News & Events

If you’re familiar with Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” you’ll know that one of those habits is “Sharpen the Saw.” To us, that means continually improving by using the tools we have in a better way, being open to new technologies that help us provide you with better service, and learning every day. For instance, we’re still figuring out how to tell you about all the useful features of SmartHub®, a self-service site that gives you instant access to your account via computer or mobile device.  Sure, you can pay your bill, but you can do so much more. With SmartHub, you can check your energy use and compare it to last month or last year. You can “bookmark” a date when you replaced an appliance, to track how it changes your energy use patterns. You can also update the information on your account, such as your phone number, send us service requests, or even report a power outage and skip being on hold when our phone lines are temporarily overwhelmed.  On page 9 of the November-December issue of Country Lines (a pdf file of the page is linked below this article), you can read more about our latest technological change – our online outage map. The map we had was adequate, but showed only basic information. Working with other co-ops and our data processing vendor, we now have a new interactive online outage map that will help us answer more of your questions.  When there’s an outage, you want to know: 1) Does the co-op know my power is out? 2) When will the power be back on? and 3) What caused the problem?  Working with this new map program, we’re learning to adjust our internal work processes in order to gather and share the information you want. This will include the cause of an outage, as soon as it’s known, and an estimated time for restoration of your service. Both of these new tools give you power over the information you receive from HomeWorks. Moving forward this way helps us keep our saw as sharp as possible to serve you well.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Rural Electric Youth Tour. Youth Tour was created 50 years ago by a rural electric co-op member from Texas - Lyndon B. Johnson. He thought bringing teen-aged student leaders to Washington, D.C., would be a great way to foster future leaders for cooperatives, and that’s still our goal when we invest in our teenagers each year. Here in Michigan, HomeWorks has been participating since the mid-1980s, and we have sent about 60 high school students from mid-Michigan to the nation’s capital over those years. Sometimes it’s their first airplane flight, or their first significant trip away from their small town and family. Tiffany Burton and Michaela Clark represented us this year, then came to the co-op's annual meeting to tell us about the experience. They were joined by 1995 Youth Tour alumnus Cary Dumas. We had asked previous Youth Tour participants to update us on where they are now, and what impact the Youth Tour had on them, and we’ll be sharing a few of those stories over the next few months in Country Lines. They all remember the monuments and museums, but nearly everyone has said "meeting new people" and "seeing their world become bigger" made the biggest difference to them. Investing in our future leaders is more important than ever. There are many challenges ahead for HomeWorks, and a committed, educated board of directors will be necessary to guide us through them, just as our past and current directors have brought your co-op to where it is today. That same need exists in our businesses, communities, states, and even our nation. Where will we find those leaders? Investing in teens now will help us develop the leaders we need tomorrow. Thank-you for your investment in the future - for your continued support of programs like Youth Tour, our scholarships, and similar programs.
The board of directors will consider several changes to the cooperative’s rates and tariffs at its meeting on September 22, 2014, to be held at the cooperative office at 3681 Costabella Avenue, Portland, 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: 1) Establish the 2015 Power Supply Cost Recovery Factor, to be applied to the cooperative’s retail member-customers’ monthly kilowatt-hour use. The Power Supply Cost Recovery Factor 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) Revise the cooperative’s Requirements for Pole Attachments tariff sheet from $14.00 per attachment point per year to $16.50 for 2015. 3) Revise the cooperative’s miscellaneous billing fees, charges, and rates as needed. 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 mkappler@homeworks.org. Notice of the board meeting shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines.
Like your family, at HomeWorks Tri-County we mark the big occasions in the lives of our “work family." This summer, we’ve had several changes within a short time. Calvin Foster completed his 7,000-hour line apprenticeship program and is now a journeyman lineman. Calvin has been with HomeWorks for 15 years, having started with our propane subsidiary. Becoming a lineworker requires a dedication to working safely over long hours and in difficult working conditions, and we are fortunate to have Calvin on our team. Congratulations, Calvin! Another lineman at Blanchard, Tom Hoffmeyer, had the opportunity to return to his hometown and transferred to our sister co-op, Presque Isle Electric & Gas. We’ll miss his contributions to our team, but we wish Tom and his young family the very best. Long-time director Laverne Hansen chose to retire rather than run for re-election to the board this year. Laverne and his wife, Joyce, have been such a big part of our co-op life over the past 27 years that it’s going to be a little bit jarring to look at the board table and see someone else in his seat. We hope to see Laverne stay active with HomeWorks even in his retirement. We’ll still see a Hansen in the District 4 board seat, however, as Kimber Hansen won the seat following a dramatic tie vote. Although he’s already familiar with the co-op from being around his dad, Laverne, we’ll all benefit from helping our newest board member learn the ropes. Changes like these give us interesting new points of view, although they can sometimes be bittersweet. But we believe our culture of “HomeWorks family” is an important asset that helps us provide our member-owners with the reliable and affordable service you expect.
Our offices will be closed Monday, Sept. 1, to honor Labor Day. We'll re-open Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 8 am. If you have a service issue, please call 1-800-848-9333. Our after-hours service will be able to dispatch one of our on-call crews. Remember, you can pay your bill online using SmartHub, which is also available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. Or call 1-877-999-3395 to pay by phone, anytime. Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday weekend!
In 2008, our state legislators passed several laws that set new directions for Michigan’s energy use. Among those were the renewable portfolio standard, our Energy Optimization program, and choice of power suppliers for the largest industrial customers. At the same time, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) also took a close look at how the state’s two biggest electric utilities responded to power outages, and created an incentive to encourage faster action. If power restoration is delayed past certain time limits, depending on the circumstances, an electric customer can request a one-time $25 credit. For large utilities with over a million customers, these credits could add up quickly. However, in creating this incentive, the MPSC decided to include ALL Michigan electric utilities, big or small. For a large utility like Consumers Energy, its stockholders would see those credits adding up quickly, eating into their dividends, and they would raise a fuss to management to improve operations. But for a member-owned co-op like HomeWorks, operated on a not-for-profit basis, a credit paid to one member simply comes out of another member’s share. The good news is that, to date, we have never paid out one of these outage credits, and it’s because we restore outages within the MPSC guidelines. So at our Annual Meeting in August, we plan to ask the delegates to take this credit right off the table. A positive vote will exempt HomeWorks from this $25 credit. That’s the way decisions should be made for your co-op -- by our member-owners, not by some distant commission applying a “one size fits all” rule. Let me assure you that eliminating this potential outage credit does not mean we don’t have to perform as well as, or better than, we have in the past. If you don’t like the job we’re doing, you have the responsibility as a member-owner to let your board representative know you’re not happy. Their contact information is printed right on this page, every issue, and is available at homeworks.org. They will make sure co-op staff get the message. We also provide time before every board meeting when members may comment, and we have many other ways by which you can contact us, from phone calls to emails to posting on our Facebook page. What do you think about this issue of an outage credit? Should delegates vote to exempt the co-op, or to keep it on the books?
Our mission is to bring you and your neighbors reliable, affordable electric power. A good work plan helps us keep ahead of growing areas that need more electric infrastructure, and focuses on areas which need repair or replacement. A financial plan helps us plan for the future, so one generation of members doesn’t bear all the costs. Increasingly, we’re finding that a political plan is an absolute necessity. In Lansing and in Washington, D.C., decisions are being made that could impact the reliability and the affordability of the electric power you count on every day. If we’re not part of the decision-making conversation, the decisions that are made may not, and probably won’t, consider our needs as rural Americans. How do we get to be part of the conversation? We join together to make sure we have a clear voice at the right time. Thousands of electric co-op directors and employees have done this for years through the Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE). ACRE speaks for America’s 900-plus rural electric cooperatives and the 40 million member-owners they serve. The average contribution to ACRE is just $41; it’s a true grassroots organization where the number of voices speaking together is as important as the dollars we can contribute. Now we’re asking you, our member-owners, to join the conversation. We’ve asked you in past years to send postcards or cast your votes on particular issues. This time, we’d like you to be one of the Cooperative Owners for Political Action, an extension of ACRE. For just $2.08 a month, or $25 a year, you can help make sure your interests are represented in Lansing and Washington. Charles De Gaulle once said, “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” And Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Together, we can make sure our voice is heard and our needs are considered. Now, that sounds like a plan. To join us in ACRE, visit homeworks.org, pick up a form at either office, call us to have a form sent to you, or watch for a tear-out form in future issues of Michigan Country Lines.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has used the following resolution to proclaim Thursday, May 22, as Michigan Roadside Safety Awareness Day: WHEREAS, construction projects, including those that occur in and around roadways, are in full swing in Michigan due to the arrival of warmer weather; WHEREAS, while those who are required to work in and around roadways, such as road/bridge workers, utility workers, telecommunication providers, waste haulers, general construction workers and others deploy many safety devices when doing so, including, warning lights, signage, cones and barrels, accidents still occur; WHEREAS, about 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured in roadside accidents across the nation in an average year; WHEREAS, Michigan construction zone and utility related crashes in 2012 (working on updated numbers) totaled 11,000 along with 24 fatalities, and there are also numerous near misses and damages to worker vehicles parked in road construction areas; WHEREAS, Public Act 103 of 2001 established penalties for injuring or killing a highway construction or maintenance worker and is known as “Andy’s Law” in honor of construction worker Andrew Lefko, who was seriously injured in a 1999 crash in a southeast Michigan construction zone;  WHEREAS, Public Act 315 of 2006 enhanced Andy’s Law to define work zones for which violations can trigger the more severe penalties; WHEREAS, Public Act 464 of 2008 requires drivers to use caution when approaching a service vehicle in a roadway, such as a stationary solid waste collection vehicle, utility service vehicle, or a road maintenance vehicle with flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber lights; WHEREAS, Michigan House of Representatives approved House Resolution 330 establishing December 6, 2012 as Michigan Utility Worker Safety Awareness Day; WHEREAS, Roadside service providers have safety teams to work to identify and enhance roadside safety for their employees through deployment of additional safety equipment and procedures; WHEREAS; these providers continue  to seek ways to enhance awareness for everyone working in and around roadways so that drivers will take heed, slow down, and go around to help keep them safe; WHEREAS, Utility public service announcements will accompany other safety messages on TV and radio to raise public awareness about keeping workers safe by obeying laws and slowing down in construction zones, not texting or allowing other distractions when traveling through these areas, and being vigilant about keeping workers safe while in and near roadways; WHEREAS, an event is being held in Lansing to share this important and lifesaving information with legislators, the general public and media; NOW, THEREFORE, I, Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2014 as Michigan Roadside Safety Awareness Day in Michigan.
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 work@homeworks.org, 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.

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