News & Events

What are capital credits? They're your ownership of your electric cooperative. Here's more information, from the May issue of Michigan Country Lines: HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative member-owners see the benefits of cooperative principle #3 (Members’ Economic Participation) on your May energy bills. Read answers to frequently asked questions about capital credit allocations, or capital credit refunds.   The board of directors authorized an allocation and retirement of capital credits after the audit was approved in March. The board of directors authorized an allocation and retirement of capital credits after the annual audit report was presented at the March board meeting. Because we operate on a nonprofit basis, the cooperative’s 2016 margins of $596,966 will be allocated back to you based on your purchase of energy during the year.  Since we are a member-owner of Wolverine Power Cooperative, a share of their 2016 margins will be allocated back to you in the same way. These allocations are NOT cash, only an accounting of your share of ownership in the cooperative. The amounts allocated to your membership for 2017 will be printed in the top right message area of your May energy bill. Your bill will also show your total unretired capital credits, which will be retired at a future date as determined by your board of directors. Retiring Capital Credits Retiring capital credits is a way of ensuring each generation of members provides its own equity. The board’s philosophy is to pay most of a retirement from the oldest capital credits on account, and a smaller percentage from the most recent year. We believe this achieves the purpose of recycling the cooperative’s capital, while also giving our newest members a chance to see one of the most fundamental cooperative principles in action. This year, the board approved a general retirement of $2,960,000, including: $2,039,000 from Wolverine Power Cooperative, for the years 1998, 1999, and 2016, $721,000 from HomeWorks Tri-County Electric, for the years 1991 and 2016, and $200,000 paid to HomeWorks in 2016 as a dividend from Tri-Co Services. Your retirement will be paid as a credit applied to your May energy bill. It will show as a line item under “Other Charges and Credits.” The board also set aside funds for retiring capital credits to members’ estates, on a first-come, first-served basis. Estate retirements will include both Tri-County Electric and Wolverine Power capital credits. For more information about estate retirements, call Member Services at 1-800-562-8232.
Chris Reed joined HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative in 1988 as an apprentice lineman. After becoming a lineman, he became a crew leader, then Portland operations coordinator, and in 2015 he was named director of electric operations. He's shown with his daughters, Holly, left, and Grace. When I was asked to write about Linemen Appreciation Day 2017, I thought of different ways to approach this. There are so many aspects to this line of work; it’s difficult to choose. I think the best way I can honor all of the linemen I have had the privilege of working with, as well as linemen all across the country, is to help you all learn a little bit about what it is we do. If you’ve noticed, I don’t say what we do every day because every day is different. That is one of the many things I loved about line work; there really is no average day.  People often say “you’re so lucky, you get to work outside in the beautiful weather.” What they don’t think about is that we are also outside in the worst weather!   Don’t get me wrong, we know going into this work what we will be exposed to, and we welcome it as part of the challenge. Oddly enough, many of my fondest memories are of storm restoration work. Working as a team with the skilled crews that make up our Blanchard and Portland line departments, to restore power to our members in all conditions, is more rewarding than I could ever express.   Whether a lineman is wading through waist deep snow, chest deep water, or thorn bushes over his head (usually in the dark of night!), his goal is to restore power to our members. Sometimes it means missing anniversaries, birthdays, even Christmas - and those missed holidays we never get back.   So the next time Mother Nature leaves you without power and you’re missing the big game on TV, please take a moment to think of those linemen out there and what it is they might be missing to get your lights back on.
Electric cooperatives around the U.S. are looking at ways to serve their member-owners with high-speed internet, just as they brought electricity to rural areas in the 1930s. Tom Manting, Chief Information Officer for HomeWorks, explains the situation here. Eighty years ago, a group of mid-Michigan farmers united as Tri-County Electric Cooperative to do something no one else was willing to do: provide safe, affordable, convenient central station electricity to rural Michigan. It didn’t take long for Tri-County Electric’s board of directors and management to realize that building and maintaining the electric distribution plant (all the poles, wires, meters, and transformers that deliver your electric power) is a uniquely local endeavor. However, the “central” part of central station power - generating the electricity and transmitting it to substations - is best performed by a larger organization, since a larger generator can produce more electrons at a lower cost. So Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative (a cooperative of cooperatives, also known as a Generation and Transmission (G&T) cooperative) was formed to help a number of Michigan’s electric cooperatives to gain economies of scale in procuring the electrons for its members. Today Wolverine, through its five member-distribution cooperatives, serves over 268,000 electric co-op members in 41 counties. This brings us to high-speed internet: HomeWorks is looking into the possibility of providing Fiber to the Home (FTTH). A key decision would be how to structure such a business. Our options include using a for-profit subsidiary or making it a division of the cooperative. One key factor is the extent to which we could partner with other Michigan cooperatives. If three or more co-ops work together to provide FTTH, all involved will benefit. We could negotiate better programming contracts, buy bandwidth at better prices, and leverage each other’s experiences to provide greater reliability and better service. One model we’re considering would have HomeWorks building and maintaining the fiber, just like we build and maintain the electric lines. A separate operating company would provide the Internet, telephone, and possibly TV services that travel over the fiber, just like Wolverine provides the electrons that travel over our lines. Our preliminary analysis suggests HomeWorks can provide this much-needed service with or without the other co-ops, but we think creating a “fiber G&T” could benefit all the cooperative’s members. We’re still studying the feasibility of each option, and will report back here when we’re ready to make a decision. We welcome your thoughts.
Help Find Members Who Have Not Claimed Their Capital Credit Checks Learn more about capital credit allocations and retirements in 2017. For the past several years, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative has refunded capital credits, or past margins, to our members based on their patronage, or purchases of electric energy, during a specified time. Most capital credits are paid as bill credits to active members, or we send checks over a certain amount to members who have moved away from our service. Some of those checks go unclaimed as the member has moved without updating their mailing address with us. The list found on this page covers those unclaimed checks from 2011 through 2016. We use several different methods to look for these members so we can return their money to them; this page is just one of those methods! If you find your own name listed, please call us at 1-800-562-8232 during regular business hours so we can update your information and reissue your refund. Or, if you find an acquaintance or relative listed and you know their current whereabouts, please have them contact our office at 1-800-562-8232 during regular business hours for assistance. If you find the name of a deceased relative and you are the executor or heir of their estate, please call our office at 1-800-562-8232 during regular business hours for additional information. After five years unclaimed, according to our bylaws, the board of directors determines whether to return some or all of the funds to the cooperative's equity, which benefits all members by keeping HomeWorks Tri-County Electric financially strong. They may also decide to use some or all of the funds for community projects which would benefit our service area. Note: if you would prefer to download a sortable Excel file (.xlsx format), click here.
Jim Stebbins of Clarksville has been selected to represent District 2 on the HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative board of directors. He will serve for the remainder of the current term, left open by the passing of long-time director Wayne Swiler on Dec. 19. Stebbins, a member of the cooperative since 1974, also says he plans to run for election to the board in May, seeking a full term which begins after the co-op’s Annual Meeting in August. “Being a member, I have experienced the quality of service and competitive rates at HomeWorks Tri-County Electric, that are far superior to investor-owned utilities,” Stebbins says. “I’m excited about the future changes and challenges and want to contribute my own experiences to the cooperative.” Stebbins graduated from Grand Valley State University in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in history. Since then he was been an independent dairy farmer; worked for the National Farmers Organization as state livestock coordinator; been a lab technician at Hastings Manufacturing Company in Hastings; and was a line and shipment inspector for the Bradford White Corporation in Middleville. He was a member of the Campbell Township Board of Review for 10 years; was president of the Woodland Fraternal Order of Eagles for three terms and also serves as treasurer time; and as a member of St. Edward’s Church, Lake Odessa, served on the parish building committee. He is divorced with five children and five grandchildren. “We were pleased to have several outstanding candidates to consider for this open seat,” says board chairman Luke Pohl. “Jim brings to the board a good mix of experience and leadership, and we’re looking forward to seating him at the March board meeting.”
From left, Jerry Supina, Wayne Swiler, and Scott Braeger at a District 2 membership meeting. By Mark Kappler As I reflect on Wayne Swiler’s passing, many thoughts run through my mind.  I am reminded that HomeWorks can never "replace" Wayne.  His 39 years of service on the board of directors taught him innumerable lessons. He had a thorough understanding of the electric utility business, the co-op business model, and a sense of service to the members of District 2 and all members of the cooperative. These traits and characteristics are not easily found. Most importantly, Wayne was always a staunch advocate for the members. When he felt the cooperative was not performing well for the members, Wayne would say, “I have a complaint I want to discuss with you.” Wayne and I traveled to Cadillac each month to attend the Wolverine board meeting, and the 2.5-hour drive each way allowed for great discussions. From business to family, to things we both enjoyed doing, our discussions were always interesting and made the drive feel shorter. Of course, we always managed to find an ice cream shop to visit on the way home. I am not the only one who feels this profound loss. Former General Manager Scott Braeger reflects, "Wayne was a man of few words, but with a deep understanding of people and values. He provided great leadership to people around him, not with words, but by the example he set! You didn't have to be around Wayne very long to realize that he cared deeply about people; he wanted the best for them. As a director, a member's concerns always came before all else. Wayne was an example to all of us how to live this one life we each have been given. So long, friend...you will not be forgotten." Retired board member Cara Evans also remembers her friend. “Wayne always spoke his mind. I could call Wayne and ask him questions, or discuss an issue with him. He was honest with me; he told me years later that in the beginning, the all-male board didn't really like a woman there. I think we became friends because of his honesty. We could just bounce our thoughts around. It was like thinking out loud to each other. He was a very good friend. He loved serving on the board. And he will be greatly missed.” As we look to the future at HomeWorks, the best we can do is fill his vacant seat with someone who will add value to the board, as well as someone who will bring new skills and perspectives relevant to our changing membership and business model. No one will ever replace Wayne Swiler. Thank you, Wayne, for setting that standard high. At a community work day for a Lake Odessa park, Wayne worked with Tri-County employees to dig postholes. -------- Long-Time Director Dies Wayne Swiler, who served HomeWorks Tri-County Electric members for over 39 years on the cooperative’s board of directors, died at his home near Lake Odessa on December 19, 2016, after a long illness. He was 71. A native of Portland who moved to Lake Odessa at a young age, he graduated from Lakewood Public Schools in 1964 and served in the National Guard from 1965-1972, while employed at Oldsmobile. After dairy farming for several years, he left the business and worked at Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch for 20 years before retiring. Mr. Swiler is survived by his wife, Pam; son, Kevin; daughter Amanda; three granddaughters and one great-grandson. He was a member of the First Congregational Church of Lake Odessa, the Lakewood Area Lions Club, First Families of Ionia County Society, and the Ionia County Genealogical Society, and enjoyed fishing in his spare time. He was also a great fan of the Grand Rapids Drive basketball team. “Wayne was especially known for his compassion and generosity,” his family wrote of him. “He never met a stranger and was loved by all who knew him. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a warm, loving smile. He was the go-to fix-it man for anyone who needed something repaired.” Mr. Swiler’s paternal and maternal grandparents were some of the very first members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative; he became a member in 1967 and was first elected to the board of directors in 1977. He was vice-chairman of the board and also represented the cooperative on the Wolverine Power Cooperative board of directors. Wayne Swiler with the family tractor, driven by 6 generations of Swilers  
Youth Tour (June 10-15) is a once-in-a-lifetime, all-expenses-paid leadership travel opportunity for high school sophomores and juniors (going into their junior or senior year this summer), sponsored by Michigan’s electric cooperatives. From the battlefields of Gettysburg, to the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., Youth Tour will explore the leadership lessons of our nation’s history and immerse you in the cooperative spirit. Applications (at http://www.cooperativeyouthtour.com/apply-now/) must be received by February 28 for consideration.
By Missy Robson, Manager of Customer Service Michigan Country Lines, January 2017   More and more of our member-owners are looking for ways to save time and money, and be environmentally conscious. Look no further than our SmartHub service, online or through a free smart-device app! With SmartHub, your account information is available 24 hours a day, year-round. You can see helpful graphs of your energy use, make payments, change your account details or report an outage. And, if you choose, you can tell us to stop sending you paper bills. Going paperless is easy. You can view your bill online (it’s basically a PDF copy of your paper statement – actually the previous 18 months are available online) and even download a copy to save in your own records at home. You’ll get an email from us letting you know when your statement is ready for viewing. Going paperless prevents the possibility of delayed or lost bills in the mail. It keeps paper out of your trash and, eventually, landfills. And it helps your cooperative control costs. Between paper and postage, sending a paper bill to 25,000 member-owners each month adds up! Controlling costs helps us keep your rates stable. Make your life a little more convenient and do a nice thing for the environment. Check out SmartHub today, by clicking on My Account at the top of homeworks.org or downloading the free app. You’ll be amazed at all the information at your fingertips!
A few members have questioned an article in the September issue of Michigan Country Lines, in which we explained why our employees will not physically handle your credit card, nor do we have access to your full credit card number through our computer system. While some other companies, for example restaurants, still take your credit card away for processing, the payment card industry has set very high security standards with costly penalties if there is a breach in credit card security. As a member-owned cooperative, we felt the risk of such a penalty is too high a cost to expect our members to bear in case someone manages to hack our systems. All credit card payments made to HomeWorks Tri-County are managed through a third-party system. You are encouraged to pay with your credit card at the payment station in either office, on our website, or by using our pay by phone service at 1-877-999-3395. You can also store your number on the system when you’ve logged into your account via SmartHub (online or through your smart device), and through the pay by phone service. Once stored, you can then call our regular phone number and confirm the last 4 digits of the card number to a customer service representative. We can then use the stored information to process your credit card payment.
National Cooperative Month is celebrated annually in October across the U.S., allowing us to reflect on our shared principles. One principle is our concern for community, where our member-owners live and work. From providing technology in classrooms to supporting new jobs and industry, we are committed to improving our member-owners’ quality of life through being involved in our communities. The Tri-County Electric People Fund, which returns members’ spare change to families and organizations in need, is one great example. Moreover, our employees are encouraged to look outward for ways to get involved, through sports, schools, and social groups. Another co-op principle is cooperation among cooperatives. We serve our member-owners most effectively, and strengthen the co-op movement, by working together. People are often amazed by the extent of the cooperative network: We are insured by a cooperative insurance company, which is a leader in creating a culture of safety for our employees. It’s good business for them, but their concern is for the people they’re reaching. The software for our computer systems, from desktops to mobile apps, comes from an information systems cooperative, one of several that’s been formed by electric co-ops over the years. Our after-hours call center and dispatch service are supplied by a co-op that started out as several small co-ops looking for an effective and economic way to provide a 24-hour response for their members. We purchase many of our materials – utility poles, transformers, wire, and more – from a rural electric supply cooperative. We even bank with two different cooperatives – including the Portland Federal Credit Union right down the road from our office (we, in turn, serve a couple of their branch offices.) We purchase electric power from a cooperative that we own along with four other Michigan electric co-ops. Like all the other co-ops mentioned above, and like HomeWorks, Wolverine Power Cooperative is operated for the benefit of its member-owners, not for profit. We have mutual aid agreements to help each other out in times of need – say, for instance, a big storm swipes across lower Michigan. Co-ops to the north and south of us may not be affected and would have line crews and equipment to spare to help us rebuild and restore power. As one of the owners of each of these co-ops, we know that we have a say in their operations. When we elect a board member to represent us, receive capital credits, or are consulted on our future needs, the feeling of being a co-op owner can’t be beat. We hope you feel the same way about HomeWorks Tri-County!

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