April 2020 Light Reading Newsletter

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Your Co-op’s Response to COVID-19: 

Keeping our members and employees safe and healthy is our top priority. 

For the most up to date information about how your Co-op is responding, visit us online or call us at 406-751-4483. 

Download: April 2020 Light Reading (PDF)

CONTENTS

Big Sky to Bolivia

Montana linemen bring power to Bolivia

13 Montana linemen, including Challis Crismore and DaLane Daken from Flathead Electric Co-op (FEC), a team leader and two communications personnel, made a long trip to Bolivia to provide continual power to a remote village there.

The trip was part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International program, which has sent linemen on these humanitarian missions across the world for more than five decades. While some Montana linemen have participated in the past, this was the first time the state sent a full contingent.

The linemen installed power poles and ran distribution line from an existing line about seven miles alongside a clay road through the Amazon rainforest to Villa Cotoca, in the Pando region of Bolivia. Prior to the work, the village of about 30 families, or approximately 150 people, only had power provided by a generator from 6-10 p.m. The village school had no lights and the few ceiling fans in the kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms had never turned.

Watch: Big Sky to Bolivia | Courtesy Ryan Hall, MECA

“The project was extremely difficult at times,” Project Team Leader Kyle Kearns said. “We had limited tools and equipment, so everything was done with hand tools and hard work.”

Ryan Hall, the Editor of Rural Montana Magazine and Communications Director for the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association (MECA), posted updates on the trip as connectivity allowed. He said that following an eight-hour bus ride (the bus got stuck on the muddy road for a time), made more difficult as a result of seasonal rains, the crew arrived at their jungle cabins shortly after midnight on February 29. He reported 90-degree temperatures and 90% humidity.

Hall said the team enjoyed interacting with the children in the village. The kids were given frisbees contributed by a Montana Co-op (one girl claimed hers quickly by writing her name on it) in addition to school supplies, donated by Cub Scout Pack #1 in Great Falls. He also said the “Big Sky to Bolivia” team saw many interesting critters in the jungle, from monkeys to a toucan, which just enhanced their adventure, adding that they were also able to snack on bananas fresh off the trees.

The team spent just over two weeks on the Bolivia project and by all accounts, feel their long hard workdays were worth the rewards of providing electricity for this village and the appreciation of its people.

FEC Linemen DaLane Daken and Challis Crismore. Photo Courtesy Ryan Hall | MECA

“I just like to try new things and work with new people. When the opportunity came my way I thought, ‘Well, this is the opportunity of a lifetime, so go do it.’ It’s gone really well. I think everybody’s come together as a group.”

Challis Crismore | Journeyman Line Foreman


“It’s way hotter and way more humid (than home). The middle of the afternoon was pretty unbearable for most guys… The guys have been great. Everybody’s been getting along.”

Dalane Daken |  Journeyman Line Foreman

For more information, check out our Big Sky to Bolivia Blog.

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Life on the lines

When the storm rolls in, they roll out.

National Lineworker Appreciation Day is recognized in April.  Flathead Electric is deeply grateful for the work of our linemen and servicemen, whose jobs are often performed during hazardous conditions. Noting 2019 statistics, we thank our crews for:

  • Logging 377,948 miles in their trucks:
  • Responding to:
    • 36 vehicle vs. electrical equipment accidents;
    • 270 tree related outages;
    • 221 animal related outages; and
    • 127 weather related outages.

Co-op crews are also called, at all hours of the day and night, to house fires and other incidents where electricity is concerned and are often the first on a scene.

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Let’s Talk Trees

Watch: Plan Before You Plant

As Arbor Day is celebrated in April, we think about trees and the benefits they provide such as beauty, shade, and improved air quality. They sometimes need a little cultivating, however, to keep from growing into power lines. That’s why Flathead Electric Coop’s certified forestry crews trim trees along public right of ways.

To protect FEC’s 2,500 miles of overhead line, crews try to trim trees along roughly 200 miles of line a year, in conjunction with responding to hundreds of tree-trimming or removal requests from the private sector.

“It’s a matter of safety,” says Amanda Opp, FEC’s Director of Right of Way. “Fallen trees and branches are the most common cause of power outages, so there must be some clearance.”

Visit Tree Maintenance and Safety to learn about FEC’s right of way program and for tips on planting the right tree in the right place.

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Go online for a chance to win $500

We know that many things are challenging right now.

Managing your electricity shouldn’t be one of them.

Take your account online before May 31 to be entered into a drawing to win a $500 electric bill credit!

Already use our online account and/or mobile app? That’s great! You are automatically entered into the drawing.

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Co-op Connection

Get to know the people working for you.

Chad Bessette – Journeyman Tree Trimmer

Q. What do you bring to your Co-op?

A. I feel like I bring various areas of the Co-op together as a member of the Right of Way Department. My prior positions in the Metering, Design, and Operations Departments have given me knowledge that I can use to inform members and answer questions they might have.

Q. What’s the best thing about serving Flathead Electric?

A. The best thing about serving Flathead Electric is the teamwork and camaraderie with everyone at the Co-op.

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

A. If I had a super power I would definitely be like Spider-Man. No need for a bucket truck!

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Roundup Report

Roundup for Safety grant to keep kids safer

An $8,000 Roundup for Safety grant will help reduce speeding in the Hedges School zones. In a recent study, it was noted that 85% of vehicles were speeding in the area. The City of Kalispell is now installing driver feedback signs telling oncoming traffic their speed, as well as illuminating the speed limit sign with flashing lights when cars exceed the posted limit.

A feedback sign (top left) will be installed in the hedges school zone (top right) thanks to RFS dollars.

March Projects Funded

  • Flathead County Search & Rescue
    Avalanche beacons & shovels $1,900
  • Kalispell Regional Medical Center
    Bike helmets for Spring Into Safety Day $8,062
  • Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
    AED $1,000
  • Whitefish Library Association
    Fire alarm system $7,500

 

Roundup for Safety is a voluntary program for FEC members who round up their electric bills to the next dollar. This money goes into a fund for community safety projects.

To apply for a Roundup for Safety grant, visit Roundup for Safety. 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.

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