeting of Members, which took place May 19, 2016, at the co-op’s facility near Marietta.
In addition to enjoying a KFC meal and entertainment by local band Pickin’ on Country, members learned the results of the 2016 board of trustee election. Re-elected to three-year terms were William Bowersock of Reno, Betty Martin of Marietta, and David Miller of Caldwell.
Miller, the current WEC board chairman, reported on the cooperative’s accomplishments during the year 2015. The co-op’s right-of-way management program calls for trimming, cutting, and treating 300 miles of line each year, and the pole-testing program focuses on the annual inspection of 10 percent – approximately 3,000 – of the co-op’s poles. These programs have resulted in system improvements that save money and reduce the number and duration of power outages.
“Washington Electric continues to focus on reliability,” Miller said. “The largest challenge for reliability is issues with the aging infrastructure of the transmission lines [owned by] American Electric Power. AEP is beginning a nearly $330 million improvement initiative to upgrade the transmission infrastructure, which will take a number of years to complete. Washington Electric continues to support the AEP project and has cooperated in any way possible to speed up the process for the benefit of our members.”
Martin, the co-op’s secretary-treasurer, provided information on the co-op’s finances for the previous year. Utility plant value increased by $1.5 million to a total of more than $47 million with 1,765 miles of distribution line. Net margins for the year were approximately $563,000. The co-op spent $1.1 million on right-of-way improvements and retired $218,000 in capital credits for the years 1969-1973.
The year 2015 was a challenging year for Washington Electric, said General Manager/CEO Jack Bragg Jr. Costs were held steady from the previous year, but a warm winter resulted in reduced revenue and a March snow storm created additional expenses. He echoed Miller’s remarks on aging infrastructure and added economic slowdown, increasing operation costs and declining revenue to the list of issues the co-op faces.
“Many challenges must be met in order to continue the proud tradition of Washington Electric. Regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States continue to be debated and could have tremendous impact on the cost of delivering electric power,” he said.
One of the co-op’s biggest achievements in 2015 was the implementation of an automated meter reading (AMR) system, which has resulted in more accurate meter readings, enhanced billing processes, and reduced data collection costs, Bragg said.
The evening’s program included a presentation by Bill Roberts, vice president of finance and chief financial officer for Buckeye Power, Inc., the generation-and-transmission cooperative that supplies power to all of Ohio’s electric co-ops. Roberts told the crowd that Washington Electric’s focus on people, and affordable, reliable, and safe electric service sets it apart from other utilities.
“Reliability improvements, capital credits – all this tells me that your board of trustees and co-op employees really embrace the cooperative principles,” Roberts said.
He also reported that wholesale power rates have been and will remain stable for the next several years.
“I commend your cooperative’s board and management for their efforts to control costs locally, which, in turn helps to keep costs low at the distribution level. Both measures ensure that co-ops remain an invaluable source of energy and information.”
Winners of the co-op’s 2016 scholarship program were recognized for their achievements. First-place winners of a $1,000 award in the Children of Members Scholarship program were Cady Lenington of Marietta High School and Cameron Forshey of Shenandoah High School. Second-place, $500 award winners were Molly Scheich of Caldwell High School and Caleb McElroy of Shenandoah High School. The first-place winner of a $750 Touchstone Energy® Achievement Scholarship was Megan Warner of Marietta High School.
Door prize drawings concluded the event. Cecil Cline of Wingett Run was the winner of the grand prize $250 energy credit.