Washington Electric Coop names board members at annual meeting

Washington Electric Cooperative members celebrated the completion of the South Olive substation and learned about additional efforts to improve reliability at their 79th annual meeting May 16 at the Marietta Shrine Club in Marietta.

Trustee election results revealed that Brian Carter of Sarahsville and incumbents William Bowersock of Reno and Betty Martin of Marietta were elected to three-year terms on the co-op board. Voting was conducted by mail prior to the meeting.

Board Chairman Paul Fleeman opened the business meeting with an overview of the cooperative’s achievements in 2018. He noted that Washington Electric’s operational focus has been on improving reliability – and efforts toward that goal have been boosted thanks to a joint project between the co-op and American Electric Power (AEP).

Fleeman explained that the cooperative relies on AEP for transmission service. AEP is working to upgrade its transmission system throughout southeastern Ohio and as a result, Washington Electric will rebuild four of its substations to accommodate the higher voltage. The first of these, the South Olive substation, was completed last October. The remaining three – Marietta, Rinard Mills and Dart – are scheduled to be completed in the next few years.

Additional strategies the cooperative employs to improve reliability include regular right of way maintenance, pole testing, and reviewing the system to identify opportunities to prevent or reduce the length of power outages.

Fleeman noted that where possible, new lines or existing lines that are upgraded are located near roadways where they are easier to maintain, patrol, and repair. Tie lines between areas of the system are constructed to allow the ability to back feed areas experiencing power supply outages. In 2018, a three-phase tie line was completed between the South Olive and Marietta substations, and a similar tie line between the Rinard Mills and Fly areas was substantially upgraded with new poles and conductor. Fleeman said both of these tie lines will significantly improve reliability and the co-op’s ability to provide service to those areas.

In his report, new Washington Electric General Manager/CEO Jeff Triplett said 2018 was a great year for the co-op in many ways. In addition to the substation project and tie lines, the co-op was able to continue with its maintenance programs, retire capital credits, generate a reasonable margin, and maintain healthy financial ratios.

“We are in an excellent position to continue with the planned investment to build the remaining three substations over the next two years, while maintaining our existing programs and services,” Triplett said. “The benefits from these infrastructure investments are profound and will be realized by the membership for many years to come.”

Board Secretary-Treasurer Betty Martin reported that the cooperative retired $420,000 in capital credits to members in 2018. Because Washington Electric’s consumers are also owners of the co-op, excess revenue is returned to members as capital credits based on their consumption of electricity, when the board finds that the cooperative is financially able to do so.

Martin also noted that net margins for 2018 were approximately $2.6 million, with over $1 million coming from external sources such as interest and capital credits from other cooperatives of which Washington Electric is a member. Over half of the cooperative’s revenue is used to cover the cost of power, with the next highest expense being operating and maintaining distribution lines and equipment.

Also at the meeting, members received an update from Craig Grooms, vice president of engineering and operations for Buckeye Power, the generation and transmission cooperative that provides power to all of Ohio’s 25 electric cooperatives. Washington Electric’s Director of Marketing and Member Services Jennifer Greene recognized the co-op’s four scholarship winners: Caroline Stollar of Marietta, Cloe Siddle of Caldwell, Kasey Buchanan of Lowell, and Ethan Ford of Senecaville. Greene also recognized Cassie Heiss of Lowell, who was selected as Washington Electric’s delegate for the 2019 Youth Tour, a statewide program that sends high school students on a weeklong leadership trip to Washington, D.C.

The grand prize winner of a $250 energy credit in the door prize drawing was Joyce Ogle of Caldwell.

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