November 2018 LightREADING Newsletter
Download: November 2018 Light Reading (PDF)
- Community Solar Phase II – On Sale Now! >>
- Safety Culture Changes Reap Rewards >>
- Ribeye Raffle Winner: “I can’t believe I won my daughter’s steer!” >>
- Co-op members to receive checks >>
- Washington D.C. Youth Tour >>
- Your Co-op Connection of the month: Emery Smith, Trustee District 2 >>
- Roundup Report: Roundup for Safety grant to benefit Kidsports >>
How Does Community Solar Work?
- Co-op members purchase panels in the Community Solar project.
- The sun creates energy which is captured by solar panels.
- Energy is transferred to the electrical grid and distributed to participating members.
- Panel owners receive bill credits for the energy created by their panel.
It’s like a community garden, planted with solar panels.
About the Project
- Community Solar Phase II is made up of 198 solar panels located on a Co-op building, just west of the Kalispell FEC office.
- Panels cost $750 each (can be paid in full or as 12 monthly payments of $62.50).
- Each solar panel has a rated output of 345 watts and is projected to produce 373 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually.
Why Community Solar?
- Instead of putting a complete solar system on your own home (which requires home ownership, the right sunny location, and a fairly large upfront investment), this program lets many people come together to build one larger solar array.
- Participants benefit through economies of scale, better siting, and the opportunity to take part at a much lower entry cost level.
Safety Culture Changes Reap Rewards
In 2011, Flathead Electric Cooperative leadership found themselves motivated to improve the Co-op’s emphasis on safety. The Co-op’s work comp premiums were high and management worried that employees may be more focused on production than safety. They began a strategic top-down, bottom-up strategy to change the safety culture at FEC dubbed Relentless Pursuit of Zero (injuries and accidents). With support from the Board of Trustees, FEC retained a safety consultant who meticulously studied areas of improvement in each department and worked with staff to implement new safety measures, while consistently driving home the message that the Co-op is a family that needs to look out for one another. That charge has paid off in more ways than one.
Since the safety program was initiated, accidents and injuries have decreased exponentially, and this year, FEC’s MOD factor was the lowest it’s ever been. (A MOD factor rating directly correlates with how much companies pay each month in workers’ compensation premiums.) FEC General Manager, Mark Johnson, says this is truly something to celebrate.
“Yes, we are saving the Co-op thousands of dollars on work comp expenditures, but more importantly, our employees are going home the same way they came to work,” says Johnson. “And, because employees have had to take less time off for accidents and injuries, production has actually increased as well. When safety becomes a way of life, it’s a tremendous win for all concerned.”
“I can’t believe I won my daughter’s steer!”
As soon as FEC bought Elizabeth Dull’s market steer at the Northwest Montana Fair Stock Sale, her mother Krisha immediately went to the Co-op’s Fair booth and bought six tickets for the Ribeye Raffle, which is a Co-op fundraising event for area food banks. As luck would have it, Krisha’s name was drawn as the winner of the raffle, and she and her family will now get to enjoy those prime beef cuts from her daughter’s steer!
Raising stock is a long family tradition for the Dull family. (FEC also bought their son Wyatt’s hog a few years ago.) Elizabeth, now a junior at Flathead High School and a member of the Dandy Dudes and Dolls 4-H Club, has been involved in 4-H since she was 5. This was Elizabeth’s first year raising a steer, and she already has her market steer picked out for next year!
Krisha says she couldn’t help but laugh at the odds of winning her daughter’s steer in the raffle, adding that when she told Elizabeth, her reaction was: “You’re kidding right?!”
Co-op members to receive checks
One of the many benefits of being a member-owner of Flathead Electric Cooperative is that after the Co-op’s expenses are paid, any excess margins are allocated back to the members in the form of capital credits. Those annual allocations are added to each member’s capital credit account. As financial conditions allow, Flathead Electric retires those capital credits in the form of checks to current and former members.
In December, the Co-op will issue over 37,000 checks in excess of $2.5 million to members. These checks are a percentage of the remaining capital credit balance in each member’s or former member’s account from 2006/2007. Members of the Co-op will be mailed a capital credit retirement check and/or an allocation notice stating the amount of capital credits that will be added to their account and their capital credit balance.
FEC members will receive one of the following:
- A capital credit retirement check if you were a member in 2006/2007;
- An allocation notice if you were a member in 2017;
- A capital credit retirement check and an allocation notice (one statement) if you were a member in 2006/2007 and in 2017; or
- If you were not a member in 2006/2007 or 2017, you will not receive a check or notice this year.
2019 Washington D.C. Youth Tour
The deadline is fast approaching to apply for next year’s Washington D.C. Youth Tour. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. sends more than 1,500 high-school students to Washington, D.C. each year to learn about the history of this country and the role electric cooperatives played in that history, and to meet with their congressional delegation.
Flathead Electric Co-op offers two “all expense paid” trips to Washington, D.C. Youth Tour each year to high school sophomores or juniors from schools in the Flathead Electric service territory. The student’s parent or guardian must be served by Flathead Electric Cooperative.
Applications must be submitted by Friday, November 16, 2018.
Your Co-op Connection of the month
Get to know the people working for you.
Trustee District 2 (Lower Valley, Cooke City, Elk Basin, Rollins)
What do you bring to your Co-op?
As an engineer, I bring a logical perspective. I evaluate proposed projects and decisions to determine if they make sense for members. I also assess if proposals are in the best interest of members both now and into the future. In addition, I ask myself if this is something the members would be willing to pay for, i.e. will they benefit from the expense.
What’s the best thing about serving as a Trustee?
I worked full-time to put myself through college, but many people helped me along the way by adjusting my work schedule, allowing me time off to study for finals, etc. Being a trustee allows me to give back to members the knowledge that I have gained over time. I started out sweeping the floor, then worked my way up to become a machinist to then being put in charge of design and cost control for part of the Space Shuttle Project. I have also completed numerous educational opportunities through the Co-op as a Trustee.
If you had a super power, what would it be and why?
I would have the power to resolve the litigious issues that distract us from doing the members’ business. Our primary source of energy, for instance, is clean, renewable hydropower, yet there are those who are threatening to eliminate it. This is a continuous struggle and just one example of the many challenges we face in this industry as we try to keep electricity affordable and reliable for our members.
Roundup Report: Roundup for Safety grant to benefit Kidsports
A $10,000 Roundup for Safety grant will provide for chain link fencing around the Kidsports Complex. The purpose of the fencing is to prevent the potential for accidents between youngsters, along with their family members and fans, and motor vehicles frequenting the area. Dan Johns, President and founder of Kidsports, says vehicle and pedestrian traffic have both increased over time.
“Kidsports is pleased to receive the financial assistance of Roundup for Safety. Not only are we intent on providing quality playing surfaces,” Johns says, “but we want the youth to have a safe environment as well.”
Development of the Kidsports athletic complex began in 1998 and has grown to include fields for soccer, baseball, track, football, lacrosse and the “Miracle Field” for handicapped players. Thousands of participants and spectators utilize the fields every year.
October Projects Funded
- David Thompson Search and Rescue
Titanium split-apart rescue lifter – $2,975
- Stillwater Christian School
Fire alarm system overhaul – $5,000
- Immanuel Lutheran Communities
Kenwood radios – $500
- Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest MT
Safety ramp – $6,000
- Kalispell Youth Softball Association
Backstop netting – $5,000
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.