News & Events

Meeting October 4 and November 15, the Tri-County Electric People Fund made 15 grants totaling $18,254.57 $2,000 to Community Christian Action Group, Eaton Rapids, for food pantry items; $1,000 to Lakeview Ministerial Association, Lakeview, to restock their food pantry; $1,000 to Tri-County Office on Aging, Lansing, to support their Meals on Wheels program; $2,500 to Clinton-Gratiot Habitat for Humanity, Saint Johns, for the Critical Home Repair program; $325.29 to a Clinton County family for housing expenses; $300 to an Ingham County family to help with housing expenses; $2,486.69 to an Ionia County family to pay medical bills; $487.13 to a Mecosta County family to assist with medical bills and septic repairs; $1765 to another Mecosta County family to build an accessibility ramp; and $679.54 to a Montcalm County family for medical and housing expenses. $1,000 to Red-Line Paraclete Ministries, Saint Johns, to purchase items for their food pantry; $1,500 to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Ionia, for their children's book program; $500 to Clinton County Senior Center to fund their nutritional bingo program; $1,200 to an Ionia County family, to assist with housing expenses; and $1,510.92 to an Ionia County family for housing expenses. How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant The Tri-County Electric People Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in the co-op's service area for food, shelter, clothing, health, and other humane needs, or for programs or services that benefit a significant segment of a community.  Write to 7973 E. Grand River Avenue, Portland, MI. 48875, for an application form and grant guidelines, or visit the People Fund tab at homeworks.org. Note: Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for the January board meeting, and by Feb. 26 for the March board meeting.  
Michigan’s leader in new renewable energy is now leading Michigan’s transition to a low-carbon future. HomeWorks Tri-County’s power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative (Wolverine), announced this week it will achieve a 56% carbon-free fuel mix by January 1,  2018. The move reduces the cooperative’s carbon-based sources of generation by 36 percent and reinforces HomeWorks Tri-County’s and Wolverine’s leadership in modern renewables and environmental stewardship. “We share Wolverine’s commitment to environmental responsibility, reliable power, and competitive costs. Our members have told us all three elements are important to them as energy consumers,” says general manager Mark Kappler. To reach the substantial carbon-free level, Wolverine signed a new long-term contract for zero-emission energy. When added to current renewable energy assets, the agreement will increase the amount of carbon-free energy in HomeWorks Tri-County’s fuel mix from 31% to 56%. In addition to significantly reducing emissions from carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the new agreement also helps ensure power costs remain competitive for years to come. “Environmental stewardship and cost-competitive energy are important to our members, and we’re proud to create an opportunity to address both next year,” says Eric Baker, president and chief executive officer of Wolverine Power Cooperative. “We will deliver more renewables and less carbon while maintaining cost and reliability for our members.” In the past year, Wolverine and its members added more than 150 MW of renewable energy generation by agreeing to a long-term contract for the Deerfield wind project, and building SpartanSolar—Northern Michigan’s largest solar array. Wolverine and its members lead Michigan utilities with the highest percentage of new renewables and exceed both present and anticipated state portfolio requirements. ###
Electric cooperatives like HomeWorks Tri-County form a network across America. There are nearly 900 of us, located in 47 states. Cooperative-owned electric lines cover 75 percent of the nation’s land mass. But each co-op is, like HomeWorks, a unique, independent business. We work with many other organizations, including other co-ops, but our member-owners control the co-op by electing a board of directors from among their neighbors. Our board then approves policies that guide the way management and employees do business. The fourth cooperative principle is autonomy and independence. Autonomy is another way to say self-sufficient. To be honest, like most Americans, we aren’t completely self-sufficient. We don’t grow our own trees and process them into power poles; we don’t take metal and string it into wires to conduct electricity. We don’t build our own trucks and trailers, nor our computers and other tools. Instead, we are interdependent: part of many other organizations that work together with the end goal of serving our members. We partner with Wolverine Power Cooperative to purchase and transmit the electricity that serves your family. We are member-owners of the Portland Federal Credit Union, where we do most of our local banking. We are member-owners of, and partners with, many other cooperatives, that help us obtain products and services, such as financing, computer services, insurance, materials, legislative and regulatory support, and more. Of course, we work with many non-cooperative organizations and governmental agencies as well. Any time HomeWorks enters into agreements with other organizations, we do it with terms that ensure democratic control by you, our members, and maintain our independence. This will allow us to continue to be the self-help organization envisioned by the founders of the modern cooperative movement. As always, we welcome your participation and suggestions about how we can improve our locally owned and controlled services.
Testifying before the state legislature’s House Energy Policy Committee recently was a great opportunity to shine a light on our cooperative form of business. Even though Michigan’s electric co-ops serve nearly 300,000 homes and businesses, we are small and relatively unknown compared to Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison! Craig Borr, our statewide association’s executive vice-president, gave the legislators an overview of co-ops and explained that we were formed to serve those who live in rural areas. Then I had the chance to tell them how we work together to provide reliable electric power to our member-owners. With our line maintenance programs, aggressive right-of-way clearing, and well-trained linemen, we work every day to make sure the lights stay on for rural families. Legislators were surprised to learn that our mutual aid agreements also cover the small municipal utilities around the state, such as the cities of Portland and Eaton Rapids. We helped the City of Portland restore service after the tornado in 2015, for instance, and they recently sent a crew to help ours after this past March's wind storm. I also pointed out that co-ops took the lead in using new technology like automated metering systems. These meters are simply tools that help us provide energy use information to our members, as well being useful during outage restoration. All of these subjects are ones we have brought before you, our member-owners, through this magazine, our Facebook page, website and at district and annual member meetings. We also provide scholarships to area students, Classroom Technology Grants to schools in our service area, and the National Rural Electric Youth Tour, helping to support our future leaders. Cooperative Principle 5 is Education, Training & Information. We believe an informed membership is a valuable asset to a cooperative, which is why we invest in these various means of communication. Mark Kappler Michigan Country Lines magazine June 2017  
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.
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.
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  

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