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4-County leaders discuss election, finances, history

June 14, 2012

Leaders of the 4-County Electric Power Association re-elected three longtime directors and discussed the value of electricity and the history of cooperatives at its annual membership meeting Thursday at East Mississippi Community College.
Re-elected to three-year terms on 4-County’s board of directors were Bud Tumlinson of West Point, Jay Gilliland of Mathiston and Kenneth Seitz of Starkville.

Millard Long, chairman of 4-County’s credentials and elections committee, said board elections require a quorum of 10 percent of 4-County’s membership, including at least five percent of each district, and that quorum was reached. The three directors were running unopposed, but Seitz received 5,451 votes, Tumlinson received 5,296 votes and Gilliland received 5,241 votes, he said.

Brad Barr, 4-County communications coordinator, said an estimated 600 people attended the meeting itself, held in EMCC’s auditorium. Gilliland addressed this audience, discussing the value electricity maintains in the face of current economic uncertainty.

“In 1939, when this cooperative started providing power to about 700 original members, the cost of a kilowatt-hour of electricity was 2.4 cents,” Gilliland said. “Today, that same kwh costs our members an average of about 10 cents. That’s an increase of less than 1 cent a decade for the power you use.

“Our members’ average time out of power every year is two hours,” Gilliland added. “I think that’s a true testament to our employees’ dedication to keep our members’ lights on. We do this with less than 17 cents out of every dollar paid. We, like you, understand how to stretch a dollar.”

In his financial report, 4-County board secretary-treasurer Mike Banks said 4-County’s total assets were valued at $184.3 million in 2011. Members’ ownership in 4-County, he said, was valued at $90.8 million.
“This represents 49.3 percent membership by you, our members,” Banks said. “Also, in an effort to provide reliability and service, we invested $20.1 million in (utilities) over the last two years. This includes investments in new and upgraded lines, pole replacements, underground lines and a new substation.”

Joe Cade, 4-County CEO, gave some remarks commemorating 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, as designated by the U.S. Senate and the United Nations General Assembly.
“Cooperatives are not a new concept,” Cade said. “In fact, Benjamin Franklin founded the first cooperative in the country in 1752. It still operates today.”

Cade said cooperatives of all kinds, from dairy to insurance, give service providers a stake in those they serve, and vice versa.
“You and everyone else who receives electric service from us is a member, and not just a customer,” Cade said. “Local control means we’re also in the business of improving the communities we serve, from offering college scholarships to advice on how you can make your home or business more energy efficient. We work really hard to recruit industry here for jobs, jobs, jobs.”

To further help members, Cade said 4-County is developing a pre-pay option, letting members pay for a set amount of electricity in advance and buy more on an as-needed basis. Cade compared the model to refilling a gasoline tank.

“Pre-pay is coming very shortly,” Cade said. “It puts control totally in your court.”

Prior to the meeting, 4-County held several events on the EMCC campus to attract audiences, including an annual health fair, hot air balloon rides, showcases of 4-County’s equipment and a barbecue luncheon. The cooperative also held a raffle for members, with prizes including an LCD TV, gift cards, a window fan and a retired 4-County pickup truck.

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