The sixty-ninth annual meeting of the West Oregon Electric Cooperative Members was held Saturday, August 17th at the Scout Cabin in Vernonia. There were 88 members and guests in attendance.
The meeting was called to order at 11:00 AM by Board President Robert VanNatta. General Manager Marc Farmer introduced the Board of Directors in attendance; Robert VanNatta, Dist #2 Mist, Apiary, Birkenfeld; Marty Van Dyken, Dist #3 Vernonia, Keasey; Dan Murphy, Dist #4 Vernonia; Bob Paleck, Dist #5 Timber, Buxton; Dixie London, Dist #6 Chapman, North Plains. Director Brian Baker, Dist #1 Elsie, Jewell, Hamlet, had a family emergency and was unable to attend. After nineteen years of dedicated service, Director David Hess from Dist #7, Yamhill County, Manning, Hagg Lake, had resigned at the July board meeting due to selling his home and moving outside of WOEC territory. Robert France had been appointed by the board to fill the District #7 vacancy at the July board meeting, but we are sorry to have to report that Mr. France passed away on August 15th. Please keep the France family in your thoughts and prayers.
General Manager Marc Farmer introduced the employees and special guests. Farmer recognized Darlene McLeod who had retired this spring after 29 years of dedicated service to WOEC. He also announced that Steve Scott, Engineering and Operations Manager and Gunny Cox, System Maintenance Coordinator would both be retiring at the beginning of 2014. All together we will be losing over 100 years of utility experience within a year’s time. They will all be missed.
The minutes from the 2012 annual meeting were approved and the recent new members to be voted in were also approved. Our co-op attorney, Chuck Fadeley, was appointed parliamentarian by President VanNatta, and Mr. Fadeley presided over the director election portion of the meeting. Chuck opened the floor for nominations and Heather Johansen was nominated as a candidate for Dist #5 director position. The other candidates who had been previously nominated at the district nomination meetings were; Robert VanNatta for Dist #2 and R.H. “Bob” Paleck for Dist #5. The candidates were given the floor to address the membership. Our guest speaker, Richelle Beck, from NW River Partners gave an informative and interactive presentation about our clean, renewable hydropower and the importance of the dams in the river system. Management reports were given, and the official annual report can be found in the August 2013 edition of our Ruralite magazine. (Please make sure to read pages 4, 5, 8, 25, and the back page of the Ruralite each month, as it is our official newsletter for our members and you will find helpful information there.) President VanNatta reported that we did not make our bank tests (TIER) for 2012 due to the January snow storm costs, and we must make TIER this year. Luckily we had a mild winter to start 2013 and we hope that the weather will hold through December. He also reported that we would have a rate increase this fall due to a rate increase from BPA and that we need to build up a reserve account to cover storm costs when necessary. David Western, Manager of Finance & Administration, gave the financial report. He provided a handout of WOEC’s current financials through June 2013 (credit hunter). Western reminded the members that even though the 2012 January snow storm was declared a FEMA event and we received some money to help with those expenses, it was only declared in one of the five counties we serve. The amount we received in costs reimbursement was a small percentage of the overall costs of the storm. Western explained that WOEC continues to watch spending and staying on a tight budget. We also received a clean audit report for 2012, and have so for at least the last 10 years.
Steve Scott, Engineering and Operations Manager, gave the operations report. He explained that this year has one of the lowest number of outage hours due to the mild weather, and increased tree trimming and maintenance. The new Vernonia Substation that serves Vernonia and the surrounding area has been working well since it was energized in late 2012. Scott also reported that WOEC had to lay off our Groundman due to budget cuts and changes in the Lineman Apprenticeship program.
General Manager Marc Farmer gave his Manager’s report. He explained that WOEC has been through 4 FEMA storm events in the last 5 ½ years and no other Oregon Co-op has experienced more than 1 in the last 10 years. Even with the 75% reimbursement of storm costs in disaster declared counties, we have still paid over $1.5 million in WOEC members’ money for the storm costs. WOEC has spent $13 million on the 3 largest projects in WOEC history: the Timber Elsie Transmission line rebuild/underground, building a new headquarters building out of the flood plain, and building the new Vernonia Substation out of the flood plain.
Farmer used Clatskanie PUD (CPUD) as an example of the reasons that WOEC has high rates and CPUD has low rates. CPUD has a service territory of 257 square miles of mostly town and paved roads, WOEC has 1224 square miles of mountains, trees, gravel roads, and areas that you have to hike into and can’t even get a utility truck close to. CPUD has around 4600 meters and WOEC has around 4300 meters, but CPUD has an annual revenue of 42 million where as WOEC only has revenue of 9 million. The difference is one very large industrial customer that CPUD has that keeps rates low for the residential customers.
Farmer answered a member question about a rumor they had heard that WOEC was going to double the base charge and rates. He explained that we would be having a rate increase, but it would be an overall increase of somewhere between 10 – 15% and the staff was still working on the scenarios to present to the board. The increase would be a combination of the base charge and kWh charge.
There will be a member meeting on September 17th at 6:00 PM at the WOEC board room regarding the rate change.
The election results were read by Chuck Fadeley; Robert VanNatta, Dist #2 and Bob Paleck, Dist #5 were both re-elected.
Door prizes were given out and everyone enjoyed a nice BBQ lunch.