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80 years of service. That’s quite a milestone. And it’s a milestone that we will talk about in depth at the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting, which every member of Medina EC is invited to and encouraged to attend.
As a cooperative, above all things we do, providing members with affordable, reliable power is paramount. 2017 was a busy year, and 2018 has been more of the same.
For 2018, the board approved one of Medina Electric Cooperative’s largest work plans to date at a cost of more than $12 million. The work plan details maintenance and system improvement projects needed to maintain and improve system reliability.
Balancing equipment and line upgrades and other maintenance work with costs is a constant battle. Spending money on these projects is necessary to improve service and meet the growing energy needs of our consumer-owners. Not spending too much helps us keep electricity affordable.
As part of the work plan, 30.9 miles of line was rebuilt in 2017; in 2018, 49 miles is scheduled to be rebuilt. This work includes a line upgrade in the D’Hanis area to accommodate increased electricity demand and help with reliability. Crews also built line to new members and businesses in our service area: 55.64 miles in 2017 and more than 35 miles so far in 2018.
Crews continue to replace copper conductor on the system. Copper was the first conductor installed in the 1930s, when lines were built, and was used until the 1950s, when aluminum conductors replaced it. It’s a costly project, which is why it has to be done over a series of years, but once it is complete, we know members in areas with copper conductor will see improved reliability.
Crews continue rights-of-way projects to clear trees and brush from areas around power lines. This program is essential to prevent and shorten the duration of outages, and increase employee and public safety. More than $3 million is budgeted for this work each year.
One thing we have always felt sets apart electric cooperatives is the fact that we are local. We are led by a board of consumers like you. Our employees are no different; they live next door to members, coach little league teams in your communities and give back their time. Most are members themselves.
Since we are local, we are better able to meet the specific needs of communities. It’s not someone in Dallas or Houston making decisions that impact people in Rio Grande City, Hondo and everywhere between that we serve—it’s people that live and work and raise their kids in your communities.
Profits are shared back with members, and that is another part of the cooperative difference. In 2017, we returned $1 million in capital credits to members, which brought the total returned to $25.7 million. Other utilities issue that money to shareholders; we give it to the folks who pay bills month after month.
Giving back to the communities we serve is also part of the cooperative difference. This year, we are incorporating giving back into the annual meeting, and members have a chance to be involved in that (See Operation: Give Back on Page 23).
The co-op gives both time and money, and our members make that possible. The amount donated through Medina’s Operation Round Up program, which is completely member driven, surpassed $124,000 this year. That is an amazing testament to the difference our members make with their spare change.
Outside of donations through ORU, the cooperative awarded more than $83,000 in 2017 to organizations and causes throughout the 17 counties we serve. To date, Medina EC has awarded more than $555,000 through our scholarship program. We are very proud of these numbers because we know they make real differences in the communities we serve and in the lives of the people who live there.
People sometimes ask why we give money to organizations in the area. We have been in these communities for 80 years and have seen them grow and change. It is so important to us at Medina EC to see the rural communities we serve prosper, and we want to be part of their positive growth. We believe investment and support from businesses helps make that possible. That is why we place such a high priority on giving back.
Looking forward, the cooperative will continue to balance the projects needed to ensure you have reliable electricity with an approach that keeps your bill affordable. We continue to watch politics at the state and national level to try to ensure that policies will not impact the pocketbooks of our members. We will continue to support local communities and focus on the consumers we serve.
We look forward to seeing you at the 80th Annual Membership Meeting and hope to serve you for 80 more years.