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Tri-County EMC’s Annual Meeting, like many things in 2020, looked a little different this year. Instead of meeting in our Community Room in our Gray office, the cooperative’s 81st annual meeting was held virtually, streamed on Facebook Live and on

Through voting online and by mail, 1,591 cooperative members participated in their cooperative’s annual election process. The membership re-elected Post 1 incumbent directors Dan Greene (District 1: Jones, and Bibb Counties), Brenda P. Green (District 2: Putnam, Jasper and Morgan County), and Sammy Hall (District 3: Baldwin, Wilkinson and Twiggs County). In addition to the election of these directors, a special election was held to fill the unexpired term of retiring board member Chester Mercer. Earlier this year, Chap Nelson was chosen to serve in that position until the cooperative election, at which time he would need to be re-elected by the membership at large if he wanted to continue to serve. Nelson chose to continue his service and submitted his name to the Nominating Committee to be included on the ballot. Nelson ran unopposed for Post 2, District 1 (Jones and Bibb Counties) and was re-elected.

The proposed bylaw amendment included on the ballot also passed by a majority vote of 62%. The amendment’s passage transfers the role of selecting Nominating Committee members from in-person election at the annual meeting to appointment by the cooperative’s board of directors. This change streamlines the process and ensures that business meetings can be held virtually, which is certainly necessary during COVID. The passing of the amendment does not change the qualifications for and duties of the Nominating Committee members under Tri-County EMC bylaws. The process for members to run for board seats also remains unchanged.

During her address, Brenda P. Green, Chairman of the Tri-County EMC Board of Directors, informed viewers that the cooperative is in strong financial shape, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is due in part to the strength and resilience of our membership,” said Green. “You found creative and innovative ways to keep your businesses going and employees working. We are proud to be part of this community.”

Green also reported that in December 2019, Tri-County EMC retired $2.7 million in capital credits to individuals that were members from 1993-1997. Like stock dividends in a for-profit company, capital credits represent your share of ownership in the electric cooperative. If your bill is one percent of the cooperative’s total revenue, your portion of capital credits would be one percent of the co-op’s margins. Tri-County hopes to refund a comparable amount in 2020.

Ray Grinberg, CEO, acknowledged that 2020 was a little different from the year that had been planned. “Even though this year didn’t go quite as we expected, we worked towards three fundamental objectives,” said Grinberg. “Keeping our employees, members and the public safe, keeping the lights on, and giving our members access to tools to manage their accounts and energy usage. Even in times of hardship, these were goals that we strived towards this year.”

During the height of COVID, measures were taken to keep our employees safe and socially distanced – especially for linemen – so the cooperative could keep the lights on. As the financial impact of COVID-19 became apparent, Tri-County took measures to assist members as well. “As we were beginning to see the financial effects of COVID, we temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment until June. In addition, several payment options were made available for members financially affected by COVID. And options are still available for those that continue to be affected,” said Grinberg. 

To keep members safe, lobbies continue to remain closed. “We feel it is important to do our part in continuing to social distance where we can,” said Grinberg. “Although our lobbies are closed, our drive-thru windows are open. In addition, we have added two payment kiosks in the drive-thrus of our offices,  and added the ability to pay your bill at Dollar General, CVS and other retailers through the CheckOut program.”

In early spring, Tri-County EMC stepped up its right-of-way maintenance efforts by introducing a new right-of-way contractor, Georgia Right of Way to keep Tri-County’s nearly three-thousand miles of power lines clear. “15% of the cooperative’s controllable costs are spent on maintaining our right-of-way. It’s one of the most important investments we can make to increase reliability,” said Grinberg.

In 2021, the first of the two new units at plant Vogtle will be added to Tri-County’s fuel mix. “This will add a significant amount of clean, carbon-free power that will serve Georgia for decades to come,” said Grinberg. Although Tri-County has not had a rate increase since 2014, an adjustment will need to be made to add the cost of these new resources into the rates.

And finally, a major initiative for 2020 has been and continues to be connectivity, both for the cooperative’s internal needs and for the community. COVID-19 has compounded poor internet access for those needing to study or work from home. In 2019, Governor Kemp signed Senate Bill 2 giving the EMC’s statutory authority to provide internet service. Earlier this year, Tri-County commissioned a feasibility study that looked at providing fiber-to-the-home retail broadband service. The cooperative’s staff and board of directors are actively working to assess the existing internet service available to Tri-County members and options for potentially entering this business. In September, Tri-County’s membership was surveyed, asking for opinions about your internet service and whether you would consider switching. “We appreciate the outpouring of input. We anticipate making a final decision about our role in helping our community get high speed internet by the end of the year,” said Grinberg.

Ballot Drawing Winners:

Tri-County EMC distributed $50 bill credits to 10 lucky members who voted in the cooperative’s 2020 Election. Larry Davis of  Baldwin County won the $500 grand prize. Thanks to all members that participated in the election this year. Be sure to vote in the election next year to have a chance to win.

Shannon King, Putnam Co.
Chris Fesmire, Jones Co.
Amos Ryce, Jones Co.
Steve Sexton, Jones Co.
Osvaldo Castro-Poveda, Putnam Co.
Jewel Deveraux, Putnam Co.
Lawton Wright, Baldwin Co.
Joann Hill, Putnam Co.
Leonard McBee, Putnam Co.
Jack Finley, Putnam Co.

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