News & Events

Grand River Avenue in front of our Portland office is being ground down and repaved this week. Please be prepared for delays as it's down to one lane as far as Friend Road. Getting in (and back out) of our office is not quick or easy! Now's a good time to log into SmartHub, our on-line account access site. Apps are also available for iOS and Android tablets or phones. Not only can you pay your bill or contact us via the app, you can also check out your energy use, look up past bills and payments, link to our Facebook page, and more. We also have a Pay Now button on our website for those who don't want to sign in. It's a streamlined version of SmartHub that lets you make a payment in just a few moments. We look forward to seeing you once the traffic clears!
We actually have two large projects planned for TOMORROW MORNING, Tuesday, July 30 that will require planned power outages affecting some members. First is replacing some lightning-damaged wire on the Greenbush 1 circuit. We’ll start at 10 am and should be done in about two hours. This will affect members in parts of these townships: Clinton County – Duplain and Greenbush; Gratiot County – Elba, Washington, and Hamilton; and Saginaw County – Chapin. We also have a contract crew rebuilding a section of the main Martiny 4 line. They plan to cut power at 11 am Tuesday, July 30, for about 90 minutes. This will affect 86 members in Chippewa Township in Mecosta County. Postcards have been mailed to members who will be affected (rain date is Wednesday, July 31). Thanks for your patience while our line crews work safely to keep your electric system in top condition. And if you can, please share this notice with your neighbors to remind them!
Both the Blanchard and Portland offices of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative will be closed to observe Independence Day on July 4. We will re-open at 8 am on Friday, July 5. In case of a power outage or other service emergency, please call 1-800-848-9333. Our after-hours answering service can dispatch an on-call line crew if needed. Enjoy a safe holiday!
The 2012 Annual Report for HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative was mailed to all members as an insert in the July-August issue of Michigan Country Lines. If you'd prefer an electronic copy, visit About My Co-op under the Electric tab (http://www.homeworks.org/content/about-my-co-op) and download a pdf from the link. Besides detailed financial reports, the Annual Report includes information about the co-op's member-elected board of directors, a brief list of operating highlights from the past year, and a page of photos showing members' generous response to local food pantries at this spring's District Member Meetings.
The Board of Directors has set the first 15 minutes of their regular meetings as a time when members may address the board on any cooperative-related subject. The next two meetings on the schedule are Monday, July 22, at our Blanchard office, and Monday, August 19, at Portland. (In the July-August issue of Michigan Country Lines, the July 22 meeting was listed as being held at Canadian Lakes; the meeting has been moved to Blanchard.) Members who wish to have their item considered as part of the meeting agenda, or who need directions, should call the office at 517-647-7554 to make their request.
Guest column by Missy Robson, manager of customer service Our offices and call center are designed to make it easy for you, our members, to ask questions and do business with us. We frequently train and cross-train and look for best practices to be efficient. We think it’s important to eliminate as much paperwork as possible so we can take time with each of you when you need it.  We still end up asking YOU some questions, though. If you’ve ever wondered why we ask for phone numbers and passwords and other information, here’s why: Why do we ask you: • if your phone number has changed? If you call to report an outage, particularly after hours, our outage management system can recognize your account if the number you’re calling from matches the primary phone number listed on your account. We also use your phone number to confirm your power has been restored, to notify you of a planned outage, or to contact you in case of some other service need. • to set up an authorized user password on your account? To help maintain your privacy (and to meet federal and state consumer protection rules) we will only give out information to the member or joint member listed on the account. If you would like someone else to have access to your information, whether they’re just checking on energy use or want to make a payment on your behalf, they will need to give us the password that you set up beforehand. • to pay your energy bills automatically through your bank? We accept payments in many different ways, from cash at the front counters at Blanchard and Portland, to checks in the mail, to credit/debit cards via computer. One of the most cost-effective ways to receive and process your payment is by having your bank set up to pay for you every month. When we send your bill to you, we also send an electronic instruction to your bank with the amount and due date.  In turn, on the due date, they electronically transfer your payment to our bank. You benefit because there’s no chance of misplacing the bill, no need to write a check or find a stamp, and no worries about paying a late fee. You also benefit because each member who uses Autopay helps control the cooperative’s costs, keeping your rates stable. • to stop getting a paper bill each month? We calculate it costs about $1.00 per month to print and mail a paper bill to you each month, since we include a return envelope. Now that SmartHub, our new online account access program, gives direct access to a pdf file of members’ energy bills, many people are choosing to get their bill electronically instead. You still have a file with an exact copy of the printed bill – you just don’t have to deal with the stacks of paper or filing, and it helps your cooperative control costs. That’s good for everyone! We look forward to talking with you, whether you’re one of the hundreds who stop by our offices each month, or one of the many thousands who call us. (We record over 20,000 calls every month.) Each of those calls is an opportunity to assist a member-owner of HomeWorks Tri-County, no matter who’s asking the questions.
By the time you read this, our annual round of district membership meetings will be complete. We will have served thousands of hot dogs and renewed friendships with thousands of the co-op’s member-owners. But even though we will appreciate every one of the members who comes out to their neighborhood meeting, the bottom line is that only about 2 or 3% of the total membership is involved with running their co-op. At each district, the members who attended elected delegates, who will each represent 100 of their neighbors. From those delegates, the district officers are elected. These people have an important job: every three years they serve as a nominating committee for the board of directors’ seat in your district. And that’s important because the directors, as a group, set the policies that guide how your co-op is operated. You can see how having only 2 or 3% of the members involved in the process might affect your experience with HomeWorks Tri-County Electric. What about the other 97%? Some are happy with their service and don’t see a need to get involved, since everything seems to be running well. Some don’t realize they have a say in their electric utility. And some just don’t make it a priority in their already-busy lives. “Somebody else” will do it. It’s the same with local, state and national elections. The turnout is higher, true, but in most cases a minority of people are making the decisions that affect every one of us. And it’s not just elections that work better with grassroots participation. Your opinions and comments are needed at every level of government, from legislators to rulemakers, to make sure leaders know what you want and expect, and how you feel services could be improved. We work with our statewide and national associations to speak on your behalf in Lansing and Washington. Once in a while, as with the “Our Energy, Our Future” campaigns of a few years ago, we’ve asked you to participate directly. The time is coming when more voices will be needed. Legislators tell us they pay more attention when one member, one citizen speaks up, than when an organization talks for them. We hope you’ll speak up when you’re asked – when it’s time to run your co-op, to run your state government, or to run your country. These issues are too important to leave for “somebody else” to take care of. - June, 2013 Country Lines
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 2012. This includes the cooperative’s margins of $357,599; a $500,000 dividend paid to the cooperative by its subsidiary, Tri-Co Services; and $2,302,114, representing HomeWorks Tri-County’s share of Wolverine Power Cooperative’s 2012 margins. These allocations are NOT cash, only an accounting of your share of ownership in the cooperative. The amounts allocated to your membership for 2012 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 $1,630,000, of which $1,210,000 retires capital credits allocated by Tri-County Electric in 1985, 1986 and 2012. Also being retired are $420,000 in power supply capital credits from 1988, 1989, and 2012. 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. (from the May, 2013, edition of Michigan Country Lines)
Come have supper with your board member, your neighbors and your co-op staff this month. Yes, it’s time for our annual district membership meetings, bringing HomeWorks Tri-County Electric to your neighborhood for an evening of food, fun, and democracy in action. There’ll be board elections in Districts 1, 5, and 7 – if you’re in one of those districts, this is the year that you have a say in the guidance and direction of your cooperative. Electing board members to set the policy and oversee the operations of the co-op is one of the most important things you can do to make sure it’s run the way you want it to be. Nearly as important is electing district officers, who will serve as the nominating committees for future board elections. If you live in Districts 2 or 4, that’s your job this year, since board elections will be held in 2014. Whichever district you’re a part of, you’ll also have the chance to have a face-to-face conversation with your director, with me, or with any of the staff members who attend, including our electric operations and customer service managers. We can help with any concerns you may have about your service. This year, we’re asking you to do even more. We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Tri-County Electric People Fund by collecting non-perishable food items for a food pantry in your area. Someone from the food pantry will be on hand to tell you about the need they’re seeing for donations like this. So here’s the offer in a nutshell: you give us about 3 hours of your time on a May evening and in return you’ll get: • A tasty Michigan-made supper • Conversations with your neighbors and co-op staff • An opportunity to help local families in need • A chance to win a prize, and • A gift to take home with you What a deal! Come have supper with us and make a difference – to your cooperative and to your community.   Monday, May 13 – District 5, Fulton Elementary Gym Tuesday, May 14 – District 3, Eagle Park Hall Wednesday, May 15 – District 7, St. Michael’s Parish Center, Remus Thursday, May 16 – District 1, St. Mary’s Church, Charlotte (new location) Monday, May 20 – District 4, Vestaburg Middle School Gym Tuesday, May 21 – District 6, Beal City High School (new location) Wednesday, May 22 – District 2, St. Edward’s Church, Lake Odessa
Spring could be considered “co-op season,” because it’s the time of year when several cooperative principles come to life here at HomeWorks Tri-County Electric. With 2012’s financial statements closed and audited, your board of directors will authorize allocation of the margins, or profits, back to your membership account, based on your energy purchases during the year. Our final margin was slim this year, but there will still be an allocation, the details of which we’ll report in Country Lines magazine. These allocations are paper transactions that build your capital credit equity in HomeWorks. Following our policies, the board will also decide whether the co-op’s financial position is strong enough to allow for a cash retirement of capital credits. If they do authorize a retirement, most members will see it as a credit on their energy bill, and again we’ll report it to you in Country Lines, as well as with a special notice included with your bill. Two other big co-op events coming up are the district membership meetings in May, and director elections which take place at those meetings. This year, board seats in District 1 at Charlotte, District 5 at Fulton, and District 7 at Remus will be voted on by those members. All of these co-op activities are not only covered by the cooperative principles, such as democratic member control and members’ economic participation, they are also spelled out in your co-op’s bylaws. A copy of the bylaws, updated by the board of directors last fall, is included in this issue of Country Lines for your reference. Think of it as the instruction manual for HomeWorks. You can also find a copy of the bylaws on our website, at homeworks.org. Some people like to read instruction manuals, and some people don’t. But it’s good to know the information is available to you when you do need it. The bylaws outline our structure and provide continuity as the board and staff change over the years. Bylaws cover everything from the basics of membership (Article II), to the business agenda of district meetings (Article III). They describe the board of directors, the qualifications necessary to serve as a director, and how directors are elected (Article VII). Our non-profit operations, including the allocation of margins and retirement of capital credits, can be found in Article XIV. Whether you ever get around to reading our instruction manual, as a member-owner of HomeWorks you will continue to benefit from the structure they provide.

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