WREA remains stable despite reduced electric sales

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courtesy photo Each year WREA selects two students to attend the Steamboat Springs Youth Leadership Camp and two students to attend the Youth Leadership Washington D.C., tour. The recipients are selected based upon submitted essays. This year Faith Goedert and Sheridan Harvey were selected to attend the D.C. Tour and Logan Hughes and Taylor Dodds were selected to attend the Steamboat Springs Youth Leadership Camp. All four students shared their appreciation and insights from the camp during the annual meeting. Above, Taylor Dodds and Logan Hughes entertained the crowd with tales from the leadership camp and how it has inspired them personally.

MEEKER I White River Electric Association held its 71st annual meeting on Sept. 14. With an estimated 215 registered members in attendance and more than 250 served for lunch, WREA’s General Manager Alan Michalewicz considers the meeting a huge success. “This kind of turnout is fantastic. Member participation at our annual meeting is key to our cooperative’s success.” The business of the annual meeting includes the election of directors, a review of the year’s accomplishments and finances as well as outlining the year to come. Three seats for the board of directors were filled by incumbent and unopposed directors: Rich Parr (rural district), Bill Jordan (rural district), and Dick Welle (Town of Meeker district). Per the WREA Bylaws, a full election is held even if it is uncontested. The last 12 months included the completion of the remodeled headquarters, the completion of the Meeker Solar Garden and effectively managing the decline in electric sales. Since 2013, WREA members have received a rate decrease followed by rate stability, a year-end bill credit in 2014 and last December’s Power Rebate return. Michalewicz reports that WREA has seized every opportunity to manage costs, maintain rates and pass on savings to members. WREA remains financially stable even with electric sales down almost 15 percent from 2014. Even with the decline, WREA maintains a strong industrial base making it one of the largest electric cooperatives in the state based upon total electric sales. WREA has countered this decline with fiscal responsibility and efficiencies allowing it to meet its financial targets. The independent auditing firm of Kelso and Associates, P.C., P.A. completed the 2015 financial audit for White River Electric. The 2015 audit report stated no irregularities or material weaknesses in the internal control structure or operations of the company. Sales revenues for the year 2015 were $62,374,194. Operating margins were $1,565,056.00 for 2015. Total equities at the end of the 2015 were $59,974,637 with equity as a percent of assets ratio at 74 percent. In August, WREA returned $1,333,347 in capital credits to members who had active meters in 2002. Safe and reliable electric service is WREA’s primary focus. WREA is proud of the awards it received from the Colorado Rural Electric Association honoring its 2015 safety program. This is a prestigious award that reflects WREA’s team effort and commitment. Every blink or outage can be an inconvenience but White River Electric’s system availability remained above the state and national average at 99 percent for 2015. WREA has taken advantage of the slow-down in growth to focus efforts on maintenance and system upgrades that are necessary to maintain reliability. WREA received notice just prior the annual meeting that its wholesale power supplier, Tri-State Generation & Transmission, will increase its wholesale power rates effective Jan. 1, 2017. WREA is in the process of analyzing the direct impact on its retail rates. “Unfortunately, the cost of wholesale power makes up 87.5 percent of our overall costs and we will have to pass this rate increase along to our members,” said Michalewicz, adding, “This increase is beyond our control but we will continue to do all we can to keep electricity affordable for our members.” Michalewicz is proud of the fact that even in the face of declining loads, WREA has been able to maintain its commitment to the community. WREA’s philanthropy includes the annual Golf Tournament which raised $1,500 for the Meeker School District Art programs, donations for the sixth grade outdoor adventure trip to Granby, support for the new Meeker High School track, donations to the Pioneers Health Foundation’s campaign for a new mammography machine, donations to the Rural School Project, the Historical Society’s Cultural Heritage Center, HopeWest Hospice, the Meeker Fall Festival along with its scholarship program and support for the schools’ sport and 4-H programs. WREA’s commitment to the community doesn’t end with donations. It also included working with our natural resource community as WREA supported Colowyo and Tri-State’s efforts to maintain existing mine operations and their plans for expansion. White River Electric believes that it can be strong environmental stewards and responsibly use northwest Colorado coal as a generation resource for years to come. During the last year, WREA emphasized its commitment to serve its membership with the White River Electric Communications Project. The project began last summer with WREA’s lease of two of its fiber optic cables to Rio Blanco County which connected Meeker to Rangely. The second phase of the project included leasing fiber to the county from the downtown area to the top of Lobo Mountain and Rio Blanco County’s Lobo Tower. This fiber backbone directly enhances area cellular services and is being used to support the Sheriff’s Department communications. In addition, WREA is in the process of completing arrangements to lease existing fiber assets to Rio Blanco County to serve the Piceance Creek area. These three projects have helped give Rio Blanco County’s Broadband Project a good foundation. While WREA is not in the phone or broadband business it is proud of its efforts to optimize existing resources so that Rio Blanco County and its Network Operator can provide enhanced services to WREA members. WREA conducted a member survey during the summer and it was very pleased with results that show an increase in our overall member satisfaction score which is up to 93 percent. WREA also had an increase in its American Customer Satisfaction Index score which is up to 90—this is well above the national average of 77. WREA appreciates all the members that participated in the survey. “The survey information shows us we are headed in the right direction and more importantly clearly lays out what is most important to our membership,” Michalewicz said, adding that no member should wait for a survey call and encourages all of the members to stop by if they have any questions or concerns about WREA. No WREA annual meeting is complete without entertainment and prizes. A group of local students who recently attended a Broadway Summit in New York City showed its appreciation for WREA’s sponsorship with a condensed version of the hit musical “Matilda.” Those in attendance were eligible for the prize drawings which included dozens of boxes of 4-H beef and pork, as well as gift certificates and cash prizes including the grand prize of $500. All registered attendees received a gift which included a WREA monogrammed cutting board, LED light bulbs and a $5 credit on next month’s electric bill.