September 2018 LightREADING Newsletter

Download: September 2018 LR Web (PDF)


Area growth means new construction and electrical services for the Co-op

In the coming months, the U.S. Census Bureau will release 2017 population estimates for cities, counties, and states. Included in that data is that Kalispell is among the top 10 largest-gaining “micropolitan areas” in the nation. In fact, it is the third in line after Bozeman, Montana and Jefferson, Georgia. By definition, a micropolitan area contains at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000, but less than 50,000 population (Kalispell’s current population is estimated at around 23,300); and they consist of one or more whole counties or county equivalents. Census data shows that Flathead County’s population grew from 97,693 in 2016 to 100,000 in 2017.

Understandably, that means Flathead Electric Co-op system enhancement projects and line extensions are on the rise as well. New services numbered 471 at this time last year, and we are already at 497 as of July 31 – that’s a 17% increase over the course of the year.

Examples include:
  • Evergreen Senior Condos  148 unit complex to be located behind Shopko;
  • Rosewater Phase II – 18 residential lots on Rose Crossing;
  • Southside Estates  – 54 residential lots off Airport Road;
  • Glacier Village Greens – 34 lots;
  • Kalispell North Town Center off Highway 93 North;
  • Kalispell School Upgrades – Flathead High School, Elrod, Russell and Peterson Elementary.

Flathead County Growth adds New Electric Services

Those listed above are just a few of the new construction and service projects FEC is working on in Kalispell, but development is robust across our service territory, demonstrating the growth in the area. Montana has reflected a moderate growth rate of 0.79% overall, which ranks 26th in the nation. The state’s population surpassed 1 million for the first time in 2012, and it now stands at 1.03 million. Census officials attribute the state’s growth to people looking for a better quality of life in the natural beauty of the Big Sky Country we all call home.


Peak Time Winner Payout

Peak Time Rebate winner Terry Hamik with FEC installer Patrick King

FEC celebrated meeting the halfway mark of our Peak Time Rebate Program by entering names of those who signed up for the program in June into a drawing for a month of free electricity. Our initial goal was 5,000 participants, and we now have 2,735 people taking advantage of the program. The winner of the free electricity drawing, Terry Hamik, was quite pleasantly surprised both by her good fortune, and the ease of the process.

“It was painless,” Hamik said with a smile. “The installer was nice, quick and helpful.”

Hamik says that as a senior citizen on a fixed income, she is always looking for ways to save. “I’ve also worked with FEC to replace my old windows and water heater with energy efficient products. I’ve been a member for over 35 years and am very proud of my Co-op for making these programs available.”

The Peak Time Rebate Program offers participating members a $4 per month credit on their electric bill. We install a free unit on your electric water heater and, during peak periods of energy use, we turn your water heater off for a short period of time (which participants typically never even notice). To sign up, call 751-1834 or visit


Pulse Project Thank You

Pulse Project

Flathead Electric Co-op would like to thank our members for participating in the Pulse Project to provide life essentials for local families. The Pulse Project was designed to support our community by achieving two goals: providing energy assistance for members facing a temporary financial crisis; and holding the largest American Red Cross Blood Drive in Montana history.

To realize success, we partnered with local businesses and individuals who made monetary donations and/or appointments to donate a pint of blood during our Pulse Project drive, September 13 and 14. Depending on when you receive this newsletter, you may still be able to join us!

FEC knew we’d need the help of our community, and you haven’t let us down! Thanks to your kindness and generosity, your Co-op will now be able to be of greater assistance to more members of our community and maybe even save some lives.

For more information, or to support the project, visit


Your Co-op Connection of the Month

Get to know the People Working for You

Jay DownenJay Downen
Trustee-District 3

(Whitefish, Big Mountain, Olney)

What do you bring to your  Co-op?

In 2002 – a tumultuous time at the Co-op
– a group of members asked if I would consider seeking a seat on the Board. It was not an easy decision.  I was winding up a career in Co-op management and concerned about being a contributor “on the other side of the table.” But, I realized that my own goals closely matched those of FEC:  member ownership and control; transparent decision-making; innovation and responsiveness to the community; and the lowest possible rates. Our Board and staff are achieving those goals. I’m pleased to be a part of it.

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

While FEC and other utilities are, by necessity, monopoly enterprises, it does not mean we should act like one. My best days are listening to members’ concerns and bringing them to an active forum. Our finest Cooperative model is not only sharing the tangible results of membership, but creating certainty in the mind of every ratepayer that he or she has a very real voice in the process.

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

Today’s consumer wants a say in shaping a new utility model, replete with options, particularly renewable and self-determined energy products. So, as far as a Super Power?  I’d say I’ve already been given one: the ability to communicate the interests of FEC members who have elected me as a conduit to advocate on their behalf. Please keep talking to me, and I’ll keep listening.


Roundup Report: Roundup for Safety grant to benefit firefighters and lookout volunteers

Jumbo Lookout
Jumbo Lookout – Bob Marshall Wilderness in the Spotted Bear Ranger District.

A Roundup for Safety grant of $972 will benefit the Northwest Montana Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association by providing them with Garmin radio devices and First Aid kits. Volunteers with the group work on lookout projects in Glacier National Park, Flathead and Kootenai National Forests and on state lands with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Volunteer Deb Starling says the equipment will provide a safer experience for all concerned.

“The direct benefit is improved communication and safety to the volunteers working on the projects who are doing active restoration, maintenance, and or condition assessments on the fire lookouts and associated buildings in Northwest Montana. The volunteers participating come from many of the districts within Flathead Electric’s service territory.”

Lookout volunteers travel hundreds of miles and put in hundreds of hours to work on projects that not only help firefighting efforts, but also preserve an important part of Montana history.

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.

August Projects Funded

  • Northwest Montana Chapter Forest Fire Lookout Association
    Garmin radio devices and First Aid kits — $972
  • Kootenai Valley Christian School
    Fall Protection for Playground — $3,000
  • Columbia Falls Swim Team
    Team Pop-up Tents — $2,000
  • Girls on the Run Flathead Valley
    CPR Manikin Kit for Skills Testing — $700

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.