News & Events

We’re accepting applications through May 16 for a summer communications internship position. The Communications Intern will work on a variety of hands-on, portfolio building projects that support HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative in its mission of improving the quality of life for our member-owners in mid-Michigan. Your responsibilities may include writing articles for our monthly magazine, designing print materials such as brochures or bill inserts, providing support for Touchstone Energy outreach programs, digital photography assignments, and more. The part-time summer internship offers flexible start and end dates, and will take into account your class schedule if necessary. We offer a competitive hourly wage based on experience. You will work at our Portland office, although there will be days in the field or at our Blanchard office. Hours are flexible, but will be generally be scheduled during business hours (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). Skills & Knowledge to be Gained Hands-on experience in a variety of communication activities Opportunity to be published in a statewide magazine Build your portfolio by creating great projects and pieces Real world practice of meeting deadlines and multi-tasking Requirements Essential: Junior or Senior in college majoring in communications, journalism, marketing, public relations, or related field Strong writing skills, including ability to write feature articles Strong visual design skills, including digital photography and brochure layout Excellent organizational skills Cheerful, friendly, upbeat outlook Helpful: Track record of working well on team projects Familiarity with mid-Michigan and rural living Knowledge of AP Style Guide To Apply: Please send a letter of interest, resume, and three references by May 16, 2014, to Jayne Graham at, or mail to HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, 7973 E. Grand River Avenue, Portland, MI 48875. No phone calls, please. Start and end dates will be based on the successful applicant’s schedule (June-September). About HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative: HomeWorks is a rural electric distribution cooperative that serves 26,000 meters in parts of 13 counties, from Jackson to Clare, in mid-Michigan. We are owned and controlled by the people we serve. We also have a for-profit subsidiary that provides propane and satellite internet services, and recently dedicated our Community Solar Garden, with the first phase being a 20.9 kW solar array.
Over the past six months, your electric co-op dealt with one challenge after another. For instance: • On Sunday, Nov. 17, a wind storm caused widespread power outages throughout the Midwest. Over 500,000 electric services were affected in Michigan alone, and at peak, over 3,000 HomeWorks members. Fortunately, damage was limited to the northern half of our service area, and our Portland-based crews and equipment were available to help. All services were restored by Tuesday night. • The Christmas 2013 Ice Storm. This one was bad enough to get its own name. Ice started forming the night of Dec. 21 and caused 6,800 members across our southern service area to be out of power, some until Thursday, Dec. 26. We called in mutual aid from four Michigan co-ops, and added four tree crews, in addition to bringing our Blanchard crews and equipment south. These crews, plus dispatch, customer service, and other staff, worked 16- to 18-hour days, giving up Christmas with their families to restore power to our members. • Our propane business was hit by its own storm. Late grain drying across the Midwest left suppliers no time to replenish their stocks before the heating season cranked up, and the tight supply and higher demand sent costs up quickly. Our guaranteed capped price for the heating season is a promise to our customers, and we kept that promise. Our crews made sure the supply we did have got out to customers’ tanks so they wouldn’t run out during those long, cold months. We did short-fill tanks for a few weeks, but no one on our auto-fill program ran out. • The Environmental Protection Agency continues to put the reliability and affordability of your electric power at risk, putting regulations in place that virtually shut down the most cost-effective (and most-used) fuel for electricity -- without having viable, tested technologies in place to replace coal-fired generating plants. While we’re all trying to be more efficient, energy efficiency alone will not provide enough power to meet everyone’s needs. New technologies such as our Community Solar Garden allow us to learn more about intermittent renewables, but intermittent power won’t be enough to satisfy most people. By planning and working together, HomeWorks got through two winter storms and a propane shortage with minimal impact on our members and customers. Now we need to plan and work together on energy for the future, and we’ll be asking for your help through Co-op Owners for Political Action. Come to your district meeting this month and learn more.
HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative member-owners will see the benefits of cooperative principle #3 (Members’ Economic Participation) on May energy bills. The board of directors authorized an allocation and retirement of capital credits after the audit was approved in March. First, because we are operated on a not-for-profit basis, margins will be allocated back to members based on your purchases of energy during 2013. This includes the cooperative’s margins of $1,126,096; a $200,000 dividend paid to the cooperative by its subsidiary, Tri-Co Services; and $2,639,017, representing HomeWorks Tri-County’s share of Wolverine Power Cooperative’s 2013 margins. These allocations are NOT cash, only an accounting of your share of ownership in the cooperative. The amounts allocated to your membership for 2013 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’s general retirement totals $1,340,000, of which $890,000 retires capital credits allocated by Tri-County Electric in 1986, 1987, and 2013. Also being retired are $450,000 in power supply capital credits from, 1989 and 2013. 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.” For more information, the attached pdf files discuss allocations and retirements in a little more detail. 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. Help Members Find Unclaimed Checks These former co-op members were due to receive inactive account refund checks, which remain uncashed. We’re also looking for past Rural TV of Michigan customers to pay them inactive account refunds. We tried to deliver these checks by mail, to the last address given to us by the person or business listed. If you know someone listed below, or have a current address at which we can contact them, please call HomeWorks at 517-647-7554 or 1-800-562-8232. You can also contact us by email at (or use the Contact Us link at our website, Name                       Last Known City Inactive account refunds (2009 uncashed)     Circle S Gardens      Crystal Kelly J Kuhn            Sand Lake Rural TV refunds (2010 uncashed) Dawn Smith             Saint Johns
Guest column written by Cara Evans, director for District 5: Our long, cold, snowy winter has tested us all, and now I hope everyone is welcoming spring -- gladly saying goodbye to the ice and snow, and trying to forget those very cold temperatures. This past winter certainly made us realize how much electricity does for us, and how much we depend on it, for so much, in our daily lives. And what a true value electricity is, for all the work and convenience and comfort it provides for us. Now we’re all looking for the robins and the crocuses and the baseball games -- any sign that yes, spring has arrived in mid-Michigan. Here’s another sign of spring: HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative has scheduled the District Membership Meetings in May. Have you ever attended a district meeting? Have you met the general manager, Mark Kappler, and talked with him about your concerns? Do you know the employees who keep things flowing, working for you? Did you vote for the person who would represent you and your neighbors, making decisions for the cooperative at the board table? Have you ever said “thank you” to the people who keep the power on? If not, try something you’ve never done before. Come experience your district meeting. All you have to do is come on in, sit back and relax, talk with friends and neighbors, or maybe meet someone new. We will do all the rest. The opportunity is yours, the door is open to experience the power of the people who come together to make HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative. Oh, there are prizes to be won also, and did I mention food? I welcome you all to take the opportunity this year to experience the cooperative difference at your district membership meeting. 2014 District Membership meetings: May 12 - District 5    Fulton Middle School Gym May 13 - District 3    Eagle Park Hall May 14 - District 7    St. Michael’s School, Remus May 15 - District 1    St. Mary’s Church Hall, Charlotte May 19 - District 4    (election) Vestaburg Middle School May 20 - District 6    Beal City High School May 21 - District 2    (election) St. Edward’s Church Hall, Lake Odessa *Board election in Districts 2 and 4; see the May issue of Country Lines for information and an absentee ballot request form. Each meeting starts with a light supper, followed by a business meeting at 6 pm. Watch your mailbox in late April for information, a map, and your registration card!
Notice to Members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative A Special Member Meeting is set for 9 a.m. April 28, at the cooperative’s Blanchard office The board of directors will consider changes to the cooperative’s rates and tariffs at its meeting on April 28, 2014, to be held at the cooperative office at 3681 Costabella Avenue, Blanchard, 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 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. Members will have an opportunity to address the board on the proposed changes prior to board action. 1)   Reconcile the 2013 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 power supply costs as established by the cooperative in conjunction with Wolverine Power Cooperative. The factor is established annually, and reviewed monthly. 2)   Discuss elimination of provision for outage-related penalties, set by the State of Michigan to be paid to utility customers in case of power outages extending beyond pre-determined limits. While HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative has restored outages within those limits to date, the idea of one member-consumer paying more to subsidize another member-consumer receiving an outage penalty goes against the cooperative principles. Actual elimination of the provision would take place by vote of the members at the Cooperative’s Annual Meeting. 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 Notice of the board meeting shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines. (as published in April, 2014, edition of Country Lines magazine)
Electric cooperatives were formed by farmers in an areas unserved by the large utilities. People got together and created a different kind of utility to bring them the services they needed but couldn’t provide on an individual basis. Like co-ops, governments are formed by the people of a region to help themselves and their neighbors with centralized services, from roads to schools. Governments, from your township board to the U.S. Congress, are supposed to improve the quality of our lives by working together to pool resources and provide those needed services.  Similarly, HomeWorks Tri-County is your electric utility, not some faceless corporation.  Neither situation is meant to be “Us vs. Them.” Your leaders in both cases are elected locally, from local people - not strangers brought in from elsewhere to control your lives without your consent.  That means, as citizens, that our job doesn't end on Election Day. We become public servants ourselves - serving on a township board, coaching a Little League team, being a volunteer firefighter.  And, we take time to let our elected public servants know what we’re asking them to do. We share our opinions and show our support, thank them when they get it right, talk to them when the course needs correction. Through, a website created by NRECA, our national organization, you can make sure your opinion is heard. And through ACRE Co-op Owners for Political Action program, you can contribute to candidates that support electric co-op interests - especially reliable and affordable electric power. The average ACRE (Action Committee for Rural Electrification) contribution made by over 32,000 members nationwide is about $41. This isn’t corporate lobbyists buying influence. This is grassroots folks like you and me showing our commitment to our cooperative and our local community. We’ll be talking more about ACRE at our District Meetings, coming up in May. We hope you’ll consider joining in to support a great cause that in turn supports your family’s need for affordable, reliable electricity *** Speaking of improving the quality of life in our communities, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review the Tri-County Electric People Fund’s Annual Report for 2013, which is included as a cover wrap in this issue. The People Fund is a great example of working together for public service. You give your spare change from your energy bill, and the board members give their time, to return funds to families and organizations in need around us. Over $1.8 million has been granted to fire departments, ambulance services, hospice, libraries, food pantries, and youth programs, among others. It’s all due to you, and your neighbors, who round up. Thank you for your continued support of the Tri-County Electric People Fund!
Join us in learning more about the power of sunshine at our Community Solar Garden seminars on March 18 at Portland, or March 19 at Blanchard. We’ll serve a light supper at 6 pm, followed by information about our project with Cascade Renewable Energy, and finish with time for questions and answers. Reserve your space at
Whether you're looking for college money, or a chance to hone your leadership skills, March 17 is the deadline to apply this year! Our Touchstone Energy Scholarship program offers two $1,000 scholarships (one-time) to high school seniors, and two $250 scholarships to adults who are seeking to further their education. For details and applications, visit High school sophomores and juniors are eligible to attend the Youth Leadership Summit April 23-25 at Springhill Camps near Evart, and to go on to the National Rural Electric Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., June 14-19. For more information, visit And here's a direct link to the on-line application form:
Good news for our HomeWorks Tri-County propane customers! We are, right now, informing our delivery drivers to begin filling tanks to "full" status as of this afternoon (February 12). Propane inventories continue to stabilize here in the Midwest; based on our current on-hand supply and contract arrangements, we don't see a reoccurrence of short-filling for the remainder of the heating season. Just a thought: if you've gotten used to dialing down during this situation, you may want to continue. It will make a difference in your energy use and your bills!
Helping the less fortunate among us is our responsibility, and our duty, as human beings. Sadly, the Michigan Legislature tried to find a way to make it our responsibility as consumers of electricity, and in 2013 their hurried attempt at a law created a bigger mess than they were trying to fix. After several years of discussion, the Legislature developed a funding plan to be paid by the state’s electric consumers rather than from everyone’s tax dollars. At the last moment, they added a provision to make it optional for utilities, like HomeWorks, to participate. The bill was signed into law July 1 and handed over to the Michigan Public Service Commission for implementation. On July 11, we were notified of the MPSC’s plan, to put a surcharge of about a dollar on the monthly electric bill for each meter. We had until July 24 to decide to opt in or opt out. Members of our staff were assured, several times by several different people, that our members would still receive low-income energy assistance this winter, whether we opted in or not. However, because we did not opt in, we are not allowed to disconnect any meter for non-payment during the winter months. Your board of directors, at the July board meeting, looked at how much this surcharge would cost our members over a year. Considering the costs and benefits, and the fact that this was done in such a short time we had no chance to seek member input, the board chose not to participate this year, and re-evaluate for next year at an open member meeting. Just before Christmas, the state decided that because we can’t remove the meter, our low-income members are not facing an emergency situation and therefore don’t qualify for assistance until after April 15, when funds may or may not still be available. This is a 180-degree change in the policy that we were given in July. This means two things: • those members will face months of worry over increasing past-due balances, and the possibility of funds not being available in the spring; and • all of our other members will be responsible for the costs of bills that go unpaid, in the form of write-offs. We don’t think this is fair, and we’re working with our statewide association to get some kind of policy change to make sure our members are not punished for the rushed start to this year’s assistance program. Meanwhile, we are working with our low-income members to make the payments they can afford. And the Tri-County Electric People Fund has received a donation they will use this winter to help low-income members with their electric bills. Our customer service representative will refer eligible members to the People Fund, as well as to the 2-1-1 service’s list of other area agencies that may be able to help. There are no easy answers to helping our low-income neighbors, and we’re disappointed with the state’s response, starting with the Legislature’s rushed bill. We are working on solutions that will be fair to all of our members; we hope if you have suggestions, you’ll share them with us at or before the open member meeting April 28.


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