News & Events

Jim Stebbins of Clarksville was elected to a full term serving District 2 on the HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative board of directors, while Kimber Hansen of Edmore was re-elected to a second term serving District 4. Stebbins, who was appointed to the board in January following the death of long-time director Wayne Swiler, represents Barry and Ionia counties on the board. Hansen was first elected to the board in 2014. He is currently secretary-treasurer of the board and has been the co-op’s representative to the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association. He recently earned Director Gold certification through our national association’s training curriculum. Hansen represents Montcalm County, except Bloomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships. Their terms will begin following the cooperative’s Annual Meeting in August, and run for three years. For more information on the 2017 board elections, see http://www.homeworks.org/content/director-election-updates.
The wind that blew March 8 and 9 damaged a lot of electric lines across Michigan’s lower peninsula. About 3,500 HomeWorks Tri-County members were out of power during the worst of it; our line crews were assisted by crews from Wolverine Power Cooperative and the City of Portland, along with tree clearing crews from Asplundh and Wright Tree Company. Working together, we restored power to all but a few members by Thursday night. Meanwhile, we were watching as the outage numbers in other parts of the state continued to rise. This was a historic storm, causing incredible damage to electric systems and nearly a million power outages, all told. We were asked how we were able to restore power to nearly all of our members by Thursday night. The answer is, “It’s what we do every day.” No, we don’t deal with major storms every day. But we do work every day to build and maintain and upgrade our electric system so that it is reliable and efficient, to give you the most value for your energy dollar. It’s not just our line crews, either. We use every bit of engineering technology at out fingertips to forecast where those upgrades and rebuilds are needed. We work with our vendors to make sure we’re getting the quality materials we need when we need them. We regularly review our dispatch procedures to make sure crews are tracked for safety and deployed where they can do the most good. We look at ways to communicate better, from getting up-to-date information to the customer service reps who answer your phone calls, to posting and responding regularly on Facebook and at homeworks.org. It’s what we do every day. That’s what makes the difference when the wind blows. Mark Kappler Michigan Country Lines Magazine May 2017
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.
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.
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!

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