By Scott Laird
Did any of you experience a little sticker shock when you opened your West Oregon Electric Cooperative (WOEC) bill last month? Many of you have expressed surprise when you opened that bill right before Christmas. Everyone knows we have high electric rates in Vernonia. We can debate the reasons and whether they are fair or necessary until the cows come home. Unfortunately, at least a portion of those high rates are just part of living in a rural area with an extremely rural service district like ours. There are reasons our rates are so high, reasons we have little control over. But there some areas over which we do have some control.
Over the last few weeks I have talked with numerous people about their electric bills and followed several discussions on Facebook. Obviously some people are upset at the high bill they received; others are more understanding. Still others didn’t experience a huge increase and are basically satisfied with their local utility.
In other words, there are a myriad of ways Vernonians can view their electric rates as well as ways we might try to deal with those rates. If we can’t control high rates, at least we can try to understand them.
First of all, electricity is a wonderful convenience that offers those of us who live in the modern world many comforts and amenities. Just think about all the ways you may use your electric service in any given day. Your alarm clock goes off; you turn on lights around your home; turn on the heat, air conditioning or fans; turn on your coffee maker, take a hot shower; cook or make your breakfast, using food from your refrigerator and freezer, on your stove or in your blender; run a load of dishes in the dishwasher; turn on your computer and check and send emails; turn on the cable television to check the news; put in a video for the kids to watch; wash and dry a load of laundry, run the vacuum cleaner, run power tools in your shop, fill your car tires with air from your air compressor, charge your cell phone, make copies on your printer… and on and on and on. Hopefully you get the idea.
Many of us were without power last week when a log truck knocked down a power pole on Bridge Street and once again had the opportunity to experience firsthand living modern life without the convenience of electric power.
If your electric bill was $300 last month, you paid $10 a day for all those conveniences. When I look at it that way it actually seems like a pretty good deal. I feel like I get a lot for my money and others have told me the same.
That’s one way of looking at your high electric bill. Read More
Many people attend the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show each year in Vernonia. Many people return year after year because they enjoy seeing old friends and meeting new people. Others enjoy the events: the parade, lawn mower races, horse gaming and logging competitions. Others enjoy the food, music or other activities. Some celebrate our heritage, whether it’s the logging culture or the fact that Jamboree weekend has been a part of the Vernonia community for almost sixty years.
The Vernonia Jamboree and Logging Show Committee recently distributed a survey to find out just how much attendees really know about the Jamboree. Mostly they wanted to know if people really understand who organizes and pays for Jamboree. It turns out many of us don’t understand just how Jamboree actually comes together each year.
According to the survey results, over a third of respondents think that Jamboree is run by either the Chamber of Commerce or the City of Vernonia. One third had no idea how much it cost to organize and run the Jamboree each year. A third of those who responded thought the Jamboree cost $5,000 or less to run. Read More
On September 17th the Board of Directors at West Oregon Electric Cooperative (WOEC) held their regular monthly meeting and were scheduled to consider a rate increase. The membership of the co-op was invited to attend the public meeting to take part in the discussion and a large, overflowing, and very vocal crowd gathered. The board, management and staff listened patiently to their members for almost two hours and then the board voted to approve a 14% rate increase which began on October 1, 2013.
WOEC General Manager Marc Farmer has explained why this rate increase is needed; you can read his explanation in this issue on page 7. Without going into all the details here I can say this-I may not like the rate hike, but I can see and understand the reasoning behind it.
Every time this community sees utility rates increased it dies just a little bit. We have high electric rates. Not as high as some people would have you believe, but certainly they are high. These high rates obviously make it hard for residents to live here and for new people to chose to move here. It also makes it hard for businesses to stay here and hard for this community to attract new industry and business. I don’t like these higher rates and I don’t like the implications for our community.
That being said, I have heard and listened to the Board and staff explain the reason behind these increases and understand the implications of not implementing them. They make sense. What I found hard to understand is the way some co-op members are responding. When the issue of higher electric rates was brought to them for comment in a public meeting, certainly there were some ideas presented to the board and management by members in polite and respectful ways. There were also reasonable questions asked and valid concerns raised, which is certainly the prerogative of the membership and was the point of the meeting. But there were also numerous uninformed accusations, and lots of finger pointing. Read More
On August 22, 2013 my father, Thomas Laird died in his home in New Britain, Pennsylvania. My sister Suzy, his brother Rich and I were all by his side when he passed. On September 7th we held a memorial service for him at Doylestown Presbyterian Church, his church for forty-five years. His service was a real celebration of his life. He had insisted that we should play Dixieland Jazz music, as he was a fan, and he wanted everyone to rejoice that he was with now with his Lord in heaven. Dr. Jerry Rife’s Rhythm King’s, who perform hymns and spirituals in the Dixieland style, played during the 30 minutes prior to the start of the service, and set a joyful tone in what is usually a stoic situation. People actually clapped as they finished each number. During the service we sang some of his favorite hymns, as he always really enjoyed that part of his faith. Suzy, brother Rich, a friend from church-Mary Schull, and I all spoke about his life. Common themes were his love of scripture, his many, many friendships and his warm, welcoming, and fun loving personality. Jerry and his band played a rousing and upbeat version of “How Great Thou Art,” full of soaring solos and a huge finish. After a final hymn, the band led the crowd out of the sanctuary, playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and we marched down the street to the church’s fellowship hall for a reception. This is how dad had always said he wanted his service to end-marching to “Saints.” Afterwards we had so many people comment on the service, saying that they really enjoyed the celebratory feel and the upbeat music. It was a perfect tribute and a sad, but wonderful day.
The following are the words I spoke in remembrance of my father:
First of all, I would like to send my very heart-felt thanks for all the love, support and caring that has been expressed and shown to myself, Suzy and our family during the last few weeks. The amount and depth of the kind words, thoughtful remembrances and expressions of love has been almost overwhelming.
I have been left almost speechless by the reaction to my father’s passing. I have received cards from and spoken with people I did not know and had never met before, as well as old friends, who have repeated the same sentiments over and over again- “Tom was like family to us.” Read More
When we started Vernonia’s Voice six years ago, we did so with the intention that this newspaper could be the voice for all of our community. We have purposely asked for and received content that reflects many divergent opinions, thoughts, and ideas about issues happening in and around Vernonia. We have welcomed Letters to the Editor, articles, stories and regular columns from all types of people, with all types of viewpoints, about all types of issues and interests.
We have also occasionally rejected content for various reasons-the quality of the work, the specific message it contained, or because it was just not something we wanted to see in print in a publication that has our name on it.
I am learning that printing other peoples work, especially if the editor and publisher don’t agree with the author’s point of view, can be very tricky business. We, the publishers, in the end, are responsible for the content we publish. Even when someone else’s byline appears on the article. Even if we don’t agree with the content or the message in an article or column that we decide we should publish. Read More