July 2018 LightREADING Newsletter

Download: July 2018 LR Web (PDF)


Outage information now just a click away

“We’ve come a long way, but we will never be done improving on outage communications,” says Katie Pfennigs, communications and marketing supervisor at Flathead Electric Cooperative. Pfennigs says there is no such thing as a perfect system, but FEC has recently enhanced its communication tools to the point that members now have easy access to the information that is most important to them.

“Outage communication is difficult for all utilities, and FEC is no exception,” said Pfennigs. Flathead Electric’s past outage communications efforts have been fairly robust compared to some utilities. For instance, the Co-op provided an outage map that members could view on the FEC website indicating where outages were occurring, when they began, and how many members were being impacted. During outages, the phones ring off the hook in the dispatch center, and Pfennigs said the Co-op’s online outage system still wasn’t answering the three questions most often posed to our dispatchers:

  1. When is my power going to be back on?
  2. Why is my power out?
  3. Is someone actively working to fix the problem?
FEC’s online outage map: Clicking on an outage, then on the new “Receive Updates” button will sign you up for automatic text updates about your outage.

“Even though the Co-op’s dispatch center is staffed 24/7 to assist with outages, they often can’t answer all the calls coming in,” said Pfennigs. “ With the improvements to our online outage system, the Co-op is now providing easy and instant access to the answers to those key questions.”

“When people visit FEC’s online outage map now, they can click on a specific outage and learn whether or not a crew has been assigned, the outage cause, and an estimated time of restoration. “You’ll know the information as soon as we do, without even having to pick up a phone.”

Now, members can also sign up to receive real-time text message alerts on an outage. Pfennigs says taking this proactive approach has significantly improved member communications during power outages.

“Since making improvements to outage interactions, FEC has been overwhelmed with comments thanking crews and staff for their hard work to restore power and better communicate with members. This level of outage communication is very unique in our industry, and we’re thrilled to offer it to our members!”



Mother/daughter Win an Extraordinary Coincidence

2017 FEC Annual Meeting grand prize winner Sara (left) with her mother Sandra who won the 2018 Annual Meeting Grand Prize

As a single mother working full-time and taking classes, Sara Gomes felt like there was never enough time or money to go around. She got a big boost, however, attending the Co-op’s Annual Meeting in last year (2017), when her name was drawn to win the grand prize of a $500 energy bill credit! Gomes says she was shocked and thrilled by the gift.

“Having one less bill to worry about for a while was a huge relief. When it comes to money, every little bit counts for me, and this was more than just a little bit. I am grateful to have the chance to say thank you to Flathead Electric!”

Sara attended the Annual Meeting again this year (2018), and more surprises were in store.

“I went with my mom and grandmother again, not expecting to win anything, but just to hear some interesting information about the Co-op. Then my mom’s name was drawn for the grand prize! Seriously, what are the odds of that happening?”

Sara’s mom, Sandra Hylton, says she too is on a tight budget. She was as shocked and thrilled as her daughter with winning the $500 bill credit.

“I jumped up and yelled ‘Yahoo!’ I’m beyond grateful that this blessing came along when it was truly needed.”

And so are we here at the Co-op.


2019 Member Photo Calendar – Call for Submissions

MegaphoneFlathead Electric Cooperative is accepting photo submissions for our Annual Members’ Calendar. The calendar will be printed and available for members in November.

Photos submitted should depict wildlife, scenery, people, activities or anything that represents our unique lifestyle and special corner of Northwest Montana.

To enter, you must be a member of the Co-op and an amateur photographer. Members selected to be featured in the calendar will receive $25, and their name will be published in the calendar.

Photos must be submitted by August 31.

Submit your photo


Ribeye Raffle
Fundraiser for Area Foodbanks

Ribeye Raffle Fundraiser
Here’s your chance to fill your freezer with premium local 4H/FFA beef! The winner(s) of our third annual Ribeye Raffle will take home approximately 60 1″-thick premium Ribeye and T-bone steaks (valued at over $500). Tickets may be purchased in advance at our Kalispell or Libby offices, or at the FEC booth during the Northwest MT Fair in August.

All proceeds will benefit Flathead Valley food banks.


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

Alan RubyAlan Ruby
Trustee – District #5

What do you bring to your Co-op?

I think I bring a broad range of public sentiment and opinion to my role as trustee. 39 years of work and community involvement in forestry, construction, retail, sports, church and service groups like Rotary touches many members. This feedback translates into direction for the Co-op’s rate setting, community programs and energy efficiency that we implement. Communication is so often our biggest challenge, and I think building relationships is one way I can help improve that two-way conversation.

What’s the best thing about serving as a trustee?

The honor and joy of working with such professional staff and board members who all want the best for our members in the most efficient and affordable way possible. It’s inspiring and reassuring for me. I love being part of an incredible team actually making a positive difference for our community.

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

To possess wisdom and discernment. To actively listen, learn and lead is an incredible super power. Often I think “everyone thinks as I do” but by learning to listen carefully to others, understand their lives and concerns, I can better represent them in a responsible way. There are always going to be honest differences of opinion and direction but finding the right path forward is where the discerning wisdom comes in.


Roundup Report: Grant to Benefit Back Country Volunteers

A pack train heads back into the wilderness.

A $1,000 grant from Roundup for Safety has been awarded to Northwest Montana Back Country Horseman, who work with various agencies clearing trails, providing pack support and other general maintenance in the National Forests and surrounding areas. The group completed 27 Trail Clearing projects and 19 Packing Support projects last year alone. Group president, Rick Mathies, says the grant will be used to purchase radios for wilderness volunteers.

“The nature of the work we do is dangerous, operating chain saws and crosscut saws, and packing in supplies for a work crew, which is all done with livestock. We need to be able to communicate with the various agencies and first responders in case of an emergency, so these radios will be a welcome safety net for our volunteers.”

June Projects Funded

  • Kalispell Legion Baseball Association
    Fence Top Guards — $2,000
  • Discovery Developmental Center
    Booster Seats/Safety Harnesses — $1,297
  • Neighbors in Need
    Emergency Exit Door/Security Monitor — $2,868
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
    Water Safety Buoys — $889

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.