Annual meeting season has begun

George Carter

Electric cooperatives are unique. Providing electric service to areas no other utility wanted to serve and bringing the promise of a better life to rural America — none of that has changed in our 81 years. On March 17, Paulding Putnam will hold its 81st member meeting. This meeting, along with the meeting of our fellow electric cooperative in Darke County, kicks off the annual meeting season.

All 24 Ohio electric cooperatives and all 37 Indiana electric cooperatives will follow with their meetings through this coming fall. We all hold different types of meetings; some are more formal business meetings while others are casual family events. The consistent part is that we all have a meeting where the members can gather and hear about their cooperative and the progress made in the past year.

Being unique is not new to cooperatives, as demonstrated by the 81 member meetings we’ve had. Typically, a business holds a “shareholder” meeting, which is not for customers. But cooperatives don’t have shareholders — we have members who are the owners. This itself is a unique business concept.

Our business operates in the best interest of the members. Our board is elected by the members to represent the members, and all board members must also be members. Our business is not in business to make money for shareholders; instead, we are here to provide you with the best possible electric service at a fair cost.

Every year, costs go up that impact your cooperative — the same way rising costs impact all the other areas of your life. This March, for the first time in four years, the cooperative will be increasing rates. This small increase is needed to cover increasing wholesale power costs and to continue to rebuild and upgrade our utility plant (poles, wires, transformers, etc.) that serves your home or business.

Providing quality electric service is our focus, but it takes a lot of money to ensure that service. Over the past four years, we have seen our outage numbers, or minutes each member is without power, drop drastically. Just four years ago, we had one of the worst outage numbers in the state of Ohio: nearly four times higher than the average cooperative. In contrast, this past year, we have improved to one of the best.

This improvement was possible because we have been working hard to upgrade and replace old wires and power poles, as well as aggressively clearing and re-clearing trees from our rights-of way. Over the past few years, we have rebuilt several substations and upgraded the lines running between substations to facilitate transfers when necessary.

Improved service reliability is important to us, and we want you to hear about it during our annual meeting. The annual meeting may be a unique part of cooperative culture, but providing high-quality electric service at a fair price is not unique. It is our first goal and our promise to you, our member.