In a closely contested race, challenger Joel Adler was elected to the District 7 position on the Whetstone Valley Electric Board of Directors during the cooperative’s annual meeting Thursday, March 31. “I knew it was going to be really close and I thank everyone who voted for me,” said Adler. “I am honored and will do my best to serve the members and the cooperative.” Adler beat current director Nancy Johnson by four votes; the count was 167 to 163. Joel is owner and CEO of Adler Feed and Seed in Milbank and is a local farmer.
In the District 8 race, Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker was chosen to maintain her current position on the board. She defeated challenger Vincent Meyer by three votes – 165 to 162. Krista joined the board in April of 2012 and will begin her second term as a director.
Harvey Oliver, the cooperative’s attorney, discussed the proposed bylaw amendment that was initiated and circulated by Mark Lounsbery. The amendment passed by one vote, 166 to 165. The amendment will change the number of consecutive terms a director can serve from three consecutive terms or nine consecutive years to five consecutive terms or 15 consecutive years.
Due to the narrow margin, each vote required two recounts. “We had the largest attendance at the annual meeting in the cooperative’s history,” said board president Bill Tostenson. “There we’re 372 voting members present. I thank everyone who attended and made this a wonderful event.”
Whetstone Valley Electric General Manager, Dave Page, presented his annual report. He explained the nature of electric cooperatives, their not-for-profit business status, and their governance by owner-members. He stated that any excess revenue is returned to the members. He went on to explain in 2015 a great deal of time and effort was spent on maintaining and replacing the 1,500 miles of power-line. Over 20 miles of line was replaced as part of the 2014-2017 construction work plan. The cooperative plans to replace more than 45 miles in 2016. “With the help of the South Dakota Department of Emergency Management, the coop could receive over $800,000 from FEMA to assist with the cost of converting overhead line to underground as part of their Hazard Mitigation Program,” Page said.
Page reported that 86 million kilowatt-hours were sold in 2015, which was 7% less than the all-time high of 92 million kilowatt-hours sold in 2014. “Even with lower energy sales in 2015, the cooperative was able to meet project margins and lenders’ mortgage requirements. The wholesale cost of power remains the largest expense for the cooperative at 59% of the total budget.” Page noted that this expense is growing at a faster pace than the local distribution expenses.
Another component of operating costs for the cooperative is interest on long term debt. In 2015, about $3 million in older loans was refinanced with CoBank which should result in savings of about $700,000 in interest costs over the remaining terms of the loans.
Page stated the cooperative has no increase planned for electric rates in 2016. He also said because of pending regulations by the EPA, Basin Electric has considered a mid-year rate increase in 2016. “Any increase in power cost would initiate a reevaluation of local rates and margin requirements. We will keep all members apprized of any new developments.”
Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker presented the Treasurer’s Report. She reviewed the 2015 operating statement, balance sheet, auditor’s letter, statistical report, history of capital credits paid, and list of taxes paid in 2015. Her report showed that 2015 revenues were $9,044,766 and total expenses at $8,775,867. Total margins were $628,830. The cooperative’s balance sheet showed assets of $28,373,852; liabilities of $19,365,071 and equity of $9,008,781. She stated capital credits in the amount of $154,900 would be credited to members in May.
Page commended the efforts of the cooperative’s employees and their dedication and service. Two workers joined the team of employees in 2015. Ryan Dunnihoo was added to the line crew and Roger Raddatz joined the staff as the information technology support analyst.
Five employees were honored with service awards. They were: Eric Pederson, journeyman lineman, 15 years; Mike Trapp, journeyman electrician, 15 years; Jack Hoeke, contractor electrician, 20 years; Gene Sass, line foreman, 30 years; and Gail Barlund, office manager, 30 years.
Other employees of Whetstone Valley Electric include: Audra Johnson, Steph Trevett, Jessica Schuchard, Marie Loutsch, Jonathan Christensen, Mark Weber, Chad Pollock, Alex Pauli, Kenne Dailie, Mark DeFea, Brandon Schmieg, Brian Davis, Matt Behlings, and Jason Soward.
The meeting concluded with a door prize drawing. Robert Hicks of Twin Brooks won the $500 grand prize. Twenty-three members were drawn to participate in the annual bus trip and tour of the Basin Electric generation facilities to get the inside story of how electricity is made. Twenty-three children attended the children’s program during the meeting and were assisted by the Junior Busy Bees 4-H Club. Brooklyn Eckberg and Hudson Mueller were the winners of new bicycles.
Pictured is the current Board of Directors. Back row, left to right, Scott Niedert, Darren Strasser, Bill Tostenson, and Paul Nelson. Front row, Jodi Hook, Dale Jensen, Nancy Johnson, Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker, and Tom Berens.