Powder River Energy held its 76th Annual Meeting
at Upton Middle School, Saturday, August 21.
The 76th PRECorp Annual Meeting was held Saturday, August 21, at Upton Middle School.
Weston County historian and author Shelly Ritthaler was specially honored with the Earl Christensen Award. The award, in memory of PRECorp founding board member Earl Christensen, is presented to individuals who support and promote the rural electrification program in northeast Wyoming.
Ritthaler wrote a 50th Anniversary book outlining the history of Tri-County Electric Association (TCEA). She later wrote a 75th Anniversary book for PRECorp. She conducted many interviews of original members in the early 1990’s and did extensive research of cooperative records for TCEA and Sheridan-Johnson REA in compiling the histories.
During the Annual Meeting, PRECorp members re-elected Board members Paul Baker, Crook County; Jim Baumgartner, Sheridan County; and Mike Lohse, Johnson County, to three-year terms.
PRECorp officials also delivered annual reports for the membership during the meeting.
PRECorp Board President Reuben Ritthaler summarized the resilience of the PRECorp membership and the cooperative in general. “Our Board of Directors are members just like you who have endured the challenges of the pandemic, drought, and commodity prices,” he said. “Every member has a voice in this cooperative, and it is an honor and our duty as Board Members to represent the best interests of all members of this cooperative. The decisions we make receive careful research and consideration.”
Board Secretary-Treasurer Gerry Geis outlined the cooperative’s financial picture from 2020. “We continue to shrink slightly every year, but we are still in the top five percent nationally for kilowatt hour sales,” Geis said. More than 80 percent of the sales are commercial and industrial customers. “There is a lot of fluctuation because of commodity prices.”
PRECorp CEO Mike Easley delivered his annual address which included forward-looking ideas for emerging technologies and the bright future of PRECorp. A portion of his speech is printed on page 2.
The event featured a wellness fair with free blood draws and body scans for PRECorp members. Approximately 250 people attended throughout the day, which culminated in drawings for more than 60 prizes ranging from frozen beef, to the Tempest WeatherFlow devices discussed in last month’s PRECorp News.
Two members each won $100 bill credits for signing up for the easy-pay programs of invoice billing, autopay and SmartHub.
Past Annual Meetings
Watch videos of the 2019 Annual Meeting:
Powder River Energy CEO Mike Easley gave a message of the electric cooperative’s vision and hope for the future during its 74th Annual Meeting Saturday, August 24, at Buffalo High School.
The meeting drew approximately 300 members overall. Many took advantage of free wellness blood draws and body scans provided by Wyoming Health Fairs of Casper.
A total of 132 members registered, well above the required quorum of 100. Members enjoyed a free barbecue beef and pork lunch catered by the Invasion Bar of Kaycee; and noon-time entertainment by teen fiddle and guitar talent Maxi Wuerker of Buffalo.
A special surprise guest was U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), who briefly addressed the audience about the importance of keeping the coal industry viable, and working with the Trump administration to maintain America’s strong energy economy.
PRECorp Directors Gerry Geis, Jim Purdy, and Reuben Ritthaler were re-elected to the Board for three more years. They were unopposed on the ballot.
PRECorp Board President Walt Christensen presided over the meeting and specially recognized his fellow Board members who commit their time on behalf of the members of the cooperative.
Geis, PRECorp Board Secretary-Treasurer, highlighted the cooperative’s financial report and tools that are available to control rate pressure. One of those tools is the Revenue Deferral Plan, which is essentially an emergency fund the cooperative can tap to even out unforeseen declines in power sales. This fund has allowed the Board to avoid budget deficits and still return capital credits to the members.
PRECorp VP of Member Service Jeff Bumgarner announced the Powder River Energy Foundation has achieved a major milestone of giving in 2019. He said the Foundation passed the $1 million-dollar-level in total grants to non-profit organizations in northeast Wyoming. Those donations touch all aspects of community needs including feeding the hungry, veterans’ assistance, youth education, families in crisis, and the arts.
Bumgarner gave a touching tribute to founding Foundation Board Member Kathleen Tavegie who passed away in July. Bumgarner, and Foundation Board President John Flocchini closed the segment with a $5,000 check presentation to Climb Wyoming, a workforce development program for single mothers to help them gain skills for jobs that pay living wages and pull them out of the cycle of poverty.
CEO Mike Easley, who noted in recent years his annual address has been focused on declining power sales and rate increases, described the PRECorp vision and purpose and efforts the cooperative has been making to reduce costs, increase revenue, and develop innovations in a changing energy sector.
Some of those initiatives include the program called Power Pitch, where employees can promote and develop ideas or inventions that can help the cooperative save costs or create new revenue. One idea for a lineman’s tool is a candidate for a possible patent.
Easley also discussed member engagement efforts of telephone town halls, member surveys, and the on-line SmartHub technology. He recognized the PRECorp employees for their work in maintaining reliable electric service under harsh weather conditions and cost-cutting measures the past several years.
The cooperative continues to brace for a "financial cliff event" which would involve the loss of a large power consumer. While this cliff event has been more of a gradual slide over the past decade, the cooperative has been and continues to prepare for the further loss of sales through cost reductions and efficiency improvements.
Additionally, Easley announced that PRECorp will seek an increase in rates of about 4.5% in 2020. "The actual percentage increase will vary by customer class and will most likely impact the monthly basic charge as well as demand and energy costs," Easley said. "This increase is necessary as we are projected to have a $1 million operating loss in 2019, in spite of the millions of dollars in cost reductions we have been able to achieve over the past several years."
Easley did announce some good news regarding the wholesale power costs being charged by Basin Electric. The power supplier is implementing a small rate reduction this year which will save PRECorp about $2.4 million in power costs in 2020. "This will help soften the impact of the increase PRECorp will be implementing," Easley said.
Easley said the cooperative will be resilient and adapt to the economic changes in our area. He said the Board of Directors, cooperative management, and employees have the courage to dream big and be proactive, rather than reactive, to the changes coming our way.
After the meeting adjourned, door prizes, many donated by local vendors, were drawn from the names of those attending. This year’s prize donors were: K&K Automotive of Gillette, JW Services of Sundance, Bearlodge Engineering and Surveying of Sundance, McKie Ford of Rapid City, Sundance Equipment, Ward Electric, Hughes Law Office of Sundance, NISC, and Logo Store USA. Special Thanks to Peak Power Sports for use of the parking shuttles.
The Powder River Energy Corporation Annual Meeting brings its members, directors, and employees together to discuss the cooperative’s performance in the past year, elect board members, and hear reports on other cooperative activities. The 2018 Annual Meeting was held Saturday, August 25, at the Gillette Cam-Plex. The 2019 Annual Meeting date and location will be announced later this year.
WATCH VIDEOS OF THE 2018 ANNUAL MEETING:
- Regular Meeting: President's Report; Financial Report; Legal Report; Special Guests
- Foundation Report
- CEO Report and closing
More than 220 PRECorp Members registered for the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting at the Gillette Cam-Plex on Saturday, August 25.
Thank you to all the members and their families who attended. This is the highest attendance at a PRECorp Annual Meeting in at least 20 years!
The event featured voting for three seats on the Board of Directors. Paul Baker (Crook County), Mike Lohse (Johnson County), and Jim Baumgartner (Sheridan County) were re-elected to three-year terms.
Many members took advantage of free wellness blood draws provided by Wyoming Health Fairs, and body scans from Spiral Health. Another group of members went on a special tour of the Dry Fork Station Power Plant north of Gillette.
More than 400 members were treated to a special barbecue beef lunch from Sue Collins Catering and pre-meeting entertainment from Brian McCollum. Special guests included U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and Wyoming State Treasurer (and PRECorp member) Mark Gordon.
There was some cooperative business to accomplish during the day, including the delivery of reports from PRECorp Board President Walt Christensen, Secretary-Treasurer Gerry Geis, and CEO Mike Easley. Videos of these reports are available for viewing online at www.precorp.coop/annual-meeting.
PRECorp Board Secretary-Treasurer Gerry Geis presented information on the cooperative’s finances. "We sold 2.27 billion kilowatt hours, which is a lot of electricity. In our sales we’re in the top four percent of the 800 coops in the nation so we’re real proud of that. All of our members are the ones that make that work," Geis said.
Geis highlighted the cost of purchased power and the amounts of Capital Credits that are returned to members each year. He also pointed out the cooperative’s support for the community through donations, sponsorships, scholarships, and other support services. "That’s our mission, to be reliable and affordable for all of our members," he said.
CEO Mike Easley delivered a forward-looking assessment of not only the electric cooperative, but the energy industry in general. He also discussed PRECorp’s work to adapt to changing economies and technologies to bring down costs to the end consumer. "Many of these opportunities aren’t available to us today, but should we let today be what sets the limits for our tomorrow, for our future? I say ‘no’," Easley said. "It’s our responsibility to do all we can to position PRECorp for the future by setting a clear vision."
Easley said PRECorp is working to expand thinking beyond what has been traditional and prepare for the rapidly increasing rate of change. "Much like Wyoming, we are diversifying the way we think about things. Our goal is to be ahead of the curve, not behind it."
Cooperative Attorney Mark Hughes informed the members of a review of the alignment of PRECorp bylaws with state statutes governing the bylaws for energy cooperatives. Depending on the outcome of this review, additional information will be shared with the membership in the coming months regarding a potential vote on bylaw changes at the 2019 meeting.
PRECorp Foundation Executive Director Jeff Bumgarner also gave a brief update on the Foundation’s activities since 2017. Since inception the Foundation has given $875,000 back to communities and charitable causes. The funds are distributed to four main focus areas of health and human services; arts and education; scholarships; and civic and community needs. "Key focus areas continue to be on feeding the hungry, veterans and veterans services, emergency services, at-risk children and families and other community needs as they come up," Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner also announced that the Foundation made a $10,000 donation to the Campbell County Hospital Foundation toward the fund that will enable the hospital in Gillette to no longer have to rent cancer treatment equipment for residents of northeast Wyoming. CCHF Executive Director Nachelle McGrath said, "With the support of this grant… we are so close to getting that equipment permanently placed in our cancer treatment center, so everybody in Campbell County and the rural areas that surround us won’t have to travel for their cancer treatment. Thank you very much!"
Earl Christensen Award
In a surprise to finish out the day, Walt Christensen presented the Earl Christensen Award to Mike Easley for his demonstration of the cooperative spirit. Christensen highlighted Easley’s work in local, state, and national initiatives and strategic planning for the good of northeast Wyoming.
"Mike has been an active advocate for the energy industry… by bringing diverse interests to the table for creation of worthwhile projects for the benefit of all," Christensen said. "There are times when Mike is the lone voice at the beginning, but his ability to bring people together and move interests in the same direction, truly demonstrates his commitment to the cooperative spirit."
"I’m so honored to be given this award because of the folks who have been given this award - and its namesake - are true icons in the coop world," Easley said.
WELCOME TO THE 70TH ANNUAL MEETING OF POWDER RIVER ENERGY CORPORATION.
It comes with a blend of pride and humility that I congratulate the members of our electric cooperative for 70 years of continuous operation in providing safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to northeastern Wyoming.
I think back to the stories of the founders of Tri-County Electric Association and Sheridan-Johnson REA who looked across open prairies and rugged terrain with the vision of bringing the force of electricity to the families and businesses of this area. They overcame many challenges to sign up members, secure financing, comply with regulations, and build the lines that still connect us today.
The men and women that followed kept the cooperative strong by building its future with taxation legislation, inking partnerships with wholesale energy providers, forging relationships with state and federal officials, bringing large energy industry companies into the cooperative family, and merging the two cooperatives into Powder River Energy Corporation.
While we can and should celebrate reaching 70 years, we must keep in mind that 71 is also a pretty good number. And 72 will be even better.
At the heart of the cooperative we find the membership to be the driving force behind all that we do. The opportunity to have direct control over who is making the long-term policy and financial decisions of your electric utility is something many of our members understand and hold dear.
We look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting on Saturday, August 22, at Newcastle High School. This will be your opportunity to elect board members and have influence over the direction of the cooperative as we move into the future.
Please take the time to review the candidate statements and financial information in this month’s magazine on this page. If you cannot attend the meeting your vote can still be counted. You should have received a copy of the WREN in the mail the first week of August. Fill out the ballot and mail it in the postage-paid envelope enclosed in the magazine.
In the coming months we will learn in more detail about federal plans for carbon regulations at existing power plants, how we will co-exist with the Greater Sage Grouse, and Wyoming’s role as a leader in the energy industry with our diversity of coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium.
These are all big things.
But there is nothing more important than taking care of you – the member – by providing that same safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to your home and business that our predecessors did those many decades ago.
I look forward to talking more with you about our future on August 22.
Mike Easley, CEO
Powder River Energy
Nominating Committee Notice
The Board of Directors has appointed the following members to the Nominating Committee: Chuck Davis (509 Elk Creek Rd, Weston, Wyo.) and Brandon Dilts, Campbell County; Dennis Williams and Will Yemington, Crook County; Jim Baumgartner and Dwight Layton, Sheridan County; and Bill Engle and Kelvin Kennedy, Weston County. This committee is responsible for nominating qualified candidates to run for election to the Board of Directors.
Incumbent Board members up for election this year are:
Campbell County: Tom Davis
Crook County: Philip Habeck
Sheridan County: Leo Ankney
Weston County: Walt Christensen
The 2014 PRECorp Annual Meeting will be held Saturday, August 23, at the Moorcroft High School.
HOW YOU CAN GET ON THE BALLOT:
- Be nominated by a committee appointed by the PRECorp Board of Directors
- Return a nominating petition signed by at least 25 PRECorp members
- Be nominated from the floor during the PRECorp Annual Meeting Saturday, August 23
ARE YOU QUALIFIED?
- Any PRECorp member from the aforementioned director districts can run for a three-year term on the board, providing the member meets following qualifications:
- Must be a member receiving electric energy from the Corporation;
- Must reside within the service territory of the county from which he/she is elected; and,
- May not be in any way employed by or have a substantial financial interest in a competing enterprise or a business selling electric energy or supplies to the Corporation.
DATES TO REMEMBER:
According to the PRECorp bylaws, the following are some dates to remember regarding the election process:
- Friday, May 23: Deadline for PRECorp Board of Directors to appoint nominating committees in each county.
- Monday, June 23: Deadline for nominating committees to post their list of candidates.
- Monday, July 14: Deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions at a PRECorp business office. (Petitions must be signed by 25 PRECorp members.)
- Friday, August 1: Publication of director candidates, notice of Annual Meeting, proxy ballot, and Annual Report.
- Friday, August 22: Deadline to submit proxy ballot to a PRECorp business office.
2013 ANNUAL MEETING A SUCCESS!
After failing to achieve a quorum in 2012, the PRECorp members turned out in droves for the 2013 Annual Meeting Saturday, August 24 in Hulett.
Tallies show 195 members registered and voted at the meeting in the Greater Hulett Community Center, with another 290 members casting proxy ballots.
In the director election, incumbents Pam Kinchen (Johnson County), and Reuben Ritthaler (Weston County), were re-elected to three-year terms. Challenger Gerry Geis defeated incumbent Don Hamm and fellow challenger Charlene Camblin for the Campbell County director seat.
Members heard reports from PRECorp Board President Walt Christensen, Secretary-Treasurer Philip Habeck, CEO Mike Easley, and COO and Deputy General Manager Les Penning. The Wyoming Rural Electric Association Executive Director Shawn Taylor was a special guest speaker at the meeting to discuss grassroots efforts for the membership.
CEO Easley addressed the membership in a town-hall style speech, gathering input from the members and answering questions from the audience. He discussed the financial basis for a rate case filing currently before the Wyoming Public Service Commission. The general rate increase, the first since 2008, is proposed to increase revenues by $6.9 million starting in March 2014.
Habeck presented the 2012 financial data. Despite declining coal-bed methane sales, PRECorp is still 15th out of 815 cooperatives nationwide in total kilowatt hour sales, Habeck said. “We as directors are obligated and directed to maintain a financially strong and reliable electric utility at the lowest possible cost for you, the member owners,” Habeck said. “Dramatic changes continue to take place in the electric industry and nationwide. We are positioning your electric cooperative to remain a strong and competitive electric utility for the future.”
Watch the 2013 Annual Meeting Video PRECorp 2013 Annual Meeting
Call to action
WREA Executive Director Shawn Taylor asked PRECorp members to get involved with the future of cooperatives and use their voice to move things in a positive direction.
Taylor said there are many issues at the local, state and national level that can affect PRECorp’s ability to provide affordable, reliable power and help improve our community’s quality of life.
Members are asked to join the WREA Grassroots Network in order to have your voice heard when such issues arise.
To sign up, go to:
Christensen made a special surprise presentation of the Earl Christensen Award to Reuben Ritthaler.
Ritthaler is a 29-year director on the PRECorp Board, serving in various capacities. He is also PRECorp’s representative on the Basin Electric Board of Directors since 2001. “Reuben is all about the co-op,” Walt Christensen said. “His vast knowledge and willingness to learn more have provided him with many opportunities to work for the benefit of the membership of Powder River Energy Corporation with unrelenting focus on the ‘guy at the end of the line.’”
Entertainment for the event was provided by country singer Paul Bogart and CEO Mike Easley. Hulett’s Red Rock Café and Floral Shop provided the centerpieces and the meal was catered by the Ponderosa Café of Hulett. Servers for the event were the Devils Tower FFA and the Moorcroft FCCLA.
Many of PRECorp’s business partners contributed thousands of dollars in prizes, cash, frozen 4-H beef, and two kids bicycles for the event, which were given away at the end of the meeting.
THE 67TH PRECORP ANNUAL MEETING WILL BE HELD SATURDAY, AUG. 25, AT THE CLARION INN CONVENTION CENTER, GILLETTE, WYO.
By Tim Velder, PRECorp Marketing and Communications Specialist
The 67th Annual Meeting of the members of Powder River Energy Corporation will be held at the Clarion Inn in Gillette, WY, on Saturday, August 25. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the meeting opens at 9:30 a.m.
The event will feature voting for board members, reports from PRECorp CEO Mike Easley, Board President Tom Davis and Treasurer Philip Habeck.
Three three-year director seats are up for election this year. Incumbents Don Hamm (Campbell County) and Pam Kinchen (Johnson County) are unopposed for re-election. Weston County’s incumbent director Reuben Ritthaler, Upton, and Jerry Shepperson, also of Upton, are running for the Weston County seat that is up this year.
Candidate profiles, annual reports and more information about this year’s event are printed inside. Voting information is printed on the outside cover around this magazine. Those voting absentee will find a pre-printed envelope inside.
Those who attend will receive giveaways, and will be entered in a drawing for door prizes. The luncheon will feature entertainment by cowboy poet (and Carbon Power & Light General Manager) Chuck Larsen.
Anyone needing a ride to the meeting should call PRECorp Member Service at 1-800-442-3630 to reserve a seat. The reservation deadline is Wednesday, August 1.
Go to www.gillettechamber.com for more information about special things to do in town on August 25.