By Matthew Deaton
Most of you may be aware that we started the construction of a high-speed fiber-optic broadband network across our entire service territory completely from scratch. After just over one year of mainline construction, we have over 445 miles of distribution fiber installed and 1,428 drops installed to homes. At the time of the writing of this article there are 710 consumer members being served by this fiber-optic network, 621 fiber internet and 89 telephone consumer members. I know many of you are patiently waiting for us to be in your area, and we are doing everything we can to complete this project as fast as possible.
To meet the expectations of our members and the requirements of our fiber project, we are getting bigger: not just in the plant investment and services being offered, but also in our staffing needs. Over the past 17 months or so, we have hired nine full-time and two part-time employees specifically for fiber, expanded the roles of several existing employees, and hired additional employees related to both electric and fiber services. Each team member, electric and fiber, is now focused on refining our processes to deploy the fiber-to-the-home project faster and more efficiently, while also providing safe, reliable electric service.
Another area of significant growth in 2019 is in our residential and commercial security offerings. We have added 55 monitored security accounts this year, now serving 66 security and 53 medical accounts total. I feel this is another great service for our members.
Specific to electricity, the cooperative continues to see slow growth related to total new accounts. The total number of electric accounts served currently sits at 8,531 which has grown at a rate of less than 1% each year for the past several years. Considering growth related to the number of electric accounts perspective, since 1978 the cooperative has experienced an annual growth of less than 1.5%. This data isn’t to downplay the significance of our core business, only to provide perspective to how the core business has changed over time.
Orange County REMC is in the midst of significant transformational change. It’s hard to imagine a scenario that would be more difficult to take on or to lead, than the changes and growth your cooperative has experienced this year. The senior staff that are on the front lines of this challenge should be commended. Marcy Bennett, Mark Belcher, Billy Chastain, Misty Tincher, and Charlie Rollins arrive each day to not only manage the day-to-day of the cooperative, but to also do that hard work of transformational change. In fact, every REMC employee has put forth considerable effort in this process to ensure the Orange County REMC of the future is better than the great Orange County REMC of the present.