NEWTON -Norris Electric Cooperative celebrated its 80th anniversary during the organization's annual meeting of members held Saturday, Feb. 10, at Newton Community High School. During the meeting, members were provided results of the board of directors' election, and updated on the cooperative's finances, power supply and upgrades to its infrastructure.
Board President Gordon McClure thanked the audience for attending the meeting and explained that the purpose of holding an annual meeting is to announce director election results, hear reports regarding the co-op's activity during the past year and transacting other business. He also explained the role of the co-op's directors, who meet monthly and work to ensure the co-op's financial security, discuss and act on policy and procedures and provide strategic leadership. "The challenges today are more complex and numerous than ever before, and the best pathways won't always be clearly marked," McClure said. "It is therefore imperative that directors stay engaged, educated and enthusiastic to keep up with the changing of rural America today and tomorrow."
Treasurer Dean Dietrich reported that the cooperative is in good financial condition. The co-op's largest expense is wholesale power, which accounts for 63 percent of expenditures. The co-op allocated $3,254,122 in capital credits to members and returned $1.6 million in capital credits from various years to members. Capital credits are unique to cooperatives and represent each member's ownership of the co-op. They are funds that remain after a cooperative's financial obligations have been met and are returned to members in later years.
Manager Tamara Phillips looked back at the accomplishments the cooperative has made during the past 80 years. "As I reflect on the forward-thinking of those instrumental in pursuing rural electrification all those years ago, it is amazing to me how different our lives would be without those pioneers leading Norris Electric," she said. "I feel it is our duty to try to keep that memory alive, as we will forever be indebted to them."
As in the past, the cooperative is continuing to look forward. Last summer, co-op leadership conducted a two-day strategic planning session. Through the session, they established a long-range plan of goals and initiatives to analyze the headquarters facility and the distribution system to rebuild lines in the most crucial areas, while containing costs and keeping rates affordable.
Another way to keep rates affordable is through an 8-1/2-year power contract the co-op signed with Dynegy. Norris Electric has not raised rates since 2014, and no rate increase is planned for the foreseeable future.
Norris Electric completed line clearance work that will help reduce blinks and outages. "Last year we were able to complete 994 miles of tree trimming on our system," Phillips explained. "This is one quarter of our system. Our plan is to revisit each mile of line every four years."
Duane Noland, president/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC), thanked attendees for attending the meeting, and for the role they played in their co-op's democratic process. Noland commended the co-op's former and current leadership on its efficient use of resources, saying the co-op has the lowest rates of any cooperative in the state. He added that elected officials from the Norris Electric service area have been strong cooperative and AIEC supporters. Because of their support on the state level, both State Senator Dale Righter (R-55) and State Representative David Reis (R-109) have been recipients of the AIEC's Public Service Award, the association's highest honor.
State Representative David Reis addressed the audience, saying it's been a busy year in Springfield on many fronts. He discussed concerns over environmental regulations and renewable energy that are affecting base load electric power supply. Base load power represents 80 percent of electric power generated from coal, gas and nuclear plants. "We have to provide base load power in this state, and in this country, because the wind doesn't blow all the time and the sun doesn't shine all the time," he said. "We have to create an environment at a pricing standpoint on which plants like ours here at Newton can operate. In closing, Representative Reis presented Norris Electric Cooperative with an Illinois House of Representatives resolution congratulating members on the 80th anniversary of their cooperative.
In March 2017, 12 volunteer linemen, supported by 19 electric cooperatives, including Norris Electric Cooperative, traveled to Bolivia on a three-week project to help electrify four remote mountain villages in Santa Cruz. The linemen worked in conjunction with Bolivian electric cooperative linemen to electrify 62 homes and an orphanage. As part of the meeting, Norris Electric Journeyman Lineman Bill Fields gave an overview of the trip. Fields said, "Norris Electric is proud to be able to lend a helping hand to our sister co-ops, whether it be nearby, or far away." He was honored with a plaque for his efforts.
During the annual meeting, the following directors were re-elected or newly-elected. The re-elected directors are Gilbert Garbe of Dieterich, Gary Buser of Palestine and Gordon McClure of Newton. Scott Weiss of Sumner defeated Dan Scherer of Bridgeport. Scherer was honored with a plaque for his years of dedicated service on the board.
Norris Electric Cooperative is a member of Touchstone Energy - an alliance of 750 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. Norris Electric is committed to providing superior service based on four core principles: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. The co-op serves more than 19,654 meters over 4,094 miles of line in parts of Clark, Crawford, Cumberland, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland and Wabash counties. For more information,visit www.norriselectric.com. Norris Electric Cooperative is an equal opportunity provider and employer.