Better together – Western Illinois Electrical Coop. holds 83rd annual meeting

Members of Western Illinois Electrical Coop. (WIEC) gathered Thursday, June 22 at the Hancock County Extension Center for their co-op’s 83rd Annual Meeting of Members. Before WIEC leadership provided updates, members were treated to a ribeye sandwich dinner and music by sibling pianists Katie, Anna and Luke Biery and Sarah Stinemates.

“Over the years, you’ve heard us expound on why and how electric cooperatives are different,” WIEC Manager Todd Grotts said during his report. “Our business model sets us apart from other utilities because we adhere to seven guiding principles that reflect core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness, and service to the greater good of the community.”

He gave a brief history of the rural electric cooperative program and explained that when each electric co-op was founded, community members worked together to gain access to electricity that changed the lives of rural families and their communities forever.

“While our top priority is providing safe, reliable and affordable energy, we also want to be a catalyst for good in our community,” Grotts continued. “Because cooperatives are local, co-op revenues stay in the community base through scholarship programs, charitable giving, educational programs and more. We strive to make long-term decisions that improve and enrich the communities we serve.”

Today’s world is radically different than it was when electric cooperatives were founded, cooperative values have stood the test of time and remain just as relevant today. On behalf of the co-op, Grotts pledged to proudly serve WIEC’s members and continue to promote a cooperative culture of inclusion and equity for all members.

“This year’s theme is ‘Better Together.’ We would not be here today if it wasn’t for rural people over 80 years ago working together to serve themselves with electricity and creating WIEC. We are better together,” Grotts concluded. “Our success is due to the loyalty and hard work of our employees and directors. We appreciate the members’ continued support and commitment to this organization and its mission.”

Board Treasurer Janet Spory reported that WIEC had a good year with operating margins of more than $266,000. Profits made by the co-op are referred to as margins, which are allocated to each member in proportion to the value of the electricity they purchase.

Spory explained, “Margins are reinvested into the co-op for a period of time prior to being returned to the members to avoid or reduce interest charges related to borrowing other funds. The retirement of capital credits is a tangible demonstration of the financial value of your ownership in WIEC.”

Recently, WIEC’s board of directors authorized the retirement of more than $250,000 in capital credits to those who were members in 1992 and 1993. Checks should be expected toward the end of September 2023.

WIEC Board President Mark Burling provided the co-op update. “The foundation of WEIC is built on honesty, transparency, fairness, inclusiveness, and helping our community,” he explained. “These principles set us apart and make us ‘Better Together.’”

Wholesale power cost at WIEC increased by more than 10% in 2023 compared to 2022. Wholesale power accounts for close to 70% of WIEC’s total expenses. Because of this and other rising costs, the WIEC board of directors implemented a rate increase on March 1, 2023.

To improve reliability and address low voltage issues, WIEC has completed a new substation located southwest of LaHarpe. Two new transmission lines will be constructed from that substation: one going east to the Powellton substation and one going north to the Lomax substation. Construction on the transmission lines is scheduled for 2024 to 2025.

“While wholesale power remains our largest expense, WIEC also has fixed costs for maintaining service quality, including vegetation management, equipment repair, payroll expenses and overhead expenses,” Burling explained.

During the meeting, an election was held for two seats on the board of directors. Landon Guymon was newly elected to represent District 6, which was formally held by Robert Gronewold who retired from the board after thirty-four years of service. Janet Sport was re-elected to represent District 7.

Door prizes from the cooperative as well as other prizes donated by vendors the co-op works with were given away throughout the meeting. At the end of the meeting, prizes were drawn. Five grand prize winners received a bill credit worth 1,000 kWh of free electricity. Congratulations to Shayla Blackburn, Connie Greenig, L. Carter Lear, Joan Mohr, and Raymond Siegrist.

Western Illinois Electrical Coop. is a member of Touchstone Energy — an alliance of more than 700 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. The co-op is committed to providing superior service based on four core principles: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. The co-op serves more than 3,600 meters over 1,221 miles of line in Adams, Hancock, Henderson and McDonough counties. For more information visit www.wiec.net.