News & Events

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.
Notice to Members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative A Special Member Meeting is set for 9 a.m. April 22, 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 22, 2013, 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 2012 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. 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. (as published in April, 2013, edition of Country Lines magazine)
Touchstone Energy Scholarships March 15 is the deadline to apply for help with college expenses through the Touchstone Energy Scholarship program. High school seniors can receive a one-time $1,000 scholarship; adults returning to college can receive a one-time grant of $250. (Two of each scholarships will be given in 2013.) Visit homeworks.org to learn more. Click on the Electric tab, then select For Students and Teachers. Download an application there or call 517-647-1252 (email jayne@homeworks.org). To qualify, the applicant or their parent/guardian must receive electric service from HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative at their primary residence. Scholarships are awarded based on academics, need, leadership and community service. Youth Leadership Program High school students have until March 15 to apply for the Youth Leadership Summit and National Rural Electric Youth Tour. Visit miyls.com and select HomeWorks to learn more and let us know you're interested!
Last year I asked if you were helping us build a better world. This year my question is similar: Are you making a difference? This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Tri-County Electric People Fund helping out our neighbors here in mid-Michigan. By rounding up your monthly energy bill, you allow us to donate your spare change – averaging just 50 cents per month – to the People Fund. In turn, a volunteer board of seven cooperative members reviews requests for help from individuals and organizations. The smallest grant they’ve given was $60, to a woman who needed eyeglasses. The largest was for $10,000 to support bone marrow testing. During one of the drives the People Fund helped sponsor, a match was found, and a life was saved. Both of these grants – all of the People Fund’s grants, large and small – make me feel like I’m helping to make a difference for my neighbors. You can read all the details in the People Fund Annual Report that’s wrapped around this issue of Michigan Country Lines, but here’s a couple more significant numbers: The People Fund has made 1,175 grants totaling $1,764,266.25 in its first 20 years. The average, per grant, is $1,501.50. Think of how much more the People Fund could do if all of our members rounded up!   If your energy bill rounds up to an even dollar amount every month, you’re already participating, and we thank you for your continuing support. If your energy bill does not round up to an even dollar amount, please consider calling 1-800-562-8232 to tell us you want to help make a difference with your spare change. The neighbor you help might be your own.
Staying In Our Own Lane “Corporate culture” is a buzz phrase that’s been around a while. Lately, it’s been used by co-ops, too, only we call it “co-op culture.” And now, you’re probably wondering why it should matter to you, as a member of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative? Our co-op culture is our way of working together, something that gives people a “feel” for the co-op, from the inside as a participant or from the outside as a guest or observer. It’s based on our shared attitudes and beliefs, on the 7 cooperative principles followed worldwide, and on the written and unwritten rules that have developed in our 75 years of existence. Our culture determines what is considered right or wrong, important or unimportant, workable or unworkable, and it guides how we respond to the unexpected – crises or sudden change. For instance, when we refer to our culture of safety, we mean this statement of policy from Board Policy 201: “The safety of its employees is a matter of vital concern to the Cooperative.  It is a matter of policy that protective equipment will be supplied and used wherever necessary, and that no service to be rendered ever becomes of such importance that an employee be knowingly endangered.” Culture determines how we treat each other and work together. One of the best descriptions used recently is “stay in our own lane.” What that really means is that each of us – board member, employees, and members – have our own set of responsibilities and we should focus on those, rather than getting distracted by what’s going on in someone else’s area. Board elections, which you can read about on the next page, are one “lane” of responsibility. They’re important because HomeWorks Tri-County’s co-op culture starts with the board of directors. These seven men and women provide the direction that makes sure we’re meeting your needs. The board sets the policies which guide our everyday behaviors, from working safely to making our member-owners the focus of our work. By listening to you, our members, they can tell what’s working and what isn’t, and which areas need more attention. You have your own lane of responsibility that contributes to the co-op’s culture. When you come to meetings, volunteer to be a delegate and attend the annual meeting, step up to be a district officer, or serve your neighbors as a district director, you are saying your cooperative is important to you. For 75 years, we’ve been fortunate to have a strong core of members who value their cooperative. Your participation and support will continue that tradition and determine HomeWorks Tri-County’s co-op culture for the next 75 years.

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