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Annual Meeting: Reports Presented, Director Election Results Announced
In addition to business reports, director election results were announced at the Annual Meeting of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation held Thursday afternoon, June 27, at the corporate office in Lenoir.
Elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors were: Jeff Joines, Caldwell district; James Burl (J.B.) Lawrence, Watauga district; James Young, Ashe district; and Bryan Edwards, Alleghany district.
Over 6,100 cooperative members voted in this year’s director elections, primarily by mail and online. Director election kits including candidate biographies were sent to members in May and included a proxy, postage return envelope and instructions for members to vote by mail, online or attend the annual business meeting. Members who opted to receive the electronic director election kit received the kit by email.
The business meeting included a report from Secretary-Treasurer Joy Coffey. Referencing the annual report sent to members in late May and available on the cooperative’s website, Coffey stated the cooperative is in sound financial condition and is among the nation’s top performing cooperatives.
Chief Financial Officer Katie Woodle affirmed the cooperative’s sound financial condition, which helps provide member benefits such as no rate increases the past few years and member capital credits refunds totaling $5.2 million this year. Woodle noted that colder weather in 2018 led to record electricity usage and a seven percent increase in kilowatt-hour electricity sales over 2017. While meter growth continues to be a challenge, she said, cooperative efforts in cost savings and performance of the two subsidiary companies helps benefit the cooperative and its members.
Full financial results are available in the cooperative’s annual report, which is published in the June issue of Carolina Country and available at BlueRidgeEnergy.com.
Board President Jeff Joines recognized the many members serving on committees to ensure Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation is a member-led cooperative: the Nominating Committee, Credentials and Election Committee, Member Advisory Committees and Community Leaders Council.
Joines added that the cooperative’s Board, leaders and all employees are focused on making life better for members. He noted several ways this is being demonstrated through the Blue Ridge Energy Members Foundation providing crisis heating assistance and community improvement grants, the cooperative’s youth scholarships and programs, and involvement in the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program to support local economic development, health care and other quality of life initiatives including improved emergency and safety response.
In his state of the cooperative address, Chief Executive Officer Doug Johnson welcomed attendees and expressed his appreciation to serve the cooperative’s members.
Recognizing employee commitment, Johnson noted accomplishments that puts Blue Ridge Energy among national best performing utilities.
“We regularly survey members in all areas of service,” he explained. “In 2018, member ratings ranked Blue Ridge Energy at an 87 on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index which puts us in the top three utilities in America,” Johnson said.
Electric reliability is another area in which the cooperative excels. “We regularly perform in the top quartile in the county,” Johnson stated, adding that line technicians help make this possible with their fast response to outages. The average restoration time is 70 minutes. He noted that type of performance is outstanding in the terrain of Blue Ridge Energy’s service area, especially considering that the time to restore an outage starts when a lineman gets the call, jumps out of bed in the middle of the night and has to reach the outage, determine the cause and make repairs to get it restored.
In other areas of exceptional performance for members, Johnson noted no rate increase in 2018 and none planned for 2019, which is six consecutive years with no rate increase. In fact, due to more favorable wholesale power cost than predicted, members will be receiving refunds on November and December bills totaling $7 million.
Johnson also added that subsidiary performance is helping provide member benefit, with $3.7 million in net benefit to the cooperative in 2018, which helps keep rates low.
Johnson updated members on a significant transmission project to continue serving members with reliability electricity. The $40 million project includes a 230 kV transmission line currently under construction from West Jefferson to Boone and a substation in the Rutherwood community of Watauga County.
He also noted construction of the corporate office building which is slated for completion in October and was carefully planned to have no impact on member bills. It replaces the current building, which was constructed over 50 years ago. Since then, the cooperative has expanded to include two subsidiary companies. The new office includes weather hardened areas for system operators and member/customer contact center and also provides space for engineering, accounting, energy specialists, safety, IT, and others.
Johnson concluded the meeting by thanking all employees: “Our culture is based on strong values, hard work and a deep belief that providing great service to our members and customers is our highest priority,” he said.
The cooperative, which rebranded in 2016 under the market name of Blue Ridge Energy along with its propane and fuels subsidiary, serves some 76,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties as well as parts of Avery, Alexander and Wilkes counties. Learn more at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com and on the cooperative’s social media: www.facebook.com/blueridgeenergy; www.twitter.com/blueridgeemc and www.instagram.com/blueridgeenergy/