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Buckeye REC annual meeting draws crowd

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative (BREC) members voted to return three incumbent trustees to office during the 2010 Annual Meeting of Members on Aug. 14, at the Lyne Center of Rio Grande University.

A crowd rivaling last year’s attendance of more than 1,500 turned out to enjoy a pancake breakfast, Holzer Medical Center health fair, equipment displays, children’s activities and drawings for door prizes. Co-op officials reviewed the past business year and looked toward the challenges ahead, while recognizing scholarship winners and Youth Tour delegates.

Three seats on the Board of Trustees were on the ballot. Paul Berridge of Jackson County and Nanette Gill, representing Athens, Meigs and Vinton County, ran without opposition.

Marinelle Jeffers of Gallia County defeated challenger Richard Northup, 322-204, to retain her seat.

Board President Dave Lester praised the staff and employees of BREC for the cost efficiency measures they undertook in 2009. Although net margins were down over the previous year, the co-op’s balance sheet remains healthy.

Executive Vice President and General Manager Tonda Meadows said: “We’ve done an excellent job of keeping costs down.” This was done without affecting the quality of service members have come to expect, she added.

BREC had unbudgeted expenses from an ice and windstorm in 2009 that caused over $850,000 in damages. But this didn’t keep the co-op from pursuing its maintenance and system improvement goals.

More than 176 miles of right of way were cleared and 163 miles sprayed. Fourteen miles of old copper-clad line were replaced, and 15 miles of new conductor were erected.

Meadows noted that wholesale power costs are expected to continue trending upward due to costs related to environmental regulations. She appealed to BREC members for their support of the Our Energy, Our Future campaign, which seeks to establish a dialogue about reliable and affordable electricity between co-ops and members of Congress.

“They need to understand the impact of their decisions [about energy and environment] on your future,” she said. “We need for you to get involved.”

Guest speaker Dave Berger, vice president of Administration and Operations for Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. echoed the need for co-op members across the state to engage their elected officials about the future of electricity rates.

“Ensuring reliable and affordable power must be our mission for the future,” Berger said.

Although the cost of wholesale power is going up, Ohio co-ops benefit from “very competitive rates [that are] among the lowest in Ohio and the region,” he pointed out.

“And we’ve added generation assets, but instead of building new power plants we’ve bought existing facilities for substantial savings. We have also added renewable energy sources when it has made economic sense.”

Manager of Member Services Debra Sword was recognized for her work in organizing the BREC annual meetings. She is retiring, according to President Lester, and will be missed. Sword also was singled out for her involvement with the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives Youth Tour.

The BREC Annual Meeting concluded with door prize awards. Two freezers and meat from junior fair hogs were given away, along with a big screen TV and numerous smaller prizes.

Registration gifts included CFL bulbs, extension cords and yardsticks. Children of members received BREC book bags filled with school supplies.