Darke Rural Electric Cooperative (Darke REC) celebrated a year of outstanding member service and community involvement at its annual meeting of members, held Thurs., March 16 at Lighthouse Christian Center in Greenville.
Michelle Marker and Matt Webster and were reelected to the cooperative’s board of trustees at the meeting. Marker represents District 4 of the cooperative’s service territory, which consists of Liberty, Neave, Van Buren, and Twin townships in Darke County. Webster represents District 7, which consists of Harrison, Twin, and Washington townships in Preble County.
Darke REC General Manager Ted Holsapple highlighted the cooperative’s commitment to system reliability through ongoing improvement projects to the cooperative’s infrastructure.
“It’s really been our focus – to improve reliability for members by investing in our system,” Holsapple said.
Darke REC plans to rebuild 22 miles of line in 2017, adding to the approximately 210 miles rebuilt in the last 12 years. The current 2017-2020 work plan also includes 71 miles of copper wire replacement and the installation of 3,000 new automated metering information (AMI) meters for members. These upgrades will greatly enhance the cooperative’s ability to minimize and respond to outages, and will also provide Darke REC members with more information about their energy consumption.
These improvements will be made without the need for a rate increase in 2017, Holsapple reported.
Holsapple also noted Darke REC’s exceptional member satisfaction scores. In a 2016 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, Darke REC received an 88, placing it among the highest-rated of Ohio’s 24 electric cooperatives and well above the average scores of investor-owned utilities, which is a 72.
“Our member satisfaction scores are a testament to our fantastic staff, who go above and beyond to provide excellent service to our members,” Holsapple said.
In his report, Chief Financial Officer Brad Flora noted that revenue was up 3 percent and operating margins were up approximately $150,000. He also cited increased expenditures on tree trimming, due to the threat of dying ash trees falling into power lines, as well as substation improvements.
"Tree trimming and investments in infrastructure are significant expenses, but they're necessary to improve service reliability," Flora said.
Pat O’Loughlin, president and CEO of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, discussed the outlook for Ohio’s statewide network of cooperatives. He reported that Cardinal Station, the primary source of power for Ohio’s electric co-ops, remains one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants on the planet.
“We have achieved this by making significant investments in proven, state-of-the-art environmental control technology,” O’Loughlin said.
O’Loughlin also reported that the power supply portion of members’ rates should remain stable for at least the next few years.
Board President Jack Kitchel discussed Darke REC’s commitment to community through its Operation Round-up program.
This program, which is funded by rounding up members’ bills to the next dollar, gave $22,400 to local causes in 2016.
“Since the beginning of Operation Round-up, Darke REC members have given a total of $320,275,” Kitchel said. “It always amazes me the amount that is collected just by rounding up your bill to support our communities.”
Kitchel also reported the recent retirement of $1.02 million in capital credits to members. Checks for credits earned in 2001 were delivered to members in December.
“We continue to return capital credits on a 15-year cycle. And I want you to know that your co-op continues to be financially sound,” Kitchel said.