News & Events

2016 is a great year for you to be part of a democracy. Not the democracy that votes for seats in Lansing or Washington, D.C., or even in your township, city, or county, but a working democracy that you and your neighbors own - your electric cooperative! In May each year, HomeWorks Tri-County staff brings the co-op to your neighborhood, with seven district member meetings where you can learn what's going on with YOUR electric utility. It's kind of like a town hall. You come out and visit with your neighbors, enjoy a light meal, then conduct the business of your cooperative, whether you're electing district officers or your district's representative to the board of directors, and learn about the co-op's operations. We'll have plenty of staff on hand so you can ask questions about your service, or about our solar garden, Energy Optimization programs, payment options, propane business, Country Lines magazine, and more. We’ll bring our CFL recycling bucket, and you can plan to buy LED bulbs and smart power strips with our instant rebates from Energy Optimization. We have activities for youngsters, and a prize drawing for kids aged 5 to 16. For adults, there’s a nice grand prize at each district of a 32-inch smart TV, plus drawings for energy billing credits, and a gift at the door for all who attend. We usually start serving supper by 5:30 p.m., and unless there are a lot of questions, you’ll be back on the road by 7:30 or so. So it’s a quick evening, and we try to make it fun and informative. But it’s not a democracy without you there, taking part in running your cooperative. We’d love to see you, whether you’ve never been to a district meeting before, or if you’ve been to 50 of them. Come out and see if we measure up, as your democracy.   May, 2016 Michigan Country Lines
One of the great things about electric cooperatives is how we work together. A great example is our mutual aid system. We get help from our sister co-ops when we have many outages after a storm, and in turn we send crews to help out when we’re needed elsewhere. We sent linemen up north to Presque Isle Electric & Gas in Onaway after we finished repairs this past Christmas, for instance, and we’ve been able to call on Great Lakes Energy and Midwest Energy for crews and equipment during past storms. There are other good ideas that get shared when we work together. Many of our most popular programs were developed from one co-op starting a program, then allowing others to build on it for their own member-owners. The list includes our online outage map, our use of Facebook to host conversations with you, and our participation in Partners For Power, helping electrify a village in Guatemala last fall. Another one of these good ideas is Operation Round Up, in which members can round up their monthly energy bills to the next dollar. This “spare change” is donated to a not-for profit foundation that in turn makes grants to families and organizations in need, right here in mid-Michigan. We call our foundation the Tri-County Electric People Fund. A few months ago, after 22 years of making grants, the People Fund topped the $2 million milestone. That includes 560 grants to families in our 13-county service area, plus 775 grants to organizations that help even more families. You can read more in the Annual Report that wraps this month’s issue of Michigan Country Lines. If you participate, you’ve helped keep families in their homes, provided clothes and snacks for schoolchildren, and kept local fire and ambulance departments up to date. You’ve stocked the shelves of area food banks, sent books to young readers, and repaired a senior center parking lot. It’s all been done with your spare change, averaging about 50 cents a month. Thank you for 22 years, and $2 million-plus, of support for our communities. We hope there are many, many more to come. We know there will be more good ideas to share.
Save the Date: District Meeting Schedule All 3 incumbent directors will retire in 2016 Philip Conklin, Cara Evans, and Dean Floria have announced they will not seek re-election to HomeWorks Tri-County Electric's board of directors this year. Conklin, who represents Eaton, Ingham, and Jackson counties in District 1, was first elected to the board in 1989. Evans was first elected in 1986 to represent District 5, which includes Gratiot and Saginaw counties, along with parts of Clinton and Montcalm counties. Floria was appointed to the board in 1996, to fill the District 7 seat serving Mecosta and Osceola counties after the sudden death of director Bill Chapin, and has won re-election each term since then. The nominating committee in each district consists of the district's officers (listed on this page), elected by members at the district meeting in May. Each committee is required by the co-op's bylaws to nominate at least one candidate on or before March 15. Candidates may also be nominated with a petition signed by at least 25 members from within the district. Petitions must be turned in by April 5. Names of nominees will be posted at the cooperative's offices by April 10. Who Makes Up District Nominating Committees? Nominating committees are comprised of the district officers, elected by members at the previous year's district meeting. District 1: Eaton, Ingham, and Jackson counties Patricia Zimmerman, Chair 1885 Flanders Rd. Charlotte MI 48813 517-543-6736 email: pattyez at 1a4u.net Miner Roth (Grand Ledge), Vice Chair Drouscella Halsey (Charlotte), Secretary District 5: Gratiot and Saginaw counties, plus Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships in Clinton County, and Bloomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships in Montcalm County Carl Bornemann, Chair 7560 Woodbridge Rd. Ashley MI 48806 989-862-5139 Reginald Stevens (St. Johns), Vice Chair Corinna Batora (Elsie), Secretary District 7: Mecosta and Osceola counties Jean Chapin, Chair 6240 5 Mile Rd. Blanchard MI 49310 231-972-8623 Don Passolt (Hersey), Vice Chair Connie Gibson (Evart), Secretary Interested in Seeking a Board Seat? If you're interested in running for a HomeWorks board seat yourself, Article VII, Section 2 of the cooperative's bylaws states you must be an individual member of the cooperative in good standing, at least 21 years old, residing in the district which you are to represent, and a U.S. citizen. To become or remain a director, the bylaws continue, the candidate must have the capacity to enter into legally binding contracts; comply with standards of conduct as laid out in the bylaws; and meet all reasonable conflict of interest qualifications found in Article VII, Section 3. Also, within the 10 years immediately prior to becoming a director, a candidate shall not have been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony or misdemeanor crime involving issues of moral character. For a copy of the bylaws, please click here. You can download a PDF file by clicking on the fourth bullet under About My Co-op. To learn more, you can also download PDF files of Board Policy 102 - "Functions of the Board"; and the "Suggested Statement of Qualifications for a Director," which is an appendix to Board Policy 106 - "Director Replacement." If you meet these qualifications and would like to be nominated, contact your district nominating committee, listed above, or call HomeWorks Tri-County Electric at 517-647-1211 for a nominating petition.
Are you interested in serving on HomeWorks' Board of Directors? Learn more here. Our 2016 District Meeting dates and locations are set, with one new location: District 4 is moving from Vestaburg Schools to Montabella Jr-Sr High's cafeteria. Watch this space, Country Lines magazine, our Facebook page, or your mailbox for more information! The business meeting starts at 6 pm, following a light supper (sloppy joe sandwiches with chips). Here's the 2016 meeting schedule. (Click on the linked date to open up a blank registration card, complete with map to your meeting. Then right-click, Save As to save it to your computer.) Monday, May 16 – District 5, Fulton Elementary Gym ELECTION!      Gratiot and Saginaw counties, plus Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships in Clinton County, and Bloomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships in Montcalm County Tuesday, May 17 – District 1, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Charlotte ELECTION!      Eaton, Ingham, and Jackson counties Wednesday, May 18 – District 6, Beal City High School (their small gym)      Clare and Isabella counties Thursday, May 19 – District 3, Eagle Park Hall     Clinton County, except Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships Monday, May 23 – District 7, St. Michael’s Parish Center, Remus ELECTION!      Mecosta and Osceola counties Tuesday, May 24 – District 4, Montabella Jr-Sr High School Cafeteria, Blanchard NEW LOCATION!      Montcalm County, except Bloomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships Wednesday, May 25 – District 2, St. Edward’s Church, Lake Odessa      Barry and Ionia counties
As an electric cooperative, HomeWorks Tri-County is guided by an elected board of directors who represent its members’ best interest when considering decisions and policies. A director’s decisions will impact issues, such as service rates, rights of way and work plans. This position holds great responsibility and requires men and women who understand their community’s needs and serve the cooperative members’ best interest.   That’s why it’s important for you, as our member-owners, to continue to elect strong directors to our board. Experienced and trained directors help guide us into the future, keeping yesterday’s lessons in mind. Fresh ideas and new perspectives help the co-op develop policies that could keep our community competitive. Our board is a democratically elected body nominated by members of the cooperative’s service territory and voted into position by any member who chooses to participate in the cooperative’s open election. At HomeWorks Tri-County, we hold elections every May in two or three of our seven districts. This year, for the first time in a long time, all three incumbent directors have decided not to run for re-election. We’re going to miss Phil Conklin, Cara Evans, and Dean Floria for their experience and the extras each brought to the board table. But it is an opportunity to get some of those new perspectives to help guide HomeWorks Tri-County into the future, whatever it brings. If you are a member in one of the three districts open this year, and would be interested in serving or can recommend someone, please contact the district officers who serve as the nominating committees. They have a big job this year and would love to hear from you. Any co-op member (in good standing) is welcome to run for an open position on the board. In May, read Country Lines to learn more about this year’s director candidates, and learn when and where your district meeting will be held. Then, come out to vote and show your support for the director candidate of your choice. Even if it’s not a board election year in your district, you will be asked to vote for district officers. Each district’s officers serve as that district’s nominating committee, looking for the leadership and willingness to serve that the co-op needs. You can see how important that job is! The leaders who serve our co-op, and your votes, make a big difference to how the cooperative is guided in its policies and operations. Make your vote count.
We place a lot of importance on the fifth cooperative principle, “Education and Information.” In this issue of Country Lines alone, we recognize two employees who completed an advanced series of courses (page 16); the skills they’ve learned will help us serve you better. This issue also contains information about the annual scholarship program to support area students who seek higher education (page 13), Classroom Technology Grants to teachers who can use technology to guide their students (also page 13), and a three-day youth leadership camp in April (back cover). Even this magazine is an educational tool, with energy efficiency (page xx) and safety tips (page xx) mixed in with the recipes (page xx) and interesting feature stories (page xx). In future issues, watch for information about board of director elections, capital credits and your equity in your electric cooperative, district member meetings, and even more of the safety, energy efficiency, and recipe features. Country Lines is an inexpensive way to get information about HomeWorks products and services to every member-owner we serve. We use Facebook to post information as well, and encourage a conversation with our members. It’s said that education is the cornerstone of effective self-governance. Member-owners who stay informed are more likely to vote when board seats come open, helping guide their electric cooperative by carefully selecting the men and women who will set policies for years to come. Those member-owners are best served by elected leaders who understand the industry, and how we can move forward to meet changing demands. And by employees who train every day on safety, use of technology, and other ways to serve you better. Michael Josephson, a noted lecturer on ethics and the founder of CHARACTER COUNTS, is quoted as saying “Life never stops teaching. Be sure you never stop learning.” At your electric cooperative, learning is a way of life, every day.
One of the great things about a cooperative is that we are owned by, and operated for the benefit of, the people we serve: you and your neighbors. That means we work hard every day to make sure that your energy is safe and reliable, that the rates you pay for that energy are fair and competitive, and that the service you receive is personal, courteous, and knowledgeable. We also try to treat you like an individual, a person with a name and address, rather than as an account number. In return, we hope you think of HomeWorks as the cooperative you own, and our board of directors and employees as the people who deliver the energy your family needs for comfort and convenience. Your board of directors is listed on this page, but here are the rest of the HomeWorks family. They join me in wishing you a joyful holiday season and a happy, productive 2016! Accounting: Pat Simmer, Cheryl Blaschka, Christina Pulling, Jeralyn Marshall, Sara Urie Customer Service, Blanchard: Cathy Foster, Cheri Rauch, Erin Storey, Stacey Kirby Customer Service, Portland: Missy Robson, Mary Jane Hoppes, Becky Beard, Brandon Trierweiler, Jeff Erridge, Jessica Hinds, Joy Frazee, Karen Beard, Kevin Blundy, Lesa Barker, Luanne Goodman, Madison Lefke, Michelle Huhn, Sean Thelen, Stacey Brown Customer Service, Meter Readers: Cinnamin Piggott, David Parkhouse, Terri Larsen Billing: Angel McCliggott, Christy Manting, Rita Owen Electric Operations, Blanchard: Kevin VanDePerre, Adam Doughty, Allen Delo, Bob Verhaar, Calvin Foster, Cody Teegardin, Dan Dexter, Dan Fredricks, Jeannie Porritt, Jeremy McVeigh, Jody Birch, Jon Karcher, Rick Warchuck Electric Operations, Portland: Chris Reed, Chris Teachout, Brad Parkhouse, Chris Vallier, Jeff Campbell, Jeremey Smith, Jeremy Zbytowski, Jon Shattuck, Kyle Balderson, Mark Goodman, Rob Brennan, Ryan Smith Engineering Services & Dispatch: Chris Jensen, Brian Thompson, Debbie Rogers, Kelly Vroman, Nick Rusnell, Val Wohlscheid Information Technology: Tom Manting, Chris O’Neill, Jamie Trommater Propane Operations, Blanchard: Andy Fredricks, Lanny Withey, Randy Spayd, Trevor Wood Propane Operations, Portland: Randy Halstead, Dan Peiffer, Kevin Sandborn, Neal Swain And: Denise Weeks, Tanya Schneider, Jayne Graham
Even in today’s shifting energy climate, electricity remains a good value. Did you know that an average day’s worth of electricity for a family home costs less than $5? We don’t often question the cost of a fast food meal, which may be more than that day’s electric power. And yet, we frequently become upset if our electric bill is higher than usual, even if it’s due to our own usage habits. It makes sense; we have become increasingly reliant upon electricity. Electricity has, for many of us, gone from a luxury commodity - a choice - to a necessity and an expectation. We expect the lights to come on when we flip the switch, and we expect our power to stay on during the best and worst conditions. How else would we keep our food fresh, our homes cool in the summer or warm in the winter? Value goes beyond cost: when you flip the switch at home, the lights should come on. We work hard to ensure you have electricity every hour of every day. Even as we upgrade the distribution system to keep improving reliability, we face continual threats. Maybe an ice or wind storm. Maybe a neighbor forgets to call before he digs up his backyard. Maybe someone slides off the road and hits a utility pole. We’ve experienced a lot together. Remember the Christmas 2013 ice storm, or the wind storm in April, just a few months later? Crews worked long hours for days on end to rebuild lines and restore power to every member. But we’re also always preparing for what may come, strengthening our lines and improving our processes so we can respond quickly. With 3,600 miles of electric distribution lines, we have a lot of ground to cover, and reliability doesn’t come without its costs. If at times it doesn’t seem that electricity is affordable, remember – even as the demand for electricity grows and the cost of poles, wires, transformers, and equipment goes up – annual rate increases still remain low, especially when compared to other consumer goods such as medical care, education, gasoline and, yes, even fast food. Electricity is still a great bargain.
Most of us don’t remember life before electricity, and the many conveniences it makes possible. We don’t remember lighting candles or lanterns to extend the day beyond sunrise to sunset. We don’t remember hours of back-breaking labor to pump water, wash clothes, or do farm chores to feed the family. Did you know there are 1.2 billion people around the world who still live without the benefits of electric power? But we’re doing something about it, one village at a time. Over the past 50 years, since President John F. Kennedy signed the first USAID-NRECA agreement to use the cooperative model to electrify rural areas of developing countries, NRECA International has provided access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity to 110 million people. NRECA is the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, assisting electric co-ops in 47 states with safety, communications, and legislative/regulatory programs. For these women, men and children who have benefitted from our work, life has changed and improved in the form of better education, health, access to clean water and economic opportunity. Agricultural productivity, millions of new jobs in micro and small enterprises, and higher incomes and quality of life for rural communities in more than 42 countries around the world are NRECA International’s measurable outcomes. The work is done by volunteer lineworkers and others who take time from their co-op jobs here in the U.S. And now it’s Michigan’s turn to become involved. Two linemen from HomeWorks Tri-County will be part of a 10-man team, building a four-mile distribution line to connect the tiny mountain village of Buena Vista, Guatemala, to the electric grid. The villagers, who will become part of an electric cooperative in the region, are already clearing trees and setting poles - by hand - in the steep terrain. Over three weeks in November, the Michigan team will build a single-phase distribution circuit, hang transformers, and install simple wiring (one light bulb and one outlet) in homes. They won’t have bucket trucks or most of the modern tools that make these jobs much simpler here in the U.S. HomeWorks Tri-County has supported NRECA International with small donations over the years, and we’re excited to be part of this next step, putting boots on the ground where they’re needed so badly. Our linemen will come back knowing they’ve changed these villagers’ lives, and their own lives will be changed as well. We take electricity for granted every day. Bringing electric power to a remote mountain village in Guatemala is a way to reach back to our roots and remember what life used to be like before farmers started working together in the 1930s to form electric co-ops in rural America.
In recent weeks, you may have seen a television advertisement that indicates Michigan is in a very precarious position in the area of future power supply. For some utilities in our state, that may be true; those ads cast a very ominous cloud over Michigan and what could happen. However, I want to share with you how HomeWorks, and our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, ARE investing for the future power supply needs of our member-consumers. Furthermore, I want to provide some details on who is behind those rather gloomy television advertisements and what they hope to achieve. First, HomeWorks and Wolverine are currently investing approximately $175 million in the development and construction of the Alpine Power Plant near Gaylord. This 430-megawatt natural gas fired power plant, which will become operational next year, will meet the future electric capacity needs of HomeWorks and four of our fellow electric cooperatives well into the future. We are working hard to meet your future electric needs. Now let’s talk about those ads that you frequently see during the 6 pm news on your local stations. Those ads are the work of one of our state’s largest public relations firms in conjunction with Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy—Michigan’s two largest electric utilities. Their multi-million dollar advertising campaign has one very simple goal—to eliminate electric competition in Michigan. It is our understanding that they are spending $2-3 million on those ads, in an effort to enact changes in state law by scaring electric consumers and our elected officials in Lansing. Michigan law, enacted in 2008, allows 10% of an electric utility’s customers to choose another supplier. Michigan’s electric cooperatives believe the threat of 10% of our sales base leaving us for another supplier has made us more attentive to customer needs and competitive pressures. In fact, I am proud to point out that HomeWorks has NEVER lost a member-customer to another supplier—even though our large customers have had that option since 2000. We believe competitive rates and high quality service are the reason our large customers have chosen to stay with HomeWorks. The big utilities in our state, in conjunction with their Lansing public relations firm, are attempting to use scare tactics to change state law and eliminate competitive options for their large customers. They say they need greater assurance that their customers won’t leave for other suppliers before they can build additional generating plants. They said the same thing in 2008 when state legislators reduced their risk by capping the market at 10%.  Ironically, they have both invested hundreds of millions of dollars in emissions upgrades to many of their coal plants over the past several years. We believe that the current 90% guarantee that our state’s two largest utilities currently operate under provides more than enough assurance to invest both in Michigan and in the future electric supply needs of their customers. There are many small businesses HomeWorks serves throughout mid-Michigan that would be very happy with a 90% guarantee of their sales base! A good portion of the generation fleet of the state’s two largest utilities is old, dirty and needs to be either upgraded or totally replaced due to new federal environmental standards. This isn’t new news. I am proud to say that Michigan’s electric cooperatives aren’t investing your dollars in ominous television ads but rather in your future, with new renewable energy projects and a new, $175 million natural gas generating facility near Gaylord. In the end, we have an obligation to serve your needs and we take that obligation seriously. It’s time to get to work.

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