Big crowd at 77th North Central Annual Meeting, where three are re-elected to the board of trusteesJune 14, 2013
A crowd of more than 1,400 — including 767 registered members — gathered at the Seneca County Fairgrounds in Tiffin, Ohio, Tuesday evening for North Central Electric Cooperative’s 77th Annual Meeting. They filled the grandstands, cheered and clapped for musical performers Gatlin and listened as cooperative leaders reported on business matters and achievements in the past year.
The celebratory mood was partly because North Central and her sister electric cooperative, Lorain-Medina REC, were co-recipients of a coveted national award. They were named Action Committee for Rural Electrification® (ACRE) Cooperatives of the Year in 2012 for growth in ACRE Co-op Owners for Political Action®, a grassroots organization of members that addresses political and regulatory issues of importance at the state and national levels.
The bronze trophy of a cooperative lineman climbing a pole — called the “Walking the Wood” award — stood beside the podium during the business session.
Three North Central trustees were re-elected to the board for three-year terms. Duane Frankart, (District 7, Fostoria), Eileen Gabel, (District 6, Tiffin), and Rodney Snavely, (District 4, Republic), ran unopposed.
Board of Trustees President Frankart warned that vigilance and grassroots involvement are needed to meet the challenges that electric cooperatives face at the state capitol and Washington, D.C. He called on members who have not joined Co-op Owners to consider doing so.
“It’s rather simple. If we are not at the table, we are going to be on the menu,” he said, citing a proposed U.S. Department of Energy rule that would curtail the manufacture of large-capacity electric resistance water heaters used in rural homes and businesses — and a foundation of the load control program among Ohio electric cooperatives.
Frankart pointed to North Central’s outage numbers last year as proof the cooperative is on the right track through its preventive maintenance programs.
“We had just 187 outages in 2012,” Frankart said. “That’s the lowest it has been in at least 20 years. The average consumer was without power less than two hours. That’s an outstanding statistic.”
Last year $580,000 in patronage capital was refunded to 13,000 current and former North Central members. Frankart said the cooperative has returned more than $16 million since 1980.
District 3 Trustee Richard Reichert of Attica announced his decision not to seek re-election in 2014, retiring after 24 years on the board. Although he still is in good health, Reichert, 71, said he wanted to make way for a younger person. He encouraged cooperative members to consider “taking out a petition” and running for his trustee seat.
General Manager Markus Bryant in his report noted that North Central is doing a good job of improving outage numbers and achieving high member satisfaction scores (above 90 percent in recent consumer attitude surveys). But the greatest challenge going forward will be related to pressure on electricity rates, he said.
Bryant said wholesale power costs have increased 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour over the past decade.
“Approximately 2.5 cents of that increase is due to government environmental regulations,” he explained. This has caused the average North Central residential consumer to pay an additional $20 per month on their electric bill.
“The final Buckeye Power rate adjustment associated with this massive capital improvement project was in July of 2012. Future Buckeye rate adjustments will reflect cost increases on items such as coal, natural gas and transmission system improvements,” Bryant said.
In the meantime, he expects inflation, the need to continue infrastructure replacement and improvement, and low growth in new services to have impacts on North Central’s distribution rates. Zero or negative growth in new services “means we have fewer members to share the increased costs,” Bryant said, explaining the need for small service charge increases each year.
However, installation of digital meters across the cooperative system means members will soon have the tools to more effectively monitor their electricity use and choose when they use power in order to save money.
“These meters allow North Central to implement a time of day rate which better reflects the cost of purchased power,” Bryant added. “If members can shift some of their electricity use to off-peak hours, they can save money.”
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