February 2024 HomeWorks

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February 2024


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

SWEEPING SUCCESS Michigan Tech’s Broomball Craze

Schedule A Free Energy Audit

Electricity 101: How The Power Gets To Your Home

Refer A Friend To HomeWorks Connect!


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Bad Axe/Ubly Cutting Edge Htg & Clg (989) 551-0986

Lansing Candor Mechanical (517) 920-0890 candormechanical.com

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

Lowell Arctic Inc. Htg. & Clg. (616) 897-4213 heatingcoolingonline.com

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

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 Topnotchheatandair.com

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

Michigan Center Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 airserv.com/southernmichigan/

Traverse City D&W Mechanical (231) 941-1251 dwmechanical.com

Berrien Springs Waterfurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmichgeo thermal.com Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717 stratzgeocomfort.com Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheating cooling.com

Alger Delta Electric: up to $4,000 Cherryland Electric: up to $2,500 Cloverland: up to $6,275 Great Lakes Energy: up to $5,000 HomeWorks/Tri-County Electric: up to $4,750 Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op: up to $4,750 Thumb Electric: 5% financing available up to $22,500 10-year term

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

visit us at waterfurnace.com/mi

WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. ©2024 1.ENERGY STAR-rated units qualify for 30% through 2032, 26% through 2033 and 22% through 2034

Contents countrylines.com


February 2024 Vol. 44, No. 2 /michigancountrylines

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird RECIPE EDITOR: Christin Russman 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.

10 14

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Tom Sobeck, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, chairman; Gabe Schneider, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Chris O’Neill, HomeWorks TriCounty 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.

6 THE THRILL OF THE CHILL: ICE FISHING IN MICHIGAN Drill a hole and join in the fun.


Best Layer Cakes: Recipes as delicious as they are decorative.


Michigan Tech’s broomball craze.


Memories of an Ice Fisherman: A GLE member recalls the first time he saw a “dinosaur fish.”

MI Co-op Community

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

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 1; Tacos & Margaritas due April 1.

Win a $100 bill credit!

Guest Column

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

Win $200 for stories published!



At HomeWorks, The Power Is In Your Hands

homeworks.org /homeworks.org tricoenergy@homeworks.org Portland office/Mail payments to: 7973 E. Grand River Ave. Portland, MI 48875 Open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday

Blanchard office: 3681 Costabella Ave. Blanchard, MI 49310 Open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday Night deposit box available at both locations. Electric bill/account questions: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-562-8232 Pay by phone, anytime: 1-877-999-3395

Service questions/outages: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-848-9333 (24 hours for emergency calls) Tri-County Propane: 1-877-574-2740

HomeWorks Connect 1-800-668-8413 BOARD OF DIRECTORS

District 1 — John Lord, Vice-Chairman 2276 Plains Rd., Leslie, MI 49251 517-974-2518 • jlord@homeworks.org

District 2 — Jim Stebbins 7139 Peddler Lake Rd., Clarksville, MI 48815 616-693-2449 • jstebbins@homeworks.org District 3 — Luke Pohl, Chairman 15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894 989-292-0427 • lpohl@homeworks.org District 4 — Jake Borton 7543 E. Edgar Rd., Vestaburg, MI 48891 989-506-3404 • jborton@homeworks.org

District 5 — Theresa Sopocy 6996 E. Wilson Rd., Bannister, MI 48807 989-292-0295 • tsopocy@homeworks.org

By Chris O’Neill, President/CEO


ecently, one of our newer employees asked me what sets electric co-ops apart from other types of utilities. This month, I thought I’d tell you a few of the things I told her about our unique business model.

Because we’re a co-op, we operate quite a bit different from other utilities. HomeWorks’ decisions are made locally, by directors who also live right here in our community. Everyone who pays to receive electricity from HomeWorks is a member and owner of the Cooperative. When you pay your electric bill each month, your money stays here—to pay for the electricity used, or to make improvements to our local system to strengthen service reliability. The money you pay HomeWorks doesn’t line the pockets of shareholders five states away. We’re a co-op, and we exist to provide a service to you, our local members. You may notice that throughout the year, we schedule several opportunities for you to attend Co-op events, like our virtual district meetings coming up in May, so we can hear from you. We also offer our in-person Annual Meeting of Delegates in August, and our HomeWorks Park Parties, which will take place throughout the summer this year. To gather even more feedback from you on Co-op programs and services, we conduct a member survey every few years so that we can plan and adjust for the future based on your needs. And, of course, every HomeWorks member has the opportunity to make their voice heard in their director election every three years, which members in districts 3 and 6 will take part in this spring. As a co-op, our success lies in your engagement and satisfaction, which is why we offer these opportunities to meet with you and truly hear what you have to say. And when you provide us with insightful feedback on services that we could improve for you, we pride ourselves in investing in purposeful solutions based on the needs of our members, instead of our bottom line. Because you’re part of an electric cooperative, you can count on our team to maintain local jobs, at-cost electricity, and first-class service, no matter what the economy throws at us.

District 6 — Ed Oplinger, Secretary-Treasurer 10890 W. Weidman Rd., Weidman, MI 48893 989-506-1639 • eoplinger@homeworks.org

HomeWorks is always striving to keep our costs affordable so we can keep more money in your pocket. We also want to help you maximize the value you can get from our services and offerings. For example, we can help you save on energy bills through the free energy audit program and efficiency rebates offered through our Energy Optimization program. (Learn more on page 8.)

Editor: C harly Markwart, CCC

If you want to receive information on these offerings and other important Co-op updates, such as power restoration alerts (which will go live soon) and upcoming event news, be sure to read the next page on how to sign up for our convenient new text/email message notifications.

District 7 — Shirley Sprague 15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305 989-382-7535 • ssprague@homeworks.org

Please know that you—the members of HomeWorks—are at the heart of everything we do. We exist to serve you and provide the safe, reliable, friendly service you expect and deserve. While we’ve grown over the years, we’re still driven by the same guiding principles to serve our community. We hope to see or hear from you soon. This Co-op was created for you, the members. Here at HomeWorks, the power truly is in your hands.


Stay Informed With HomeWorks Text Alerts When it comes to important Co-op information about electric outages, billing options, new services, and more, we know our members want a quick and convenient way to stay informed. That’s why we are excited to offer you the opportunity to sign up to receive our automated Co-op notifications via text message, email, and/or our SmartHub app! The highlight of this offering is our upcoming electric outage alert option, which will roll out soon as a new way to keep participating members updated when the power is out at their location. These outage notifications are in pilot phase now, but as soon as they go live, members who sign up to receive them will be able to opt in to receive a message if an outage affecting their service address has been reported, as well as follow-up alerts when a crew has been dispatched to resolve the outage and when power has been restored. Eventually, participating members will also be able to text us to report an outage or to check on the status of an outage affecting their area. These automated notifications are an opt-in offering, meaning members wishing to receive the messages must sign up and let us know which types of updates they’d like to see and how they prefer to receive them. Luckily, you can sign up now and be all set to start receiving outage alerts as soon as this offering goes live. And signing up is simple! First, you need to have your free online SmartHub account set up. This can easily be done at HomeWorks.org or through the free SmartHub mobile app.

To sign up for outage notifications, log in to your online account. Under the “Settings” menu on the left side of the page, select “Manage Notifications.” On the next page, select “Service” from the drop-down menu, which will allow you to add the phone number and email address to which you’d like to have notifications sent. Lastly, click “save.” Under “Manage Notifications,” you’ll also see where you can opt in to receive any other types of Co-op notifications you’d like to receive. These convenient notifications are just one more way for you to stay engaged with the Co-op you own. If you have any questions about how to sign up, please feel free to call our member services team at 800-562-8232.


2024 Learn About Your Co-op 2024 Virtual District Meetings Are Coming Up In May!

Engage With Your Co-op

Win Big Prizes!

HomeWorks' virtual district meetings will take place May 6-15 this year. As the meeting dates near, we'll provide more details on your district's specific meeting date and how to attend. We hope to "see" you there!

The Thrill Of The Chill Ice Fishing In Michigan By Yvette Pecha

t’s February in Michigan, and the deep freeze is here. Some people will complain, some will seek respite in warmer regions, and some, like Tim Cwalinski, with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will embrace this opportunity bestowed upon us by Mother Nature. Cwalinski, fisheries unit supervisor for the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit based in Gaylord, Michigan, enjoys fishing and is grateful to have a sporting activity he can take part in year-round. “Ice fishing gives us an additional recreation in the winter,” he said. “It’s a value we have in coldweather states, and we should use it to our advantage.”


“Hard-water fishing” is not just another fishing trip—it’s a completely unique experience. Aside from the level of solitude you likely wouldn’t find in other seasons, the lack of bugs, and different setups with different equipment give people a prospect they may not have the rest of the year. “Not everybody can afford a 20-, 40-, or 50-thousand-dollar boat,” Cwalinski said. Anglers who were previously relegated to fishing on the shoreline can now get to the middle of the lake simply by walking, snowmobiling, or driving out. Another perk—according to many anglers—is that ice fishing produces some of the



best-tasting fish. “I think there’s some truth to that,” Cwalinski said. “Some species that live in lake vegetation, like crappie and bass, taste a little like their environment in the summer, but not in the winter.” One unfortunate part of ice fishing is that it’s highly dependent on weather. If Michigan experiences a mild winter, ice conditions will be poor. Cwalinski says Saginaw Bay is a popular destination when conditions allow because there’s an abundance of walleye and perch in the bay. But Cwalinski notes that recent winters haven’t been particularly cold, and people have wound up traveling to places with cooler temperatures. “Some people eagerly anticipate hard-water fishing, so downstate people will drive north and follow the good ice,” he said. Cwalinski lives in Gaylord (where he receives service from GLE) and says he generally fishes in lakes close to home, which are inhabited by plenty of trout. He said they’re also full of panfish, which he is partial to. Panfish, thusly called because they fit in a campfire-style pan, are classified by fish types such as blue gill, pumpkinseed, crappie, and yellow perch. Cwalinski says it’s better for everyone if there’s cold weather statewide because

it spreads out where people fish and doesn’t deplete the northern bodies of water. But no matter the temperatures in the lower part of the state, Gaylord and other upstate communities enjoy a financial boon in the ice-fishing season. “If you come up from downstate to fish, you’re spending money on bait, you’re buying gas and food, you might eat in a restaurant or stay in a hotel—all of that money is getting pumped into local economies,” Cwalinski said. There are also numerous northern Michigan ice fishing festivals and tournaments that serve as valued community development opportunities. Before you head anywhere for ice fishing, it’s important to ensure conditions are right for it. “You have to consider the safety measures,” Cwalinski said. “Go to websites and find out what ice is good. In general, three inches is safe, but just because a certain spot is three inches doesn’t mean that’s the case throughout the body of water. Ask around and look for places where people are already out on the ice.” As for when to fish, well, we are currently in what Cwalinski calls the “winter doldrums of ice fishing”—

a time where fish go into a state of “torpor,” during which they generally aren’t feeding or moving much. “The thicker you are into the meat of winter—your Februarys, your early March—the harder it is to catch anything because they’re staying still and conserving energy,” he said. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ice fishing this month, but you may fare better when the shorelines are starting to break up and the fish are more active. Regardless of when in the year you go out, the best times of day to fish are around sunrise and sunset. Give ice fishing a try and experience for yourself why it is such a timehonored tradition in our state. With more than 11,000 Michigan lakes waiting to be explored, you don’t have to be housebound just because it’s cold outside. “Many of our Michigan recreational anglers look forward to the ice-fishing season year-round,” Cwalinski said. Though he is not a diehard ice angler, Cwalinski said he does find himself anticipating it sometimes in the off-season. “I’ll be sitting in deer stands in the fall and thinking about the blue gill fillets I’m going to catch soon,” he said.

FREE FISHING WEEKEND If you want to experience ice angling but don’t have a fishing license, there are two weekends a year you can fish without one. The first is Feb. 17 and 18. In addition to license fees being waived, you won’t need a recreation passport for entry into state parks or boating access sites. The other free fishing weekend is June 8 and 9.



Schedule a FREE Energy Consultation for Your Home, Business, or Farm


earching for savings in the middle of these energy-heavy months? Look no further! As a HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Co-op member, you can take advantage of a large array of energy efficiency rebates and incentives available through our Energy Optimization program. Not sure where to begin? A home or business energy consultation is a great place to start! HomeWorks currently offers a FREE energy consultation for your home, business, or farm that allows you to get an overall snapshot of where and how you are using energy, as well as areas where you might be able to save energy or use energy more efficiently. How does an energy consultation work? For homeowners, the process is very simple. One of our Energy Advisors will come to your home and assess areas of improvement, talk about some of your energy-related concerns, and help you better understand your energy usage. Then, after the consultation, you will receive a report with follow-up information and recommended improvements. As an added bonus, our Energy Advisor can even provide or install energy-saving products for you! To get started, give us a call at 877-296-4319 or send us an email at info@michigan-energy.org.

The process is very similar for business or farm owners— simply get in touch with us using the same contact information above and ask for a referral to an Energy Advisor to perform an Energy Efficiency Consultation for your farm or business. So, what happens next? After getting your personalized recommendations for your home or business, you’re always welcome to take part in any of our other Energy Optimization programs, including: • Rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances • Rebates for energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment for your home • Rebates for Agriculture & Farm or Commercial & Industrial businesses • Appliance recycling (seasonal) … and more! Visit homeworks.org/eo or give us a call at 877-296-4319 to learn more about all of our available offerings.

Schedule a free energy consultation for your home, business, or farm today. A HomeWorks Energy Advisor will visit you to perform an assessment, discuss concerns, help you understand energy usage, and identify areas of improvement. V I S I T homeworks.org/eo • C A L L 877-296-4319 E M A I L info@michigan-energy.org


HomeWorks Energy Optimization programs and rebates are applicable to HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative electric service locations only. Rebates apply to qualified items purchased and installed between Jan. 1, 2024 and Dec. 31, 2024. Other restrictions may apply. For complete program details, visit homeworks.org/eo.


Travel Around The World












Enter to win a $100 energy bill credit!

Submit Your “Fishing” Photos By Feb. 20!

Each month, HomeWorks members are able to submit photos on our website for our photo contest. The photo receiving the most votes is published here, along with some other selections from that month. Our February theme is Fishing. Photos can be submitted through Feb. 20 to be featured in our April issue. To enter the contest, visit HomeWorks.org/ photocontest. Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you, too. If your photo is published in Country Lines during 2024, you will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of four $100 credits on your December 2024 HomeWorks bill!

MOST VOTES 1. A celebration of umbrellas dance in the sky, picture yourself in a dream and then you can fly. Umbrella Alley, Louisville, Ohio. Jessica Gibson, Elwell 2. Iliamna Volcano across the Cook Inlet from Ninilchik, Alaska. Vibrant fireweed blooms in the foreground. Heather Balcom, Shepherd 3. This photo was taken at the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas on a Wheeler family vacation. Bethany Wheeler, Sheridan 4. My daughter captured this sneak peak of the 2,000 acres that encompass The Gardens of Versailles, just behind the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, while on her trip to Europe. Casie Bayless, Portland 5. Beautiful Land’s End, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Barbara Nagengast, Lakeview 6. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. Jennifer Lucas, Blanchard 7. After years of planning and saving, my daughter and I in Machu Picchu! Susan Drapek, Eaton Rapids 8. Yosemite Falls trail. Mickey Burns, Eagle 9. Oia, Santorini, Greece. Cindy Robison, Farwell 10. Icy sunrise, Clingmans Dome, Smoky Mountains. Denise Schneider, Vestaburg 11. Palapa view in Aruba. Jeff O’Malley, Stanwood MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


MI CO-OP Recipes

BEST LAYER CAKES Recipes as delicious as they are decorative


Tom Long, Midwest Energy & Communications 4 1½ ½ 1 2 1 2 1½ 2 1 1 2 1

eggs cups granulated sugar cup vegetable, almond, or walnut oil cup applesauce cups flour teaspoon salt teaspoons cinnamon teaspoons baking soda teaspoons baking powder teaspoon vanilla (16-ounce) can crushed pineapple, including juice cups grated carrots cup chopped pecans, for the sides of the baked cake

Frosting: ¾ cup unsalted butter 12 ounces cream cheese, softened 4–4½ cups powdered sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream together the eggs, sugar, oil, and applesauce. In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix together until well blended. Then transfer the flour mixture into the sugar mixture and stir until just blended. Fold in the vanilla, pineapple, and grated carrots. Spray the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the pans with wax paper cut to fit only in the bottom of the pans. Then add the cake batter evenly to both pans. Bake for 40–45 minutes, then set the cake aside to cool.

Recipe Contest

To make the frosting, blend the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla; blend until smooth. When the cake is cooled, add a layer of frosting to the top of one of the cakes, then place the remaining cake layer on top. Frost the cooled cake on top and around all edges, then press the chopped pecans around the sides of the cake. If desired, use food coloring to color a small amount of frosting green and orange, and use frosting tips and a piping bag to decorate the top with small, frosted carrots.

Win a $100 energy bill credit! Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 1; Tacos & Margaritas due April 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com. 10 FEBRUARY 2024

Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/ recipe_type/videos/

RUBY’S CARAMEL APPLE CAKE Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

For the Cake: 1 (15-ounce) box spice cake mix, plus ingredients called for on box For the Ganache: 1½ cups heavy cream 3 cups chocolate chips For the Caramel Buttercream: 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 1 cup caramel, plus more for decoration and dipping 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 4 cups powdered sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon 3 teaspoons heavy cream • pinch kosher salt For top of the cake: 3 apples, sliced ¹⁄ ³ cup chopped peanuts, preferably roasted Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two 8- or 9-inch cake pans. Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Divide between pans and bake according to package directions. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then transfer to a

cooling rack to cool completely. To make the ganache, heat heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Place chocolate chips in a large heatproof bowl, then pour hot heavy cream on top. Let set for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool slightly. To make the buttercream, use a hand mixer to beat the butter and caramel in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, then gradually beat in powdered sugar and cinnamon. Add heavy cream and mix until smooth. To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on your serving platter. Spread with buttercream and pour ganache over the buttercream. Place the second layer of the cake on top, then frost cake entirely with buttercream, letting the ganache drip over the edges. Pour some of the additional caramel over ganache for decoration, letting it drip over edges (for perfect drips, use a squeeze bottle). Dunk apples in remaining caramel, then place on top. Sprinkle chopped peanuts around the apples. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

GWEN’S ITALIAN CREAM CAKE Victoria Hueter, Great Lakes Energy

½ cup butter ½ cup shortening (or skip shortening and use 1 cup butter if you prefer) 2 cups sugar 5 large eggs, yolks separated from whites 1 tablespoon vanilla 2 cups cake flour (all-purpose also works) 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup flaked coconut Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting: 1 cup chopped pecans + additional chopped pecans and pecan halves for garnishing cake, if desired 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened ½ cup butter, softened 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add

egg yolks one at a time. Add vanilla and beat until blended. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended. Stir in coconut. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into batter. Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 23–25 minutes, until toothpick test is clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then remove and cool completely on racks. To make frosting, bake pecans in shallow pan at 350 F for 5–10 minutes or until toasted. When you can smell the pecans, they are done. Cool completely. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed until blended, then beat at high speed until smooth. Stir in pecans. When the cake is cooled, between each cake layer and on top, frost with the Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish with pecan halves and chopped pecans or pat additional coconut on the sides.



Loving Your HomeWorks Connect Internet? You Could Earn a $50 Bill Credit!


AND WE’LL CREDIT YOU $50! We’re looking to expand our network, and we’re asking our members to help! If you’re happy with HomeWorks Connect’s high-speed fiber internet service at your home or business, share your happiness with your neighbors. For each new account holder that mentions your name, you’ll receive a $50 bill credit after their location is connected to our network. Our initial goal was to connect those who have HomeWorks Tri-County Electric service at their location, but with the network built out to our entire membership, we’re now able to expand to some homes and businesses that don’t have our electric service, too! So, even if your neighbor or friend isn’t a member of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric, they may still be able to be connected to our high-speed fiber internet if they live within 500 feet of our electric lines or are located in an area where we are expanding our network beyond our lines. So, tell those that you know—HomeWorks Connect is the way to go!

Help Your Neighbors Become Connectors Today! Have them visit Join.HomeWorksConnect.org or call 800-668-8413 and be sure they mention your name! This service is not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Your Board In Action

Co-op Principle #2:

Democratic Member Control

Meeting in Blanchard on Dec. 18, your board of directors: • Authorized management to renew the Cooperative’s cyber liability insurance policy as presented by Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange for 2024, at the recommended coverage limits and deductible amounts. • Authorized the renewal of the general liability insurance for Tri-County Propane operations for 2024, at the recommended coverage limits, through the General Agency. • Reviewed a presentation by CEO Chris O’Neill on the HomeWorks team’s key accomplishments from 2023 and major objectives for 2024. • Elected Board Chairman Luke Pohl as the Co-op’s voting delegate for the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative’s 2024 annual meeting. • Discussed and accepted Cooperative bylaw sections 7.8-7.9, as revised. • Learned there were 94 new members in November. • Acknowledged the November safety report, listing employee training as well as minor employee and public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic. • Acknowledged the November physical & cybersecurity report, noting that there were no security breaches or incidents to report for the month.

Every member has a voice and a vote. Districts 3 and 6 have director seats up for election this year. If you are a member of one of those districts, watch your April Country Lines for your mail-in ballot and information about your director candidates!

Time Set Aside for Members to Comment Before Cooperative Board Meetings The first 15 minutes of every board meeting are available for members who wish to address the board of directors on any subject. The next meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 26 and March 25 at Portland. Members who wish to have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554 at least a week in advance of the meeting.

People Fund Supports Local Family In Need




Meeting remotely on Dec. 13 , our People Fund board made the following grant: • $2,500 to a Mecosta County family, to help them purchase a new roof.

How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant The Tri-County Electric People Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in the Co-op’s service area for food, shelter, clothing, health, and other humane needs, or for programs or services that benefit a significant segment of a community. Write to 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875, for an application form and grant guidelines, or visit the People Fund page at HomeWorks.org. Note: Applications must be received by Feb. 27 for the March meeting or by April 9 for the April meeting.

Sign up for Operation Roundup to round your monthly electric bill up to the nearest dollar by calling us at 800-562-8232 Make a one-time donation at HomeWorks.org/PeopleFund

Make A Difference With Your Spare Change!



Michigan Tech’s Broomball Craze By Emily Haines Lloyd

Wait. Duct tape? Statistics are a part of most athletics. But there’s nothing average about the stats coming out of Michigan Tech’s intramural sport of choice—broomball.

3 rinks. 224 games. 2,000 student-athletes. 404,235 linear feet of duct tape each year.

14 FEBRUARY 2024

Let us explain. The Essence of Broomball: Duct Tape and Bristles The name “broomball” is derived from the unique construction of the brooms used in the game. While contemporary brooms are now manufactured, original enthusiasts would insist brooms should have straw bristles with duct tape wrapping all but a few inches at the end. These brooms, akin to hockey sticks, are used to propel a small round ball into the opponent’s goal. Played both indoors and outdoors on an ice rink, broomball features two teams of six players each, with a goaltender and five field players. Unlike traditional ice hockey, players do not wear ice skates, opting instead for rubber-soled shoes, typically their everyday sneakers.

Broomball on a Budget Despite the university’s reputation for impressive math and engineering programs, the less serious endeavor of broomball has become a significant part of campus life, involving over a quarter of the student body each season. Wyatt Helzer, a computer science and ethics major and the current chairperson of broomball at Michigan Tech, highlights the sport’s accessibility as a key factor in its popularity. “Not only is it relatively easy to learn,” said Helzer. “But it’s affordable too. I mean, a broom, some duct tape, and 35 bucks lets you play all season.” Helzer encourages cash-strapped college students to work a few shifts at the rinks to cover their entry fees, making broomball an accessible and inclusive activity for students.

Evolution of Rules and Broomball Culture When broomball first hit Michigan Tech in the 1950s, there were only two rules: the first addressing how many inches of broom bristles needed to show below your tape and the second being that brooms couldn’t be used as a bat against other players. For a university nestled in the harsh weather of the Upper Peninsula, these seem like fairly reasonable rules for the hearty individuals who call Michigan Tech home. Over the years, broomball has evolved into its own subculture at the university, attracting fans for life. Now, three outdoor rinks are situated in the center of campus, making it nearly impossible for the student body to avoid its charms.

Nerds on Ice David Wingard, a 2008 MTU alumnus working in research and development, returns annually for the Alumni Tournament during Winter Carnival, which showcases broomball’s enduring allure. “Tech is filled with a bunch of nerds,” Wingard jokes. “But that’s the thing about broomball— you don’t have to be a serious athlete, you just have to be up for some fun.” As the sound of brooms hitting balls echoes through the icy rinks of Michigan Tech, it resonates with the laughter, friendships, and memories that make broomball an integral part of the Tech experience. Broomball is a reflection of the Upper Peninsula and Michigan Tech itself— resilient, innovative, and unapologetically unique.



At The Flip Of A Switch:

ELECTRICITY TRAVELS A COMPLEX PATH TO YOUR HOME Electricity plays an essential role in everyday life. It powers our homes, offices, hospitals, and schools. We depend on it to keep us warm in the winter (and cool in the summer), charge our phones, and binge our favorite TV shows. If the power goes out, even briefly, our lives can be disrupted.

electricity at the lowest cost possible. Being part of a G&T benefits members like you by placing ownership and control in the hands of your Co-op, prioritizing affordability and reliability, supporting local economic development, and fostering a sense of community.

The system that delivers your electricity is often described as the most complex machine in the world, and it’s known as the electric grid. At its core, the electric grid is a network of power lines, transformers, substations, and other infrastructure that spans the entire country.

To get the electricity from power plants to you, we need a transportation system. High-voltage transmission lines are the highways for electricity, transporting power over long distances. These lines are supported by massive towers and travel through vast landscapes, connecting power plants to substations.

What makes it so complex? We all use different amounts of electricity throughout the day, so the supply and demand for electricity is constantly changing. For example, we typically use more electricity in the mornings when we’re starting our day and in the evenings when we’re cooking dinner and using appliances. Severe weather and other factors also impact how much electricity we need. The challenge for electric providers is to plan for, produce, and purchase enough electricity so it’s available exactly when we need it. Too much or too little electricity in one place can cause problems. So, to make sure the whole system stays balanced, the electric grid must adjust in real time to changes and unforeseen events. The journey of electricity begins at power plants. Power plants can be thought of as factories that make electricity using various energy sources, like natural gas, solar, wind, and nuclear energy. Across the U.S., more than 11,000 power plants deliver electricity to the grid. Like several other electric co-ops throughout the state, HomeWorks receives power from our generation and transmission (G&T) co-op, Wolverine Power Cooperative in Cadillac. We work closely with Wolverine to provide 16 FEBRUARY 2024

Electric substations are like pit stops along the highway, where the voltage of electricity is adjusted. They play a crucial role in managing power flow and ensuring that electricity is safe for use in homes and businesses. Once the electricity is reduced to the proper voltage, it travels through distribution power lines, like the ones you typically see on the side of the road. Distribution lines carry electricity from substations to homes, schools, and businesses. Distribution transformers, which look like metal buckets on the tops of power poles or large green boxes on the ground, further reduce the voltage to levels suitable for household appliances and electronic devices. After traveling through transformers, electricity reaches you—to power everyday life. We’re proud to be your local, trusted energy provider. From the time it’s created to the time it’s used, electricity travels great distances to be available at the flip of a switch. That’s what makes the electric grid our nation’s most complex machine—and one of our nation’s greatest achievements to this day.

CRITICAL CONNECTIONS: HOW ELECTRICITY GETS TO YOU The electric grid is considered one of the most complex machines in the world, delivering the electricity we need for everyday life.


Power plants generate electricity using a variety of energy sources, like solar, natural gas, nuclear and wind energy.


A step-up transformer increases the voltage to push the electricity over long distances.

step 3 TRANSMISSION LINES High-voltage electricity travels over long distances through these lines.


These substations lower the voltage again so the electricity is ready to travel on distribution lines.


Voltage is lowered at a transmission substation so electricity can travel across the local distribution system.


Lower-voltage electricity travels through distribution lines, like the ones you typically see on the side of the road.


A transformer located on the ground or a utility pole reduces the voltage a final time, then electricity is sent inside your home, school or business.


MI CO-OP Guest Column

Memories Of An Ice Fisherman

By Rick Fowler, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member

1958…the earliest memories of being on the ice would probably spark the flames of many of us who had dads, granddads, uncles, etc., who led us on our first journeys onto the hard water. I was 6 when my dad and grandfather included me in their plans, which involved spearing sturgeon from their fishing shanty on Mullett Lake. My grandparents lived in Indian River, Michigan, and since the lake was only a couple of miles away, we had ample time, a place to get to quickly if we needed to warm up (meaning me), and we could get home and eat. My dad and grandfather had speared a sturgeon before and loved to talk about their experiences to anyone who would listen. This morning had been slow, and we had seen nothing swimming by in the clearcut hole of the shanty. Dad and Grandpa decided to visit another shack nearby to talk to them, no doubt about how they had speared their sturgeons, and it had taken at least 20 minutes to land the monsters (every year, the pounds, length, and battle times seemed to get longer). While they were gone, they instructed me to watch for any fish that swam by and to holler if it was really big. Now, I had never seen a sturgeon before and therefore could not envision how massive they were. Within minutes of their departure, I got down on my hands and knees to get a clearer picture of the world below me. At that exact moment, the dinosaur fish decided to make his presence known and swam by the hole without a care in the world.



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Little did that fish know that up above, a 6-year-old kid screamed at the top of his lungs, busted down the thinskinned door to escape the monster, and ran to his father. They never let me forget that moment!

Rick taught high school English in Boyne City for 34 years. For the past 25 years, he has been an outdoor freelance writer.

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18 FEBRUARY 2024






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