The 78th Annual Membership Meeting of the Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative was held on Thursday, March 21, in Milbank. President Bill Tostenson stated a... Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative Plans No Rate Increase for 2019

The 78th Annual Membership Meeting of the Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative was held on Thursday, March 21, in Milbank.

President Bill Tostenson stated a quorum was attained with 253 voting members present. Nathan Loutsch led the members in singing the National Anthem and Pastor Albert Meier of Peace Lutheran Church of Milbank gave the invocation.

Secretary Darren Strasser affirmed the notice of the annual meeting and that the unapproved minutes of the 2018 annual meeting had been mailed to each member. Tostenson called for a motion to waive the reading of the Notice of Annual Membership meeeting and to approve the minutes of the 77th annual meeting as mailed out. A motion from the floor was seconded and carried.

Treasurer Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker reviewed the 2018 operating statement, balance sheet, auditor’s letter, statistical report, history of capital credits paid, and list of taxes paid in 2018. Her report showed 2018 revenues were $10,719,710 and operating expenses were $10,333,087. Total operating margins were $386,623. The cooperative’s balance sheet showed assets of $33,741,747, liabilities of $22,062,770, and equity of $11,678,977. Capital credits of $202,270 will be credited to members in May.

Tom Boyko, East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager, reported East River is beginning an accelerated system replacement plan to update aging infrastructure, improve reliability, and accommodate new load growth. In his presentation, Boyko reported Western Area Power Administration is building a new high voltage transmission substation north of Sisseton which will be named the Roberts County Substation. The new substation, scheduled to be completed late in 2019, will provide an additional source of power for this area.

Boyko said, over the next few years, East River plans to construct two new transmission lines that will tie into their existing transmission system. They will also upgrade existing infrastructure in the Whetstone and surrounding territories.

Boyko discussed the continued efforts of East River to provide safety education for workers near power lines. He noted the trend of larger agricultural equipment increases potential contact with overhead power lines. He said East River developed and released a farm safety marketing campaign with the goal of reminding farmers to remain aware of electrical equipment.

Boyko also talked about East River’s initiatives to address potential cyber security threats to their members. ER’s IT and Cyber Security Program began in 2018 and provides 24/7 services to protect critical infrastructure for Whetstone and other East River members.

Mark Hofer, the South Dakota Director for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), provided members with a brief history and overview of the function of NRECA to advocate for America’s electric cooperatives. He reported on recent activities and discussed government relations activities and legislative issues the group is currently addressing with federal lawmakers and agencies.

Hofer also reported on an initiative of NRECA -Commitment to Zero Contacts – to promote a culture of safety among electric cooperatives and their employees. Hofer concluded by talking about the association’s ability to provide economic and technical research regarding grid security and emerging technologies such as electric vehicles and charging stations.

WVEC’s General Manager, Dave Page, reported on activities in 2018. Page noted 32 new services were added and 92 unused services were removed. He also reported 26 miles of power line had been replaced. Most of this was the conversion of overhead to underground line.

Page said Whetstone experienced an all-time peak demand in January 2018, and record energy sales for the year totaling over 100 million kilowatt-hours. He stated the cooperative has seen an average growth rate in energy sales of about two percent annually.

In his report, Page stated that there were no plans to raise retail rates in 2019. He explained this is due to deferred revenue from exceptionally strong sales in 2018 along with capital credit retirements from Basin Electric. He projected wholesale power costs would remain stable through 2019, but future rate adjustments will likely be needed to meet the rising costs of infrastructure replacements and upgrades.

Page discussed the portfolio of generation resources provided to Whetstone by East River Electric. He stated 18 percent is generated by hydroelectric dams by Western Area Power Administration and Basin Electric Power Cooperative provides the remaining energy using coal, wind, and other generation recources.

Page commented on the damage and outages caused by the ice storm on March 14, 2019. He reported ice, snow, and wind caused eight broken poles and one wire break. He also talked about some of the damage to the East River and WAPA transmission systems.

Page reiterated Western Area Power Administration has started construction on the Roberts County substation near Sisseton that is scheduled to be completed later this year. Page also outlined the 2019 – 2022 Construction Work Plan that was recently finalized and submitted to the USDA Rural Utilities Service for approval. The work plan calls for the replacement of 25 miles of line each year at a total cost of about $1.6 million annually.

The cooperative’s attorney, Harvey Oliver, announced the results of the election of directors. David Behrns was elected director of District 1 and Joel Adler was elected director of District 7. Only one candidate, Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker, was submitted for District 8, and one candidate, Paul Nelson, was submitted for District 9. Since no other members were nominated for these districts, both candidates were duly elected.

Page introduced all of the employees. He presented four employees with service awards: Steph Trevett, billing clerk for 15 years of service; Audra Johnson, accounting clerk for 15 years of service; Chad Pollock, electrician for 10 years of service; and Marie Loutsch for five years of service.

Page announced Jenna Johnson and Korbin Leddy were chosen to participate in the 2019 Cooperative Youth Excursion to the Basin Electric facilities near Bismarck, North Dakota. Makenna Osowski was chosen as the representative for the National Rural Electric Youth Rally in Washington, DC. Antonia Block was congratulated as the 2019 winner of the Basin Electric/Whetstone Valley Electric $1,000 Scholarship for a member dependent.

After a motion and second from the floor, President Tostenson adjourned the meeting. There were numerous door prizes given away and Scott Bassett of Wilmot won the grand prize drawing of $500.

Staff Writer

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