WIEC Members hear about Cooperative’s past, present and future at Annual Meeting

Western Illinois Electrical Coop. (WIEC) looked at the organization’s past, present and future during the organization’s 80th annual meeting held Thursday, June 27, at the Hancock County Extension Center.

Board President Kent Flesner addressed changes that have occurred throughout the generations. One change, personalized customer service, once the hallmark of a successful business, has long been forgotten.  While other utilities have closed their local offices, WIEC has always operated locally. Flesner said,  “Because cooperatives are member-owned, each member has a voice in decisions made on their behalf.

Eric Hobbie, president/CEO of Prairie Power, Inc. in Springfield, the co-op’s generation and transmission cooperative (G&T), reported the major driver in wholesale power cost is transmission cost, which has increased to $1 million per mile. He explained that a diverse power supply is necessary for a balanced electric system. PPI has invested in the Prairie State Generating Campus coal plant and in solar and wind generation and owns natural gas turbines. The G&T is looking to grow its renewable portfolio, but the challenge of stable power supply and keeping members’ rates affordable is always at the forefront.

Duane Noland, president/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield represents 24 distribution electric co-ops across the state. He detailed how newly elected Governor J.B. Pritzker is making big changes that could affect co-ops and rural residents. He explained, “A democratic legislature and governor had an easy time passing bills that increased the minimum wage, legalized recreational marijuana use, changed abortion laws, and more. The legislative session ended with a large capital bill, which among other things, will increase the gas tax 19 cents and the cost of license plates. That’s what we’ll see for the next few years. This is a challenge for rural Illinois and different from surrounding states.”

General Manager Todd Grotts reminded members that Rural Electrification isn’t something we did; it’s something we’re doing.  “Community transformation isn’t something we did.  It’s something we’re doing.  Co-ops are developing the next generation of leaders in our community. We are building a smarter power grid. We are making life better for our members and for the places we love. We weren’t called to make a difference in our communities once-upon-a-time. We’re called to do it every day.”

During the meeting, Board Secretary-Treasurer Janet Spory shared the good news that the cooperative will pay back capital credits totaling $250,000 to members who were on its lines during 1983 and 1984. Checks should be mailed later this fall.

During the meeting, Kent Flesner of West Point and Mark Burling of Carthage were re-elected to the co-op’s board of directors.

Recognized for service anniversaries were Mechanic/Groundman Greg Bolton, 30 years; General Manager Todd Grotts, 10 years; Journeyman Lineman Tim Shumate, 10 years; and Apprentice Lineman Eric Belshaw, five years.

Grand prize winners.were (l-r),  Sandra Lovell, Susan Nichols, Jean and Larry Teel, Barbara Ramsey and Sharon Thompson.

For a full list of prize winners, click 2019 Annual Meeting Prizes