BEC plans take flight at annual meeting

By: 
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, May 9, 2019

Photo by Kevin Owens
(Left and Right): Dr. Marco Restani, a wildlife biologist and professor, was the keynote speaker at the BEC Annual Meeting at Anipro Event Center in Absarokee, here with Gus Behrent, BEC Sub-Foreman.

Beartooth Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BEC), held its 81st Annual Meeting on Saturday, May 4, at Anipro Event Center in Absarokee. About 141 attended. It was a breath of fresh air as the board and staff optimistically predicted a bright future for the cooperative. 

When discussing finances, General Manager Kevin Owens said regarding the state of BEC for 2019, “We’re rock solid! We’re doing fantastic! We’ve got a lot of great projects.”

The upgraded meter change is one third completed and should be finished by year’s end. “We have a plan!” said Owens. “The challenge is to stay on the task. We know where we’re going financially.” 

BEC has cleared many major hurdles to date and is on stable ground after years of upheaval when it was part of Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative, Inc. (Southern) and facing almost half a billion in potentially  severable debt. The board has put those days firmly behind. 

Revenue for 2018 was down a little to $8,577 million from $8,702 million; patronage capital up to $8,463 from $7,136 million. 

For 2019, the budget is up to $8,631,900 from 2018’s $8,393,700 with an operating margin of over half a million dollars. Budget forecasts for the next three years are 2020: $8,685,824, 2021: $8,740,085 and 2022: $8,794,684, respectively. Year’s end cash is expected to be $699,443. Long term debt projects a decrease from $11,372,531 for 2018 to $10,561,702 for 2019. 

There were some lighthearted moments. It wasn’t entirely coincidental that the keynote speaker was wildlife biologist and professor, Dr. Marco Restani, of Red Lodge, who spoke about ospreys. The audience donned little osprey masks when he came to the podium courtesy of BEC. (The masks will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Carbon County.)   

“It was a nice segue,” said BEC General Manager, Kevin Owens. “My guys work with him. If an osprey comes to a (power) pole and nests, we put up an adjacent pole with a platform and take down the nest.” All sticks must be completely taken away. Then, “they rebuild it on the new pole-every time!” 

Restani noted ospreys prefer the open areas like around telephone poles, because their one enemy, the Great Horned Owl, prefers the cottonwoods. Owens agreed, “You won’t see them there.” BEC has lots of paraphernalia to discourage the birds. Live wires are not a safe place to raise a family. 

Pending improvements noted by Owens include a new cost study that will look at the rate designs that “will mesh with the new meters and put more information on hand for our customers. It’s really great for a little utility to be able to do that! It’s a huge leap forward in technology and providing information and more value to members.” Always, transparency is the goal.

BEC has sold out all 80 of its solar panels for its Shares du Soleil Phase II program and is hoping for grant news from the Department of Agriculture to purchase more. Owens was thrilled to report that a couple businesses have jumped on a suggestion he made for businesses to contribute not only some money but some of their energy to those having trouble making their bills. “It is out of Operation Round-up (members round up their bills and the excess payment goes to an account to help those struggling to pay their electric bills). 

“Several businesses bought 8 to 9 panels and will donate the output to Operation Roundup! This is not only funds for the board but also an energy bank for people having trouble paying their bills. It’s truly innovative. I haven’t seen it done anywhere nationally!” said Owens. 

He gives kudos to BEC President Julie Lindgren for approaching Yellowstone Bank’s Joe Griffin with the idea. “He purchased 8 panels and he’s not even in the district.” But his customers are a lot of BEC members. “One individual just donated $25,” he added. 

All current trustees running were reelected: Roxi Melton and Arleen Boyd. Said Boyd, “Ralph Lewis was elected to finish David Peterson¹s term as the bylaws require. The Board appointed him and he serves until the next annual meeting (Saturday) when he is elected (or not) to complete the term of the person he was elected to replace. Ralph is from Reed Point."

Boyd gave an update as Chair of the By-law committee. She said the 2012 by-laws are getting a major reworking. 

She noted, “Being completely transparent has never hurt us despite warnings that it might be dangerous to share so much detail about what we are doing.”

Boyd stressed, “This co-op is different from other co-ops in many very positive ways.  Our transparency is close to unique. Our insistence on analysis before decision-making is extreme and it has enabled some very successful breakthrough actions like deciding to purchase power without taking on a 50-year contract with a generation and transmission cooperative as most co-ops do. 

We perform analyses of what-if scenarios regularly – an unusual process for rural co-ops. We abstain from bundled resolutions with state and national organizations because we have members with divided opinions on some important issues.  We have term limits for trustees.  I have learned that the electricity business is complicated, but as with any business: if you dig in there are extraordinary people and materials to help you step up."  Boyd serves as Co-Chair with Bill Pascoe on the Risk Management Committee.  They stress due diligence. 

She warned that committee members must do their homework. “Hunkering down for serious due diligence and risk management analyses pays off   -- jumping to conclusions is dangerous.”

She noted, “I have learned that we have members with invaluable skills and perspectives to contribute – when they step up the co-op wins.”

Regarding  Risk Management Committee members Boyd noted, “The  benefits for Beartooth Electric from the committee have been enormous  with contributed time from experienced financial managers, bankers, business people and just plain smart members who care about analysis to support good decision making."

For 2019, Risk Management projects include: creating a financial forecast Model; COSA support (intelligent energy thermostat); rate design analysis; equity management research and seeking energy conservation opportunities. 

Owens noted that people came up to him at the meeting to thank him. He was very appreciative. “We have a small number of employees. They work very, very hard. Trust is something you have to earn.”  

Category:

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, May 20, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, May 24, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Monday, May 27, 2019 - 7:00am
    *American Legion Carbon County Post 17 Memorial Day schedule, May 27 7 a.m. Breakfast at Red Lodge Café 8:30 a.m. Memorial Service at Belfry Cemetery 9:30 a.m. Memorial Service at Bearcreek Cemetery 10:30 a.m. Parade through Red Lodge.  10:15 a.m. Meet at the corner of 14th and Broadway. Following parade there will be a lunch  at the Red Lodge Elk’s Lodge 11 a.m. Memorial Service at Red Lodge Cemetery 1:30 p.m. Parade in Roberts followed by Memorial Service at Roberts Cemetery. For further information contact Kenneth Beggs, Commander Carbon County Post 17 at kenbeggs42@yahoo.com   *The Clarks Fork American Legion Post 71 and the Joliet VFW Post 5748 will be doing Memorial Day services Monday, May 27. Rev. Robert Reed of the Joliet Baptist  Church will be the Speaker of the day.   The schedule for the day will be: 9 a.m. Services at the Gebo Cemetery. 9:30 a.m. March through Fromberg Main St. 10 a.m.   Services at Rockvale Cemetery 11 a.m. Services at Joliet Cemetery 11:30 a.m. March through Joliet Main St. A potluck lunch will be held at the  Joliet Community Center following the services.  Everyone is welcome to come. Any veterans who would like to help who haven’t been contacted can show up at the Gebo Cemetery at 8:45 a.m. Memorial Day or call Rich Pierce at 962-3320 or Jody Stene 962-3779.  

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

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