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Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative At-A-Glance
2019 Meeting Minutes
2019 Operation Round Up Grants
July 2019 Storm Restoration Video (YouTube)
2019 Co-op Community Service Video (YouTube)
2020 Annual Meeting Q&A
2020 Annual Meeting Attendance Prize Winners
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Co-op leaders deliver online annual meeting report: Reliability and service remain priorities
by General Manager Steve Stroshane
Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative held its 82nd Annual Meeting Wednesday, July 8, at 1 p.m. The meeting was online. No in-person meeting was held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Member Appreciation Open House is also canceled.
“198 members and guests attended from the comfort and safety of their homes,” said General Manager Steve Stroshane. Our response to the health emergency has focused on keeping the lights on for our members, ensuring a safe work environment for our employees, and doing the right thing to support our communities and prevent the spread of the virus. With these goals and the uncertainty of our times, we moved our 2020 annual meeting to a web-based format. We thank all who joined us online.”
For members who couldn’t attend online July 8, the annual meeting was recorded and can be viewed on our website. Printed reports are also available upon request.
“We look forward to gathering with co-op members each year,” said Board President Ed Gullickson. “This year, our online format looked a little different, but the annual meeting remains an important way for co-op directors, employees and members to connect, learn about co-op performance and provide feedback. We are always looking to improve our service to our members and community.”
The annual meeting agenda included a state of the cooperative report by General Manager Steve Stroshane, results of the 2020 board election in co-op districts 1, 2 and 3, and a member Q&A forum, giving members an opportunity to make comments and ask questions through an online chat.
During his report, General Manager Steve Stroshane shared an update of the co-op’s financial position, efforts to upgrade the electric system and how the co-op is making a positive difference in the community.
Reliable power during COVID-19
“From the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we put plans in place for the continued delivery of reliable electricity to member homes, farms and businesses. Our top priority is always providing safe reliable power, with efficiency and extraordinary service,” said Stroshane. “We closed our lobbies March 16, but our drive-thru, phone lines and website have remained open. Throughout the pandemic, we have been fully staffed to continue normal operations.”
The co-op encourages members to use electronic options for payments and transactions, including the SmartHub app to track electricity use, view and report outages and pay bills. Members were also reminded that they may see increases in electricity use, and upcoming electric bills, due to spending more time at home. Contact the co-op for tips to lower your energy use.
July 2019 storm restoration
Stroshane reported that the July 2019 storm caused widespread damage and power outages for 9,000 co-op members across Polk County. Polk-Burnett linemen were assisted by crews from 11 neighboring co-ops and three contractors, bringing more than 100 people to the local restoration effort.
“Within a week, all the lights were back on for Polk-Burnett members,” said Stroshane.
“Rebuilding after the storm was expensive,” said Stroshane. “The total cost to repair storm damage across our system is $2.2 million to date.”
The storm led to a disaster declaration by the state of Wisconsin and Stroshane said that Polk-Burnett has submitted claims to FEMA to help cover some of the expenses to repair the electric system and clear the utility right-of-way.
Beyond storm repairs, Polk-Burnett invested $4.9 million to upgrade and maintain the electric distribution system in 2019. Polk-Burnett’s system includes 1,717 miles of underground cable, 1,695 miles of overhead power line and 38,000 poles.
“We are proud to be in the top 25% of co-ops nationwide for reliability,” said Stroshane. “Our 20,000-plus members experience an average of just two hours of power outages per year. And we’re always working to improve.”
One major investment is upgrading substation equipment, so power can be automatically rerouted during a transmission line outage.
Another co-op priority is holding rates down to avoid large, frequent rate increases for members. “We’ve tightened our belt since the economic downturn a decade ago, and we’re watching expenses closely during COVID-19 economic challenges,” said Stroshane. “We’ve held off for more than 10 years without a rate increase, but anticipate that we’ll need to increase rates soon to cover operating costs.”
Polk-Burnett reported $98 million in assets in 2019 and $38 million in consolidated operating revenue, with $4.4 million in consolidated net margins. The co-op sold 237 million kWh of electricity. Electric revenue per member was $1,608 and the cost to purchase power in 2019 was $19,310,000; 57% of every dollar the co-op collects goes to purchase power; 22% is operating expenses; 13% goes to interest, tax and depreciation; and 8% is operating margins. The full financial report and audit are on polkburnett.com.
Giving money back and helping members save
Stroshane reported that Polk-Burnett returned $1.2 million in Capital Credits to members in 2019. As a co-op, money beyond expenses is regularly returned to members as Capital Credits. This is one of the greatest advantages of co-op membership and proves that co-op performance is strong, said Stroshane.
Another way Polk-Burnett gives back to members is with EnergySense rebates. In 2019, EnergySense helped members save more than 860,000 kWh of electricity, and members received more than $160,000 in rebates on energy efficiency upgrades.
Renewable energy for the future
Polk-Burnett supports sustainable growth of alternative energy for its local membership. Stroshane commented that members qualify for rebates on residential solar and wind systems, and can purchase renewable energy blocks through its Evergreen program. Polk-Burnett is also proud to be the home of SunTuria Solar, the largest utility scale solar in our area. The 10-acre solar array is owned and operated by ENGIE North America.
“We are pleased to offer a growing renewable energy supply through our power supplier, Dairyland Power Cooperative,” said Stroshane. “At present, about 20% of the energy that flows into our distribution system from Dairyland is from renewable sources. Each year, Dairyland adds more solar and wind to reduce carbon emissions.”
The announcement by Dairyland to retire its 345-MW Genoa Station #3 is part of a shared goal to be future ready. The coal plant provided safe, reliable electricity for more than 50 years and will close in 2021 when its fuel supply is depleted.
Making a difference in our community
Polk-Burnett employees work hard to improve our local quality of life not only with reliable power, but also with support for our local community, said Stroshane. In 2019, Operation Round Up awarded more than $65,000 to 78 local nonprofits, including schools, fire departments, food shelves and libraries. Grants are funded by members who round up electric bills, and Stroshane thanked members for their generosity.
The co-op also supports youth with its annual scholarship program. In 2019, $57,500 was awarded to 46 students to attend a technical school, college or university. For this year’s Class of 2020, Polk-Burnett increased the number of scholarships to 54, for a total of $67,500.
“It’s important to know that co-op scholarships do not affect electricity rates,” said Stroshane. “They are funded with unclaimed Capital Credits that if not used for education would be forfeited to the state.”
New this year, Polk-Burnett announced that co-op members can donate future Capital Credits to the scholarship program. Scholarships are awarded to the sons and daughters of co-op members. To see a list of winners and learn how you can donate Capital Credits, visit polkburnett.com.
Meeting participants also saw a video of co-op employees who performed 634 hours of community service in 2019.
Board election results
Tim Laux, legal counsel for Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative, announced results of the 2020 board election. All three incumbent directors were re-elected.
The election was conducted by mail and web ballot by an independent election contractor. Election results were tabulated from ballots received on or before May 27, 2020. Voter participation was 17.4%, with 1,188 ballots received (1,045 paper and 143 online) from 6,827 eligible voters.
In District 1, incumbent Cindy Thorman of Osceola ran unopposed and was re-elected with 345 votes. In District 2, incumbent Mike Morris of Luck was re-elected with 308 votes. Also on the ballot was Erick Vitalis of St. Croix Falls, who received 155 votes. In District 3, incumbent Ed Gullickson of Amery ran unopposed and was re-elected with 339 votes.
Thorman, Morris and Gullickson will serve three-year terms on the co-op board, beginning with the July regular board meeting. Overall, nine co-op directors serve on the Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative
“Electric cooperatives are unique because we are owned and governed by the members we serve. Local board governance is one of the greatest advantages of our co-op business model,” said Stroshane.
Polk-Burnett is a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative that provides reliable electricity with efficiency and extraordinary service to 20,000+ homes, farms and businesses across 2,000 square miles.
Polk-Burnett’s annual meeting was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube. A paper report is also available. For more information, call 800-421-0283.
Polk-Burnett held its first online annual meeting July 8! Board President Ed Gullickson welcomed members and called the meeting to order with 198 members and guests logged in.