The 77th Annual Membership Meeting of Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc., was held on Thursday, March 22, in Milbank. President Bill Tostenson conducted the meeting. Tostenson confirmed the presence of 225 voting members and declared a quorum.
Treasurer Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker reviewed the 2017 operating statement, balance sheet, auditor’s letter, statistical report, history of capital credits paid, and taxes paid in 2017. Her report showed 2017 revenues were $10,345,105 and total expenses were $10,068,833. Total margins were $781,780. The cooperative’s balance sheet showed assets of $32,529,700, liabilities of $22,059,360, and equity of $10,470,340. Capital credits in the amount of $187,782 will be credited to members in May.
WVEC General Manager Dave Page addressed the damage to the distribution system sustained in the ice storm of 2016. He reported, due to the disaster declaration, FEMA funded some of the cost of restoration.
Page noted 25 miles of power line were replaced, and most were converted from overhead to underground line. The cooperative plans to rebuild 30 miles of line in 2018. He also reported 35 new services were built and 77 idle services were retired in 2017. Page stated WVEC has been investing about $1.5 million each year in system replacement and new construction.
He also discussed the increase in power costs of around 8 percent in 2017 and the resulting rate increase. He predicted rates will remain stable throughout 2018. Page explained how the wholesale power supply, generation resources, and regulatory and power market changes experienced by Basin Electric Power in recent years impacts the cost of wholesale power.
Page reported on legislative issues being addressed by rural electric cooperatives, including the halting of the proposed sale of power administration transmission assets, the continued funding of USDA rural utilities services, and the successful extension of tax credits for geothermal heat pump systems.
Citing a rate and cost of service study conducted in 2017, Page suggested a rate adjustment might be needed in 2019 to meet the cooperative’s financial goals and revenue requirements.
Page outlined how East River Electric Power Cooperative and Western Area Power Administration are working together on a joint project which will improve reliability to East River’s transmission system in the Whetstone Valley service area. WAPA is building a new high-voltage transmission substation, named the Roberts County substation, near Sisseton. The substation will tie into WAPA’s existing transmission line that runs between Summit, South Dakota and Forman, North Dakota. East River will construct two new transmission lines that will tie into East River’s existing transmission system. The new Roberts County substation and transmission lines will provide an additional source of power. Construction on the project begins this year and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.
The cooperative’s attorney, Harvey Oliver, conducted the election of directors and voting on a proposed bylaw amendment. Districts with open seats were districts 3, 4, and 6. Only one candidate from each of the districts was submitted: Darren Strasser, Tom Berens, and Scot Niedert respectively. Oliver stated because no other members were nominated, the candidates were duly elected.
Mr. Oliver defined the bylaw amendment proposed by the board of directors. The amendment would remove a stringent order of business that requires elections to be conducted later in the business meeting and instead allow the members to begin casting votes immediately upon the establishment of a quorum. A vote “Yes” was to amend the bylaws as submitted. A Vote “No” was a vote to leave the bylaws unchanged. The amendment passed by a vote of 154 to 54.
Page presented awards to Jon Christensen, operations manager, for 10 years of service and Brian Davis, a journeyman lineman, for five years of service. He announced Logan Meyer and Shelby Lee were chosen to participate in the 2018 Cooperative Youth Excursion to the Basin Electric facilities near Bismarck, North Dakota. Kylie Kasuske was chosen as the representative for the National Rural Electric Youth Rally in Washington, DC. Montana Swenson was congratulated as the 2018 winner of the Basin Electric/Whetstone Valley Electric $1,000 Scholarship.
Bob Sahr, general counsel for East River Electric Power Cooperative presented the East River report. Sahr stated in 2018, about 36 percent of the power EREPC provides will be renewable including wind and hydroelectric energy. He provided an update on the load management system that has saved East River members more than $200 million in avoided wholesale power costs since it launched in 1985.
Sahr also stressed the continued need for public safety education. He noted the trend of larger agricultural equipment which increases potential contact with overhead power lines. East River has developed and released a farm safety marketing campaign.
Mark Hofer, South Dakota’s director for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, reviewed government relations activities and legislative issues currently being addressed by NRECA and federal lawmakers and agencies. NRECA is the national service organization that represents US electric cooperatives.
A video was shown highlighting the mission and accomplishments of NRECA’s Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE). Page talked with the members about the value of contributing to the PAC to support political candidates who advocate for electric cooperatives’ principles.
Mr. Hofer also reported NRECA International has brought electricity to more than 126 million people by designing and implementing rural electrification programs in 43 developing countries.
Drawings were held for door prizes. Janet Michlitsch of Milbank won the grand prize of $500.