Slope Electric Cooperative held its annual meeting at New England Public School on June 6.Ninety-ninemembers registered for the meeting and enjoyed a complimentary roast beef dinner with all the fixings, served by St. Mary’s Altar Guild. The -National Anthem was sung by Taylor Sonsalla, daughter of Slope Senior Engineering Technician Andrew Sonsalla and his wife, Alicia. Slope Director Steve Wegnersaidaprayer. New England Mayor Marty Opdahl welcomed members to town, and talked about the local benefits of cooperation and self-help.
The annual meeting theme was, “Inspired by innovation. Driven by service.” It reflects the ever-evolving technology and practices of the electric utility industry, and the ever-changing needs of the cooperative’s member-owners.
Members listened to cooperative updates. In his report to the membership, Co-General Manager Don Franklund noted the value of electricity is what it helps people accomplish.
From the electric meter and transformer outside a consumer’s home, to the distribution lines that lead to substations and the extensive transmission system beyond, the electric service network is needed to ensure the lights turn on at the end of the day.
“Yes, a true network of poles and wire are needed — but more importantly — it is the network of people,” Franklund said. “Years ago when I worked as a lineman, I heard a bit of wisdom that still holds true today. ‘Line trucks don’t fix power lines; people do. And lineman don’t just fix power lines; the network of people do.’ From our billing department to warehousing … from engineering to communications … each step is important in providing members with reliable electric service. It is like a chain — only as strong as its weakest link.”
As noted regularly in Slope’s monthly local pages of North Dakota Living, its quarterly newsletter, online advertising and Facebook, safety is the culture of the cooperative. Slope has an aggressive safety program to keep employees and the general public safe. Franklund noted the cooperative is seeing more equipment damage due to being struck by farm equipment. The shortened spring planting season due to weather meant folks worked longer hours and into the night.
“While we can understand folks being in a hurry, we ask everyone to please look around. Make sure you are operating in a safe manner. We don’t want anyone getting hurt,” he said.
Franklund thanked the employees for working hard and providing high quality services. He also thanked partners in the audience who represented the electric cooperative network, including Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Upper Missouri Power Cooperative, National Information Solutions Cooperative, Innovative Energy Alliance Cooperative and the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.
“Each provides critical skills and knowledge needed to provide reliable electric service. Without them, we would struggle to maintain the level of service we provide today,” he said.
Franklund introduced Co-General Manager Travis Kupper, who gave legislative updates. On a national level, electric cooperative representatives traveled to Washington, D.C., this spring to meet with U.S. senators, members of Congress and federal policymakers to discuss a safe, secure and reliable power supply, and policies that support carbon capture and storage investment. They advocated to protect against proposals that aim to sell the Power Marketing Administrations’ hydroelectric power and transmission assets. They also educated policymakers on the unique benefits of the local control, advocating for continued tax protection of electric cooperatives, and calling on lawmakers for continued support of investments in rural infrastructure.
On the state level, the 66th regular North Dakota Legislative Assembly began in January. More than 900 bills were introduced, and the state’s electric cooperatives monitored 69 of them that could have an impact on members.
“Some of the bills we opposed included a net-metering bill, unrecorded easements and wind turbine setbacks. Some of the bills we supported included an electric vehicle infrastructure study, the protection of critical infrastructure and records related to it, the allocation of a wind generation tax revenue, and the use of carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery,” Kupper said. “While the Assembly adjourned in April, we continue to advocate on behalf of our members, and will keep you informed as we learn more.”
Chief Financial Officer Alex Craigmile presented the financial report to the membership. He said Brady, Martz & Associates, P.C. audited the 2018 financial statements of Slope, and presented their report to the board of directors with an “unmodified opinion,” the highest opinion they can give.
The membership fulfilled Cooperative Principle #2, democratic member control, by voting.The directors whose tenure of office expired were: Anthony Larson, Jerome Caron and John Lee Njos, and an open term in Hettinger County. Njos, a Slope board director from Rhamewho was elected by the membership in 1995, chose not seek re-election. Slope thanks him for his 24 years of dedicated service to our cooperative and to our members.
In a unanimous motion, members agreed to re-elect Larson, from Hettinger, to fill the Adams County position; and Caron, from Scranton, to fill the Bowman County position. New to the board is HJ “Chip” Fischer, from Rhame, who was elected to fill the second Bowman County position. In a contested race, Slope members Jill Kerzman and Charlotte Meier were nominated from the floor and vied for the Hettinger County position. Members voted and elected Meier to fill the remaining term.
Karen Gerbig, director for the Operation Round Up program, noted what the Charitable Trust accomplished in 2018. It is a cooperative program in which Slope members can voluntarily choose to round up their monthly utility bills to the next dollar and donate their pennies. The foundation board members meet and disburse funds in the form of grants. Gerbig noted the Operation Round Up board awarded more than $15,000 this past year to individuals, worthy non-profit corporations, organizations and agencies in the Slope service area. Seventy percent of Slope Electric members participate in the Operation Round Up program.
Slope thanked three employees for their years of service, including Drew Madler, line technician, 5 years; Darlene Herberholz, plant accountant, 10 years; and Craig Turner, line technician, 20 years.Also recognized was director Jerome Caron for his 30 years on the Slope board.
Dedicated to the development of young leaders, Slope awardsone $500 scholarship annually to a graduating senior from each of the high schools within its service area. Director Angela Carlson recognized the following scholarship winners, who were chosen by faculty members from each respective school:
1. Maureen Burke from Bowman High School
2. Brynn Honeyman from Hettinger High School
3. Max Dietz from Lemmon High School
4. Breanna Friedt from Mott-Regent High School
5. Robert Caydon Petri from New England High School
6. Jaxon Mellmerfrom Scranton High School
An additional scholarship was awarded with assistance from Basin Electric Power Cooperative, a generation and transmission cooperative that provides power to Upper Missouri Power Cooperative. The recipient was Beau Jeffers, son of Jonathan and Deanna Jeffers from Rhame.
Slope awarded two “Luck of the Draw” student scholarships to students who had registered for the meeting and attended with a parent. The goal of these scholarships is to encourage the younger generation to attend, and learn about the cooperative business model of one member, one vote — and to show how their voices and votes will count. Recipients included Breanna Friedtand Robert Caydon Petri.
The board reorganized after the annual meeting with Lauren Klewin elected president; Steve Wegner, vice president; Anthony Larson, secretary; and Jerome Caron, treasurer.
The board of directors, co-general managers and staff at Slope Electric Cooperative wish to thank our members for participating in the annual meeting of the membership, and look forward to meeting your electrical needs in the future.