Delivering Value for a Brighter Tomorrow
TRUST – COMMUNITY – JOBS – LOCAL
AT EAST-CENTRAL IOWA REC, we’re in the middle of a three-year string of anniversaries. 2016 marked the twenty-first year of East-Central Iowa REC as we know it today. Born from Benton County Electric Cooperative Association and Buchanan County Rural Electric Cooperative, ECI REC held its first Annual Meeting of the Members in 1996. These parent Cooperatives would have celebrated their 80th anniversaries in 2017 and 2018.
The dedication and tenacity of rural Iowans who fought to bring affordable power to the countryside still inspire us today, and the same values remain. We are focused on earning members’ trust, giving back to our communities, supporting regional jobs, and providing a reliable, local service. When we achieve these goals, ECI REC delivers value for a brighter tomorrow.
THE COOPERATIVE DIFFERENCE:
The 2016 budget included approximately $2.6 million in system improvements and $2.5 million for a new operating facility in Independence. These system upgrades were part of our 2013-2016 Construction Work Plan. The budget also included $2.3 million in preventative and ongoing line maintenance programs, including pole testing and meter testing, tree trimming, transformer and breaker maintenance, and more.
ECI REC Directors Jim Alberts, Jeff Elliott, Steve Rau, and Don Shonka received Director Gold by earning NRECA’s Credentialed Cooperative Director Certificate (CCD) and Board Leadership Certificate (BLC), plus three additional credits from BLC courses. At the May Board meeting, the Board of Directors approved the retirement of $510,315 of its 1999, 2000, and 2001 margins to Cooperative members.
ENERGY WISE: Frontier Co-op of Norway, an ECI REC commercial member, upgraded warehouse and production area lighting, including 117 high-bay fixtures, 32 outdoor fixtures, and 2,486 four-foot LED lamps. Frontier Co-op received $30,492 in rebates for this project and is saving an average of 46% on lighting costs.
On October 14, power began flowing from Urbana Solar Acres, a utility-scale solar project at BECCA Industrial Park in Urbana. It was the first of CIPCO’s five planned utility-owned solar projects to be energized. Urbana Solar Acres is powered by 3,708 solar panels and will generate enough electricity for 139 homes. Members throughout the ECI REC service territory are now receiving the clean, reliable electricity provided by Urbana Solar Acres.
For five Thursdays in January and February, 21 fifth graders at CPU Intermediate Elementary School participated in the Junior Achievement (JA) program and learned about the nation’s free-market system from ECI REC Engineering Technician Scott McLaughlin.
ECI REC was proud to award $1,000 scholarships to Drew O’Brien and Braxton Clubb, two young men who plan to pursue careers as lineworkers through Northwest Iowa Community College. Scholarships were also awarded to 10 graduating seniors who plan to further their education in a diverse range of programs.
ECI REC received funds from CoBank’s Sharing Success Matching Grant Program. Under the program, CoBank matches charitable contributions by cooperatives to nonprofit organizations in their local communities. ECI REC chose to award matching grants to projects from the Urbana-Polk Township Fire Department and the Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition. High school students Jamie Thompson and Kirstie Martin were sponsored by East-Central Iowa REC for the 2016 Youth Tour trip to Washington, D.C. Jamie and Kirstie participated in leadership training, engaged in one-on-one conversations with elected officials, jump-started their national peer network, learned about electric cooperatives, and toured D.C.
At the October safety meeting, a representative from Van Wert, Inc., performed a review and training on the digital meters used throughout our territory with ECI REC line personnel. In May, line personnel underwent their annual bucket rescue training. The training provides line personnel with standards for the safe rescue of workers that are incapacitated or exposed to electric shock.
Over 300 second-grade students from Independence, St. Johns, St. Athanasius, and East Buchanan attended a full-day safety event made possible through the Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® grant program, the largest youth rural safety and health education program in North America. ECI REC’s Member Service Technician John Tegler led the electric safety demonstration.
KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON
In 2016, the BECCA and Walker substations’ transformers were upgraded to new, larger-capacity models to handle the voltage change initiated by ITC Midwest from 34.5 kV to 69 kV. This cost between $150,000 and $250,000.
In the Benton County service area, ECI REC contractor Moll’s Utility Services completed the Cooperative’s Work Plan project to change out 12 miles of unreliable copper-weld conductor (distribution line) to new, more reliable aluminum line.
Infrared surveys were conducted at 24 substations in Benton and Buchanan Counties. Ten problems identified at six substations were all addressed.
In February, Midwest Spray Team & Sales, Inc., a Polk County company, worked in ECI REC territory in both Benton and Buchanan Counties to spray trees or brush that were in contact with or had the potential to interfere with distribution lines or equipment.
Underground systems inspections were completed at the Homer substation in Benton County and the Winthrop substation in Buchanan County. Wisconsin’s Badgerland Utility Solutions, LLC, a subcontractor of our regular partner Osmose, performed the inspections.
In March, the Van Horne substation blinked due to a lightning strike that shattered a pole; it was soon replaced. On July 17, early morning storms caused 15 outages, affecting 434 members. Some of the most substantial damages took place south of Norway in the Benton County service area, where six distribution poles were broken.
LOOKING OUT FOR YOU
Over 175 directors, managers, and staff members from Iowa’s electric cooperatives met with nearly 100 state legislators during the Welcome Back Legislative Reception at the State Historical Building in downtown Des Moines. The reception provided an opportunity to meet with recently elected and reelected legislators to discuss issues regarding safe, reliable, and affordable energy options for all Iowans.
Over 200 cooperative supporters, including ECI REC representatives, traveled to Des Moines to advocate for electric cooperatives during the annual REC Day on the Hill event. The co-op representatives focused on educating legislators about four issues important to electric cooperatives: utility-owned solar, a skilled workforce in the state, line personnel safety, and rural economic development.
In conjunction with cooperative managers’ statewide spring conference, CEO Steve Marlow attended the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC) managers’ legislative breakfast at the Capitol.