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Annual Meetings and Elections

OTEC Celebrates 29th Annual Membership Meeting in La Grande

LA GRANDE, Ore. (OTEC) - It was a packed house as members from across four Eastern Oregon counties traveled to attend Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative’s 29th Annual Membership Meeting at the Blue Mountain Conference Center in La Grande, OR.

Board President George Galloway welcomed the membership and highlighted the clean audit OTEC received in 2017 as well as reviewed the steps the OTEC Board and Management have taken to ensure the excellent financial health of the electric cooperative.

“It pleases me to tell you that our auditors recently notified the board that they found no issues of concern and added that our financial staff are doing a very good job,” said Galloway. “Our financial strength is very good and continues to gradual improvement. Our percentage of debt is one of the lowest among electric cooperatives nationally.”

Galloway also noted the challenges and opportunities OTEC will face in the future from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), increased distributed generation, and new technologies while working to keep electric rates low.

“We work really hard at keeping our rates as low as possible. But, as you have heard before, half of our costs come from power purchases from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA),” said Galloway. “This is the hardest cost for us to control.”

“Every few years BPA raises their rates and we are pretty much compelled as a non-profit organization to pass those costs through to the membership,” noted Galloway. “This year’s BPA rate increase is not yet finalized, but it looks like we will need to raise our member’s rates by 4 or 5 percent this year. This will happen in the fall and will include a small amount to cover increases in our non-power costs. This allows us to keep our rates unchanged for another two year period.”

Galloway added, “I think that we do have to acknowledge that whatever they (BPA) does, it is a great bargain because it contributes to OTEC having one of the lowest rates in the country.”

The challenges of the past winter, franchise taxes, safety, capital investments and the arrival of OTEC’s new general manager, Les Penning, were also highlighted.

“As a board, one of our most important jobs is to recruit a skilled General Manager,” said Galloway “With the retirement of Werner Buehler at the end of 2016, the critical challenge for the board this year was to find a replacement for him. I am pleased to report it appears we were highly successful.”

OTEC’s new General Manager, Les Penning, arrived December 2016.

“Thank you for the opportunity to work for you,” said Penning. “I have been around this industry for about 20 years and the strength of the cooperative, member-owner piece is one I truly believe in. The participation that you are showing here today is a testament to that.”

Along with Penning providing an overview of the cooperatives financial status, a breakdown of rate comparisons and reviewing the power of the cooperative membership, the OTEC Board Election results were also announced.

  • George Galloway (position 1) of Union County was re-elected with 3,549 votes.
  • Aletha Bonebrake (position 2) of Baker County was elected with 2,049 votes, defeating Jim Grove also of Baker County who received 1,823 votes.
  • Robert Cargill (position 3) of Harney County was re-elected with 3,513 votes.

Harney County Historical Society Board President Mildred Fine was honored and presented with the $25,000 Peggi Timm Civic Leadership Award.  The honor is currently awarded annually to a woman residing in OTEC’s service territory who most exemplifies the cooperative founder’s ceaseless spirit of volunteerism to improve life in their communities.

Fine selected the Harney County Historical Society a non-profit 501(c)3 to receive the $25,000 award, made available through earnings on unclaimed capital credits. Plans are to take the funds and apply them to the creation of an annex for the Historical Society.

“Basically we have the building, we just need to take the stuff out that we are not going to use, clean it up and put it back together to make the annex,” said Fine smiling.

Lyle Jensen of La Grande was the raffle winner of the upright freezer “OTEC Attendance Award” and Nickolas Vogel was drawn to win the mail-in ballot drawing for the $500 OTEC energy credit.

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