April 2021 MEC

Page 1

April 2021


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

Annual Meeting Notice

Infrastructure Maintenance Plans Electric Billing Programs and Assistance

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary Is




Clean Start Rebate For a limited time, you can save up to $1,250 on clean energy geothermal heat pumps

Switch to geothermal and get a clean start to the year! This year, everyone deserves a clean start! Switching to geothermal is the perfect decision to help your house be as comfortable and environmentally friendly as possible for years to come. The WaterFurnace Clean Start Rebate Program makes switching to geothermal an even smarter decision. For a limited time, you can save up to $1,250 and receive a free Amazon Echo Dot with the purchase of our most efficient, comfortable, and technologically advanced 7 Series and 5 Series geothermal heat pumps and accessories. But hurry, this deal ends April 30, 2021, so contact your local WaterFurnace dealer today!






Amazon Echo Dot



26% Tax Credit




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Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com Indian River M & M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 mm-plumbing.com

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Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com

Traverse City D & W Mechanical (231) 941-1215 dwgeothermal.com

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 esiheating.com

Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000 watergeofurnace.com

Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 mwphonline.com

waterfurnace.com/CleanStart 1. 26% through 2022 and 22% through 2023. 2. With registration of homeowner’s Symphony Home Comfort Platform. Amazon Dot will be shipped to the address given in Symphony registration. Promotion available Feb. 8 through April 30, 2021, and only to residential customers through participating dealers. WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.

Contents countrylines.com

April 2021 Vol. 41, No. 4



Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors. Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.

Cover photo: An inhabitant of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary is ready for its close-up.

6 ROAD TRIPPIN’ Treasure All Around Us: Lake Michigan Rock Hunting with Christal Frost 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Mexican-Inspired: Rich in spices, these dishes provide the south-of-the-border flavor you’re craving.


14 SAVING THE GATORS Forsaken reptiles find a safe, if unlikely, home at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary. 18 GUEST COLUMN The Orchard: For one Cherryland member, the family orchard was much more than a place to pick fruit.

Maybe she’s barn with it. Maybe it’s Neighbelline. @dds_photo #beautifulhorse (Danielle Sullivan)

Be featured!

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.


To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community


Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Whole Grains, and Fish & Seafood Go to micoopkitchen.com for more information or recipes@countrylines.com to submit.


Win $150 for stories published! Submit your fondest memories and stories at countrylines.com/community







Impacts Of February Arctic Blast


teammidwest.com /teammidwest CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CONTACT US Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 teammidwest.com Email: info@teammidwest.com BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233 Clarence.Barth@teammidwest.com

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ben.Russell@teammidwest.com Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 Ron.Armstrong@teammidwest.com John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 John.Green@teammidwest.com Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007 Dan.Bodette@teammidwest.com

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164 Gerry.Bundle@teammidwest.com

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868 Jim.Dickerson@teammidwest.com

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 erika.escue-cadieux@teammidwest.com Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762 Fred.Turk@teammidwest.com



Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

4 APRIL 2021

Robert Hance, President/CEO

ast February, we were beginning to read headlines about this thing called the coronavirus. Little did we know then that what became known as COVID-19 would pretty much shut down much of the world as we know it over the subsequent months.


Fast forward to February 2021. Most COVID-19 headlines were temporarily replaced by a polar vortex that gripped much of the country, causing particular devastation in Texas, where the grid simply wasn’t prepared for the frigid temperatures. Millions of people in the country’s second-most-populous state were left without power for days as parts of the state recorded temperatures colder than Alaska. While we avoided the massive power outages that devastated much of Texas, our own well-weatherized systems also were at risk. The widespread deep freeze taxed our regional transmission system, which covers much of the country’s midsection, to the point that our power supplier implemented mitigation efforts to prevent a significant impact on our customers. I believe we were a few degrees away from a much more catastrophic event. Michiganders were not entirely unscathed, however. The extreme cold, combined with people spending more time at home due to continued restrictions from the pandemic, created an unusually high demand for home heating fuel. This prompted our governor to declare a state of energy emergency for a week in late February, lifting some of the restrictions for propane and heating oil deliveries. Not surprising to me, our propane team rose to the occasion, battling the brutal cold to make sure our customers were safe and warm. Unfortunately, a few other providers created some nasty headlines for themselves as they were unresponsive to customer calls for fills, leaving them without a heat source in the brutal cold. We happily stepped in where we could, switching out competitor tanks upon request as we kept our own customers’ tanks filled. On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport recorded a record low temperature of -2 degrees; one week later, it was about 80 degrees warmer. As we settle back into more typical temperatures and weather patterns, we’re now left facing the unknown long-term impact of the unusual winter of 2021. Texas is the U.S. energy industry’s capital and home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Due to the weather, refinery closures combined with already scaled-back production resulting from the pandemic will translate to higher utility bills and gas prices around the country. We already see it at the gas pumps, and our team is seeing it as we monitor propane prices to hedge supply for our 2022-23 heating season. Fortunately, our 2021-22 season price is established and capped at $1.599/gallon from June 1, 2021, to May 31, 2022. While we may see a future bump in our propane prices, we won’t be alone. And you can take comfort in the way we handled the 2021 crisis, both for our existing family and customers, and those who joined the family when their providers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, rise to the occasion. We’re your home team and will continue to do everything we can to keep you safe and warm, no matter what Mother Nature throws our way.


Ron Armstrong, District 3



Clarence Barth, District 4



Erika Escue-Cadieux, District 8

Board Election Results O

ne of the guiding principles of cooperatives is democratic control. We are governed by a nine-member board of directors responsible for establishing corporate policy and strategic direction, hiring and evaluating the CEO, monitoring and evaluating organizational performance, and representing cooperative customers. Directors serve three-year terms and are elected by and represent customers living in their districts. Clarence “Topper” Barth, of Three Rivers, retained his District 4 seat on the board of directors after running against challenger James Highfield of Three Rivers. Barth represents customers in Brady, Fabius, Flowerfield, Leonidas, Lockport, Mendon, Newberg, Park, Schoolcraft, and Wakeshma townships. Districts 3 and 8 were unopposed and the current directors will retain their seats. District 3 is represented by Ron Armstrong of Lawton, and includes customers in Almena, Antwerp, Oshtemo, Portage, Prairie Ronde

and Texas townships. District 8 is represented by Erika Escue-Cadieux of Onsted, and includes customers in Adrian, Cambridge, Franklin, Raisin, Ridgeway, Rollin, Rome, Tecumseh, and Woodstock townships, as well as northern portions of Blissfield, Deerfield, Dover, Hudson, Madison and Palmyra townships. In 2022, districts 6, 7 and 9 will be up for election. District 6 is represented by Ben Russell of Constantine and includes Constantine, Florence, Mottville, North Porter, South Porter and White Pigeon townships in Michigan, and Van Buren, Washington and York townships in Indiana. District 7 is represented by Gerry Bundle of Cassopolis and includes Calvin, Jefferson, Mason and Ontwa townships in Michigan, and Harris and Osolo townships in Indiana. District 9 is represented by Dan Bodette of Wauseon, Ohio, and includes Dover, Fairfield, Hudson, Madison, Medina, Ogden, Palmyra, Riga and Seneca and southern portions of Blissfield and Deerfield townships in Michigan. District 9 also includes Chesterfield,

Clinton, Dover, Franklin, German, Gorham, Mill Creek, Pike and Royalton townships in Ohio. For more information about serving on the board of directors, please call us at 800-492-5989. We will share election information in the November/December issue of Michigan Country Lines.

Y EAS T ER HAPP We will be closed for Good Friday on April 2. Please report outages or pay your bill via SmartHub or by calling 800.492.5989. Any payments received in one of our drop boxes will be processed on Monday, April 5.



d a o R ’ n i p p i r T

With Christal Frost Treasure All Around Us: Lake Michigan Rock Hunting


t’s a crisp and clear February morning as we make the trek to Frankfort’s Point Betsie Lighthouse. Lake Michigan was a familiar backdrop for my childhood. I spent hours building sandcastles and pressing my feet into the warm sand until my toes found the cold underneath. I often left the beach with a rock—one that I would place on the windowsill in our kitchen until my mom returned it to the outdoors. Even though I think I was always drawn to the colorful rocks that decorated the lakeshore, I never knew the stories behind those treasures until I picked up a copy of the “Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide,” co-authored by the godfather of rock hunting himself, Kevin Gauthier.

Kevin has been drawn to rocks since he was a kid. He would spend hours searching for treasures, a hobby he would turn into a business as a teenager, selling his creations out of a local shoe store. Forty years later, a framed newspaper clipping hangs on the wall of his shop, Korner Gem, in Traverse City. It features a young Kevin smiling next to a small display case. “That was taken right around the time J.R. Ewing got shot on Dallas,” he tells me. “Everyone wanted a belt buckle.” After college, Kevin continued his passion for rock hunting and jewelry making, although his career sent him to Chicago to work for NutraSweet. After a few years of commuting to Traverse City on the weekends, Kevin decided to leave his job and open his own business. In 1996, he opened Korner Gem in Traverse City and a second location in Frankfort in 2020.

Michigan—Rock Hunting Capital of the World Thanks to a few billion years and massive glaciers, Michigan has more varieties of stones than anywhere else in the entire world. As the glaciers moved south, they picked up stones from Canada and the Upper Peninsula and dropped them along the way, leaving rock enthusiasts a prehistoric treasure hunt. Kevin says only half of the rocks we find on the beaches of the Great Lakes are actually from here; the rest are glacial stowaways from the north.

Show & Tell Earlier that morning while rock hunting at Point Betsie, I took Kevin’s advice and chose the ones that caught my eye. “Really, I think the rocks choose you,” Kevin says as I start pulling rocks from my bag for him to examine. Among my finds are Petoskey stones, chain coral, and slag. Christmas Cove Beach, Northport

“The slag is most often called Leland Blue, but it can be found in Frankfort, Elk Rapids, and Marquette,” Kevin explains while inspecting a greenish chunk of slag. Before Kevin heads to the wet saw to cut and polish a few of my rocks, he asks me to look through once more and choose the one I like best. I chose the first rock I picked up that day, a small pinkish/ greenish unakite that had traveled from Lake Superior. Kevin returns 20 minutes later with a polished stone set in a lovely sterling silver ring, and I gasp as I try it on for the first time. There’s an immediate connection. Kevin clearly understands that connection. “That rock has been around for, let’s say conservatively, 4 billion years,” he tells me. “In 4 billion years, you are the first person to pick up that rock. That is special.” It really is special. For as long as I have this ring, I will remember the day I found it—or, more accurately, the day it found me. It was 25 degrees, but the wind was calm. The air smelled like fresh snow and each wave that crashed around my rubber boots brought a slightly changed beach, as thousands of rocks, some older than dinosaurs, moved ever so slightly around me.



327 Main St. Frankfort, MI 49635

Point Betsie Lighthouse, Frankfort

Van’s Beach, Leland

Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City

22 22


Empire Beach, Empire

13031 Fisherman Cove, Traverse City, MI 49684 231-929-9175






Home Energy Savings Made Easy ho doesn’t get excited about FREE products— especially when it comes to in-home energysavings? Through the Energy Optimization program, the Home Energy Express program provides FREE energy-saving products for your home, as well as complimentary installation by an Energy Optimization program contractor.


When you participate in the Home Energy Express program, you have two options to choose from. Simply select the one that best meets your individual needs. Option 1: FREE in-home* consultation and products, with direct installation of energy-saving products by a qualified energy professional. • An in-home consultation by a trained professional can help identify areas where additional energy savings are possible. During the consultation, the representative will provide and install the energy-efficient products and offer you tips for saving even more. • These products help control the amount of energy you use to heat, cool, and light your home. Some of the products even help you use less water.

Option 2: FREE product kit containing energy-saving items, delivered to your home with instructions for installation. • For the do-it-yourself version, product kits are delivered to your home and may include energy-saving items such as LED light bulbs, LED night-lights, and a smart power strip. Additionally, some kits contain watersaving fixtures. To learn more or to schedule your FREE services, contact us today at 877-296-4319 or info@michigan-energy.org. *Based on COVID-19 restriction guidelines.

Home Energy-Saving Solutions

The Home Energy Express program offers FREE in-home energy-saving products and installation by a program contractor. Kits may include:  LED bulbs  LED night-lights  Smart power strip Or request a product kit be delivered straight to your home.

Contact us today to learn more.

michigan-energy.org • 877.296.4319

Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Incentive applies to qualified items purchased and installed between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021. Other restrictions may apply. For complete program details, visit michigan-energy.org.

Upcoming Line Upgrades and Infrastructure Maintenance o one likes dealing with power outages, including us, and every year, we work hard to improve our electric infrastructure’s reliability and safety. Whether it’s performing line clearance to keep trees away from our lines or replacing old equipment, our engineers and line crews spend a significant amount of time maintaining and improving the system.


Pole Testing and Replacement Each year, we test poles to evaluate their stability and overall condition. Any poles that fail the test get replaced the following year. With roughly 100,000 poles in our system, we can’t possibly test all of them every year. Still, we rotate around our service territory to ensure that all poles get tested approximately every five years.

Line Replacement Where needed, we have begun replacing our old copper wire with new aluminum conductor steel reinforced wire. These new rebuild projects help us handle additional load growth and in certain cases, enable us to create or improve our tie lines between substations. We rely on tie lines to reroute electricity for customers if a substation goes down or needs maintenance.

Re-spanning Line When we replace our old wire, we also re-span the distance between poles to an ideal 225-250 feet. That sometimes means moving pole locations, adding poles or updating the construction of a pole. Regardless, all poles get replaced during the process unless a particular pole is brand new.

Distribution Automation The fiber communication system that delivers internet to our customers also provides us with the opportunity to make our grid smarter and more reliable. In 2018, we announced the beginning of our implementation of Distribution Automation (DA),* which works to isolate outages and reroute electricity to reduce the number of impacted customers. We continue to add more DA equipment and capabilities throughout our system. *If you’d like to read the article introducing Distribution Automation, go to countrylines.com/midwest-energy-communications/ and look on page 13 of the April 2018 issue. To review our line clearance plans for 2021, please visit teammidwest.com/line-clearance.



MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

Mexican-Inspired Recipes you’ll be making on repeat.


CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP Alice Knoebl, Great Lakes Energy

1 1 2 1 2 1 4 1 ¾ 1 ¼ 2–3 2 1 •

Win a


energy bill credit!

10 APRIL 2021


Whole Grains due May 1 • Fish & Seafood due July 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Go to micoopkitchen.com for more information or recipes@countrylines.com to submit.

(10-ounce) can green enchilada sauce (15-ounce) can white beans, drained (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (4-ounce) cans diced, fire-roasted green chiles, undrained (10.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes teaspoons chili powder tablespoon ground cumin teaspoon paprika teaspoon salt teaspoon black pepper tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional cups chicken broth/stock (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened Toppings of choice: pepper jack cheese, sour cream, limes, etc.

Add green enchilada sauce, white and black beans, and chicken into a large slow cooker. Add undrained fireroasted green chilies, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chopped cilantro, and chicken stock/broth. Cover and cook on low for 5–7 hours or on high for 3–5 hours, or until chicken easily shreds. Remove chicken from slow cooker and place into another bowl. Add softened cream cheese to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for an additional 30 minutes or until the cream cheese has melted. Whisk to ensure all ingredients are combined. Shred chicken with a fork and add back into the soup. Serve immediately. Add any additional toppings. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos

SIMPLE CHICKEN FAJITAS Shelley Ehrenberger, Cherryland 2 ½ ¼ ½ ¼ 1


Michele Smith, Ontonagon REA 1 2 ¹⁄ ³ 1 1 1 3 2 •

pound ground beef tablespoons taco seasoning cup chopped green onions (12-ounce) can evaporated milk (8–10 ounce) can enchilada sauce teaspoon salt (8-inch) flour tortillas cups shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese Toppings: shredded lettuce, sliced jalapeños, sour cream, diced tomatoes, black olives, taco sauce, etc.

tablespoons lemon juice teaspoon salt teaspoon black pepper teaspoon garlic powder teaspoon ground cumin pound boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

Mix sauce ingredients and add chicken (I often double the sauce). Marinate for 30 minutes. Heat skillet and cook chicken, adding oil as necessary, until cooked through and slightly browned. Serve in warmed flour tortilla shells with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and any other desired toppings.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain grease. Add taco seasoning and chopped onions. Stir in milk, sauce and salt. Simmer until hot and bubbly. Cut tortillas into ½-inch strips. In baking dish, alternate layers of tortillas, beef mixture, and cheese three times. Cover dish and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil, let cool 10 minutes, cut into squares, and serve with desired toppings.


Debbie Speer, Great Lakes Energy 3 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, divided 1 tablespoon coarse salt 1 tablespoon ground black pepper 1 tablespoon garlic powder 2 tablespoons butter 1 large onion, minced 2 jalapeño peppers (or poblano for milder flavor), seeded and minced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened ½ teaspoon paprika ½ teaspoon chili powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1 (28-ounce) can green enchilada sauce, divided 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese 7 flour tortillas (or corn tortillas for gluten free)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Season chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder. Bake chicken for 45 minutes (or internal temp of 165 F). Let cool and shred. Set aside. Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced onion, jalapeño peppers, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in softened cream cheese (in chunks), and remaining ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and ground cumin. Add the shredded chicken and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat. In a 9x13-inch baking dish, spread half the enchilada sauce over the entire bottom. Fill all tortillas with the chicken mixture and 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese in each. Roll each tortilla and place seam-side down in baking dish. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all the tortillas; sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30–35 minutes. Serve immediately.



Need to get in touch with us? Our call volumes remain high, and sometimes, wait times can be long. Here are some ways to get in touch with us to help you avoid long wait times on the phone.


Electric Billing Programs And Assistance Do you need help paying your electric bill, or do you simply want more control over your account and how you pay? We have several options to meet your needs: • Own It Prepaid Metering: Pay for your electricity in advance and eliminate late/reconnection fees and account deposits. You choose how much and how often you pay, but you must maintain a credit balance to avoid service disruptions. Learn more at teammidwest.com/own-it. • Budget Billing: This program calculates the monthly budget payment based on the previous 12-month average and adjusts your payment slightly throughout the year. This allows you to have roughly the same electric bill each month. Send us a contact inquiry through SmartHub, and we can get you enrolled in the program. • Payment Arrangements: If you have fallen behind on your bills, we can set up a payment arrangement to help you get back on track. Each arrangement is custom and based on your unique financial circumstance. Request an arrangement through SmartHub under Billing and Payments>Payment Extensions or email us at info@teammidwest.com.

State-Sponsored Financial Assistance If you are struggling to pay your electric bill, your state may be able to offer assistance. Please don’t wait until it’s too late and your service has been disconnected. Dial 2-1-1 as soon as you can to learn about available programs or research options online: • Michigan: mi211.org or newmibridges.michigan.gov • Indiana: in211.communityos.org or in.gov/ihcda/4067.htm • Ohio: development.ohio.gov/is/is_energyassist.htm

12 APRIL 2021

Our online and mobile platform is truly your best, most convenient tool for account management, bill pay, and more. It’s available 24/7/365, and you can access it via teammidwest.com or download the SmartHub mobile app from your app store. Features • Bill: View your current account balance, make a payment, manage recurring payments and modify payment methods. • Outages or service requests: Submit an electric outage or report that you are having an issue with your service. • Submit a contact inquiry: Make a change to your account, add a new service, request propane, or ask a general question. We’ll get back to you within two business days. • Notifications: Sign up to receive text or email account notifications, including outage and billing information. • Usage: View your monthly, daily, and hourly electric usage and monthly propane usage.


Email info@teammidwest.com. A solutions agent will respond within two business days.

Online Chat

Head to teammidwest.com/contact-us and click on “live chat” to chat with a representative. Hours are Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


You can also visit one of our solutions centers Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Visit teammidwest.com/contact-us for locations and directions.

Directors Earn National Credentials Board members Erika Escue-Cadieux and Gerry Bundle recently earned director credentials from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). Gerry Bundle resides in Cassopolis and represents electric customers living in Calvin, Jefferson, Mason, and Ontwa townships in Michigan and Harris and Osolo townships in Indiana. He has served on the MEC board since 2016.

rika received the Credentialed Cooperative Director (CCD) certificate. The program requires attendance and demonstrated understanding of the basic competencies in five core courses: Director Duties and Liabilities, Understanding the Electric Business, Board Operations and Process, Strategic Planning, and Financial Decision Making.


Gerry earned his NRECA Director Gold Status. This recognizes directors who have already earned their CCD and Board Leadership Certificate (BLC) and wish to continue learning throughout their service on the board. Besides possessing a CCD and BLC, a director earning this distinguished honor must earn three additional credits from the BLC series of courses. To maintain his/her status, he/she must complete three credits of approved continuing education course work and/or conferences every two years. “The Director Gold certificate is geared toward directors who are committed to continuing their education beyond CCD and BLC and who desire a tangible credential that reinforces their stature as part of an experienced and educated group of directors,” said Bob Hance, president and CEO. “Director Gold also demonstrates to co-op customers those directors’ ongoing commitment to advancing their knowledge and performing their fiduciary duty to the best of their ability.”

Erika Escue-Cadieux resides in Onsted and represents electric customers living in Adrian, Cambridge, Clinton, Franklin, Raisin, Ridgeway, Rollin, Rome, Tecumseh, Woodstock, and northern portions of Blissfield, Deerfield, Dover, Hudson, Madison, and Palmyra townships in Michigan. She was appointed to the MEC board in 2019.

NRECA represents the nation’s more than 900 private, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide electric service to more than 42 million people in 47 states.


Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary Is



By Emily Haines Lloyd Photos Courtesy of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary


hen we think of alligators, we’re flooded with imagery of sunbathing crocodiles on southern golf courses or Evergladesdwelling animals we’d just as soon not have a run-in with. But in Athens, Michigan, alligators are not only living and thriving, but people are actually hoping to have a real-life encounter with these prehistoric-looking beasts. When David Critchlow was a FedEx delivery man, he enjoyed chatting up people on his route, and while there were always interesting stories to hear and packages to deliver, a weird, but common, thread started to arise. “Dad would see a package from an exotic pet supplier and realize he might be delivering a snake,” said David’s daughter, Lina Kelly, the director of animal care and enrichment of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary. “As time passed, he’d start chatting to folks, and the conversations changed to ‘hey, do you know anyone who wants a snake?’” Peter Critchlow with Godzilla, an 11-foot-long, 500-pound alligator.

14 APRIL 2021

Unsurprisingly, many people who thought a snake would be an interesting pet were less interested when that same pet began to


outgrow its habitat. David was always an animal lover and outdoorsy sort, and he eventually started offering to take in the newly homeless reptiles. “At some point, we had dozens of snakes,” remembers Lina. “Growing up, there were always reptiles around. It felt super normal.” One day, a new request came in, as someone asked David if he knew anyone who could take in an alligator. While David had never owned an alligator before, his heart couldn’t take the idea that the animal would be put down because its owner hadn’t thought through the consequences. David figured out what it would take to make a suitable environment for an alligator and become a new foster owner. Little by little, word spread that there was a guy who would take in alligators, and the family eventually had 10 to 30 of them housed in fenced-in areas in the backyard at any given time. “Eventually, people would just drive up to the house and ask if they could go take a look at the alligators,” said Lina. “We’d give them these little tours and tell them about each alligator’s story and what we knew. That’s how the sanctuary got started.” In 2007, David made his informal reptile shelter into a fulltime sanctuary. The family learned about alligators, snakes, and even tortoises, as new members continually found their way to the Critchlows. It involved extensive research, along with reptile-related workshops and conferences, to understand the animals, as well as finding out how to best feed, house, and even train them. The Critchlows never buy or sell any of the animals in their care—all are rescues. “We’ve learned so much over the years,” said Lina. “And it’s important always to be learning more, so we can help as many animals as we can.”



“WE LOVE WHAT WE DO, BUT IN SOME WAYS, WE’D RATHER NOT BE IN THE REPTILE RESCUING BUSINESS. WE’D RATHER HAVE PEOPLE MAKE SMARTER DECISIONS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY’RE CAPABLE OF THE COMMITMENT.” —LINA KELLY The sanctuary has grown into a home for turtles, tortoises, snakes, and nearly 200 alligators in the past decade. All the alligators are given names, but training them to learn their names happens when they are around 5 feet in length. These include Godzilla, an 11-foot-long and 500-pound fella, and Medusa—named because she’s not exactly attractive and is a little on the cranky side. Another, named Grace, is a 100-pounder who came to the sanctuary with a missing left foot. She’s been trained to lie still for medical treatment, a positive sign for some additional training David looks to do. If it sounds like a lot to do, it’s because it is. So, to round out the crew, Lina, along with her nephew (Alex) and her brother (Peter), all came on board to help with the family business. They’re committed to making education a huge arm of their mission, with David doing hundreds of school and community presentations a year. “A little baby alligator is cute. There’s no denying it. But you have to think of the animal and be ready for when that baby grows up,” said Lina. “We love what we do, but in some ways, we’d rather not be in the reptile rescuing business. We’d rather have people make smarter decisions about whether or not they’re capable of the commitment.” For now, the need is still there, and the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary remains a safe space for displaced reptiles. It’s an unlikely place where these animals can live out their lives while enriching the lives of those who make the visit and are willing to learn.

For more information, visit alligatorsanctuary.com. 1698 M-66, Athens, MI 49011 • (269) 729-4802



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Learn more: teammidwest.com/save-more 16 APRIL 2021

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Notice to Electric Customers of Midwest Energy & Communications Special Board Meeting: April 27, 2021 The Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) Board of Directors will consider changes to the cooperative’s rates and tariffs, in accordance with P.A. 167 of 2008, at its meeting on April 27, 2021, beginning at 10 a.m. Given continued precautions related to COVID-19, we will open the meeting to interested electric customers through a videoconference. Please contact Paige Deak at 269.445.1049 by Friday, April 23, for login information, or email paige.deak@teammidwest.com. Comments may also be submitted in advance to that email address. The following item will be considered: • Potential changes to distribution charge across all rate classifications Notice of changes or additions to the cooperative’s electric rates or service rules shall be sent to all customers as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines at least 30 days prior to their effective date.

Notice to Electric Customers of Midwest Energy & Communications 2021 Annual Meeting The Annual Meeting of the Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) electric customers is April 27, 2021, immediately following the Special Board Meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. The Annual Meeting is called by the secretary of the cooperative pursuant to Article II of the MEC bylaws. The purpose of the Annual Meeting is to announce the results of the ballots cast and the election of the MEC Board of Directors in districts 3, 4, and 8, and to act on any other business properly brought before the board. Given continued precautions related to COVID-19, we will open the meeting to interested electric customers through a videoconference. Please contact Paige Deak at 269-445-1049 by Friday, April 23, for login information, or email paige.deak@teammidwest.com.

Energy Efficiency Tip Some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 degrees, but most households usually only require them to be set at 120 degrees. Consider lowering your water heater’s temperature to save energy and slow mineral buildup in the heater and pipes.

Source: www.energy.gov


MI CO-OP Community

The Orchard Road

Gearing Cherry Orchard, 1971

Guest Column

The Orchard

By Rebecca Carlson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative member


he best angle from where to throw the rotting sour cherries and have the most victim impact is to position yourself in one of the trees. Quietly find the best branch, have ammunition in hand (also a great source of sustenance while waiting for victims) aim and FIRE! Each of us knew if the cherry juice got on our shirts or jeans, it was close to impossible to get the stain out. It was so easy to simply destroy someone’s favorite Star Wars or Peter Frampton t-shirt. But you better be able to ninja your way out of the tree to escape retribution and run like blazes, or be ready with lots of cherries. It was a daily ritual to walk the forest road up to the cherry orchard, the best playground in the world. The orchard is full sun, quiet, and is protected on all sides by a thick forest. There is no noise from Jacobsen Road, just farm noises from our neighbors. At the peak of the orchard, 600 Montmorency cherry trees covered about 35 acres. The old Omena stagecoach road separates our orchard from Donny Hermann’s perfectly manicured cherry trees. He had Queen Anne, black, and sour cherries in his larger

WIN $150!

18 APRIL 2021

orchard. We were a weekend farming family, while he was a full-time family business. The most magical time of the day in the orchard was nighttime. Although it was a little scary making our way up the forest road, it was worth the trip as you emerged from the dark two-track road into the orchard. The only light came from the moon and stars. It was the best place in the world for stargazing and scaring the heck out of a poor victim. Every night, the orchard trees would be waiting for our crew to arrive and witness the night’s activities: a game of bloody murder or good old-fashioned tag. Over the years, we broke fingers, arms, ankles, and egos, bruised just about every part of the body, destroyed clothing, and I cannot think of a time I miss more.

Rebecca is a college English professor. She enjoys traveling, writing, and paddle boarding on West Bay.

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

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SIGN UP TODAY TEAMMIDWEST.COM/SAVE-MORE | 800.492.5989 Minimum 12-month service contract required. Some equipment restrictions may apply. Free installation available to Midwest Energy & Communications electric customers only. Internet services are not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.