News & Events

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. If you’re thinking about going paperless with your HomeWorks Tri-County bills, here’s one more incentive: Everyone who is signed up for paperless billing by March 31 will be entered into a drawing for one of two iPad® mobile digital devices, to help you use SmartHub. When you also set up automatic payments -- having your bill amount deducted from your designated bank account or charged to your credit or debit card on your billing due date -- you’ll get a second entry into the drawing. 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!
Three directors-elect to be seated following 2016 Annual Meeting on August 20 Meet Your New Directors District 1 - John Lord, Leslie John Lord, now retired, sold furniture to schools and universities for over 10 years. Previously, he worked at AT&T as an account service administrator and project manager for General Motors and the State of Michigan. His family includes his wife, Ellen, three children, 10 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren (and two more on the way). A member of the co-op since 1989, John’s involvement with Tri-County Electric started in 1948 when his parents, Dr. George and Caryle Lord, bought the Speedway Fruit Farm on M-50 between Charlotte and Eaton Rapids. He and his brothers attended the one-room Perkey School through 8th grade. John graduated from Charlotte High School in 1965, then earned a BS in Psychology from MSU in 1969. John’s community activities include membership in Mason First United Methodist Church and serving as a sixth-grade grandparent-mentor at Mason Middle School since 2000. John has been a member of the Dimondale Lions Club for nearly 30 years, and is currently serving his third term as president. In 2007 he was honored by the club after 17 years of coordinating their blood drives. As a donor to the American Red Cross himself, he has given over 300 pints of blood and platelets. “My involvement in industry with large customers; volunteering with Girl Scouts and the Lions, and at the middle school; as well as attending district meetings and serving as district chairman for several years, have all prepared me for the duties and responsibilities of the board. I've had a lot of experience in business and non-profits and can promise I'll do the very best job I know how.” District 5 - Corinna Batora, Elsie Corinna A. Batora is a policy and training analyst for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She and her husband, Tom, have been married 23 years and they have a 14 year-old-son. A member of HomeWorks since 1998, Corinna says the Batora family has been members of the cooperative since power came to the Bannister area. She holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from Michigan State, and is a 2012 graduate of the Michigan Department of Human Services Leadership Academy. Corinna has been active in both the community and local schools for many years, including as a Family Farm and Home volunteer, a former board member for the Paine Gillam Scott Museum, on the St. Johns Downtown Management Board, and the school parent teacher organization. While owning and operating The Classic Bed and Breakfast in St. Johns for eight years, she also served on the board of the Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association. She was also a board member for the Michigan Family Support Council. “This is my fourth year as the Secretary for District 5. In my current role as secretary I have participated in both board and district meetings; and encouraged Tri-County to implement texting and other electronic communications for our members. I am committed to the continued success of our cooperative, and will diligently work with the board and our great staff to meet our future challenges!”  District 7 - Shirley Sprague, Barryton Shirley Sprague has owned and operated the Perennial Patch nursery in Barryton for the past 31 years. She has been Sheridan Township treasurer for 14 years. Her family includes her husband, Eldon, and their four sons. A member of HomeWorks since 1979, she is a graduate of Chippewa Hills High School, and has participated in educational courses for various township board positions, including board of review, election boards, and treasurer.  Shirley has served Sheridan Township since 1994, on the board of review and election boards, before becoming treasurer. In addition to serving the community through her township work, her community activities include years of volunteer work for the Chippewa Hills School District. Duties at the school ranged from tutoring to managing Reading Is Fundamental and other programs. She has been a community program volunteer, done fundraising work, and income tax preparation for the AARP program. “My life experiences have prepared me to be an effective public official. I feel a responsibility to those I serve to be informed, dependable and accountable. Throughout my career, I have worked diligently to see projects through and provide meaningful solutions.”
One of our favorite times of the year is the two weeks in May when the HomeWorks team hits the road to visit each district, holding the annual membership meetings. It’s great to see so many familiar, smiling faces, to welcome us and share a bite to eat. This year’s meetings were a little bittersweet, knowing it was the last meeting as director for Phil Conklin in District 1, Cara Evans in District 5, and Dean Floria in District 7. After a combined 72 years of service to the co-op as board members, they have chosen to enjoy retirement and watch new people bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the table. The nominating committees in all three districts provided a strong slate of candidates, and we’re looking forward to seeing how you voted. The three new directors will be seated at the Annual Meeting of the Cooperative in August. For those of you who could not make it to one of this year’s meetings, here are a couple of the highlights from our brief operations report. Membership growth is very slow, and members are taking advantage of Energy Optimization programs to save energy and money. Meanwhile, costs continue to rise for labor, equipment, and intangibles such as insurance and property taxes. So, for the first time in six years, your board is considering a rate increase.     A Cost of Service study was performed by an independent consultant, and it looks like we’ll need about a     3% increase to keep HomeWorks Tri-County stable, and continue providing reliable service. This will be     considered in detail on June 27, at a special open membership meeting (see the notice on page 5.) Even though the Supreme Court has blocked implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which also allowed Michigan legislators to put their energy bill on a back burner, Wolverine Power Cooperative is working to make sure we’re ready to meet the requirements of the CPP or any new Michigan policy.     With new projects under contract right now, Wolverine will be at 30% renewables next year. Wolverine is     also about ready to test the new Alpine Power Plant near Gaylord. And they’re doing it while keeping your     power supply rates stable. There was more to talk about, from capital credit retirements on your May energy statement, to our community service programs here in mid-Michigan, as well as a look back at Michigan’s Partners for Power project in Guatemala late last year. There’s a lot of good things going on at your co-op these days. Whether you were able to come hear about it at one of this year’s district meeting or not, your board of directors and staff thank you for your continued support of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric.
We’re currently looking for a team player with good communication skills, a self-starter who can work without constant, close supervision, once trained. You must be dependable and punctual. Your job will support the customer service team and others, scanning paperwork into electronic files, doing miscellaneous filing and other office tasks. We prefer a high school junior or senior (as of September 2016), with reliable transportation. This position is open immediately, with up to 40 hours per week during the summer, and 2:30 – 5 pm Monday-Friday (except holidays) when school is in session. Interested? please reply with a cover letter and resume to Missy Robson by June 10, 2016, or email mrobson@homeworks.org. No calls, please.
Notice to Members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative A Special Member Meeting is set for June 27, 9 a.m., at the Cooperative’s Portland office The board of directors will consider several changes to the cooperative’s rates and tariffs at its meeting on June 27, 2016, to be held at the cooperative office at 7973 Grand River Avenue, Portland, MI. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. and is open to all members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative. The session will begin with an opportunity for members to provide direct input to the board of directors, without filing a formal request under the cooperative policy. Members are asked to come to the lobby by 9 a.m. and request to speak to the board; staff will direct interested members to the meeting room. Time constraints on each member’s comments will be at the discretion of the board president, but members are asked to keep comments to less than five minutes. The following items will be considered: 1)   Revise the cooperative’s electric rates to meet current and future financial needs, based on an independent Cost of Service study. 2)   Reconcile the 2015 Power Supply Cost Recovery Factor collections. The Power Supply Cost Recovery Factor is applied to Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s retail member-customers’ monthly kilowatt-hour use. It represents the fluctuating costs of the power supply, as established by the cooperative in conjunction with Wolverine Power Cooperative. The factor is established annually and reviewed monthly. 3)   Discuss participation in the State of Michigan’s Low Income Energy Assistance program at the cost of a surcharge, to be determined by the state, on each residential customer’s monthly energy bill. Notice of changes or additions to the cooperative’s rates or service rules shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines at least 30 days prior to their effective date. Participation: Any interested member may attend and participate. The location of the board meeting site is accessible, including handicapped parking. Persons needing any accommodation to participate should contact HomeWorks Tri-County Electric at 800-562-8232 a week in advance to request mobility, visual, hearing or other assistance. Comments may also be made before the meeting date by calling General Manager Mark Kappler at 517-647-1281, or by email at mkappler@homeworks.org. Notice of the board meeting shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines.

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