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 — March 2021

LEC Board: Dedication to Service

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi Wilson

Every three years, Lane Electric members have an opportunity to vote for a board member to serve their district. These board members represent you and the unique needs of your district and community. Lane Electric has a seven-member board that serves our four diverse districts. They are dedicated to serving you and their community. If you look at their resumes, you will notice they serve beyond the board of Lane Electric.

Being a board member at Lane Electric requires monthly meetings, staying up to date on issues facing the industry, setting rates, and attending industry meetings. The time required to be a board member is more than the time given attending a monthly meeting. Yet, you will also see these dedicated people serving your communities through youth and senior citizen programs, food banks, school boards, as classroom volunteers, education foundations, Rotary, chambers of commerce, and many more. We are thankful to the current and past members who give so much of their time.

Some of our board members are dedicated to Lane Electric and our members beyond a single term.

I would like to take a moment to appreciate a former board member, Jim Hill, who served on the Lane Electric Board from 1974 to 2013, dedicating 39 years to the board of directors. Jim recently died at the age of 96. He served in every official capacity on the Lane Electric Board. Jim was often appointed to these positions by his colleagues because of his experience and wisdom. He was one of the first directors to complete the comprehensive education necessary to earn board certification credentials from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. In 2013, he was honored with a Life Membership Award from the Northwest Public Power Association. Jim was dedicated to serving Lane Electric and our members.

Just like our current board members, Jim was not only dedicated to his service at Lane Electric. He was a World War II veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946. He also was a lifelong resident of Oakridge, where he and his wife, Dorothy, raised their three children. He devoted time to his community as well, serving youth and senior citizen programs. Jim dedicated 39 years, making our employees and members his utmost priority.

It is people like Jim and all of our Lane Electric board members who help make our communities better. Their time and dedication to service is appreciated by many. I want to thank not only current and past board members, but also their families, who give of their time to serve our members. You are all appreciated!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — January 2021

Lane Electric Staff Works to Serve You

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonHappy New Year! As we prepare for a new year and new goals, there is one thing we remain committed to: serving you, our members. While our operations have looked different the past several months, we continue to focus on providing reliable electric service to your homes and businesses.

With our doors still closed to the public, we miss the face-to-face interactions with you, but it has not stopped our dedicated staff from serving you. Lane Electric staff are devoted to our members. They are ready to answer your phone calls and questions; provide assistance to your electric service needs; and provide routine maintenance and repair to electric lines.

In the midst of the adjustments to our new—hopefully temporary—normal, we continued to prepare for 2021. In the upcoming year, we have some planned projects, continuing projects, and hope to receive grants that offset costs and increase safety to our members.

Staff will continue to focus a significant amount of time on the repairs and rebuilding of the McKenzie River area after the summer wildfires. These fires were devastating to our community and to the electrical infrastructure that services the area. To mitigate disasters like this in the future, Lane Electric has applied and is awaiting approval for two Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grants for projects in Eugene and Veneta. These grants will help implement long-term hazard mitigation planning and reduce the vulnerability of communities to the effects of disasters.

Lastly, in 2021, we have planned four overhead-to-underground projects in Creswell, Eugene, Oakridge, and Cottage Grove. Moving these lines underground increases electric service reliability for our members, especially during inclement weather.

These planned projects are part of our continued effort to make the Lane Electric electrical system more resilient. Due to COVID-19, we will continue to have limitations, but we look forward to resuming normal operations sometime in the future. Someday soon, we hope to reopen the office doors to you and meet in person at a district meeting. We miss our members, and we wish you the very best in 2021!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — December 2020

Not the Year We Expected

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi Wilson

As we wrap up 2020, I reflected on this time last year. There was hope and excitement for a new year and decade. Each new year brings a feeling of opportunity and optimism, yet we all know 2020 has not been the year any of us expected!

Who knew on March 13—Friday the 13th to be exact—so many changes would happen in our communities? Life as we knew it began to look a lot different; offices closed, schools closed, community meetings and activities were canceled, and sadly our graduates celebrated in very different ways. While many of these things were difficult, there was still positivity around us.

This year, I witnessed the flexibility and dedication of our staff and our members. Staff had to make many adjustments throughout the year on where and how they worked. Work had to be completed from a distance, and many of our service processes had to be adapted to maintain social distancing. Members had to adjust by completing all communications electronically with our team; we are hopeful for the day we can meet again in the office for a payment or a quick hello. Serving our community is what makes us smile. Thank you to everyone for your understanding and flexibility these past several months.

This year, we also got to watch our community step up in creative ways and support one another. Zoom was used for meetings and celebrations. Our schools came up with creative ways to celebrate graduates. Then, during the devastating fires, we watched our community rally around those who had lost so much. I am also proud of the donations Lane Electric made to our five local food pantries during this time of need. We gave $1,250 to each pantry for a total of $6,250. Added to that, one of our lenders, CoBank, matched the donations, giving an additional $1,250 to each food bank. We are a community of givers, and even during difficult times, it is amazing to witness the hearts and perseverance of others.

In closing, it is with a heavy heart I share the passing of a beloved Lane Electric employee. On November 9, Dave D’Avanzo passed away. He retired from Lane Electric in 2018 after 16 years of dedicated service. Dave was kind, generous, and loved serving others. He will be greatly missed by our employees, members, industry associates, and our community. We will have a tribute to Dave in a future Ruralite magazine. Our hearts are with his family.

I wish you and your families health and happiness during this holiday season.

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — November 2020

Reflection and Gratefulness

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonAs I reflected on this time last year, our world and community did not know the challenges and sorrow 2020 would bring. I am certain many of us are ready to see 2020 come to end and anticipate better days ahead in 2021. Yet, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, it is important to look at the things we have around us to be grateful for, even in challenging times.

COVID-19 and the Holiday Farm Fire have brought loss, sorrow, and many challenges to our day-to-day lives. During this time, I have witnessed many people step up to help. Members in our community got out thread, fabric, and sewing machines to make masks for those in need or on the front lines. Our community and surrounding communities provided food, clothing, and other supplies to help those affected by wildfires. These are only a few examples. To all those who helped, thank you!

Another group I am thankful for is our veterans and service members. Our country would not have the freedoms we do without your sacrifice. My first priority is to pause and thank each of our members who have given their time to serve and sacrifice for our country. We also appreciate the sacrifice of each family that has a loved one who has served, or is currently serving, in our armed forces. You also sacrifice in the absence of your loved one. Thank you to our servicemen and women!

As we sit down on Thanksgiving Day, many of us will pause and give thanks with loved ones. Our tables may look a little different this year. We may not all be together at one table. Some of us will gather at homes and others will gather to give their time to serve others. Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to spend a day reflecting on what we are grateful for in an intentional way.

I know this has been a tough year for many. I feel great sorrow for those who have lost their homes or have significant cleanup ahead in the aftermath of the wildfires. We are thankful for the great people in the communities we serve, and we are diligently working to get power restored to all homes by Thanksgiving.

In closing, while you take the time to think about the things you are thankful for, I want to thank you. Thank you to our members who support public power. Thank you to those who have served. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. Enjoy the Thanksgiving season!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — October 2020

Beacon of Light

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonAt Lane Electric, our hearts are heavy. This year has presented many challenges, beginning with COVID-19 in March, that brought significant change to our daily lives. As we wrapped up a beautiful Labor Day weekend, devastating wildfires spread through our small and beautiful McKenzie River communities.

Our hearts are with you during this significant loss to your homes, businesses, and the true beauty of this area.

While the damage is great and healing will take time, we have a beacon of light. Lane Electric has begun repairs in areas where it is safe to do so.

There was significant damage to our electrical system and the Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission system. BPA has transmission lines out of service due to wind and wildfire. Lane Electric’s system sustained damage from the powerful windstorm that swept through the area. Other parts of the system continue to sustain damage from the Holiday Farm Fire.

At the east end of the McKenzie River electrical system, we were able to replace nearly 40 poles and provide repairs up to McKenzie School. Lane Electric brought in a 2-megawatt generator to power up the substation and return light to those homes.

While we are excited and thankful to restore service to this area, there is a lot of work ahead to rebuild our electrical system.

We have just begun to repair the damage. Service to all will take time and careful planning. At the time of this letter, damage continues to our system as the fire still smolders. When we know it is safe to return to those areas, we will assess the damage and create a plan to rebuild the electrical system.

We know Lane Electric is a small part of rebuilding these beautiful communities. The McKenzie River communities are strong, and we look forward to rebuilding with you. We are excited to again visit your restaurants and businesses, and provide service to your homes.

I have profound sorrow for your losses, and my heart—as well as those of all Lane Electric employees and the board of directors—are with you.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — September 2020

Be Heard, Join ACRE

Debi WilsonSummers here at the co-op are some of our busiest times. The dry weather allows us to prepare for storms by performing system maintenance, trimming rights-of-way, and inspecting lines that are otherwise problematic to reach.

There actually are a few storms brewing that we could use your help to prepare for.

We are all experiencing difficulties and a certain degree of loss during these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. There also are pressing legislative issues that need our collective attention.

As Congress continues to struggle with relief packages and charting a course back to prosperity, there is an opportunity for us to advocate for our co-op and our communities.

We need to urge policymakers to minimize COVID-19 impacts and provide a safety net by:

  • Promoting investment to expand broadband access in areas of rural America that lack internet access, like much of our service territory.
  • Providing federal funds to address potential operational shortfalls for electric co-ops whose members are disproportionally affected by the economic downturn and not able to pay their bills.
  • Directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to swiftly provide promised funding to co-ops that have restored their electric systems devastated by past disasters, such as last year’s snowstorm.

Here is how you can do all that and more, in less than 5 minutes.

Cooperatives across Oregon are encouraging their members to promote commonsense solutions by way of a grassroots program called Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association Action, or ORECA-Action.

Upon visiting the Oreca-Action website, click the “Take Action” button, which will provide you with information about things you can do right now to help us better weather the storms ahead. Please visit the site today and help us help you.

Cooperatives have a storied past of political engagement. They understand the power that comes from banding together with those around us to advocate for things important to us.

After all, it was a group of concerned neighbors up the McKenzie River that got together in the late 1930s to make their voices heard, which spurred the creation of what is now Lane Electric Cooperative.

More recently, it took a group of concerned co-op members to reach out to their elected officials to advocate for support of the RURAL Act, which corrected unintended changes to the IRS code that would have cost us our tax-exempt status.

It will take just such a group of concerned citizens to continue supporting the preferred alternative of the Environmental Impact Study regarding the four lower Snake River dams to keep our power clean, reliable, and economical.

It’s more important than ever to work cooperatively and advocate for solutions to the problems facing our co-op, our community, and our country.

We need to do our part and add our voices to the many others around us. Members of Congress work for us, and they need to hear our stories.

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — August 2020

Virtual Annual Meeting Follow-Up

Debi WilsonIncluded in this edition of Ruralite are follow-up reports that were promised during our first-ever virtual annual meeting. I hope you take some time to look them over. They are helpful in understanding some of the behind-the-scenes efforts we undertake at the cooperative.

As indicated in those reports, safety and financial stability are important to all of us here at Lane Electric. We also value your ability to work and thrive in the communities we serve. That is why we usually hold district meetings each year throughout our service territory—a practice that is not typical for most other co-ops.

We heard from many of you that providing broadband internet was something you would like us to explore.

Last year, I told you Lane Electric was working with the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative to conduct a broadband feasibility study. After an extensive study and assessing multiple paths to feasibility, the results of the study are now here. Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive, meaning it would only be feasible under what I would consider to be overly ambitious conditions.

The biggest factor identified in the feasibility study is the lack of poles on which to attach the fiber.

Lane Electric strives to improve the quality of rural life for our members. The resiliency improvements we have made converting our overhead power lines to underground means there are not enough poles on which to attach the fiber. About 53% of our power lines are underground and safe from severe weather.

I am proud of the progress we have made to protect our electric system. At the same time, I am disappointed at the outcome of the feasibility study.

Feasibility is essential to developing a financially sound business plan. This is what you have come to expect of Lane Electric, as do our lenders.

While there currently is no sustainable path forward, we will continue to explore opportunities to support expansion of broadband services in Lane County.

A bright spot is that this news comes as Lane Electric is developing a strategic plan that will guide our actions the next few years. This insightful experience helps us confidently navigate how best to serve and support our rural communities.

I look forward to sharing more on our strategic plans as things take shape, and am excited by the discussions we are having about the future of Lane Electric.

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — July 2020

A Different Kind of Annual Meeting

Debi WilsonBy the time this message reaches you, we will have conducted our first digital annual meeting. While certainly not our ideal channel of communications, the fact that during this pandemic we can still hold this meeting and conduct the business of the co-op is exciting.

Many of the reports that would typically be shared at our annual meeting will be included in future editions of this magazine. Please take a moment to look at that information when it arrives. We would, of course, still appreciate hearing your questions, comments, and concerns.

Speaking of concerns, there have been many during this time of pandemic and pandemonium in the world. Your cooperative, however, has been running smoothly and efficiently.

We have taken great care to keep our members and employees safe as we follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state guidelines for doing so. Our ability to keep the power on is truly a life-or-death situation in some cases, and we take this pandemic seriously. We have had zero cases of the virus thus far and plan to keep it that way.

We are relieved to have recently been granted the expanded ability to perform preventive maintenance and storm hardening measures on our system. The summer months are when we perform many of the tasks that increase system reliability during the fall and winter.

System reliability is important, but so is the ability to fund that extremely important work. In these trying times, we are aware of the financial difficulties of many of our members. Our office staff has done its best to stay current on all the options available to those finding themselves in need. Please call us sooner rather than later if you think you need assistance or payment extension.

Financially speaking, Lane Electric is in great shape. That is not necessarily the case for other power companies in the state. Our revenue largely comes from residential energy use, which has seen far less interruption than business or industrial energy use. This often is a double-edged sword, but currently it is working in our favor.

Also working in our favor are the recent new hires we have welcomed to our team. We reported in the annual meeting packet that we have hired 10 new staff members this past year. These are not additions to our overall numbers, but rather replacements for retirements and people who have moved on to other opportunities. Three of those new hires are management staff who were hired after national searches. I couldn’t be happier with the team we have assembled and the work of our staff.

Most importantly, these hires have increased our capacity to offer exceptional customer service and ensure sustainable energy sources for our members.

We are proud to serve you and proud to be owned by those we serve!

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — June 2020

Coping With COVID-19

Debi WilsonAs you know, safety is a priority here at Lane Electric. When we think of safety, we tend to think of high-voltage lines, working at the top of a pole, or slips, trips, and falls. With COVID-19, safety has taken on a different look.

We now work 6 feet apart. We view documents together by sharing a computer screen via video rather than looking over someone’s shoulder. Co-workers are seen by video rather than by passing in the hallway. We sanitize the surfaces we touch, wash our hands more often, and use hand sanitizer. When we can’t be 6 feet apart, we wear face masks.

We will be making revisions to the office to add protection for members and employees. Until then, the lobby is closed to the public until further notice.

With new Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance, linemen will be back to work maintaining and improving the system. Rest assured; we are here to serve you!

We all look forward to the day when we are able again to see you face to face. I hope it’s soon.

Annual Meeting

You will soon receive an annual meeting packet in the mail. It will contain information about voting and how to access the annual meeting Monday, June 22, at 4 p.m.

Due to Gov. Kate Brown’s restrictions on public gatherings, we will hold the business meeting via an online webinar this year. You may participate by video or telephone. Please visit our website for more information.

District Meetings

We hope to hold district meetings in some fashion later this fall. We value the time spent at those meetings sharing information and gathering feedback from you all, so stay tuned.

Thank You

I would like to thank our incredible staff for everything they are doing under these unusual circumstances. I also want to thank all of you for your understanding and support. We know it hasn’t been easy, but together we can get through it. That spirit is what makes us a co-op. We are truly more powerful together. Our future remains bright.

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — May 2020

We Continue to Adapt Through COVID-19

Debi WilsonDear Co-op Community Members:

This past month has definitely been a time of change and adaptations. At Lane Electric, our staff continues to balance the executive orders from Gov. Kate Brown while also ensuring our members have electricity to work, learn and continue daily life from home.

Our main office will remain closed through May 15, due to updated orders from Gov. Brown. Please continue to contact us via phone or email, Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

If you experience an outage, we are here to answer your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We continue to respond to outages and ask that if you see our linemen working, please do not approach them. If they need to talk with you, they will maintain a safe 6-foot distance away from you. They are restricted on the work they can do, but we appreciate their efforts to keep our members’ lights on.

Meter Reading

Our communication to our meters is not always perfect, and accurate bills are important. If we are unable get a read, we may contact you to help us. If you are unable to help with a meter read, we will estimate your bill and adjust it when we can obtain a good read. Thank you, Lane Electric members, for your help!

Payments

We pride ourselves on being able to do what is best for all members. Lane Electric does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to our service. If you are faced with serious illness or job loss, we help our members when they call. Please contact us so we can work with you!

Annual Meeting

Each year, we look forward to the opportunity to get out and visit members throughout our district. Sadly, this year needs to look a little different.

Our annual meeting is Monday, June 22, but our district meetings will be postponed. The details of this meeting are still in the planning stages, due to restrictions that may still be in effect on our scheduled date. We will keep members up to date on the logistics of this meeting. We may be required to video the meeting this year. We hope to get out and see you all this fall, when we will schedule our district meetings.

Please continue to stay safe and check our website for any updates. We look forward to seeing you in person soon!

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager