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 — July 2021

2021 Annual Meeting Update

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonIt is hard to believe it’s July and we are halfway through this unusual year. I am excited to see the progress we have made in our community toward reopening.

On May 24, Lane Electric held its annual meeting virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. Directors, staff, and members met via Zoom to get updates on the happenings at Lane Electric. Did you miss this year’s meeting? While it would be difficult to cover all aspects, I want to share some highlights and topics covered.

Financial Status

We are financially healthy, despite many obstacles: the 2019 snowstorm, the pandemic, the wind, and the wildfires.

Our Federal Emergency Management Agency grants of about $3.7 million were approved. This allows us to pay down debt incurred to repair snowstorm damage. A huge thank you to Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley for their continued support of FEMA grants.

So far this year, we are meeting our financial objectives!

McKenzie River Area Fire & Rebuilding

On September 7, 2020, the McKenzie River area was devastated by a wildfire. We were recently named in a lawsuit and are providing our full cooperation as the investigation continues.

The U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry are conducting the investigation, and a timeline has not been set for its completion.

We want to rebuild a system stronger than before. We are developing plans to submit to FEMA for grants that would allow us to put overhead lines underground. We hope we can coordinate with phone and internet providers to bury their facilities as well.

System Resilience & Reliability

While we work to underground more areas of our system, we are proud of our progress. Right now, 52.9% of our distribution system is underground. This is uncommon for a rural utility.

This year, our board of directors authorized $5.7 million to put overhead lines underground. The total cost without grant funding is $16.5 million. We are thankful for how much we can accomplish on a quicker timeline with these grants!

Safety

Safety is key. Employees reached another milestone: We have had two calendar years without a lost-time accident. This is a wonderful achievement, and I am very proud of our employees.

If we missed you at the annual meeting this year, we hope to see you next year! If you were able to attend our virtual meeting, thank you. I am proud of our employees for their service to our community and would like to thank our board of directors for providing the resources needed to provide the best service possible. Stay safe and have a wonderful summer!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — June 2021

Is Your Home Prepared?

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi Wilson

Last year, Oregon communities suffered devastating losses due to wildfires. Forecasters are predicting another dry summer and drought conditions throughout our state.

At Lane Electric, we have been reviewing our safety and wildfire protocols and want to encourage our members to also take steps to reduce their home’s wildfire risk. These fires will continue to happen, and we want our members to know there are things our communities can do to better protect our homes and neighborhoods. Is your home prepared for wildfires?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends choosing fire-resistant building materials and limiting flammable vegetation in the three home ignition zones. The three zones are immediate (0 to 5 feet around the house), intermediate (5 to 30 feet), and extended (30 to 100 feet). Their recommendation includes a list of things you can do around your home to make it safer from embers and radiant heat. The list includes:

  • Clean roof and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles.
  • Replace or repair loose or missing shingles or roof tiles.
  • Install 1/8-inch metal mesh screening on vents in the eaves.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and broken windows.
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors: mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles anything that can burn.
  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Many more resources are available to help you prepare. We encourage you to visit the National Fire Protection Association website or their Firewise USA Resources page to learn what you can do in all three zones to help mitigate your risk.

At Lane Electric, we will continue our tree-trimming programs and safety inspections to help mitigate risks. As weather conditions warrant, we will make changes to our system to help reduce risks, yet those changes could result in increased outages.

The extra time it takes to patrol the lines will increase the length of some outages. We know outages are frustrating, but we feel it is important for us to help keep our communities safe and green.

We hope you will join us in preparing and mitigating risks to our beautiful communities.

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — May 2021

2021 Virtual Annual Meeting

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi Wilson

Mark your calendars! This month is Lane Electric’s annual meeting. We can’t wait to see you online. As our community continues to make progress in reducing our COVID-19 cases, unfortunately, we are unable to meet in person again this year for our annual meeting. While we can’t meet in person, we do have all the same important information and updates to share with our members. You can join us from the comfort of your home or office.

Soon, you will receive your official invitation and ballot in the mail. Your packet will include information on how to register for this year’s virtual meeting.

During the virtual meeting, members will have an opportunity to meet with the cooperative’s directors, hear important messages, and learn about co-op happenings from your board president, me, and our legal counsel. You will hear about the financial condition of the co-op and future plans.

This year’s format will be similar to the 2020 annual meeting. We will provide updates, reports, business information and close with a question-and-answer period.

This meeting with our members is important to me and the co-op. This is why, as your general manager, I want to personally invite you to this year’s virtual annual meeting. The meeting will be held on Zoom, Monday, May 24, at 4:30 pm.

If you were unable to attend our annual meeting last year, I encourage you to join us this year. As you receive your voting packet, please review the information, mark your calendar and come see us. Your participation and vote matter. We hope to see you on May 24.

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

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