Manager’s Message

Hi, I’m Debi Wilson, General Manager of Lane Electric Cooperative. Every month, I will report on some of the issues facing Lane Electric and share important news and updates with you, our members.

Sometimes, I may write about poles, lines and wires, our power supply, service interruptions, emergency preparedness, or rate changes. Other times, it might be about member meetings and community service. And sometimes, it’s simply to keep you informed about what goes on at Lane Electric, your cooperative.

Be sure to check out “Recent Stories from Ruralite” (to the left) for other information you might be interested in, too.

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — June 2019 — District Meetings Recap: Underground, Broadband and BPA

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Mother Nature has certainly shown us what she’s made of this year. Snow, flooding and fire already? Because of this, a theme of last month’s district meetings was disaster preparedness. Lane County Emergency Manager Patence Winningham, a Lane Electric member, emphasized the importance of being prepared to be on your own when disaster strikes because there are many more citizens than first responders and it takes time for them to get to you.

Also at our district meetings, I reported on the snowstorm, our broadband feasibility study and Bonneville Power Administration rates. Here is a summary of my report. Details of the snowstorm and our restoration efforts were covered in great detail in our April issue, so I’ll leave those out.

While we did everything we could to get your power restored as quickly and safely as possible, we recognize that every minute you are without power is one minute too long. We improved our processes after the 2016 ice storm and are committed to improving them further after this year’s event. We are incorporating your feedback into planning and protocols for the next major outage.

As I traveled around the service area and saw all the damage, I began to wonder how often these disasters are happening. I discovered that since 2012, they’re happening about every two years and have been growing in intensity.

I’m sure the biggest question on everyone’s mind is why we don’t underground all of our lines. The short answer is that it is not feasible to underground our entire system due to cost and other factors. You can read more about those details in the District Meeting Recap of Reports.

If undergrounding all the lines isn’t feasible, what can we do? We can continue to:

  • Identify and budget projects that are feasible to underground.
  • Identify and budget other projects where we can relocate lines out of the trees to places where they’re more easily accessed for faster power restoration.
  • We will apply for FEMA mitigation grants as they become available so we can do more of these resiliency projects.

As you can imagine, completing these projects will take many years. In the meantime, it’s important that we all prepare for the next disaster, even an earthquake. Remember, you play an important role in disaster preparedness in your community. While you do your best to take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors, we are laser-focused on restoring your power.

To read the rest of my report, please view the District Meeting Recap of Reports. Our financial, legal and distribution system reports are also in the Recap, and wildfire safety tips are in the Wildfire Risk Reduction article.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson, General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — May 2019

You’re Invited to District Meetings

Dear Co-op Community Members:

I am thrilled to write this message officially as your general manager. After 20 years at Lane Electric, beginning as controller in 1998 and then finance and administration manager from 2009 until now, this is exactly where I want to be. This is where my heart is.

I am honored to work alongside your board of directors on local, regional and national issues that affect our cooperative and you, our members. I am providing a seamless transition for the board and our dedicated employees, and look forward to leading our co-op into the future.

You know as much as I do that 2019 has been eventful! Just five weeks after the historic snowstorm and resulting widespread outages, a torrential downpour drenched the Willamette Valley, causing flooding, landslides and evacuation notices that affected many of you. This was a disaster preparedness reminder that came sooner than we all imagined one would.

I encourage you to read pages 4-5 in this issue to learn about the experience of Zechariah English, an employee who is also a Lane Electric member and was affected by both the snow and the flood. He also is our disaster preparedness advocate. Page 8 continues our snowstorm 2019 recap and includes answers to FAQs we received after the storm. Page 25 includes tips for safely using a generator.

For more information about disaster preparedness, I invite you to attend our upcoming district meetings. We are especially grateful to Lane County Emergency Manager Patence Winningham-Melcher, who will present disaster preparedness information at each meeting.

Also at our district meetings, you can meet with your directors, hear updates from your board president, legal counsel and me, and learn about the financial condition of the co-op. The meeting will include a question-and-answer session, dinner and door prizes. You should have received your voter’s packet in the mail by now or will soon. You can mail your ballot or turn it in at a district meeting.

District Meeting Dates and Locations

Dinner at 6 p.m., meeting at 6:30 p.m.

  • Thursday, May 2, Twin Oaks Elementary (Eugene)
  • Thursday, May 9, Westridge Elementary (Westfir)
  • Tuesday, May 14, Lowell High School Gymnasium
  • Thursday, May 16, Upper Mckenzie Community Center
  • Thursday, May 23, Dorena Grange

I look forward to seeing you at the meeting nearest you!

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — April 2019

A Storm for the Decades

Dear Co-op Community Members:

The snowstorm of February 2019 is one for the record books. In the past several decades, never have we seen so much damage to our service territory and the widespread outages that affected so many of our members for up to two weeks.

It was also a historic event due to the human capital we recruited to get the job done. You may have heard this already, but I think it bears repeating: A total of 111 linemen—95 more than our usual crew of 16—worked on behalf of Lane Electric to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. We are grateful for our rural electric cooperative family and other generous utilities throughout the state and across state lines who provided support.

I also applaud our entire team’s commitment and endurance. What you didn’t see in the field were the 28 Lane Electric staff members working behind the scenes to coordinate logistics with the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Transportation, Lane County and partnering utilities; manage an influx of materials and vehicles; organize meals, laundry and

housing for the crews; and distill information for member communications. From the accounting department to the lineworkers, it was an all-hands-on-deck operation.

While crews from other utilities have been sent home, Lane Electric crews continue restoration work in the aftermath of the storm. This includes addressing hazard trees and branches that were partially damaged in the storm and could now fall into power lines during inclement weather. They also will be retrieving downed wires and broken equipment that was covered by snow or fallen trees. The clean-up phase will last for several months. We may need to again bring in extra crews to get it all accomplished.

We heard many questions and concerns expressed during the outage: Why can’t you get more crews? Why can’t we get more specific information about restoration times? Why don’t you bury the lines so this doesn’t happen again?

I encourage you to read pages 4-5 and 8 for answers to these questions and to also attend our district meetings in May to hear more. See page 25 for district meeting dates and locations.

Finally, I would like to thank you, our members, for your patience and endurance during what we know was a difficult two weeks. As the dust settles, we all—as a utility and as individuals—are thinking about how to prepare for future major events. We hope you are doing the same. Whether it’s another winter storm or an earthquake, I truly believe it is not a question of if but when. At our district meetings and in future issues of Ruralite, we will share information about disaster preparedness and encourage you to take note.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
Acting General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — March 2019

Hello! Here’s What’s on the Horizon

Dear Co-op Community Members:

I would like to introduce myself and let you know how pleased I am to be serving you as acting general manager of Lane Electric Cooperative. While I have only been in this role for one month, I have been part of the Lane Electric team for 20 years, with 10 years in management. I am well-acquainted with our systems, have industry knowledge, and am familiar with many of our members and the issues that are important to you.

Many of you may be wondering who will be Matt Michel’s permanent successor. That decision lies in the hands of our board of directors. They are following the general manager search & selection policy, and there will be updates as the process progresses.

In the meantime, I am laser-focused on keeping the organization running smoothly. I am grateful for a committed team of employees who are working alongside me to make sure you have safe and reliable power delivered to your homes and businesses. And when outages do occur, I assure you that we are committed to restoring power as quickly and safely as possible.

Here are a few things on the horizon for all of us:

  • District Meetings. Stay tuned for exact dates and locations for the meeting in your area this May. See page 8 inside this issue for details on the directors whose terms expire and how to file to run for a seat on the board.
  • Broadband Feasibility and Education. We have contracted with National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative to do a broadband feasibility study for our service area. Our board and employees will also receive education from NRTC about broadband—an entirely different industry than the electric utility that comes with its own terminology and systems. By pursuing this research, we are not guaranteeing we will be able to deploy broadband. We are doing our due diligence in response to member inquiries about the possibility, and we will keep you updated.
  • Communications Preference Survey. As times and technology have evolved, we want to know from you how you would prefer to hear important news from us, such as outage notifications and updates. Expect a survey on this topic in the coming months.

On behalf of all the employees, from our linemen out in the field to our member service representatives in the office, we are moving forward in the cooperative way with an unending commitment to community and to you—our members.

If I haven’t met you already, I look forward to doing so very soon. Thank you for your membership with Lane Electric Cooperative.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
Acting General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — February 2019

Dear Co-op Community Members:

A few weeks ago, I announced my resignation as general manager of Lane Electric Cooperative to spend more time with family and pursue other opportunities.

It was not an easy decision, as it was a privilege and my honor to serve you the past four years. I learned a great deal about your communities and the beautiful McKenzie River and Willamette Valley that we are all blessed to call home.

Some of my favorite memories during my time at Lane Electric include the following:

  • Supporting the local 4-H Club’s livestock auction. Each year, Lane Electric buys a cow, pig or lamb that is then processed and donated to food banks in our service territory. As a 4-H Club member in my early years, I always enjoyed talking with youth about their experiences raising the animals.
  • Breaking bread with you every year at Lane Electric’s district meeting dinners.
  • Submitting this letter to you each month to keep you informed and connected with what’s happening at your cooperative.

Partnering with the dedicated board of directors and employees was an inspiring and rewarding experience that contributed to my growth. I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to work alongside each and every one of them to help bring safe, reliable and economical power to you. Together, we worked through challenges and successes. I feel proud of what we accomplished.

In my absence, the board has a transition plan in place. Pursuant to the cooperative’s succession policy, Debi Wilson, manager of finance and administration, is serving as acting general manager as the board searches for a permanent successor. Debi has been a team member at Lane Electric for 20 years, including the past 10 years as a manager. I know she will lead the co-op through the transition with poise and keen intellect.

Thank you for four great years and your membership with Lane Electric Cooperative.

All my best to you,

"Matt" signature

Matt Michel, former General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — January 2019

Dear Co-op Community Members:

The Lane Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, on behalf of the cooperative membership, is committed to keeping your co-op financially sound while making careful decisions about how members share that responsibility through rates. Effective for bills generated this month, the board decided to decrease the kilowatt-hour rate for residential rate class members and increase the monthly basic charge for all rate classes.

Lane Electric’s 2019 budget anticipates more construction, including several undergrounding projects, to improve reliability for decades to come. We borrow to finance these long-term improvements so each generation of members pays a fair share of the cost and benefit. The change to the basic charge across all rate classes reflects all current members’ share of the improvements.

Predictability is why the residential kilowatt-hour rate is decreasing. A lower kWh rate for the first tier of use helps stabilize your bill during cold spells when you use more electricity to stay warm. Also, a lower rate helps Lane Electric collect only the revenue it needs to meet operational goals. The cost to deliver that energy to you across the miles is more appropriately collected in the basic charge that stays the same each month regardless of how much energy you use. You can read more about rate structures and this rate change on pages 28-29 of this month’s issue.

Meeting operational needs with affordable rate structures continues to be a focus of the board of directors. The board, and all Lane Electric employees, understand the economic challenges that members face. We continue to offer energy-efficiency programs and have several ways to help you manage paying your monthly bill. If you would like to learn more about our payment options, including Pre-Pay, please visit our website or call us at 541-484-1151.

Matt Michel, General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — December 2018

A Lane Electric hat next to an illuminated decorative sign reading "Peace"

Dear co-op community members:

Happy Budget Season!

These past few months, the Lane Electric Board of Directors and staff have been as busy as Santa’s elves building a responsible budget for 2019. The board is evaluating the proposed budget and a potential rate increase, if necessary, to support the infrastructure improvements necessary for keeping your electricity reliable. We will keep you informed as soon as the budget is adopted and any rate adjustments are made.

Meanwhile, here are some storylines from the 2019 proposed budget:

  • We expect members to reduce their electric use next year by almost 1 million kilowatt-hours.
  • The proposed 2019 budget’s total expenses are slightly higher than the 2018 budget’s total expenses.
  • Next year looks to be the year for planning. Strategic planning, a substation communications feasibility plan and a disaster recovery plan are all in the works.

Happy Holiday Season!

On behalf of Lane Electric Cooperative Board of Directors and employees, we wish you a peaceful and joyous holiday season. May you cherish time with friends and family!

Matt Michel, General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – October 2018

Down The Line

Dear Co-op Community Members:

What could you do in 10 minutes? Sweep the floor? Complete Lane Electric’s member satisfaction and energy usage survey? We hope you will choose the latter so we can learn how we are doing and how to best plan for your future energy needs and preferences.

Recently, a small, randomly selected portion of our residential members received a member satisfaction and energy usage survey from our partner at PNGC Power. If you were one of the households who received the survey, we ask that you please take the time—it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes—to thoughtfully complete and return it in the postage-paid envelope by October 20. Your answers play an important role in shaping our power resource planning and learning how we can best serve you, our members.

Results from the last survey in 2016 enlightened us about our areas for improvement, including offering ways to help you save money on your electric bill and providing updated information about power outages on our website and social media. We’ve made those improvements, and look forward to learning what we can do next to improve your satisfaction.

Responding to the survey is one way you can contribute to the second cooperative principle: Democratic Member Control. As a democratic organization controlled by our members, that means we are focused on always learning what our member-customers want from their co-op. Data collected from this survey will help us do just that. Survey responses will remain anonymous. If you have any questions, our lines are always open. Feel free to call us at 541-484-1151, or email comment.question@laneelectric.com.

So, you can sweep the floors or fill out the survey. Which will you choose? (Psst … the floors don’t even know they’re dirty!)

Matt Michel, General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – September 2018

Down the Line

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Have you ever asked yourself how Lane Electric knows how much power it needs to buy? I know it may not be the most burning question on your mind, but it can be a fun and informative question to ask. For instance, would Lane Electric have enough power if every- one reading this turned on all their lights, dishwashers, home heating and clothes dryers at the same time? The answer is yes!

We plan and build for peak moments like what I just described so we are always able to meet our members’ power needs. We plan for power needs by looking at past use trends by time of day and season. We also ask you—our members—about how you use electricity, so we can see subtle trends in our memberships’ changing energy use. This month, some of you will be randomly selected to answer a survey that helps us understand our future power needs. The survey looks like this:

2018 Lane Electric Cooperative Satisfaction Survey. To Our Residential Electric Members: We are conducting a survey of our residential members to gain valuable information for our strategic planning and communication efforts. Thank you for helping us by participating in this survey. It should take you about five minutes to complete this questionnaire. Space is provided at the end of the survey to provide any additional comments or feedback that you may have. All of your responses to this questionnaire will be held confidential and will not identify you in any way. Please return this survey in the enclosed envelope by October 15. If you misplace the return envelope, we request that your return the form to the following address: Electric Cooperative Survey Processing, 1050 Regent St., Suite L3, Madison, WI 53715-1263

In the article “A Survey in Your Future“, you can learn more about this survey and how it plays an important role in our power resource planning.

If you receive a survey, please take the time to thoughtfully complete it and return it in the postage-paid envelope.

Thank you in advance for being a part of your co-op’s planning.

Matt Michel, General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – August 2018

Down the Line

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Lane Electric Cooperative has been in business for nearly 80 years. You experience the “electric” part every day. How we go about the business of safely providing you reliable electricity is the “cooperative” part.

What does it mean to be a cooperative business?

A cooperative business generally forms to meet a local need. For- profit businesses only offer a service or good because it’s profitable.

Sometimes, consumers must collaborate to acquire a good or service by creating a member-based cooperative. Lane Electric formed in 1939 to bring electricity to the upper McKenzie River and Veneta areas after no investor-owned utility would do so. It simply wasn’t profitable enough, and it still isn’t.

A cooperative business is nonprofit. When it comes to this tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code, a cooperative must receive 85 percent or more of its income from members. The sole purpose of that member income must be to meet annual losses and expenses. In other words, Lane Electric doesn’t chase profits to grow the business. We grow the business for members to have affordable access to electricity in rural Lane County.

A cooperative business is democratically controlled. Periodic member meetings occur to elect directors to the board of directors on a one-member, one-vote basis. Sustaining democratic governance requires a good functioning relationship between the board of directors and the general manager. To maintain checks and balances on certain democratic functions, members sometimes participate in co-op committees. Lane Electric’s Nominating Committee, and Elections & Credentials Committee are two examples of members ensuring our democratic processes serve the membership. Please contact me about participating on a member committee.

A cooperative business operates at cost. A cooperative cannot operate for a profit or below cost. There’s a sweet spot between those two extremes called operating “at cost.” At the end of the fiscal year, excess operating net revenues are allocated back to members according to the amount of electricity used by each member. As a cooperative member, every year you are credited an allocation of any excess net revenues—capital credits—to ensure the co-op hits that sweet spot.

Finally, a cooperative is a grassroots organization. It’s not “the government.” It’s all of you, together. It’s consumers collaborating to plan for and meet local needs. That sounds like simply being neighborly. A cooperative business takes being neighborly to the next level.

Matt Michel, General Manager