Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative held its 81st Annual Membership Meeting on Thursday, March 23 at Milbank High School. The meeting also included an election for district manager positions.
The winner of the $500 cash drawing was Diane Berkner of Milbank.
Macy Mueller won the $100 drawing held for attendees between the ages of 14-18. WVEC General Manager Dave Page also announced Carter Phinney, a senior at MHS, as this year’s recipient of the Whetstone Valley-Basin Electric $1,000 scholarship.
Voting polls for the district manager positions opened when a quorum of 50 members was established. President Bill Tostenson stated that 211 voting members registered.
Districts 1 ,2, and 5 had open seats. Kent Frerichs and Matt Cameron, both of Wilmot, ran for the open position in District 2. Matt Cameron was elected. Dave Behrns was the only candidate on the ballot for District 1 and Bill Tostenson was the lone candidate in District 5. As no other members were nominated for these districts, the candidates were duly elected. Tostenson recognized Dale Jensen, an outgoing director, for his 15 years of service to the co-op.
Page presented a milestone service award to operations manager Jon Christensen for 15 years of dedication. Journeyman line technician Brian Davis was honored for 10 years of service. Journeyman line technicians Luke Kovel and Tristan Hall earned awards for five years of service.
Tostenson also introduced the board of directors, former directors, former employees, and special guests. Secretary Darren Strasser confirmed notice of the meeting had been sent out to members and presented the minutes from the annual meeting in 2022. The minutes were approved.
Tostenson highlighted the financial statement and treasurer’s report that was included in the material delivered to members. A motion from the floor to approve the treasurer’s report was seconded and carried.
Tostenson stated that capital credits in the amount of $7,749,497 have been returned to members and that $478,248 has been approved for the 2022 general retirement to be credited to members in May.Page reported that electric rates at Whetstone Valley have remained the same for more than six years and they are not expected to increase in 2023.
Page explained that wholesale power costs from East River Electric and Basin Electric Cooperatives have not increased for several years. He also said local costs have been controlled, in part, by leveraging exceptionally low interest rates for capital infrastructure investments. Page also reported that resulting excess margins produced by power cost credits from Basin and East River Electric were deferred to 2023 to delay the need for an anticipated rate adjustment.
Page went on to say WVEC has 1,460 miles of power line and that some of the plant is 70 years old or more. He discussed the importance of continual replacement of aging infrastructure to maintain resiliency and reliability of the electric system. He reported that nearly $2 million is invested each year for new construction and line replacement. He also touched on technology improvements that include updated mapping, metering, and outage management systems.
Page discussed the changes the electric industry is experiencing, highlighting a shift to more wind and solar electric generation. He also discussed new types of electric loads that will impact the demand for energy in the future. Page said changes in material lead times and the cost of equipment are increasing, so it can take more than a year to receive some items.
Page pointed out the nature of not-for-profit electric cooperatives and the allocation and return of equity to its members. He stated that sufficient rates are required to support the return of equity in the form of capital credits. Tostenson announced that there will be no tour of the Basin Electric facilities in 2023, but future tours are being planned.During the meeting, the National Anthem was led by Shaylee Schuchard and Nadia Thue. Pastor Barb McKewin, of Parkview and Tabor United Methodist churches in Milbank and Big Stone gave the invocation.
Submitted Photos: Top- Dave Page, Diane Berkner and Dave Page, Macy Muellerand Bill Tostenson, Bottom – Matt Cameron