MEC Feb. 2020

Page 1

February 2020


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

What Is Load Management?

Stay Safe Around Propane 2020 Line Clearance Plan



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In This Issue February 2020 || Vol. 40, No. 2

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

Follow Us On Instagram! @michigancountrylines

Celebrating 40 Years michigancountrylines

Executive Editor: Casey Clark Editor: Christine Dorr Design and Production: Karreen Bird Recipe Editor: Christin McKamey Publisher: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association

FEATURED PHOTO FROM #micoopcommunity:

A traditional Upper Peninsula “Welcome Home” captured by @polfusphotography (Seth Polfus) upon pulling in his driveway.

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 are Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; and Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretarytreasurer. Craig Borr is president and CEO. CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358

Tag us or use #micoopcommunity in your post and your photo could be featured on our Instagram account and printed as the featured photo in our magazine.


The United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw cuts an impressive figure as she navigates along the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways. Measuring 240 feet in length and displacing more than 3,500 tons, the Mackinaw can cut through up to 32 inches of ice to maintain waterways and help rescue trapped ships all winter long.


The Ultimate Icebreaker: Designed with the Great Lakes weather in mind, the USCG Cutter Mackinaw and her crew spend the winter months breaking up ice to keep commerce moving through major shipping lanes.

Cover photo by Tony Johnson Photography, Cheboygan, Michigan

Emily Haines Lloyd


Guest Column: A Message From Beyond The Grave

Best of Michigan: Chocolatiers

Enjoy these member-recommended chocolate shops and experience how sweet life is!

18 MI CO-OP COMMUNITY Brian Maki, Alger Delta Cooperative member



Please 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.

Make winter more cherry with these recipes. Christin McKamey & Our Readers

Brown Sugar and Bacon Glazed Brussels Sprouts Featured Guest Chef: This warm and hearty meal, as prepared by onboard duty cooks, is a favorite among the Mackinaw crew after a day of battling ice and cold. Enter Our Recipe Contest And Win A $50 Bill Credit!

Best of Michigan UP NEXT! Best Pizza: Are you a pizza aficionado? Have you tried every mom and pop pizza parlour in Michigan and know the best stops? Share with us your favorite pizza places to enjoy America’s soul food. Submit your favorites at under the MI Co-op Community tab by March 25, and look for it on our preferred pies list in the April issue.







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.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233 Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007 Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164 James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868 Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762 PRESIDENT/CEO Robert Hance VP, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS/EDITOR Patty Nowlin COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST

Amy Pales

New Chapter In Reliability Efforts


J oin us on Facebook:

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



Robert Hance, President/CEO

ur work can often be likened to a complicated mystery. When electric outages are tied to a weather event or an accident, it’s typically pretty easy to get the heart of the issue and restore service. However, sometimes our lineworkers must look deep and unearth one or a series of clues to find the source of reliability issues. We recently had recurring blinks on a line in the northernmost portion of our southwest Michigan service territory. Our highly-trained, super sleuth linemen followed the regular protocol and steps to figure out the issue when they discovered something surprising and, quite frankly, astonishing. They removed a 1940s-era lightning arrester, one of many devices on our system that is critical to the delivery of safe and reliable electricity. It was likely an original piece of equipment that, much like the iconic Energizer Bunny, just kept going and going and going. Needless to say, the equipment was replaced and the issue was resolved. I’ve said many times that an electric distribution system is nothing short of an engineering and mechanical marvel. There are so many pieces and parts that must work together in order to get the electricity from the substation to your home or business, and failure from one of those pieces or parts can cause reliability issues. Many different pieces of equipment, including over 1,700 protective devices and nearly 27,000 transformers, are located on or around our 4,200 miles of overhead and underground lines and 72,000-plus poles in order for us to make electricity available to our 36,157 accounts. We’ve spent tens of millions of dollars over the last decade on proactive reliability measures, specifically related to line clearance efforts. It’s made a huge difference in our customers’ service experiences, but we now realize it’s not enough. In order to keep our engineering and mechanical marvel working, we’re implementing a new level of proactive maintenance, specifically related to identifying aging equipment and infrastructure and updating it before it becomes a problem. Like our line clearance efforts, this is a long-overdue step and will take many years for full implementation, but will ultimately result in an improved service experience. Operations and maintenance is the second-largest bucket of our expense budget, eclipsed only by the cost of purchased power, which accounts for almost 60% of our total expenses. In 2020 and beyond, we are escalating our commitment to investing in our system in a strategic and proactive way to improve system functionality and reliability. In November, your board of directors approved a $63 million Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loan application. Among other things, these dollars will be applied to our construction and maintenance work plans as an investment in your service experience. We can’t prevent all outages; it’s simply impossible with a largely outdoor and complex mechanical infrastructure. However, we can take proactive steps to reduce the number and duration of outages, and we look forward to sharing the results of those steps as reliability improves.

Line Clearance Plans For 2020 WHY WE DO THIS RELIABILITY Overgrown brush and trees are a major contributor to power outages.

SAFETY Trees and overgrown brush in close proximity to a power line can present a dangerous situation for your family and our lineman working on the lines.

VISIBILITY and ACCESSIBILITY Problems can be more readily identified and repaired when lines are not obscured.


ur chief responsibility as an electric cooperative is to provide reliable and safe power, and trees are a major obstacle to our infrastructure. Therefore, we employ an aggressive, proactive line clearance program to help reduce outages caused by trees and brush.


Recorded and prescriptive easements give us the right to access and use personal property to maintain our ground-to-sky rights-of-way, (e.g., a 15-foot strip of land on either side of our power lines).

We will spray in the following service areas: Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Leonidas, Mattawan, Marcellus, Mendon, Paw Paw, Portage, Schoolcraft, Texas, north and west sides of Three Rivers and Vicksburg.


We notify affected customers a few weeks in advance via a mailed flyer and automated phone call. Then, as the tree crew is surveying a specific area, we will attempt to leave a door tag.

Once the line is clear, we return to trim and mow new growth. SW territory: Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, Niles, west side of Three Rivers and Vandalia SE territory: Adrian, Britton, Clinton, Tecumseh, and Tipton

We employ a long-term spraying strategy to manage continued regrowth. It effectively controls tallgrowing trees and bushes while promoting low-growing plants that are beneficial to wildlife.

If you have any questions, please call 800-492-5989, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.



MI CO-OP Community

Best Of Michigan Chocolatiers Chocolate isn’t just for Valentine’s Day. Every occasion is better with chocolate, right? Indulge yourself with these member-recommended chocolate shops. Enjoy and experience how sweet life is!




Lansing, 517-482-7871 Fabiano’s is near Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. Their handmade chocolates are the best. My husband always made sure I had my favorite truffles on hand. He has passed, but I have continued the tradition. A truffle at the end of the day says, “Life is good.” Lee Edwards, HomeWorks Tri-County



DROST’S CHOCOLATES Indian River, 231-238-6911 Yummy chocolates with huge variety. I love all the dark chocolates, and they also have delicious sugar-free chocolates. I can’t forget the ice cream flavors; you can’t go wrong!


2 3

6 12

2 5

Mary Hall, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op



4 10


Gaylord, 989-732-1077 The Alpine Chocolat Haus has the best seafoam (a sweet, pillowy foam smothered in their famous chocolate) in the state!! We’ve been known to “take a road trip” (from Grand Rapids area) just to go and buy several bags of their delicious seafoam! We also love their chocolate-covered potato chips! Bob and Brenda Austin, Great Lakes Energy




Vassar, 989-882-9494 A family-owned business that makes the most amazing handmade chocolates. I love stopping by for a special treat or when I’m gift shopping! They also make sugar-free chocolate so good it will fool people. Crystal Fox, Thumb Electric






Grand Haven, 616-935-7740 You can take a tour of the chocolate factory and take classes. They have friendly and knowledgeable staff. They have the most intricately decorated chocolate eggs for Easter.

Whittemore, 989-756-3691 Just walking into this store makes you feel like a kid again! All the varieties of candy are out-of-this-world delicious.

Sandy Whitaker, Midwest Energy & Communications

Sheryl Klotz, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op

SAYKLLY’S CANDIES Escanaba, 906-786-3092 Sayklly’s has the best chocolate in the Upper Peninsula! They also have great customer service, even on busy days, and lots of varieties, too.


Denise Smith, Alger Delta





Empire, 231-326-3030 This is definitely my favorite chocolatier. Their products are amazing and beautifully handcrafted, and include everything from truffles to chocolate bars and wafers to coffee! Also, the staff is always delightful, helpful, and enthusiastic about their offerings. It's nearly impossible to drive by without stopping! Jeannie Corey, Cherryland





Marquette, 906-226-6110 Historic Donckers of Marquette has the best chocolate in the area. Many people love their fudge, but my favorites are the dark chocolate sea salt caramels. The candy counter is filled with delicious chocolates and confections and has an old-fashioned soda fountain in the back. When Barack Obama was president, he visited Marquette and stopped by Donckers. Ginny Dunn, Alger Delta

East Tawas, 989-362-7728 I send their chocolates to my family for the holidays, and they rave about the quality and delicious taste of these handmade dark chocolates. They take a lot of pride in their ingredients and quality, along with fantastic customer service. Don Kossick, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op

Alpena, 989-354-8231 They have to-die-for homemade chocolates, the best homemade caramel corn and yummy coffee. There are lots of great gifts, too! Sheila McEachin, Thumb Electric

Inkster, 313-565-2505 They make the best chocolate I have ever tasted. Two of the Corden brothers started the business in 1918, and it continues to be family operated today——everything is made from scratch. Certain times of the year, they create unique chocolates, which include brandy- or rum-filled chocolate-covered cherries and creamy butter rums which melt in your mouth (my absolute favorites). Yum! Deb Dillon, Great Lakes Energy


Light Your Home For Less With ENERGY STAR® LEDs!


nstalling LED light bulbs in your home is a quick and easy way to save energy. Look for the ENERGY STAR label for the best quality and longest product life. By replacing your home's five most frequently used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® LEDs, you can save up to $75 each year.

Fun Facts about ENERGY STAR LEDs • For an LED light bulb to bear the ENERGY STAR label, it must pass rigorous testing to ensure maximum energy savings and performance.

• LEDs emit very little energy as wasted heat. In comparison, incandescent bulbs release 90% and CFLs release 80% of their energy as heat.

Choosing the Right LED Bulb • Brightness: Look for lumens, instead of watts, to

determine brightness. Replace a 60W bulb with an LED bulb with about 800 lumens for comparable brightness.

• Color: The color of an LED bulb is typically shown on

a sliding scale between warm and cool. This measure is actually a temperature on the Kelvin scale (K), where lower K emits warmer, yellower light, and higher K produces cooler, bluer light.


• LEDs are the size of a fleck of pepper. • The white light for LEDs is typically a mix of red, green, and blue LEDs.

Visit or call 877-296-4319 for additional energy-saving information and incentives.

• LEDs contain no mercury and can be disposed of easily.

Invest in your


Replace your home’s most frequently used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® LEDs and save up to $75 per year. ENERGY STAR lighting provides: Significant energy savings Highest quality and performance Wide range of colors and brightness Dimmable lighting and motion sensing capabilities

INSTANT IN-STORE SAVINGS available at select retailers. | 877-296-4319

Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Other restrictions may apply. For a complete list of participating utilities, visit

Carmelita Beeching, administrative assistant to the principal at Lawrence Elementary School receives a grant for the school’s care closet.

Strengthening Schools, Strengthening Our Communities In January, we surprised local educators with Strengthening Schools Grants to help them bring new and exciting learning opportunities to students throughout our service territory. We are proud to offer these grants, funded with partnership dollars from Wolverine Power Cooperative, each year to those who share our vision of creating vibrant, relevant and sustainable rural communities. Co-op members Janene Ogrin, Pauline Giacobone and Dave Owens evaluated and scored all applications and determined final awards without knowledge of the school, district or community. • Addison Elementary School, $284 for Science Technology Engineering Art Math (STEAM) supplies • Bangor Middle School, $854 for teacher laptops • Centreville Elementary School, $1,500 for microscopes • Colon Jr./Sr. High School, $1,220 for blackout classroom shades to prevent the sun from washing out displays on the class whiteboard • Compass Learning Center, $800 for a sensory board • Decatur Public Schools, $500 for special education program coffee/snack cart • Eau Claire Middle/High School, $1,250 for college visit field trip • Gobles Middle/High School, $1,117 for circuit building equipment • Lawrence Elementary School, $500 for CARE closet that provides clothing, shoes and healthcare products for those in need • Lawton High School, $750 for yearbook cameras • Lawton Middle School, $750 for laptop cart & chargers • Marcellus Elementary, $2,400 for intervention materials for reading & writing • Marcellus Elementary, $500 for Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) supplies

• Mattawan Early Elementary, $326 for display bookshelf, book bins and book bags • Mattawan Later Elementary, $135 for charger cables and boost cubes • Mattawan Later Elementary, $1,500 for iPads • Mattawan Middle School, $500 for beekeeping supplies • Paw Paw High School, $995 for a classroom response system that provides instant assessments and feedback on students’ responses to interactive questions • Paw Paw Middle School, $272 for greenhouse equipment • Portage Northern High School, $750 for soft-cover children’s books for the Book Buddies student organization to donate to children living in a local women’s shelter • Portage Northern High School, $1,800 for Real Care Baby replacements • Redwood Elementary School, $1,000 for classroom library books and headsets/microphones for use with Chromebooks • Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School, $305 for 40 copies of “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” • Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School, $300 for 60 copies of “Bull Run” • Sam Adams Elementary, $750 for STEM supplies • Schoolcraft High School, $1,200 for a soundboard • Three Rivers Middle School, $1,500 for a Holocaust Memorial field trip • Van Buren Intermediate School District Behavioral Education Center, $1,000 for safe sensory room items • Vicksburg Middle School, $800 for the environmental/ recycling club • Vicksburg Middle School, $926 for supplies for special education & resource rooms • Volinia Outcomes School, $600 for science textbooks and supplies • Volinia Outcomes School, $1,000 for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for students • Watervliet High School, $2,000 for a table saw




You may associate cherries with late spring and summer, but February is National Cherry Month. Since they’re super tasty and super good for you, there’s no reason life can’t be, well, a bowl of cherries right now! Photos by Robert Bruce Photography Recipes Submitted By MCL Readers And Tested By Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

Winning Recipe!

Cherry Fudge Cake Mary Scodeller, Great Lakes Energy

1¹⁄ ³ cups sifted all-purpose 1 egg flour ½ cup evaporated milk 1 cup sugar ¼ cup water ¹⁄ ³ cup cocoa 2 tablespoons maraschino 1 teaspoon soda cherry syrup ¾ teaspoon salt ½ cup cut-up maraschino ²⁄ ³ cup shortening, softened cherries Preheat oven to 350 F (for glass pan, use 325 F). Grease bottom of an 8-inch square pan. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt into a 2-quart bowl. Add shortening, egg, and evaporated milk to dry ingredients in bowl. Beat hard 2½ minutes with electric mixer at medium speed, or with mixing spoon. Add water and cherry syrup and beat hard one minute longer. Stir in cut-up cherries. Transfer to prepared baking pan. Bake on center rack of oven 45–50 minutes or until cake pulls from sides of pan. Remove from oven. Let stand in pan 10 minutes before turning out to cool. If desired, cool and frost in pan. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at 10 FEBRUARY 2020

Cherry Couscous Annie Barnes, Great Lakes Energy

1 cup water or chicken broth ¾ cup quick-cooking couscous, uncooked (may sub wild rice or a grain mixture) ½ cup dried tart cherries ½ cup coarsely chopped carrots ½ cup chopped unpeeled cucumber ¼ cup sliced green onions ¼ cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds, optional 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring water or broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in couscous. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Uncover; let cool 10 minutes. Combine cooked couscous, dried cherries, carrots, cucumber, green onions, and pine nuts in a large bowl. Combine vinegar, olive oil, and mustard; mix well. Pour vinegar mixture over couscous mixture; mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Michigan Vineyard Salad C. Hodges, Ontonagon REA

1 head bibb lettuce (about 8 ounces total), washed and dried well 1 head red leaf lettuce (about 12 ounces total), washed and dried well ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese 12 rings red onion, each about ¼-inch thick 3 tablespoons chopped English walnuts, toasted ½ cup dried tart cherries 3 tablespoons tart cherry preserves 3 tablespoons olive oil ¼ cup red wine vinegar 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


GUEST CHEF 1 garlic clove, minced ½ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper In a medium bowl, tear lettuce into bitesize pieces, then add cheese, onion, nuts, and cherries. In a small lidded jar, combine remaining ingredients and shake until emulsified. Toss salad with dressing and serve.

After long days of navigating the icy waters of the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways, the crew of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw appreciates a warm meal with hearty flavors like this ship favorite provided by the onboard duty cooks.

French Cherry Cream Torte

Kathy Chapman, Great Lakes Energy Crust: ½ cup brown sugar 1 cup finely chopped nuts 1 cup butter or margarine, softened 2 cups flour • dash salt Filling: 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 cup confectioners sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 16-ounce container Cool Whip Topping: 1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling • ground nuts, optional To make the crust, in a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, chopped nuts,

butter/margarine, flour and salt. Press into a 9x13 pan and bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and break up with fork. To make the filling, in a large bowl, first cream the cream cheese. Then add the confectioners sugar and vanilla, and cream together. Add the Cool Whip and mix well. Spread the filling on the crust in an even layer. Refrigerate overnight. For the topping, spread the cherry pie filling on top of the pie and add chopped nuts, if preferred.

Best Of Vegetarian: due March 1 Mexican Fiesta:

due April 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 for more information and to register.

Brown Sugar And Bacon Glazed Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved 6 bacon slices 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cut Brussels sprouts in half and place to the side. Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. After draining, crumble bacon. Cook Brussels sprouts either in a Dutch oven or frying pan with 1 tablespoon of butter for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Once the Brussels sprouts are tender, add additional butter (if needed), brown sugar, and bacon. Stir until butter and brown sugar are mixed. Serve immediately.

Enter to win a


energy bill credit!

Read the full story about the USCG Cutter Mackinaw on page 14, and find this recipe and others at



MEC linemen Eric Keller, Kirk Sander, Greg Karmol, Matt Adams, and Ryan Ciacelli with gifts they picked out for Adrian Operation Christmas Cheer.



The Adrian MEC crew shopped for 11 women and their children residing in the Neighbors of Hope shelter. We also gave each mom a $25 Meijer gift card, and Meijer provided a $75 gift card and an additional 10% off our purchases to maximize the impact of our donation.

We were busy during the holiday season spreading good tidings and cheer throughout our service territory.

MEC employees Sara Hartsell and Candy Riem decorate the tree.

COMSTOCK CHRISTMAS RIVERWALK We decorated a tree as part of the City of Adrian Comstock Christmas Riverwalk. The tree featured Ralph from “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and was part of an impressive display of 676 illuminated trees.

12 FEBRUARY 2020

MEC employees Glenyce Bentzer and Billy Meggs get ready to surprise a lucky MEC customer with holiday cheer.

Employee-donated toys for the Toys for Tots drive.

CASSOPOLIS CHRISTMAS FAMILIES As part of the Midwest Employees Give Back (MEGB) program, employees selected two random families to reward with holiday cheer and gifts.

TOYS FOR TOTS Forty-eight MEC employees participated in a Toys for Tots drive, which resulted in almost 100 donated toys.

Marcellus: MEC employees and school volunteers help kids wrap gifts for their loved ones.

SANTA’S SECRET SHOP We headed to Lawrence and Marcellus elementary schools to help kids purchase and wrap gifts for their loved ones. We also provided “MEC bucks” to enable kids in need to purchase gifts for their loved ones.

Lawrence: MEC employee Lori Ruff helps a student pick out a gift.


Photo courtesy of Tony Johnson Photography.


he Coast Guard’s motto is “Semper Paratus” or “Always Ready.” And ready is what you have to be when navigating the miles of waterways that the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw (WLBB-30) oversees along the Great Lakes, Straits of Mackinac, and St. Mary’s River.

iteration of Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006, the retired ship found a home at its namesake, Mackinaw City. The current Mackinaw is 240 feet in length, with a displacement of more than 3,500 tons and is powered by three Caterpillar 3600 series 12-cylinder diesel engines. Between the two ships, Mackinaw is celebrating its 75th year in Cheboygan, Michigan. “Mackinaw has a crew of about 60 and has three main missions—icebreaking, servicing aids to navigation (ATON), and search and rescue,” explains Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Carolyn Smith of the Coast Guard. “We also do a fair amount of public relations, as a branch of the military that is easily accessible and visible by the public at large.”


Mackinaw has a rich history, with its predecessor (Mackinaw WAGB-83) having been commissioned back in the World War II era as a way to support the war effort and the transportation of resources along the Great Lakes. With weather along the Great Lakes being as it is, a ship that was capable of cutting through ice to maintain waterways and rescue trapped ships was a necessity. To keep commerce moving, cutters like the Mackinaw make tracks of broken ice through major shipping lanes and often conduct closequarters maneuvering to free immobilized ships from thick ice. As commerce increased and the need for oil and gasoline has become a part of everyday living, the usefulness of Mackinaw and its similar crafts has become irreplaceable. When the latest 14 FEBRUARY 2020

Residents and visitors of Cheboygan have frequent views of and visits aboard Mackinaw, even though it is busy year-round. As the largest U.S. cutter on the Great Lakes, it spends approximately four months on the icy Great Lakes and surrounding waterways during the winter season. She is equipped with two 4,500-horsepower Azipods, which are capable of turning in 360 degrees and breaking through 32 inches of ice at 8 knots astern, or 14 inches of ice when moving 10 knots ahead. Additionally, the Azipods are capable of blowing highly pressurized water through and under the ice, breaking thick ice nearly 100 feet from the ship without the hull of the vessel ever coming into contact with it.

started in the late 1800s with entrepreneurs who This past winter, Mackinaw, along with other gave many trees away at the end of their annual Coast Guard ships on the Great Lakes, conducted Christmas tree delivery in the Windy City. The 429 vessel escorts through ice-filled waterways and 155 direct assists to vessels beset in ice over a tradition was revived in 1999 as the Chicago Christmas Ship program. For the past two 106-day period. This translated to approximately decades, the crew of Mackinaw has carried and $301 million worth (about 8.3 million tons) of dry bulk cargo critical to power generation, “THE LONGER I’M IN THE COAST GUARD, THE industrial productivity, and public safety.



In spring and fall, the Mackinaw tends to aids IT’S A PRIVILEGE EACH AND EVERY DAY.” — LTJG Carolyn Smith to navigation, pulling in and placing larger buoys in the spring unloaded these symbols of hope and goodwill and then replacing those with smaller winter at Navy Pier each year, just in time to deliver a buoys in the fall. The mission of ATON is to healthy dose of holiday cheer. assist commercial and recreational mariners to determine their position, steer clear of hazards, “The longer I’m in the Coast Guard, the more and chart a safe course. The crew I appreciate our missions and what we do,” said under the ship LTJG Smith. “Not only facilitating commerce and This year, Mackinaw celebrated 20 years of a during dry-dock providing safety on local waterways, but we also less likely tradition—while conducting its fall maintenance. have the opportunity to serve the people of the ATON operations, Mackinaw delivered nearly Photo courtesy United States directly and immediately. It’s a 1,200 Christmas trees from northern Michigan of Petty Officer Joseph Coach. privilege each and every day.” to deserving families in Chicago. This custom

All female bridge team with Commander John Stone.

Christmas Trees on back of the ship prior to delivery to families in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Tony Johnson Photography.

Load Management:



hen many of our customers use a lot of electricity at the same time, it can lead to increased demand on our system—and increased power supply costs. Our load management programs are intended to help ease that burden by allowing us to reduce the amount of electricity being used during peak times. In turn, we pass the cost savings on to you. We offer several different load management programs; participation is voluntary but can lead to savings on your electric bill.

For more information on each program, including times during which we typically perform controls, please visit or give us a call at 800-492-5989. 16 FEBRUARY 2020

Our Available Programs Nest Thermostat And Rush Hour Rewards

66 months. You must use a minimum of 400 kWhs per month to qualify.

Join the Rush Hour Rewards load management program using a Nest ® thermostat and receive up to two annual $25 account credits for allowing us to control your Nest when demand is high. During a Rush Hour period, the Nest will automatically adjust the temperature without allowing it to get too cold or hot. Additionally, if you purchase the thermostat through us, you can receive rebates of up to $125.

Irrigation Load Management

Interruptible Water Heater If you use a 50-gallon electric water heater, you may qualify for a $4 monthly credit on your electric bill when you allow us to control the electricity to the water heater during peak-use times. Need a new water heater? Purchase one through us for only $125 out-of-pocket. We will apply the monthly load management credit to the cost of the water heater for

This program provides you with a lower rate while allowing us to interrupt your service when we need to. Load management may occur at any time, including weekends and holidays, but typically happens in the evenings. Plus, we attempt to notify all irrigation accounts on load management by telephone on the days we control.

Interruptible Heating and Cooling During periods of peak demand, we remotely interrupt your heating and air conditioning system through a secondary (i.e., an Internal Disconnect Collar (IDC) meter). You get a reduced kWh charge on your electric bill and pay no distribution charge on your electric heat or qualified air conditioning for the entire time you are enrolled in the program—not just during control periods. A backup heating system is required to participate.

Stay Safe Around Propane We take pride in keeping your home or business protected. While propane is a safe, reliable, and clean energy source, you must be aware of basic safety tips.

If You Suspect A Leak: You should always be on alert for the smell of rotten eggs, especially around a gas appliance or tank. If you do smell gas in your home or other areas around any gas equipment, or if a gas alarm signals the presence of propane, you should immediately follow these suggestions: • Extinguish all smoking materials and any other open flames or sources of ignition. Everyone should vacate the building, vehicle or area. • Move away without using any electric switches, appliances, thermostats, or telephones. • Close the gas shutoff valve on the propane tank or cylinder. • Call MEC at 800-492-5989 immediately from a cellular telephone or a neighbor’s telephone. • Have a properly trained propane service technician repair the leak. He or she needs to determine that the leak situation has been fully resolved. • Return to the building or area only when the service technician indicates it is safe to do so.

Lighting Pilot Lights If a pilot light goes out repeatedly or if it’s difficult to light, that could indicate a safety issue. Do not try to fix it yourself. Please call a qualified professional.

General Maintenance • Do not run out of gas. Doing so will cause the pilot lights of your appliances to go out, which can be dangerous. A leak check will be required before we can turn your service back on. • Make sure the vents of your appliances and your propane tank are clear of debris, snow and ice. A blocked vent can result in gas fumes getting trapped inside your home, and snow and ice accumulation can break gas connections on the tank. Please remove both regularly. • Do not try to install, modify or repair valves, regulators, connectors, controls, or other appliance/tank parts. You could inadvertently create a gas leak. • Have appliances inspected regularly to ensure everything is working as it should.

The Propane Education & Research Council offers more helpful information at If you have further questions, please call us at 800-492-5989. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 17


MI CO-OP Community

A Message From Beyond The Grave By Brian Maki, Alger Delta Cooperative member


ome things in life are hard to explain. They don’t translate well with human intellect. But in life, there are plenty of hidden messages, secret codes, and reminders without voices. This is one of those hard-tobelieve stories. I share it often, but few believe me. I was 19 years old; life had just begun. I was still wet behind the ears, and still lacking in maturity. I didn’t believe in the boogeyman, Santa Claus, four-leaf clovers, fairy tales, magic, fate, a lucky rabbit’s foot, numerology, and, above all, spiritual connections. I saw those ideals depicted in Hollywood movies, but in my world, they held no personal meaning. But all that was to change forever on February 24, 1990. My whole world came crashing down that day. Three family members had died within three months of each other: my grandfather, an uncle, and finally—the pinnacle— my father, Albert, who passed away at age 57. To survive the turmoil of so many personal losses, I kept my emotions distant. I never cried. I never got emotional or out of control. I lived each day. I focused. My strong will to survive carried me through. Each of them would tell me to do so. My father owned a red Ford F150 truck. It was sitting in the driveway. Right after his death, I would find myself wandering outside, unlocking the cab door, and sitting inside of it alone. In this eerie silence, I felt closer to him, closer to his scent, closer to the man and father that I loved. After the sixth visit in a week, I prayed for a sign. Any sign. Some kind of declaration that things were going to be okay. That my life would go on with his blessing, and I got my wish. While I glanced at the odometer, the mileage read 002,249.0. I had to take a second look to decipher it. The numbers said something. It was his message. He spoke to me. The cab immediately filled with warmth, understanding, gratitude, love, and I cried so hard, so fast, for so long. My eyes were a water lust of

18 FEBRUARY 2020

He was telling me something from beyond the grave. A familiar voice had returned. I felt safe inside of that truck. He was with me. His spirit was near. Life made sense.”

happiness, forgiveness, and relief. I was in shock. He was telling me something from beyond the grave. A familiar voice had returned. I felt safe inside of that truck. He was with me. His spirit was near. Life made sense. The moral of the story: My love for numerology began that day, a day I will never forget. My father’s hidden message was direct and straightforward: February (02), day (24), and year (90). It was the date of his untimely death, locked forever inside the odometer of his pickup truck. Unique. Breathtaking. Poignant. This wasn’t luck. It wasn’t a coincidence. It wasn’t even a miracle. It was his special way of saying that everything was okay. Through numerals, he passed through time and touched my life. And it was beautiful. I loved him and he knew it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Brian is in his 25th year of adult education, teaching technology classes to people from all walks of life. He enjoys writing for his tech blog and exploring the U.P.

Win $150 for stories published! Guest Column: Country Lines invites members to submit their fond memories and stories. For guidelines and to submit your guest column go to under the MI Co-op Community tab.

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Jess S., Cherryland Electric Member






HOW DOES THE SYSTEM WORK? Well-Connect works in combination with your home’s current heating system. This hybrid approach allows almost any existing well to become a free, clean energy source for heating and cooling your home.



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