News & Events

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.
We recently completed the 2015 membership meetings, in which we delivered supper and a co-op update on the road to each of our seven districts. It was gratifying to see such a great turnout overall! Since HomeWorks is owned and controlled by you and your neighbors - the people who receive electric service from the cooperative - these meetings are one of the ways you help guide and control HomeWorks. If you didn’t make it to your meeting this year, we hope you’ll mark your calendar for next May and join us then. Why do we hold district meetings every year? We ask you to come out each year to, first, conduct the business of the cooperative; second, to elect delegates to the Annual Meeting (this year, it’s on Aug. 15); and third, to elect the district officers who run the meetings and serve as the nominating committee every three years. Then, after the business meeting, we provide a brief and, we hope, entertaining update on the cooperative’s operations.  This year, we paused to honor our veteran member-owners. As we began planning the meetings, we learned nearly half of our active members have been with HomeWorks for 25 years or more. And eight per cent have been member-owners for 50 years plus! To our long-time members, we say: Thank you for building the cooperative. Thank you for sending good leaders to the board table. And, thank you for raising generations of co-op member-owners, who have or will become co-op leaders. The thing is, people ask all the time: what makes electric cooperatives different? What makes HomeWorks Tri-County different? Remember, there’s a big difference between a cooperative and a corporation. Corporations have to answer to their stockholders with their quarterly profit statements, which creates a focus on the short term. Cooperatives are less focused on short-term profits and more focused on long-term reliability and affordability. This long-term focus creates a culture of doing the right things, always, for the members. So, the difference is simple. It’s you and your neighbors in all seven of our districts, the members who are engaged in the workings of HomeWorks Tri-County. The members who know they are member-owners and take part by voting, or making sure the board of directors know about their concerns. It’s the members who’ve been with us for 25, 30, 50, even 75 years, and those who will be with us 25, 50, or 75 years from now. You are the center of all we do.
In May, several cooperative principles are highlighted at HomeWorks Tri-County Electric. To start with, your board of directors authorized a $2.4 million capital credit refund, and nearly every active member will receive a bill credit or check with your share of this refund. Read more about capital credits, and why they’re important to cooperative owners, at principle #3 - members’ economic participation) Next, two districts are holding board seat elections. You can read about the candidates, who happen to be the incumbent directors, at If you are a member in District 3 (most of Clinton County) or District 6 (Clare and Isabella counties), you’ll have the opportunity to vote at your district meeting. If you can’t attend, we encourage you to use the absentee ballot request form provided, so you can take part in the election process. (Co-op principle #2 - democratic member control) And, starting May 11, HomeWorks staff and I will bring supper, and an update on the co-op’s operations, to each of our seven districts, and we invite you to join us when we’re in your neighborhood. Watch your mailbox for your invitation with all the details. We try to keep the meeting brief, but interesting and informative, so that you can stay up-to-date on HomeWorks. (Co-op principle #5 - education and information) We’re also repeating the food drive that was so successful two years ago. At each district, a local food pantry will collect your donations to help serve families in your area. (Co-op principal #7 - concern for community) We look forward to seeing you at your district membership meeting, if your schedule permits.   2015 meeting schedule: May 11 - District 5          Fulton Elementary Gym May 12 - District 1          St. Mary’s Church, Charlotte May 13 - District 7          St. Michael’s School, Remus May 14 - District 3          Eagle Park Hall (election) May 18 - District 4          Vestaburg Middle School May 19 - District 6          Beal City High School (election) May 20 - District 2          St. Edward’s, Lake Odessa
Members in Districts 3 and 6 vote on their director seat in 2015. The nominating committees in both districts set their incumbents to run unopposed. Download an absentee ballot request form here or use the one published in the May Country Lines. Here are your candidates, and their election statements, as published in the May issue of Michigan Country Lines: Luke Pohl (incumbent) District 3 - Clinton County, except for Bingham, Duplain and Greenbush townships Luke Pohl is owner of Pohl’s Travel Plaza north of Grand Ledge, and coaches boys’ varsity basketball at Pewamo-Westphalia Schools. He and his wife, Janet, have three sons, Gavin, Austin, and Landon. He has been a member of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric since 1981, and was appointed to the board in September 2014 when longtime director Carl Morton retired. He is president and co-founder of Austin’s House in Westphalia, and belongs to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where he is an usher and previously chaired the parish finance committee. He also served as a director of Westphalia Broadband, chairing the board for 10 years, and formerly owned Pohl Oil and Propane Company. He graduated from Central Michigan University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Education. “I have a lot of experience in the business world,” he points out. “I also understand the costs families face in today’s environment, and will work to keep our members’ energy affordable, with exceptional service.” Ed Oplinger (incumbent) District 6 - Clare, Isabella counties Ed Oplinger is a full-time farmer of beef cattle, hogs, and cash crops in the Weidman area. He and his wife, Sandy, have three grown children and three grandchildren. His granddaughter will be the 6th generation of the family to be involved with the farm. He has been a member of the cooperative since 1977, was elected to the board in 2009, and is currently chairman of the board of directors for both HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative and its subsidiary, Tri-Co Services, Inc. He completed board training to earn the Credentialed Cooperative Director and Board Leadership certificates through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He currently serves as a trustee on the Sherman Township board. A 1972 graduate of Chippewa Hills High School, he served as the state vice president of Future Farmers of America in 1972-73. He was Mecosta County Fair beef superintendent from 1993-2009, and has served as president of the Michigan High School Rodeo Competition. He has also served on the Isabella County Soil Conservation District board (1978-90); Barryton Co-op board (1989-93) and the Chippewa Hills school board (1991-95), including a term as secretary. “This board is probably the most important board I’ve been on in my life, because of the impact reliable and affordable electricity has on businesses and our communities,” he says.
As a cooperative, we are operated on a not-for-profit basis. After all expenses are paid for the year, any money left over is allocated back to you as capital credits, in proportion to the amount of energy you used. Those allocations become member equity, or your share of ownership in the cooperative. The money is used to operate and build your cooperative, and then returned to you through a refund at a later date. Here are some frequent questions and answers about the capital credit allocation. This year, the board of directors approved a general retirement of $2,416,000 in capital credits. This retirement is from two different sources. From Wolverine Power Cooperative, $1,091,000 is being retired based on the power supply portion of your energy bill covering the years 1989-1996). The remaining $1,325,000 is from HomeWorks, the distribution side of your energy bill, with $121,000 from 1987, $572,000 from 1988, $366,000 from 1989, and $266,000 from 2014. The largest portion of the retirements goes to return the oldest capital credits on file, while still making sure our newest members see the tangible evidence of their cooperative membership. The board also approved $220,000 to be set aside for estate retirements, to be paid at current net value on a first-come, first-served basis. Here are some frequent questions and answers about this capital credit retirement.
Our 2015 district membership meeting dates have been set: May 11 - District 5          Fulton Elementary Gym May 12 - District 1          St. Mary’s Church, Charlotte May 13 - District 7          St. Michael’s School, Remus May 14 - District 3          Eagle Park Hall (election) May 18 - District 4          Vestaburg Middle School May 19 - District 6          Beal City High School (election) May 20 - District 2          St. Edward’s, Lake Odessa The business meeting will start at 6 pm following a light supper. Watch your mailbox for your invitation and registration card, with all the details.
America’s electric cooperatives have designated the second Monday of April as National Lineman Appreciation Day. On April 13, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative will honor the hard working men who often work in challenging conditions to keep the lights on. The full text of the resolution, which the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Board adopted unanimously, follows: “Whereas linemen leave their families and put their lives on the line every day to keep the power on; Whereas linemen work 365 days a year under dangerous conditions to build, maintain and repair the electric infrastructure; Whereas linemen are the first responders of the electric cooperative family, getting power back on and making things safe for all after storms and accidents; and Whereas there would be no electric cooperatives without the brave men and women who comprise our corps of linemen; “Therefore be it resolved that NRECA recognize the Second Monday of April of each year as National Lineman Appreciation Day and make available to electric cooperatives, materials and support to recognize the contributions of these valuable men and women to America’s Electric Cooperatives.” We proudly recognize all electric linemen for the services they perform around the clock in dangerous conditions to keep power flowing and protect the public’s safety. Electric linemen do not often receive the recognition they deserve. They work all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions far from their families, going above and beyond to restore power to their communities. Our linemen, as well as linemen from across the nation, truly deserve this special day of recognition. HomeWorks Tri-County Electric invites members to take a moment to thank a lineman for the work they do. We’ll be posting photos of our crews at work on our Facebook page all day on April 13. Please join us there to show your support for the people who light our lives.
Last fall, an independent company surveyed 300 HomeWorks Tri-County Electric members to help us learn more about your expectations, and how we’re doing at meeting them. Our first report, in last month’s issue of Country Lines, covered the top “satisfaction drivers,” such as courteous and knowledgeable employees, quality customer service, and reliable electric service, all of which scored 90% or higher. In fact, we score an outstanding 86 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The ACSI is based on four questions asked of customers in similar surveys across the US every year. With an 86, we rank higher than most other electric co-ops nationwide (81), as well as Apple (84), Cadillac (80), and Southwest Airlines (78). There are two areas that we’re taking a closer look at: ownership and renewable energy. As a cooperative, we are owned by the people we serve. That’s everyone who buys electricity from us. However, 51% of those surveyed said they feel they are customers, not co-op members; and a significant number say it’s not important to attend an annual meeting (36%) or vote to elect the board of directors (29%). These results tell us we need to do a better job of educating all members about their role in a democratic organization, especially since we are member-regulated. HomeWorks has been providing renewable energy for several years, through our generation partner Wolverine Power Cooperative. Wolverine is a leader in Michigan, involved in the state’s first commercial wind farm since 2009. We also launched our Community Solar Garden last spring, making solar power easily affordable to any interested member. We’ve used Country Lines to report regularly on each of these projects. Yet, 62% of those surveyed didn’t know what kind of renewable energy HomeWorks offers, and 2% said we don’t offer any. For the record, the state of Michigan requires us to get at least 10% of our energy from renewable sources as of the end of 2015. With Wolverine’s help, we’ve met and passed that goal. On page xx, you can read more about the renewable projects Wolverine is working on. We’re very pleased that the survey tells us so many members rate HomeWorks highly on their satisfaction scale, and we learned that we have a lot more education and communication to do on a few subjects. Thank you for taking time to share your opinions with us, and thanks most of all for the great responses. We’ll keep working hard to earn your trust and satisfaction.
Some very cold weather is predicted for the coming week. With the deep snow and slippery roads we already have in mid-Michigan, be prepared if you plan any travel. Follow these tips if you are stuck in the snow: Try to stay calm and don't go out in the cold. Stay in your car: you will avoid getting lost and your car is a safe shelter. Don't tire yourself out. Shovelling in the intense cold can be deadly. Let in fresh air by opening a window on the side sheltered from the wind. Keep the engine off as much as possible. Be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning and make sure the exhaust pipe is not obstructed by snow. If possible, use a candle placed inside a deep can instead of the car heater to warm up. Turn on warning lights or set up road flares to make your car visible. Turn on the ceiling light; leaving your headlights or hazard lights on for too long will drain the battery. Move your hands, feet and arms to maintain circulation. Stay awake. Keep an eye out for other cars and emergency responders. Try to keep clothing dry since wet clothing can lead to a dangerous loss of body heat.  Prepare an emergency car kit Always have winter safety and emergency equipment in your car. A basic car kit should contain the following: Food that won't spoil, such as energy bars Water—plastic bottles that won't break if the water freezes (replace them every six months) Blanket Extra clothing and shoes or boots First aid kit with seatbelt cutter Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush Candle in a deep can and matches Wind‑up flashlight Whistle—in case you need to attract attention Roadmaps Copy of your emergency plan Items to keep in your trunk: Sand, salt or cat litter (non-clumping) Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid Tow rope Jumper cables Fire extinguisher Warning light or road flares
by Tom Manting, Chief Information Officer At HomeWorks, we try to blend old-fashioned service with new technology to add greater value. Some recent examples are our automated metering program, combined with SmartHub™, the app and online service that gives members control of their energy information. There’s also been our online outage map, and a variety of bill payment options that take advantage of technology. Obviously, these don’t work the same way for every member, and not every member makes use of them. But for some, these are great solutions, offering convenience and saving time or money. We’re now looking at a service that’s been around a while, and not only in the electric industry. You may already use a prepaid cell phone or a prepaid credit card. These programs are like paying for gas as you put it in your car’s tank, or for food at the grocery store - you “pay as you go” rather than waiting for one bill each month. Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, as just one example, started its prepaid electric program in 2006 and now has about 4,500 of its 52,500 members participating. In recent surveys, 88% said they would recommend prepaid service to others, and 86% feel they are more aware and/or more conservative of their electric use with prepaid. How can our members benefit? Individual members will: have better control of their energy budget be able to make smaller, more frequent payments choose their own payment schedule, when it’s convenient for them be able to take energy efficiency measures and see the results right away have a low start-up cost, and in some cases, could save money on late fees, collection charges, etc. All members will benefit from lower costs through the cooperative prepaid service because it: reduces unpaid account write-offs cuts time and money spent on collection efforts saves the co-op over $6 per member per year by eliminating a paper bill (plus it’s good for the environment), and provides a new billing option we can offer Our plan is to get a pilot program started by mid-2015. Please watch Country Lines for updates later in the year. We have a lot to learn about how prepaid metering can work here, but we think it’s a great opportunity to provide a useful new service that adds value for many of our members. February, 2015


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