By: Ken Schlimgen, General Manager
When we adjourned our last Annual Meeting in April 2019, who would have imagined that one year later we would be dealing with a worldwide pandemic? Over the past several months, I have reflected several times on how fortunate we are to live in South Dakota and to have the support of our neighbors, families and friends.
The pandemic has created many hardships and concerns for our communities. One of the concerns that keeps me awake at night is the health and safety of our employees. Our employees are crucial to our cooperative. Keeping them healthy and able to perform the essential work of keeping the lights on is a priority.
One cautionary step we have taken is closing our offices to the public. Starting this month, we are taking a small step to return to normal and will allow members to make appointments and enter the Mitchell building. Keep in mind that those entering the building will follow safety precautions, and this is subject to an ever-changing environment surrounding COVID-19.
We normally host our annual meeting in April, but due to the pandemic, it was postponed. This month, on September 29, Central Electric will host the cooperative’s annual meeting to review the 2019 year of operations and ask members to approve of several minor changes to the Bylaws.
As we make plans for the annual meeting, we find ourselves breaking new ground. The pandemic has forced us to adapt, and we will be conducting a drive-through annual meeting at our facilities, located west of Mitchell on Betts Road.
We appreciate your understanding of this change and hope that you will take the evening to plan an enjoyable ride to our facilities and cast a vote, all in an effort to support your cooperative. We do have a quorum requirement to meet so your support will be greatly appreciated and rewarded with an attendance gift. You can find instructions and more information in this month's newsletter.
Included in this month's newsletter is an explanation of the recommended changes to the Bylaws. These changes were fully explained at the District Meetings held earlier this year and were also inserted in the April newsletter. I would describe the changes as mostly housekeeping and necessary updates. Please take a few moments and familiarize yourself with the recommendations so you can confidently cast a vote on the 29th.
Financially, 2019 was a good year for your cooperative. The cooperative did not make any changes in electric rates. Revenues for the cooperative were very close to budget but slightly behind 2018. At the same time, expenses were also below budget resulting in $1.3 million in operating margins. As a cooperative, members share in the margins when they are allocated and retired as capital credits. In December of 2019, Central Electric retired over $850,000 in capital credits to our membership.
The operations department launched our accelerated line replacement plan in 2019. It was the first year of many where the cooperative has a goal to replace an average of 70 miles of overhead line each year. We were very pleased that we achieved our goal, given the wet conditions we were challenged with.
A video report from Board President Duane Wolbrink and myself will be available on our website and social media in lieu of our normal annual meeting presentations. I know we all would have preferred a face-to-face meeting and an enjoyable hot meal. We are planning for that in 2021.
Please remember to mark September 29th on your calendar to attend your cooperative’s annual meeting. Watch your mail for individual notice and invitation.
Until next month, take care and be safe!