A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FROM BLUE RIDGE ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORPORATION
REDUCTION Your Board of Directors approved a temporary rate reduction for all members on February bills. The reduction is possible due to lower-than-expected wholesale power costs and higher-than-expected electricity sales due to colder than normal weather in recent months. The reduction comes during a month that reflects higher usage — and therefore bill costs — due to winter heating, lighting and other factors. The reduction will result in an average savings on February bills of $9 for the typical member using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity monthly. Overall, this reduction will save members more than $1 million. “As a cooperative, we’re not in business to make a profit — we’re here to provide service at the lowest possible cost to our members,” said Doug Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Blue Ridge Electric. “In our service area, members use more electricity during these cold winter months, so we’re very pleased to provide this reduction at a time when it can most help our members.”
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Members helping members A key way we demonstrate care to our members is through the Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation, which provides support for crisis heating assistance and grants to improve local quality of life. While the cooperative covers administrative costs and coordination of the Foundation, it is our members and employees contributing to Operation Round Up® that make this “members helping members” program so successful. In fact, the Members Foundation received more than $245,000 from members and employees in 2013. Due to this generosity and the power of working together through Operation Round Up and the Foundation, more than 1,700 families in need across our service area received assistance paying their electric or fuel bills in 2013. I’m very excited to say that’s the most families ever assisted in a single year! The Members Foundation also plays a role in improving long-term quality of life that helps sustain local communities. A total of $575,634 has been awarded in the form of grants to 145 local nonprofit organizations and projects since the Foundation’s inception. The grants have funded a wide range of programs that help senior citizens, the physically handicapped, and our youth. The pride in taking care of our own has never been more evident. A record number of members are participating in Operation Round Up and because of this, the Members Foundation is able to assist a growing number of members in need. Page 30
With an economy still struggling to recover, local helping agencies and funding sources are challenged to fill the need for crisis heating and other assistance. That’s why I want to personally thank all of our members participating in Operation Round Up. More than 28,000 of you are rounding up a few cents each month or contributing even more through Operation Round Up® Plus. I’m proud to say employees are also giving monthly to Operation Round Up. And, your cooperative is using profits from your heating fuels subsidiary, Blue Ridge Energies, to make annual donations of $25,000. It’s important to note that 100 percent of donations go directly to crisis assistance and grant funding and it’s our members who make the decisions: the Foundation’s advisory committee is made up entirely of volunteer cooperative members who review grant applications and make funding recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors for final approval. In 2014, the Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation will exceed $2 million since inception in assistance to families and local communities, thanks to the power of cooperation of those participating in our Operation Round Up programs. Thanks to you, the spirit of members helping members is helping fill needs that might otherwise go unmet while also creating a brighter future for our communities and members in northwest North Carolina.
Give a little. Help a lot! For an average of 50 cents a month, you can join thousands of other Blue Ridge
members making a difference by contributing to Operation Round Up®. Or, if you’d like to give more, you can contribute any amount you choose by joining Operation Round Up® Plus! To sign up today, call your local Blue Ridge Electric office or visit www.BlueRidgeEMC.com. There’s no greater joy than knowing you gave someone in your own community a helping hand when they needed it most!
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Beware! SCAM ARTIST Blue Ridge Electric warns members of scam artists targeting its members. A common scenario is for a scam artist to call a member saying they are behind on their electric bill and must make a payment immediately to avoid disconnection of their electric service. The scam artists ask for financial information such as credit card or banking numbers as well as the member’s Blue Ridge Electric account information. The scammers sound very realistic, even giving members a phone number to call which is being answered as if it’s Blue Ridge Electric. Unfortunately, at least one member has reported falling victim to the scam and three other members contacted the cooperative, narrowly escaping the scam. Blue Ridge Electric asks members to be aware and to let friends, neighbors and relatives know about the scam to help avoid anyone else falling victim to this crime. The cooperative offers the following tips to help members avoid this scam: • • •
Blue Ridge Electric NEVER calls members demanding immediate payment to avoid disconnection. If someone contacts you, NEVER give out personal financial information OR your personal Blue Ridge Electric account information. Members are encouraged to call a local Blue Ridge Electric office or the cooperative’s toll free number to check out any phone calls or contacts they receive from someone claiming to be a representative of Blue Ridge Electric: 1-800-451-5474; Caldwell: (828) 754-9071; Watauga: (828) 264-8894; Ashe: (336) 846-7138; and Alleghany: (336) 372-4646. Always report suspicious calls or contacts to your local law enforcement authorities and to Blue Ridge Electric.
Blue Ridge Electric reminds members: whether contacted by phone or in person, NEVER give out any type of personal information, including your financial information and Blue Ridge Electric account information.
This is the second of a series of articles discussing vegetation management.
Reliability depends on vegetation management Powering the daily needs of our members is a job we take seriously at Blue Ridge Electric. Reliable electricity depends on a vegetation management program that helps protect power lines from trees and provides a safe working environment for linemen. In our scenic area, our goal is also to balance these needs with the natural beauty of the environment.
Crews look for the following threats to reliable electricity: foliage growing underneath power lines, overhanging branches and dead or diseased trees that could fall into power lines. We evaluate each situation to hand trim, mow, side trim or use a tall mechanical trimmer to remove foliage that endangers power lines.
We’re careful to leave landscaped Blue Ridge Electric is a national topareas such as yards performer in electric reliability ratings and pastures as at 99.98 percent. we found them. However, to conTo achieve this balance, our program trol costs that have to be passed on is managed by a certified arborist usto members, areas that are not noring an innovative approach. The promally landscaped are left with vegcess begins at each substation and etation debris that is naturally biofollows the path of our power lines. degradable. MEMBERSHIP matters
A key to reliability is our vegetation management cycle. Every inch of our 8,000 miles of power lines is reviewed and trimmed if needed at least once every six years. This helps avoid large growth that’s more likely to cause outages and is also more costly to contain. Another key to reliable electricity is environmentally safe herbicides used in certain locations. In the next article in this series, we’ll discuss the use of herbicides as well as how members are contacted before vegetation management work begins on their property. Page 31
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Scholarships available As part of our support of local communities, Blue Ridge Electric annually awards scholarships and youth leadership opportunities to high school seniors and adults returning to college who live in the cooperative’s service territory. This year, scholarships worth $14,800 will be awarded based on financial need, community activity, school performance and activities, and personal interviews. Available are: five $2,000 scholarships for high school seniors seeking a bachelor’s degree; five $800 scholarships for residents seeking a two-year degree, and one $800 Charles and Lucille Suddreth scholarship available to a Caldwell County resident seeking a two-year degree. Scholarship applications are due by March 31.
Up to four sponsorships will also be awarded for The Washington Youth Tour, an educational week-long trip to Washington, D.C. Winners will meet and talk with Congressional leaders, visit historic sites, and learn about the cooperative form of business. Winners are eligible for additional college scholarships. Applications are due March 15. Guidance counselors are also encouraged to nominate high school sophomores, juniors and seniors for up to seven sponsorships to the Broyhill Leadership Conference at Queens College, Charlotte. The five-day conference focuses on goal setting, motivational techniques, group dynamics, communication, and cooperation. Applications are available online at BlueRidgeEMC.com under the “In the Community” tab.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Doug Johnson
Key dates reminder: director nominees, resolutions
EDITOR Renée R. Whitener
PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR Susan Simmons
DISTRICT OFFICES Caldwell Watauga Ashe Alleghany Wilkes PowerLine®
(828) 754-9071 (828) 264-8894 (336) 846-7138 (336) 372-4646 (800) 451-5474 (800) 448-2383
(PowerLine® is an automated account information and outage reporting system.)
(for members outside of the service area.)
To report an outage at any time, call one of the number listed above. OFFICE HOURS: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday Night deposit available. Visit us on the web: BlueRidgeEMC.com
Members wishing to be considered as a director nominee to serve on the cooperative’s Board of Directors have two options: the Nominating Committee process or the nomination by petition process. First, members must complete and submit a director application packet available by contacting Julie O’DellMichie, Chief Administrative Officer, at JMichie@BlueRidgeEMC.com or at 800-451-5474, extension 3202. This form is due by 5 p.m., Monday, March 3 when going through the Nominating Committee process and by 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 1, for those seeking nomination by petition. Additionally, nominations by petition must be accompanied by the signatures of 15 or more members, with each signing his or her name as it appears on their
electric service bill. Members with resolutions to be considered for presentation at the 2014 Annual Meeting should submit them by 5 p.m., February 21, to Doug Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, PO Box 112, Lenoir, NC, 28645. For a complete list of qualifications to serve as a director of Blue Ridge Electric, or for full details regarding resolutions, please refer to the cooperative’s Bylaws available online at BlueRidgeEMC.com or at any Blue Ridge Electric office.
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