April 2018 LightREADING Newsletter

Download: April 2018 LR Web (PDF)


Tree trimming… a matter of safety

As Arbor Day celebrations get underway in and around the Flathead Valley this month, we begin to hear a lot of talk about planting trees and the benefits they provide such as beauty, shade, a sense of serenity and improved air quality.

Trees may need a little cultivating along the way, however, to keep from growing unruly. Frequently, you will see Flathead Electric Co-op’s certified forestry crews out trimming trees along public rights-of-way. And if you do, you can be certain there are power lines nearby.

“FEC is committed to providing safe, dependable service to our members,” says Amanda Opp, FEC’s Right-of-Way Supervisor.“ Trees growing near and into power lines can create public safety hazards, start fires and cause outages. Our program is designed to prevent dangerous situations and ensure electric reliability.”

To protect FEC’s 2,500 miles of overhead line, system trims are done on a cycle, typically between five and fifteen years, depending on the species of trees and the area. To meet national safety codes, only line clearance certified tree trimmers are allowed to work on a tree within 10 feet of an energized, high-voltage line.

Opp says attempts will be made to notify members in advance that they may see FEC’s arborist planners in their neighborhood inspecting power lines to determine where trimming may be needed, or where trees may need to be removed entirely.

“Rest assured that FEC follows the best industry standards and that all work will be completed by tree professionals who have been trained on safe, proper and environmentally responsible work practices,” Opp says. “Our program is all about ensuring that trees and power lines co-exist safely in your yard, while delivering the energy you need.”

For more information, visit trees.

Your Guide: Planting Trees Near Power Lines

Within 20 feet of power lines — No (or small) tree zone
Avoid planting within 20 feet of power lines.  When unavoidable, use only shrubs and small trees maturing at less than 25 feet.

Within 20 to 50 feet of power lines — Medium tree zone
Trees with a height and spread of 25 to 40 feet are okay in this zone.

50 or more feet from power lines — Large tree zone
Trees with a height and spread of 40 feet or more are okay in this zone.

Source: The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association


Meet our Tree Team

Get to know our friendly arborist planners. You may see them in your yard or neighborhood inspecting the power lines and trees to determine where trimming is needed.

Amanda Opp

Right-of-Way Supervisor

“I really enjoy working with our members and try to be as fair and balanced as possible while still ensuring reliability for our 50,000+ members.”

Todd Weigum

Journeyman Tree Trimmer Foreman

“I have always loved working with trees. It has been in my blood from a very young age.”

Chad Bessette

Journeyman Tree Trimmer

“I enjoy meeting members and providing safety for the public as well as protecting our system from future outages.”

Alex Wecker

Journeyman Tree Trimmer

“There’s very little I enjoy more than climbing a tree and having the end result be proper clearance while still maintaining aesthetic appeal and good health of the tree.”


Flathead Electric rate increase held to 1%

FEC’s Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that, despite receiving a 5.4% increase in wholesale power costs from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), our members’ rates will only be increased by 1% this year. BPA’s overall rate increase is driven primarily by the following two factors:

  1. Escalating costs of fish and wildlife programs
  2. Declining surplus power sales due to lower market prices

Flathead Electric has seen the addition of over 10,000 new services in the last 10 years, yet has kept employee levels static. In addition, our improved safety culture has dramatically reduced FEC’s workers’ compensation rates. The Co-op is pleased to report that due to these and other operational efficiencies, the rate increase is lower than anticipated. It includes a $0.50 increase in the monthly basic charge for residential members. The rate increase, which will be reflected on electric bills issued on or after June 1, 2018, will raise the average residential members’ monthly bill by $0.98.


Please be aware of possible energy scams in our area

Have you ever received a postcard or letter offering you free information on energy efficiency products for your home or business? Well, before giving your hard-earned money to an unknown entity, please be advised that there are companies that don’t have your best interests in mind, but instead are simply focused on their bottom line.

Recently, a member came into FEC for a rebate on windows she had installed by an out of the area business. It turns out the cost was triple that of a local vendor, and no rebate could be provided because FEC had no way of verifying the efficiency of the windows.

You can protect yourself by trying to do business within your own community, and don’t hesitate to visit with us at the Co-op if you have questions about a vendor or project. Flathead Electric operates solely for your benefit and is here to assist you in any way we can.


Your Co-op Connection of the Month
Get to know the people working for you

Kaitlyn Farrar
Distribution Designer

What do you bring to your Co-op?

My enthusiasm for learning! It’s not enough for me to be confined to knowledge that is in my job description. I want to know the bits and pieces of others’ jobs as well so I can learn how everything comes together. I want to reach my potential by growing both professionally and personally every day. I also have roots in environmental sustainability (B.S. in Wildlife Biology) and I enjoy being able to offer perspective and contribute as a member of our Electric Vehicle Committee!


What’s the best thing about working at the Co-op?

Serving a utility that really cares about its members and puts their interests first. FEC is a utility that has ethics and values–not a large corporation working to accumulate wealth for the benefit of a few. We work hard to give back to the community that supports us. It’s also like one big family. If you’re having a rough day, there’s always someone here to make you smile.

If you had a super power, what would it be and why?

If I had one superpower, it would be to transform into any animal I choose. I would soar the skies like a raptor, run as fast as a cheetah and swim like a dolphin. That way I could explore all the ends of the earth.


Roundup Report: Grant helps City of Whitefish increase safety at Armory

A $1,156 grant from Roundup for Safety was awarded to the City of Whitefish Parks and Recreation Department for an AED (defibrillator) and a First Aid kit. Community Service Coordinator Carla Belski says the equipment will be housed at the Roy Duff Memorial Armory, which is used by a wide range of groups, including sport programs.

“We are very grateful for this grant,” Belski says. “ Any type of sports complex should have a First Aid kit and an AED, because often people don’t know they have an underlying heart condition until they start exerting themselves; and sudden cardiac arrest is not limited to older people.”

The armory is a 5,000 square foot facility, with a maximum occupancy of up to 250 people. Belski says that in formulating their emergency response plan, staff will be trained on the new equipment.

February 2018 Projects Funded

  • Bigfork High School
    Life Jackets — $470
  • Creston Elementary
    Keyless Entry Locks — $2,400
  • Ravenwood Outdoor Learning Center
    Safety Equipment — $910
  • Kalispell Regional Healthcare
    Bicycle Helmets — $7,095

Thank you to the thousands of Flathead Electric members who round up their bill for safety! Together, we are making a difference in our community.