January 2024 HomeWorks

Page 1

January 2024


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

WINTER THUNDERLAND I-500 Snowmobile Race Welcomes Thrill-Seekers to the UP

Capital Credit Refund Issued To Members

Sign Up For New Text Message Outage Alerts

Understanding The New Clean Energy Laws


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Allendale Allendale Htg & Clg (800) 327-1937 allendaleheating.com

Indian River M&M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 mm-plumbing.com

Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 waltonheating.com

Berrien Springs Waterfurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmichgeo thermal.com

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

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

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

Negaunee J-Goods Plmb. & Htg. (906) 869-2522 jgoodsplumbingand heating.com

Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717 stratzgeocomfort.com Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com Filion/Bad Axe Air-O-Dynamic Htg. & Clg. (989) 582-0137 Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheating cooling.com

Manistique Hoholik Enterprises (906) 341-5065 hoholikenterprises.com Marinette, WI GPS Htg. & Clg (715)732-2111 gpsheatingcooling.com Michigan Center Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 airserv.com/southernmichigan/

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 esiheating.com Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 mwphonline.com

Cloverland: up to $4,200 Great Lakes: up to $3,000 Homeworks/Tri-County: up to $3,000 Presque Isle: up to $2,700 Cherryland: up to $2,500 Thumb Electric: up to $2,000 Alger Delta: up to $2,000

Traverse City D&W Mechanical (231) 941-1251 dwmechanical.com Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000 geofurnace.com

visit us at waterfurnace.com/mi

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WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. ©2023

Contents countrylines.com


January 2024 Vol. 44, No. 1 /michigancountrylines

Calling All E-Bike Enthusiasts! Share Your Electric Adventures! Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


On the cover: The International 500 Snowmobile Race is the fastest and toughest race around. 2024 marks the 55th year of the race.

COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin Russman CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

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: 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.

Bird-watchers hoot with joy as snowy owls return to Michigan. Simple vegetarian recipes for eating healthy.


I-500 Snowmobile Race welcomes thrillseekers to the UP Jan. 28–Feb. 3, 2024.

18 GUEST COLUMN Rural Michigan Pickleball: This hot new game is not only for big cities and celebrities.

MI Co-op Community

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

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. Stir Fries & Curries due Feb. 1; Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 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!

Mystery Photo

See details on page 18.

Win a $100 bill credit!

Are you an avid e-bike rider with a passion for electric-powered adventures? We want to interview you for our upcoming magazine issue dedicated to the e-bike community! Whether you're cruising through city streets, conquering mountain trails, or exploring scenic routes, we want to hear your stories, tips, and experiences with your electric bikes.

What We’re Looking For: Personal Stories: Share your most memorable e-bike journeys and the impact they've had on your lifestyle. Tips and Tricks: Enlighten our readers with your e-bike wisdom. What accessories do you swear by? Any maintenance hacks to keep your ride in top shape? Stunning Photos: Capture the essence of your e-bike adventures. Share your favorite snapshots and let the visuals tell your story.

How to Participate: 1. Email us at editor@countrylines.com with the subject line “E-Bike Feature." 2. Include a brief overview of your e-bike experiences and why you love riding. 3. Attach high-quality photos showcasing your e-bike escapades.

Submission Deadline: Jan. 30



Navigating a Momentous Shift in Energy Policy Michigan’s New Clean Energy Laws Among Most Ambitious in the Country

homeworks.org /homeworks.org

By Chris O’Neill, President/CEO

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

District 6 — Ed Oplinger, Secretary-Treasurer 10890 W. Weidman Rd., Weidman, MI 48893 989-506-1639 • eoplinger@homeworks.org District 7 — Shirley Sprague 15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305 989-382-7535 • ssprague@homeworks.org Editor: C harly Markwart, CCC

ichigan’s energy future is undergoing a significant transformation with the recent signing of a comprehensive set of bills by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The bills passed swiftly on party lines, with House and Senate Democrats comprising nearly all the support for the package of bills.


Collaborating closely with the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA), HomeWorks will delve into an in-depth analysis of these newly enacted laws in the months ahead. Below is a brief overview focusing on two key bills that hold substantial implications for Michigan’s electric cooperatives.

100% Clean Energy by 2040 Michigan’s new 100% clean energy by 2040 target stands among the most ambitious in the country. It will require all state electric utilities to employ a portfolio of 100% carbon-free resources by 2040, surpassing the rigor of California’s clean energy laws. Clean energy is largely defined as wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear. This legislation mandates utilities to procure 50% of their energy from renewables by 2030, escalating to 60% by 2035—a substantial leap considering the Great Lakes State currently stands at 16%. Starting in 2035, the renewable portfolio standard transitions to a clean energy standard, requiring all utilities to obtain 100% of their energy from non-carbon-emitting sources by 2040. This fall, Wolverine Power Cooperative made a long-term commitment on behalf of its cooperative members to buy power from the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant upon its restart. In the legislation, lawmakers recognize the Palisades Plant as a vital reliability asset, allowing its output to count toward both renewable and clean energy targets. This is beneficial for Michigan electric cooperative members and underscores the significance of the Palisades Power Purchase Agreement. Additionally, Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives, as a group, already power members with over 50% carbon-free energy, placing us in a better position than many to meet the carbon-free requirement. Nevertheless, the bill overall is still a “big lift” for Michigan. Utility and business community concerns remain regarding the pace of decarbonization and its impact on electric reliability and affordability. While Michigan’s electric cooperatives support investments in clean energy, we must also consider the operational realities. Constructing large-scale projects demands considerable time and financial resources, as well as overcoming time-consuming regulatory hurdles, which makes the proposed timeline a challenge for the majority of the state’s electric utilities. Additionally, the challenge of land acquisition looms, with an estimated need for approximately 200,000+ additional acres for wind and solar power generation to achieve the renewable energy targets in the legislation.

Energy Waste Reduction Requirement for Electric Co-ops This bill mandates that electric co-op boards approve Energy Waste Reduction plans and programs. Co-ops are now obligated under statute to submit a formalized waste reduction plan to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) every four years. While this represents a more structured process compared to current cooperative practices, co-ops were able to achieve the authority for their local boards to oversee these programs, which is a win for our members who enjoy the flexibility we have to customize our Energy Optimization program to their needs.

4 JANUARY 2024

YOU’RE PART OF A LARGER POWER GRID Every time you charge your phone, you’re connecting to more than just an outlet—you’re plugging into a complex power grid. The Interconnected Power Grid HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, along with four other cooperatives, gets its power from Wolverine Power Cooperative. Together, we co-own Wolverine, which makes power more affordable and reliable than operating on our own. Wolverine and HomeWorks are a part of an even bigger network that extends from Canada to Louisiana, connecting various power generators and high-voltage transmission companies.

How Being Connected Impacts You The connected grid works great as long as there is enough supply to meet demand. In recent years, utilities have faced increasing pressure to retire coal plants faster than they can replace them, resulting in a reduction of power supply reserves. Even though Wolverine has secured more than enough power for HomeWorks members, we share the grid and its power supply with other utilities.


Being connected allows regions to share power and send it to where it’s needed most. This provides you with enhanced reliability and reduced energy costs.


If one part of the region has an electricity shortage, it can spread through the connected grid like a contagious illness.


Even though HomeWorks has more than enough power to meet your needs, during a grid shortage, rules can require us to participate in rolling blackouts or ask you to conserve energy.

So, the next time you switch on a light or plug in your gadgets, remember that you’re plugging into a network of collaboration.

Bird-Watchers Hoot With Joy As


very winter, “snowbirds” who live in the colder northern parts of North America leave their three-season residences behind in a bid to escape the frigidness and snow. While they head to warm locales like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, there are actual snowbirds out there that seek out refuges a little less tropical. This is the reason elusive snowy owls can oftentimes be seen in Michigan—their own unique version of Florida.


Snowy owls live most of the year in the Arctic, and the majority of them stay there year-round. But from late October to December, in a phenomenon known as irruption, some birds will leave the tundra. Most will go to Canada and the northern United States, as well as parts of Asia and Europe. Every year is different—some years will see high numbers of the owls while, in others, you may be lucky to



see one or two. “It waxes and wanes,” said Straits Area Audubon Society member Steve Baker. Baker says that owls that migrate the soonest to Michigan tend to first congregate around the Great Lakes, where it is still warm enough for them to hunt for ducks and other waterfowl. “You’ll see them on the shorelines and on piers and other structures around the lakes,” he said. But once the water freezes, they’ve got to find a new hunting ground. “They’ll head for places with fields and other flat, open grounds,” Baker said. “There aren’t any trees in the Arctic, so they’re heading to places that look like home.” He said they’ll often perch on barns, hay bales, utility poles, and fenceposts, where they keep constant watch for prey, mostly meadow voles, which are similar to the lemmings they eat the rest of the year.

The highest concentrations of snowy owls in Michigan are found in Rudyard, Pickford, and Sault townships.

While snowy owls have been found throughout the state, the most populous areas for the birds are the eastern Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula. But if you want the absolute best shot at observing these raptors, you’ll need to head to a small UP community about 30 miles north of St. Ignace—Rudyard Township. Baker, who as a member of the Audubon Society contributes to the society’s annual Christmas bird count, said the count finds that Rudyard almost always has the highest number of owls. Snowy owls like hay fields, and Baker says Rudyard residents will be happy to tell you that they have the best hay crop in the world. “Their hay is actually shipped down to Florida for racehorses,” Baker said. He says because Rudyard has clay soil that doesn’t drain well, regular crops are tough to grow, hence the focus on hay. In January 2019, Rudyard proclaimed itself the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan.

and dusk. Look in structures that are low to the ground and also scan flat, snowy areas for irregularities. A dirty patch or lump just might be an owl facing away from you. With their sleek white plumage, bright yellow eyes, and wingspans of up to four feet long, these feathered friends are certainly captivating. “They are beautiful and they’re just great fun to look at,” Baker said. “Whether you’re an avid birder or not, snowy owls are just one of those birds that people get excited about.”

For more information, visit: straitsareaaudubon.com /StraitsAreaAudubonSociety

THE LEMMING/SNOW OWL CONNECTION In the Arctic, snowy owls feed on lemmings, which look like chubby hamsters. And they can eat a bunch—up to 1,600 a year! Because they’re so reliant on lemmings as a food source, their population cycles are linked. If lemmings are low, owls may wait to hatch young. Scarce lemming years translate into owl couples only having one or two offspring, and sometimes none at all. But lots of lemmings means Mom and Dad can provide for lots of babies, so they’ll lay more eggs. These baby booms typically result in irruption years, with the younger owls leaving in winter to avoid competing with adults for food. In peak lemming/owl reproduction years, young “snowie” sightings have been reported as far south as Texas and Florida.

Baker, who lives in Indian River, Michigan, travels to Rudyard several times a week to glimpse these beauties for himself and take pictures (he is a contributing photographer to many websites/publications). Most people in search of the owls will look from their vehicles as they drive down the road. “You’ll sometimes just see a caravan of cars,” Baker said. The town obviously welcomes visitors who want to see this rare bird for themselves, but it is expected that observers will adhere to a few guidelines. “These are beautiful, photogenic birds,” Baker said, “but it’s very important that people don’t do anything to harass them.” In general, he says spectators should be respectful, keep their distance, and be as quiet as possible. He says people who spot the owls while driving can get out of their cars, but they should not wander onto adjacent private land. If you want to witness this spectacle, plan your trip to Rudyard before late March—that is when the owls typically leave for their Arctic home. Whether you’re in Rudyard or anywhere else where the birds have been spotted, there are a few things you can do to increase your luck of seeing one. The best times to see them are at dawn



HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative Energy Optimization Program:

Reduce Carbon Emissions and Increase Savings in 2024 140+ Rebates Available HomeWorks residential and commercial members can take advantage of the wide range of energy efficiency rebates offered through our Energy Optimization program in the new year. There is sure to be a rebate (or several!) that can help you reduce your carbon footprint and save money without sacrificing comfort, quality, or convenience.

Residential Rebates

Business & Farm Rebates

Save energy and money and enjoy the comforts of your home with energy efficient upgrades. In 2024, we’re offering rebates to our residential members for a wide variety of items, including:

An efficient business is a successful business. Our Energy Optimization program gives you the tools, resources, and rebates to improve energy efficiency at your business. The following are just a few of the rebate measures offered to commercial members in 2024:

• • • • •

Clothes washer & dryer Energy efficient HVAC upgrades Electric lawn mower and/or snow blower New electric vehicle and/or EV charger Plus many more!

Visit homeworks.org/eo for up-to-date rebate amounts and applications.

• • • •

Energy efficient lighting Compressed air upgrades New electric forklift truck Energy efficient farm equipment

Other restrictions and qualifications apply. To learn more, call 877-296-4319 or visit homeworks.org/eo.

Reduce Carbon Emissions & Increase Savings in the New Year 140+ Rebates Available RESIDENTIAL



Compressed Air



Lawn Equipment


Electric Vehicles

Farm Equipment

And More!

Custom Projects

V I S I T homeworks.org/eo • C A L L 877-296-4319 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.


Great Outdoors

2 1




7 6

8 Enter to win a $100 energy bill credit!

Submit Your “Pets” Photos By Jan. 20!

Our January photo contest theme is Pets. Photos can be submitted through Jan. 20 to be featured in our March issue. To enter the contest, visit HomeWorks.org/photocontest. Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you, too. The photo receiving the most votes will be printed in an issue of Country Lines, along with some other favorites. 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 HomeWorks bill credits to be applied to your December 2024 electric bill! Congratulations to our 2023 $100 bill credit winners: Heather Balcom of Shepherd, Casie Bayless of Portland, Lyndsey Dickinson of Remus, and Jane Torry of Evart. Thank you to all members who submitted photos last year!



1. Photo was taken while salmon fishing where the Big Sable River dumps into Lake Michigan at Ludington State Park. Jeff Marsh, Portland 2. Miners Falls Trail within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Munising, Michigan, 2017. Heather Balcom, Shepherd 3. Climbing a tree in Wolverine while watching for elk. Kevin Schneider, Fowler 4. Sunset on Clifford Lake. David Hallada, Stanton 5. Who’s a little pumpkin? Jan Malhoit, Rodney 6. View from atop the new Presque Isle Lighthouse in Presque Isle, Michigan. Shanda Reichert, Blanchard 7. Robert wanted a record of a large pike he caught. Robert Kersten, Lansing 8. Fishing with Dad. Brenda Schneider, Fowler 9. Living the American dream. Hilarie Schafer, Hubbardston 10. Molly loving fall. George Houttekier, Big Rapids MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


MI CO-OP Recipes


Simple vegetarian recipes for eating healthy


2 cups dried brown rice 3 cups water 3 green onions, sliced 1–2 stalks celery, sliced ½ pound purple cabbage, thinly sliced or grated ½ cup almonds, toasted 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted 1 red bell pepper, finely diced 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, sliced, discard juice 1 cup broccolini, diced, discard thick stems 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped or minced Dressing*: ¼ cup avocado oil 1½ tablespoons sesame oil 1 clove garlic, crushed & minced ½ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon brown sugar 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice included

Recipe Contest Win a $100 energy bill credit! Stir Fries & Curries due Feb. 1; Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 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 JANUARY 2024

Cook rice until chewy and tender, using a pressure cooker, rice cooker, or stovetop. Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients. If needed, toast the almonds and sesame seeds by adding each to a dry skillet and stirring over medium heat, until lightly toasted. In a small bowl, add all dressing ingredients and combine. Once the rice is ready, in a large bowl, add the cooked rice, all remaining ingredients, and the dressing. Stir until combined. Serve warm or chilled. Makes about 10 cups of salad. * Note: If preparing ahead of time, keep sauce separate and combine before serving. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/recipe_ type/videos/

GARDEN ENCHILADAS Nancy Hascall, Cherryland

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 sweet potato, peeled & diced 1 large onion, peeled & diced 1 zucchini, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed & drained 1 teaspoon cumin 1 (30-ounce) can enchilada sauce, divided 2 cups grated cheese (cheddar or chihuahua, etc.), divided ½ cup jalapeño cream cheese, divided 8 large flour tortilla shells 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced Garnish: • guacamole • sour cream • diced tomatoes Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium/mediumhigh heat. Add the diced sweet potato

and stir to coat with oil. Cover the pan and sizzle for about 4 minutes, until the sweet potatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the diced onion and zucchini. Sauté uncovered for another few minutes, until the onions start to caramelize. Add the garlic, corn, black beans, and cumin. Cook and stir 1–2 minutes. Coat the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan with about 1 cup of enchilada sauce. Evenly divide the cooked ingredients into the tortillas. Add a heaping tablespoon of grated cheese and a teaspoon of cream cheese in each tortilla before rolling it up and placing it seam-side down in the pan. Nestle the enchiladas next to each other. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce, then sprinkle the remaining cheese. Arrange the jalapeño slices on top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 8 minutes. Garnish with guacamole, sour cream, and diced tomatoes. Enjoy!


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided ½ pound portobello mushrooms (or mushroom of choice), cleaned and chopped 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped 3–4 garlic cloves, minced 3 cups cooked brown jasmine rice 2 large eggs 1 cup cottage cheese ½ cup sour cream ½ teaspoon fine sea salt ²⁄ ³ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x13inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. In a large skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add

the mushrooms to the skillet and lightly salt; sauté until mushrooms have released their liquid. Add onions and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another 1–2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cooked rice. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and ½ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, combine the rice mixture and the cottage cheese mixture. Add the combined mixture to the baking dish. Sprinkle with ¹⁄³ cup Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes. Top with remaining ¹⁄³ cup Parmesan. Serve immediately.

SUPERB SPINACH LASAGNA ROLLS Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

EASY VEG RATATOUILLE Betsy Little, Alger Delta

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium red onion, minced 1 medium red bell pepper, diced 1 medium eggplant, diced 1 small zucchini, diced 4 cloves garlic, minced ½ cup basil, chopped 1 large tomato, diced (or 1 15-ounce can diced tomato) ¼ teaspoon salt

¹⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper In a large skillet, add olive oil and heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring. Add the red pepper, eggplant, zucchini, and garlic. Cook covered 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil, tomato, salt, and pepper. May serve on rice, mashed potato, or couscous.

8 lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente, drained & cooled 1¾ cups ricotta 2 cups cottage cheese 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded & divided 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded & divided 3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced ¼ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper 3 cups spaghetti sauce, divided • fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine ricotta and cottage cheese, 1½ cups Monterey Jack, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread half of the spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch broilersafe baking dish. Spread filling mixture evenly onto each noodle. Gently roll up each noodle lengthwise and place seamside down in the baking dish. Drizzle roll ups with remaining sauce and top with remaining cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 1–2 minutes, or until the cheese is dark golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy! MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


2024 HomeWorks Board Elections Districts 3 and 6 to Hold Director Elections This Year


omeWorks members in districts 3 and 6 will carry out one of the most important duties of a cooperative’s membership this year when they elect a director to represent them on the Co-op board. In District 3, current director and board chairman Luke Pohl of Westphalia has announced that he will seek re-election for another three-year term. Director Pohl was first elected to the board in 2014, and he has served as board chairman since 2016 In District 6, current director Ed Oplinger of Weidman has indicated that he will not be running for re-election this year. Director Oplinger has served on the HomeWorks board since 2009. Members in districts 3 and 6 who are interested in running for their district’s director position should contact their district’s nominating committee by

Feb. 5. Candidates may also be nominated via a petition signed by at least 25 members within their district. Petitions must be turned in to the nominating committee by Feb. 20. District 3 includes members in Clinton County, except Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships. District 6 is comprised of members in Clare and Isabella counties. The nominating committee in each district consists of the district’s officers (listed on this page), elected by members at the district meeting held in the previous May. Each committee is required by the Co-op’s bylaws to nominate at least one candidate on or before Feb. 5. Names of nominees will be posted at the Cooperative’s offices and at HomeWorks.org by Feb. 28.

Interested In Seeking A Board Seat? The job of a HomeWorks board member is to help set policies and make decisions that guide the direction of the Cooperative, while effectively representing the members of his or her district. Directors are expected to attend regular monthly and other special meetings of the board or committees of the board, along with relevant state and national association meetings and director training programs. They are also expected to study data and other information presented to the board in order to stay fully informed on matters affecting the Co-op. If you are a member of district 3 or 6 and you are interested in running for a HomeWorks board seat this year, Article VII, Section 2 of the Cooperative’s bylaws (available at HomeWorks.org) states that you must be an individual member of the Co-op in good standing, at least 21 years old, residing in the district which you are to represent, and a U.S. citizen. To become or remain a director, the bylaws state the candidate must have the capacity to enter into legally binding contracts; comply with standards of conduct as laid out in the bylaws; and meet all reasonable conflict of interest qualifications found in Article VII, Section 3. Also, a candidate shall not have been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony or misdemeanor crime involving issues of moral character within the 10 years immediately prior to becoming a director. If you meet these qualifications and would like to be nominated for the district 3 or 6 board seat, contact your district nominating committee, listed on this page, or call HomeWorks Tri-County Electric at 517-647-1272 to request a nominating petition.

12 JANUARY 2024

Luke Pohl — District 3

Ed Oplinger — District 6

Election Timeline Feb. 5 Nominating committee submits candidate names to Co-op Feb. 15 Candidate credentials reviewed, names posted at Co-op Feb. 20

Nominations by petition (25 signatures) due at Co-op

Feb. 28

Final candidate list posted at Co-op

Early April Paper ballots mailed in Michigan Country Lines magazine to members in election districts Early April Directions and link for electronic voting option are sent to members in Michigan Country Lines

Who Makes Up District Nominating Committees? DISTRICT 3: CLINTON COUNTY (except Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships) Mary Jo Straub, Chair 3800 Essex Center Rd., St. Johns, MI 48879 Home: 989-640-1504 • Email: mjstraub@hotmail.com Clare Koenigsknecht (Fowler), Vice Chair Theresa Thelen (Westphalia), Secretary

DISTRICT 6: CLARE AND ISABELLA COUNTIES Harry Tope, Chair 4892 Ridge Rd., Lake, MI 48632 Cell: 989-513-5740 • Email: toperosa@yahoo.com Steve Recker (Remus), Vice Chair Rosie Nedry (Edmore), Secretary

Your Board In Action Meeting in Blanchard on Oct. 23, your board of directors: • Authorized a $750,000 general capital credit retirement to be made to the HomeWorks membership in December 2023. • Authorized and approved the proposed 2024 capital and operating budget for the Co-op’s subsidiary, Tri-Co Services, Inc. • Reviewed the 2023 forecasted financial statements of Tri-Co Services, Inc. and declared a $500,000 dividend from the subsidiary to HomeWorks TriCounty Electric Cooperative. • Reviewed a summary of the Co-op’s 10-year long-term financial forecast. • Reviewed quarterly reports on the Co-op’s Energy Optimization and People Fund programs.

training as well as minor employee and public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic. • Acknowledged the September physical & cybersecurity report, noting that there were no security breaches or incidents to report for the month.

Meeting in Portland on Nov. 27, your board of directors: • Reviewed and approved the 2023 capital and operating budgets for both HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative and the HomeWorks Connect fiber internet business.

Time Set Aside for Members to Comment Before Cooperative Board Meetings

• Reviewed a proposed electric grid modernization plan for the

People Fund Supports Local Families In Need

How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant

• $1,700 to a Montcalm County family, to help with necessary electrical work at their home; and • $1,364.45 to a Saginaw County family, to pay property taxes.

• Acknowledged the October safety report, listing employee training as well as minor employee and public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic.

• Authorized management the discretion to immediately order two small bucket trucks for the electric business in order to maintain the Co-op’s current vehicle replacement schedule.

• Acknowledged the September safety report, listing employee

• $5,000 to Feeding America, to purchase mobile food pantry items;

• Learned there were 110 new members in October.

• Acknowledged the October physical & cybersecurity report, noting that there were no security breaches or incidents to report for the month.

• Learned there were 102 new members in September.

Meeting remotely on Nov. 1, our People Fund board made three grants totaling over $8,000, including:

• Discussed and accepted Cooperative bylaw sections 7.1-7.4, as revised.

• Approved the write-off of accounts receivable totaling $102,911 for the year ending Dec. 31, 2022.

• Elected CEO Chris O’Neill as the Co-op’s voting delegate for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 2024 annual meeting and Board Chairman Luke Pohl as the Co-op’s Cooperative Response Center voting delegate.

• Discussed and accepted Cooperative bylaw sections 6.1-6.5, as revised.

Co-op presented by HomeWorks Engineering Services Manager Chris Jensen and David Shpigler of the third-party consulting firm The Shpigler Group.

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 Jan. 16 for the January meeting or by Feb. 27 for the March meeting.

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 Jan. 22 and Feb. 26 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.

Notice to Members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative— Data Privacy Policy The HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative Board of Directors has adopted a policy governing the collection, use, and disclosure of member account information and usage data. A full copy of the Data Privacy Policy can be found at HomeWorks.org. If you would like a hard copy of the Data Privacy Policy, please call our office at 800-562-8232.


WINTER THUNDERLAND I-500 Snowmobile Race Welcomes Thrill-Seekers to the UP By Emily Haines Lloyd


n the heart of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, nestled amid the snow-covered landscapes of Sault Ste. Marie, a winter spectacle has been captivating spectators for over five decades. The International 500 Snowmobile Race (I-500), a thrilling 500-mile endurance race on a onemile oval ice track, is a testament to not only the athletic individuals who participate, but also the spirit of the volunteers and residents who come together to share the beauty of the Upper Peninsula and the hospitality of smalltown living. The story of the I-500 began in 1969, when that year’s Indianapolis 500 pace car came to town and a small group wondered if a 500-mile snowmobile race could rival the legendary IndyCar race. Today, after 55 years and only a brief hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the I-500 owes its resilience to the unwavering commitment of its organizers.

A RACE LIKE NO OTHER Teams from Alaska to Louisiana, as well as several Canadian border towns, converge in Sault Ste. Marie to participate

14 JANUARY 2024

in this remarkable event for a full week, with the final I-500 race held on the first Saturday of February each year. “It’s the only mile-long oval ice track in North America,” said International 500 Chairman & Director Ric Federau. “It takes weeks for our volunteers to build the track, using 2 million gallons of water. It’s the fastest and toughest race around.” The I-500 race features 38 sleds (snowmobiles), each with 14 team members, including two to three drivers. Like the Indy 500, pit stops are crucial, with team members refueling the sleds and making any necessary repairs. The drivers cover a grueling 500 miles at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, making this a true high-speed showdown. The green flag drops at 10 a.m., with the race lasting into the late afternoon. Though the final race is the main event, the entire week is a celebration of winter sports, starting early with time trials and the track opening up to the public for skating. A highlight is the world's largest kids' snowmobile race, where youngsters compete on the same track under the lights, with their proud parents acting as their pit crews.

“Without a doubt, it is our volunteers and greater community who make this race a success. It’s not only their dedication and hard work; it’s how they greet visitors like neighbors. They make sure everyone feels at home.”

A BOOST FOR THE COMMUNITY AND THE ECONOMY The I-500 isn't just a thrilling event for spectators; it’s a financial boon for the Sault Ste. Marie community. The race attracts 10,000 to 15,000 spectators who spend a day or a week in the area to enjoy the winter fun. The economic impact of the race reaches far and wide, with hotels, restaurants, and local businesses benefiting from the influx of visitors. A study conducted by Lake Superior State University revealed that the economic impact of the I-500 is felt as far south as Gaylord (over 100 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie), highlighting the race's ability to draw visitors and generate revenue for the entire region, while showcasing Michigan as a hub for winter sports.

POWERED BY VOLUNTEERS & COMMUNITY The heart and soul of the I-500 is its dedicated team of 200 people who work tirelessly to ensure the race’s success—this is the only professional snowmobile race run entirely by volunteers. These individuals are the backbone of the event, contributing their time and effort to make it a memorable experience for all. It also has built its reputation as a premiere event due to the kindness and hospitality of the businesses and residents of the town who open their doors and hearts to welcome winter sports enthusiasts. “Without a doubt, it is our volunteers and greater community who make this race a success,” said Federau. “It’s not only their dedication and hard work; it’s how they greet visitors like neighbors. They make sure everyone feels at home.” The I-500 reminds us how a shared passion can bring people together and create enduring traditions that withstand the test of time.

Jan. 28–Feb. 3, 2024 For more information, visit: i-500.com




Did You Notice A Capital Credit On Your December Electric Bill?

Capital credits represent your equity in the Co-op you own. Since we’re not-for-profit, our rates are cost-based. Any margins, or profits, that we earn are allocated to our members and returned to you as our board of directors deems our financial strength will allow. When we retire capital credits, they are typically returned to you as a bill credit. The amount of your credit is based on your patronage, or purchase of electricity, during a specified time period. In October 2023, our board of directors authorized a $750,000 capital credit retirement to be made to our membership in December 2023. Members who purchased energy from HomeWorks in 1992 and/or 2022 received the capital credit. If you qualified to receive the refund, your portion of the $750,000 capital credit retirement should show as a bill credit on your December electric bill. If you look at the message center box of your December bill, you will also see the total amount of unretired capital credits that have been allocated to you during your HomeWorks membership. This full amount is not payable at this time, and does not represent cash; it is your equity share in our Co-op. Please remember to notify us of any future address changes; this will allow us to forward payments when the capital credits are refunded for the year(s) of your membership. 16 JANUARY 2024

Board Chairman Luke Pohl (middle) presents Director Theresa Sopocy and Director Jake Borton with their CCD certificates.

Director Borton And Director Sopocy Earn CCD Certificates Two new directors were elected to the HomeWorks board in 2023, and late last year, both of them earned their Credentialed Cooperative Director (CCD) certificates from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). Director Jake Borton of District 4 and Director Theresa Sopocy of District 5 each completed a set of five courses that focus on basic governance knowledge and the essential skills required of cooperative directors. The CCD prepares directors to fulfill their fiduciary duty as elected officials serving on behalf of their membership. “I’ve learned so much through the CCD program, and I’m just excited to continue to learn more and more about our Co-op and what electric co-ops around the country do for members in rural America,” says Borton. “I ran for the board because I wanted a way to give back to my community, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that with HomeWorks. I want to learn everything I can in order to represent the members of District 4 in a way that serves them well.” Sopocy agrees wholeheartedly. “I’ve always really liked the values that HomeWorks brings to the communities the Co-op serves, and I ran for the board because I wanted to be a part of that,” she says. “The CCD training gave me a better understanding of how the electric cooperative business works, and it gave me ideas of how to support the Co-op in strategically planning ahead for the

future to continue to do what’s best for each individual member and the Co-op as a whole. Now, I’m just looking forward to using the knowledge and experience I am gaining to help maintain a strong co-op and to support the great people who work at HomeWorks in all they do to serve our members.“ HomeWorks CEO Chris O’Neill says training programs like the CCD are indeed key in developing a strong and skilled board of directors to set the direction of the Co-op. “A focus on education, training, and information is actually one of the seven Cooperative Principles that guide us in all we do at HomeWorks,” says O’Neill. “I’m pleased that our members have elected leaders like Director Borton and Director Sopocy, who are dedicated to embracing that principle and continuing to improve their knowledge of cooperatives and the duties of a cooperative director. That kind of knowledge and understanding amongst our board members makes for a healthy co-op.” In District 4, Director Borton represents HomeWorks members who reside in Montcalm County, except Bloomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships, which are part of District 5. In addition to those three Montcalm County townships, Director Sopocy also represents members residing in Gratiot and Saginaw counties, plus Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships in Clinton County.

Outage Text Alerts Are Here For The New Year! HomeWorks works hard to provide you with electricity that is over 99.95% reliable. Still, thanks to Mother Nature and other factors beyond our control, occasional power outages are unavoidable. When the lights do go out, we know our members want a simple way to stay updated on whether or not the outage has been reported, if we are working to restore it, and when the power will come back on. That’s why we are excited to announce that we now offer the option for you to sign up to receive automated outage notifications via text message or email, and see them in our SmartHub mobile app, as well! Members who sign up for this convenient new service will receive outage notifications in four stages: 1. Outage reported

3. Crew assigned

When an outage is reported by a member or is detected on our system but has not yet been confirmed, you’ll receive this message:

When a crew has arrived at the site and is beginning work on your outage, you’ll receive this message:

“A power outage affecting your area has been reported and is awaiting review by the HomeWorks team for confirmation.” 2. Outage verified When we’ve confirmed an outage exists but a crew has not yet been assigned, you’ll see this message: “A power outage affecting your service location has been confirmed and is queued for assignment for restoration with an available crew.”

“A crew has been dispatched to address the cause of the power outage affecting your service location.” 4. Restored When the outage has been resolved and service has been restored, you’ll receive this message: “The assigned crew has reported that power has been restored. If your location is still without power, please contact us.”

Signing Up Is Simple You’re only a few simple steps away from taking advantage of our convenient new outage notifications. First, you must have your free online SmartHub account set up. This can be easily 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 outage notifications sent. Lastly, click “save.” While you’re there, you can also opt in to receive other helpful notifications from us, if you would like. With outage notifications, when the power goes out, you now have another way to be reassured that our crews are working hard to restore your service as quickly as possible.


MI CO-OP Guest Column

Rural Michigan Pickleball By Christopher Mulder, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member

y mom was a trendsetter when she picked up and started to share her newfound pickleball game approximately six years ago, well before the current pickleball rave. While celebrities are pickleball influencers and investing in pickleball in heavily populated areas, rural America is picking up the sport, too.


Mystery Photo

Win a $100 energy bill credit!

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo above by Jan. 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $100 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at countrylines.com/community.

The first place mom introduced pickleball to my family was during a Tuesday morning game at a local church’s indoor multiuse court. We were on Christmas break, visiting my parents from Texas, our latest Air Force assignment at the time. My family of five played with young and old alike, building community, embracing light competition, and raising our heart rate. We were hooked. Over the years since then, we have played wherever we could find court space—back at the church, close-by community center, or Village of New Era’s pickleball court, which it has thanks to a grant. Playing the game with our school-age children is always a highlight.

Nov./Dec. 2023 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Keith Hemenway, a Midwest Energy & Communications member, who correctly identified the Dome at the Michigan State Capitol. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/ August, September, and November/December.

The most recent and significant pickleball playing event occurred this past summer. We put together a small but competitive pickleball tournament at New Era’s pickleball court.

After clearing the water from the court following an overnight rain, it was time for opening ceremonies— invocation, national anthem, and tournament rules. Over the next few hours, the six teams aggressively competed for the title of inaugural champion, but of course only one team can come out on top. That team was composed of my two teenage sons; they played with heart and poise, defeating my wife and me in the final round. Of course, in this house, we haven’t heard the end of their big victory. Rural America can offer excellent pickleball play with friends, family, and even strangers. Our goal is to have an annual pickleball tournament in the Village of New Era. Even beyond this tournament, I hope to continue making memories well into the future while playing pickleball in west Michigan and other locations around the state.

About the Author: Christopher enjoys playing pickleball, making maple syrup, and traveling. He is a United States Air Force Officer and F-16 pilot. He once wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal suggesting we send a president to space.

Guest Column Win $200 for stories published!

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit. 18 JANUARY 2024

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Apply for one of our $2,500 college scholarships! Apply by March 13 by clicking on the community tab at HomeWorks.org

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