Claverack Rural Electric Cooperative held its 79th annual meeting at Elk Lake High School Thursday, and the only complaint heard was, “they ran out of chicken.”
“I want to address chicken. We ran out of chicken, and 40 members didn’t get dinner, but we will make it right with them,” said Bobbi Kilmer, Claverack President and CEO.
Featured speaker Stephen Brame, who is vice president of public affairs and member services of Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association, said, “When I got here, there was such a huge crowd, more than we expected. Being the main speaker, I thought it was because of me. I had no idea it was because you love chicken. My ego was really crushed. This will be a very short speech.”
He noted that Claverack did request a voluntary RSVP and ordered 1,000 servings of barbecued chicken from the Elk Lake Fire Company. However, that was not enough to meet demand at the event.
“Brame said he was touched by the community spirit he witnessed in the auditorium. “I have never been in a room where the crowd picked up, full-throated, all the way through the National Anthem when there was a technical glitch,” he said.
The popularity of the annual chicken barbecue, held in Wysox until 2015, had steadily increased.
Last year, the event was moved to Elk Lake High School, with various wrap sandwiches served.
The new location was favorably received by members, but reviews overwhelmingly showed a preference for the traditional barbecue chicken menu.
This year, the Elk Lake Fire Company provided the chicken, while the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center contributed side dishes like potato salad and cornbread and served up ice cream for dessert.
Claverack is a non-profit, member-owned electric cooperative headquartered in Wysox. It serves the counties of Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga in Pennsylvania.
The company includes 2,784 miles of line, serves 15,960 members with 18,698 meters, and has annual kilowatt hour sales of 233.8 million.
Claverack was incorporated in 1936 and energized in November, 1937.
Electrical cooperatives, private independent utilities owned by the members they served, were created after President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935 to provide safe, affordable and reliable electric power to businesses and communities.
Kilmer noted that as a not-for-profit entity, a cooperative is not about turning a profit. “Our reason for existence is to provide safe and reliable energy to those we serve.”
“There are times, however, when a co-op’s revenue exceeds its expenses, generating margins. In other businesses, this excess revenue would be called profits. I am pleased to report your board of directors voted to return $1.17 million in capital credits to the membership. If you are a current member of Claverack, you will see your share of the capital credits retirement as a credit on your June electric bill.”
She said that although Claverack went for many years without retiring capital credits, since 2010, the cooperative has refunded approximately $5 million in capital credits to its members.
“We are meeting and exceeding all of our goals. In 2015 and 2016 we increased revenue, with solid results because of sales. We had heat savings, and six years in a row of returning capital credits.”
She said that unclaimed capital credits are used to provide assistance to lower income members. A member assistance program called HOPE (Helping Others Purchase Electricity) has been created, funded by unclaimed capital credit refunds. This program provided more than $70,000 in payment assistance to members in 2015.
Unclaimed capital credits also povided financial donations to assist the Susquehanna County library’s capital campaign for a new library building.
In addition, Williams Upstream donated a $25,000 grant for low-income Claverack members.”
Brame referred to the most recent annual report, saying that reliability is more important to customers than ever before.
He said, “We recently got a letter in the mail from an elderly lady whose power was out. She wrote, ‘When you get this letter, if you have a chance, could you come check it out?’”
“People aren’t that patient anymore,” he said.
“In the past year, we have been identifying where our worst performing lines are. We are spending $3 million a year on line improvement projects and substation upgrades. In 2015, we rebuilt and upgraded over 20 miles of line in the Gibson, Meshoppen, Franklin Forks and Monroeton areas. We have similar plans for 2016 and will continue to improve our electric system.”
Brame also spoke about the company’s right of way management program.
“We’re becoming more aggressive about cutting trees in the right of way, and as there has been tremendous regrowth this year, particularly ash trees. This is because of the milder winter. We have set a $1.6 million budget to deal with regrowth.”
He said that the electric distribution services detect momentary outages along with their causes. “The good news is that the system is designed to blink.”
He said that the cooperative electric companies are successful “because of our engagement in our rural communities. It took political action to start rural cooperatives. Rural political leaders worked during the Roosevelt era, and by 1936 created cooperatives to provide life changing electrical power.”
“The presidential election is big news. We are as divided and polarized a citizenship as we ever have been. Democracy is the worst form of government; except all the others.”
He urged members to vote this November for rural cooperatives.
“Rural America must be part of the conversation. Rural PA is where we are going to create food for America, to create policies. The example I see before me today shows me that we are going to be a part in this system. Thank you for having me, and I’ll bring more chicken next time. “
Jacob Fiore, a homeschooled student from Tunkhannock, and Friendsville resident Keri Jones, who attends Elk Lake High School, were recognized among those chosen to attend a youth tour of Washington, D.C., recently as Claverack delegates.
As for Claverack’s rural electric co-op election, two directors for the Susquehanna and Wyoming County regions, Charles McNamera and Charles Bullock, ran unopposed and were re-elected on Thursday.