June 2024 MEC

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A Historic Icon of the Great Lakes
June 2024 MICHIGAN Midwest Energy & Communications How We Restore Power Infrastructure Maintenance Plans Visit Our Smart Lobby


Comparing is believing.

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We’ve got the competition beat on every level. A WaterFurnace geothermal heat pump offers unmatched efficiencies, so your energy costs are much lower than with a conventional furnace or a/c. It doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, so it’s much better on the environment. And the consistent temperatures and low humidity allow you to dial in your ideal comfort. With a 30% federal tax credit1 available, now is a great time to contact your local WaterFurnace dealer today!

Geothermal is the only renewable that provides reliable operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year



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

Filion/Bad Axe Air-O-Dynamic Htg. & Clg. (989)582-0137


Adams Htg & Clg (231)873-2665 adamsheating cooling.com

Indian River

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alger Delta Electric: up to $2,000

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: up to $2,000

visit us at waterfurnace.com/mi The Reliable Renewable is a trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc 1. ENERGY STAR rated units qualify for 30% through 2030 and 26% through 2032 and 22% through 2033

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives


EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin Russman

COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association

Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933.

Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors.

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS.

Association Officers: 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.


201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933

248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com

CHANGE OF ADDRESS: 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.

6 10 14


Electric cooperative director recalls life in rural Michigan—and how it changed with electricity.



Tacos & Margaritas: A combination that will spice up your next fiesta.



Glide through Lake Michigan on the only National Historic Landmark that moves.


Grandparents at the Doorstep: A GLE member sings the praises of the “world’s best, most trusted babysitters.”

MI Co-op Community

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

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. Casseroles, due July 1; Breads & Muffi ns, due Aug. 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!

Contents June 2024 Vol. 44, No. 6 /michigancountrylines /michigancountrylines countrylines.com




60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031

M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079

M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


5050 South Occidental Hwy., Tecumseh, MI 49286

M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


Midwest Energy & Communications



Email: info@teammidwest.com


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 419-344-4015


Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164


Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088


Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762


Jim Wiseley, Bloomingdale 269-760-4619





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

Please note: electric customers of MEC must adhere to our bylaws, which can be found at teammidwest.com/bylaws.

Federal Legislative Update

e regularly meet with our elected officials and/or their staff to discuss issues critical to MEC and electric cooperatives nationwide. Last April, MEC board members and employees met with staff from the offices of U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as staff from the offices of U.S. Reps. Lisa McClain, Dan Kildee, Bill Huizenga, and Tim Walberg.

Here's what we discussed:

Concerns with the EPA's Proposed Power Plant Rule

The EPA’s proposal intends to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 from existing coal and new natural gas plants and require them to adopt technologies to make them “cleaner.” While the intention behind this is good, the technologies—carbon capture/storage and co-firing with hydrogen—haven’t yet been “adequately demonstrated” as required by the Clean Air Act. This rule puts the cart before the horse and jeopardizes our ability to keep the lights on. We’re looking at coal plants shutting down prematurely and new natural gas being severely limited because meeting these requirements is simply unrealistic.

The transition to clean energy is an important step towards sustainability, but rushing this transition puts the nation at risk for rolling blackouts if electric supply can’t meet demand. If you haven’t seen my previous columns on this issue, please visit teammidwest.com/reliability to learn more.

Protecting USDA Funding

In 2022, Congress created a voluntary “New Era” grant and loan program to

help electric cooperatives purchase and build new clean energy systems. Electric co-ops need this funding to help support the transition to clean energy, and we urged our representatives to protect the program.

Broadband Issues

We discussed broadband funding as it relates to the required federal standards for speed, meaning providers must deliver a specific speed to qualify for funding. The NRECA is pushing for a minimum of 100/100 Mbps, but we also suggested that the standard shift to requiring technology (like fiber) that can accommodate increased market demands for speed.

We also expressed concerns about providers potentially overstating their coverage and speed, thereby jeopardizing funding for others and leaving rural residents without access to service.

Farm Bill

Last fall, the five-year 2018 Farm Bill received a one-year extension as legislators continued to hash out the bill. Sen. Stabenow has been instrumental in several farm bills and is a fierce advocate for rural America. She is the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. On May 1, she and House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson published outlines of competing versions of the 2024 Farm Bill.

When we met with the senator, her staff shared that she’s optimistic that a new bill will pass yet this year. However, others we met with aren’t quite so hopeful. While the bill has typically been bipartisan, nothing is typical in the current political climate in Washington. As I write this, we are still watching and waiting.

OUR MISSION Delivering first-in-class innovations and solutions where others won’t. OUR VISION Creating vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities. W 4 JUNE 2024

Electric Infrastructure Maintenance for 2024

aintaining over 4,000 miles of line and roughly 100,000 poles is no walk in the park, but it’s an important part of what we do. Every day, our team works hard to make sure our infrastructure is built for the future. Here are our plans for 2024.

As part of our normal maintenance each year, we replace electric meters that are nearing the end of their lifespan. The average lifespan of a meter is 7–10 years. This year, we plan to replace about 7,000 meters to ensure they are stable and in good condition.

We continue our smart grid implementation through distribution automation (DA). DA automatically identifies and isolates outages and then reroutes electricity where possible to reduce impact. In non-outage situations, it helps us monitor equipment and identify problems.

We have been actively replacing some of our copper wire with aluminum conductor steel-reinforced wire. This ensures the system can handle additional electric load. Plus, in certain circumstances, it enables us to improve our tie lines between substations, which means we can more readily reroute electricity when there is an outage. Finally, when we replace the old wire, we also ensure that the poles are an ideal distance of 200–250 feet apart.

We’ve also got substation upgrades on the horizon. Our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, plans to

finish work on our Schoolcraft substation in June 2024. Plus, we have plans to start construction on a new Ohio substation in 2025.

These investments are critical to ensuring reliability, and they modernize our grid to help bring you the best service experience possible.




3 P.M. — 6 P.M. 3 P.M. — 6 P.M.


Bob Hance, MEC President and CEO, is retiring after 50 years in the industry. Come wish him well on his next journey.

Keep watching Country Lines, our electric e-newsletter Plugged In, and your email for more info coming soon.

15 20

Back in the Day

Electric cooperative director recalls life in rural Michigan—and how it changed with electricity

Louis Wenzlaff is somewhat of a luminary in the Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC) service area. He was born and raised in Kingston, Michigan, and has spent his entire 87 years of life in the town, working in industries including farming, teaching, banking, and health care. As a TEC board member since 1977, he also has played a large role in ensuring cooperative members receive efficient and reliable electricity— something that, for good reason, he doesn’t take for granted.

The Wenzlaff family heritage in Michigan began when Louis’ grandparents, who were both German-born and had immigrated to Illinois, heard of a 120-acre farm that was for sale in Kingston. The eight children they raised on that property included Louis’ father, also named Louis. Louis Sr. moved to Detroit when he was 16 years old to work for Cadillac, but when the Great Depression hit in 1929, he moved back home to help prevent his family from losing the farm.

Louis Sr. met his soon-to-be wife Elizabeth at the country school, where she was a teacher and he was in charge of starting the potbelly stove fire on winter mornings. As was typical at the time, Louis Sr. and Elizabeth lived at the home of Louis’ grandparents, where they welcomed two daughters and then Louis. All three children were born in the house with the help of their grandmother and local midwives. One of Louis’ earliest memories is a momentous

Louis and his wife Sharon.

one: In 1941, when he was 4 years old, the Rural Electrification Administration (as TEC was known as the time) brought electricity to the farm. Louis said he remembers it “like it was yesterday.”

“You have to think of it,” Louis said. “We had no electricity, no running water, no plumbing, no nothing—it completely changed our lives.” The family’s first priority was to put a few lights in the house, followed by more lights in the barn. Using the well on the property, they then installed plumbing. Their first big appliance purchases were a refrigerator and a wringer washing machine. Next came a toilet—replacing the “three-holer” that Louis said they had in their outhouse because the family was so big. The introduction of these luxuries required the whole house to be remodeled. “They put in a bathroom and kitchen and septic tank—before, it had basically just been four walls,” Louis said.

“You have to think of it. We had no electricity, no running water, no plumbing, no nothing—it completely changed our lives.”

Productivity on the farm increased for the Wenzlaffs due to many factors, but one major difference was in dairy production. Louis said they had 12 cattle that had previously been milked by hand by the light of two kerosene lanterns. “But then we got a machine

from Sears-Roebuck that milked two cows at one time. It was wonderful, really,” Louis said. Adding a milk cooler also saved enormous quantities of time and energy. The family continued to slowly add appliances and new technologies, but they still lived a rather primitive lifestyle. Louis and his sisters would bathe about once a week, in the wash tub outside in the summertime and in front of the kitchen stove in colder seasons. “We just had to learn all the practical things we had to do to survive,” he said. The Wenzlaffs didn’t have much money, but that didn’t stop them from having fun. Louis said his aunts and uncles would visit every weekend. “Mother would play piano, and Dad would call square dances—that old house would just shake,” he said.

The farming life clearly suits Louis as he has, in some capacity, done it all his life. But he dipped his toes into several other careers as well—usually at the behest of others. Louis attended college for three years but left to work with his maternal grandfather, who was a carpenter, and procured a second job at a local lumberyard. His work at the yard consisted of installing plumbing, heating, and electrical services into local homes. He helped set up the area’s first ready mix concrete plant and delivered the cement to farmers. “As far as practicality, I learned more in those four years than I did in the rest of my career,” he said.

His carpentry days ended when the Kingston Community Schools

6 JUNE 2024
The Wenzlaff family farm in the early ‘50s. If you look closely, you can see the light poles installed by REA.

superintendent asked him if he wanted to work for the district. He taught bookkeeping and typing there for four years and was a coach for various sports. (Upon leaving the district, he served on the school board for over 30 years.) While teaching, Louis decided to continue with college and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University...but then a new opportunity arose. “The guy I worked for at the lumberyard was the president of the bank board, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come run the bank?’” Louis said. “I didn’t have much knowledge, but I learned it and I stayed there for 23 years.” He was the CEO until Kingston State Bank was sold, upon which time he moved on to constructing modular home interiors for two years. And then yet another industry came calling for Louis: A former bank customer who was on Sanilac County’s social services board asked Louis if he wanted to oversee the county nursing home. Louis was the administrator of that nursing home for 22 years.

In 2013, Louis finally retired. But he continues to have an impact on the community and stays active in his personal life as well. Louis credits his longevity to “working hard and playing hard.” He and his wife Sharon have five children, two of whom help him out on his hobby farm. And, as mentioned, this is his 47th year of serving on the TEC board, which he says he enjoys for a number of reasons—including the travel benefit. Louis said he was always too busy with work and the farm to go anywhere outside of Michigan, so he’s been grateful for the opportunity to attend national director conferences. Louis certainly has a busier life than the average 87-year-old man, but rest assured, he is looking to slow down. “I might give up golfing,” he said with a laugh.

Louis and his sisters with their parents Elizabeth and Louis Sr.

Louis (middle) and his sisters Shirley (left) and Barbara (right) pose with their Grandpa Wenzlaff.


What Happens If My Power Goes Out?

When Mother Nature, curious critters, or other unforeseen circumstances rear their ugly heads, our linemen hit the ground running. Here’s how we restore power.

Reports Come In

If your power goes out, report it to us as soon as possible, providing as many details as you can. Even if your neighbors have already called it in, submitting your own report helps us pinpoint the issue.

Please do not report your outage by email or through social media as we are not always immediately available.

Let us know if you see fallen power lines, but DO NOT approach them. They pose a potentially deadly threat.

Assessment and 911 Calls

Our first priority is always to de-energize fallen lines. Dispatchers also begin sending crews to determine the extent of reported outages and which equipment they need for repairs.

Repairs Begin

Crews get to work on repairs, starting with substations and major lines,

working their way down to individual homes like yours.


Due to the complicated nature of the power grid, your electricity may not come on at the same time as your neighbor's.

If you see trucks near your property and they leave before you are restored, this means they need to make repairs elsewhere before your power can come back on. The issue may be further down the line, or there may be a larger part of the outage that needs to be restored before they can return to your specific property.

Meter Base Damage

If your meter base is damaged, an electrical inspection is required before we can restore service. Visit teammidwest.com/inspectors for lists of southeast and southwest Michigan inspectors.

A Note About Restoration Times

When your power goes out, we know the first thing you think is, "How long will this last?" The unfortunate truth, particularly in major storms, is we don’t know. It takes time to find and assess the true extent of the damage. Think of it like remodeling your house: You don’t know exactly what you will encounter until you start tearing down walls. Once we have fully assessed the damage and repair needs, we can provide rough estimates on when the lights will come back.

Why Did My Lights Blink?

We utilize oil circuit reclosers (OCR) to act essentially as breakers on the system. When things like animals or branches come into contact with our lines, an OCR opens and then closes again quickly. Hence, the blink. If the disturbance on the line remains, the OCR will continue to trip two more times. If after the third blink, the disturbance still remains, the OCR remains open, resulting in a power outage.

Overall, OCRs help protect the entire system, and they also isolate outages and reduce the number of impacted customers.

8 JUNE 2024

A Parent’s Guide to Video Games

Is your kid planning to spend part of their summer break with a game gadget in hand? Here are some things parents should know, according to experts at PC Magazine and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

All Games Have Age Ratings

Games have a rating system put in place by the ESRB: the most common are E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature. There are also ratings for Early Childhood (EC), Ages 10 and Up (E10), and Adults Only (AO).

If you can buy a video game in a store, it has an ESRB rating somewhere on the box. You can also search ratings online at esrb.org. Wherever you see the letter rating, you’ll also see a simple list of any content parents might find objectionable.

These ratings can be helpful, but they can also describe a wide range of content that differs from game to game. For example, "Fantasy Violence" can apply to many potential scenarios. It's a good idea to do additional research beyond seeking out the ESRB rating.

Some Games Have Online Content

Some games, like Roblox, let users create and upload their own game modes or other content, sort of like

how YouTube lets users upload their own videos. Like YouTube videos, this content isn't always appropriate for children.

Does this mean playing online is always dangerous? Of course not—but it always pays to research exactly what online capabilities a game might have. Additionally, many newer consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X have built-in parental controls that limit what your kids can do.

Some Games Have Hidden Charges

Some computer and console games have adopted "microtransactions," or in-game payments, that cost realworld money. Online shops or ESRB ratings might include wording about "in-app purchases" to signal they have microtransactions.

This is another area where doing your research and setting up parental controls can save you a lot of headache. It's also a good idea not to save your credit or debit card info to a console's online store.

CommandIQ Can Help

Need to limit what your kids can do and see online? You’re not on your own—MEC fiber internet customers can download the free CommandIQ app to implement a wide range of parental controls, including blocking online gaming content, as long as your kid’s device is using your home internet network. The best way to use CommandIQ is in tandem with other parental controls already included on games and consoles.

You must have an MEC GigaSpire router to use CommandIQ’s parental controls. Visit teammidwest.com/whichrouter to see which router you have. If you don’t have one, go to teammidwest.com/router-swap and we’ll mail you one. It’s free with your service.



MI CO-OP Recipes WINNING RECIPE! Recipe Contest Win a $100 energy bill credit! Casseroles due July 1; Breads & Muffi ns due Aug. 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
MARGARITAS Lisa Kirker, Great Lakes Energy 1½ cups tequila ½ cup triple sec ½ cup light beer (such as Corona Light) 1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (2–3 medium lemons) ¼ cup fresh lime juice (4–6 medium limes) 1½ cups filtered water Mix all of the ingredients in a large pitcher. Stir. Serve over ice, or mix with ice in the blender for a frozen margarita. This recipe will last in the fridge for up to a week. TACOS &
A combination that will spice up your next fiesta. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/recipe_ type/videos/ 10 JUNE 2024


Peg Poppler, Cherryland Electric Cooperative

8–10 soft taco shells

1 pound pulled pork (homemade or store bought), keep warm

2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

1¹⁄³ cup prepared Spanish or Mexican rice

1 cup Mexican cheese blend


1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

¹⁄³ cup finely diced onion

3 tablespoons flour

1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth

½ (4-ounce) can green chiles

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup sour cream

½ cup Mexican cheese blend

• chopped cilantro, optional

• salsa, optional

To prepare the sauce, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring. Sprinkle the flour over the onions; stir and cook for a minute. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Add the green chiles, cumin, garlic powder, and salt and simmer until thickened. Set aside and keep warm. Right before serving, remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream and ½ cup cheese. To make the tacos, place the soft taco shells on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir the barbecue sauce into the pulled pork. Evenly divide rice, cheese, and pulled pork onto the taco shells. Drizzle the sauce over the pulled pork and serve immediately. Serve with chopped cilantro and salsa, if desired.


Debra Ford, Cherryland Electric Cooperative

1½ (750-milliliter) bottle

100% agave tequila

1 (750-milliliter) bottle triple sec

1 quart (32 ounces) sweet and sour mix

1 quart (32 ounces) water

• limes, sliced as desired

Mix all liquids in large pitcher or container. Add limes and serve over ice.


Elizabeth Postma, Great Lakes Energy

1 pound ground beef or your choice of protein (chicken, turkey, tofu, etc.)

1 (1.25-ounce) packet taco seasoning mix

8 small corn or flour tortillas

1 cup shredded lettuce

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend)

½ cup diced onions

¼ cup chopped cilantro

• Optional toppings: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, lime wedges (for garnish)

In a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Drain any excess fat. Add the taco seasoning mix to the cooked beef according to the package instructions. Stir well to combine and simmer for a few minutes. If using flour tortillas, warm in a separate skillet or in the microwave until warm and pliable. If using hard-shell tacos, heat according to package directions. Assemble the tacos by placing a spoonful of seasoned beef in each tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, and cilantro. Serve with your choice of toppings on the side.


Sharon Libich, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op

½ pound ground beef or turkey

6 ounces mild (or favorite spice level) salsa

1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cilantro

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated biscuits

½ –1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare a standard-size muffin tin with muffin cups (ungreased). In a large skillet over medium heat, brown meat (don’t overcook). Drain. Add salsa, onion, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered, over low heat, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Separate biscuit dough and place one biscuit in each ungreased muffin cup, pressing dough up the sides to the edge of each cup. Spoon meat mixture into cups. Bake for 10–12 minutes. Sprinkle each cup with shredded cheese and broil in the oven until melted, about 1 minute. Enjoy!


Experience a Connected Home

Visit Our Smart Lobby

See firsthand what it’s like to live in a smart home! The smart lobby at our Cassopolis headquarters (60590 Decatur Road) invites you to explore how new smart gadgets can make your life more convenient using the power of MEC fiber internet.


In a connected home, you can discover a new way to experience music, movies, and games. Our Amazon Echo Show acts as the control hub for the smart lobby, and it also plays music with full voice controls.

Meanwhile, our TVs showcase video and game streaming capabilities over MEC fiber internet. Amazon Prime Video plays your favorite movies and TV shows in the highest video quality without buffering. Or you can pick up our game controller and try Amazon’s Luna gaming service, which streams video games in real time without having to download them. Streaming high-quality videos and games is very data-intensive, and if your internet isn’t up to the task, it can result in lots of lag and slowdowns—but these features are no match for fast, reliable MEC fiber internet.


Wonder what it’s like to have Arlo security cameras giving you peace of mind while you’re away? Wonder no more! Our smart lobby is equipped with a video doorbell, as well as indoor and outdoor cameras, so you can see how they work and explore all the convenient, easy-to-use features they offer.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there—a Furbo pet camera and treat launcher, plus a voice-activated door lock, round out the features that can make your connected home safer than ever before.

Everyday Made Easy

Smart devices aren’t just extra bells and whistles. Some can also enhance your everyday activities. Smart lamps, a robotic vacuum cleaner, and even an air purifier can be activated and adjusted using nothing more than the power of your voice.

TAKE A TOUR: As you can imagine, each of these devices has lots of features to explore. We can walk you through it all—simply ask for a tour at the front desk the next time you stop by. Our Cassopolis HQ is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on holidays.

12 JUNE 2024

Smart Devices for Energy Efficiency

Did you know smart devices can increase your home’s energy efficiency?

How It Works

Many smart devices let you monitor their energy use directly from your phone. This gives you a better idea of how you’re using power and can help you decide whether to change your usage.

Programmable smart devices can be told to activate on a schedule or only when you’re home. This means they consume less energy when nobody is using them.

Some devices also send alerts to your phone if they start having issues, lowering the possibility that an unnoticed maintenance problem will cause them to use more power than needed.

Start Small

Even though large appliances like your water heater use the most power, it’s easiest to focus on simple upgrades first.

• Smart Plugs are a fast, easy way to convert even your ordinary appliances into smart devices. They work by plugging into an outlet, and then plugging your device into the smart plug. From your phone, you can monitor the plug’s (and therefore your device’s) power consumption, turn it on and off, and schedule times for it to activate.

• Smart Lightbulbs have the same energy management features as other smart devices. Additionally, they’re often LED bulbs, which use up to 90% less energy than

incandescent lighting while having a longer lifespan, according to Energy Star.

• Smart Thermostats interact with your heating and cooling system—typically the biggest energy user in your home. Many of them can even detect if you’re home and automatically adjust settings while you’re away.

More Ideas

Those are the basics, but the world of smart devices is vast. If you’re looking to replace a larger appliance, it may benefit you to consider one with smart features, especially if certified by Energy Star.

• Smart Refrigerators alert you when the door is open. Some even have cameras inside so you can choose a snack without letting all the cold air out.

• Motion Sensors detect when someone is in the room and turn on lights, turning them back off when the room is empty. This curbs the energy that gets wasted when someone leaves a room without turning the lights off.

• Smart Sprinkler Controllers can schedule your irrigation based on the weather, saving not just energy but also water.

Visit EnergyStar.gov/Products and look for “Smart Home Energy Management Systems” for info on all these products and more.



A Historic Icon of the Great Lakes

Common sense says the path of least resistance is the wise choice. But what if the wise choice isn’t the one that can bring you a new, one-of-a-kind experience? Well then, sometimes you take the choppier path.

Folks from Michigan might take the interstate route through bustling Chicago to reach Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Those further north might opt to drive through the scenic Upper Peninsula. But those with an inkling for adventure should consider a third route.

A Historic Journey

The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired passenger steamship in operation in the United States. She has provided a fun, reliable, and affordable shortcut across beautiful Lake Michigan for more than 70 years and has transported millions of passengers since her rebirth in 1992.

With ports in Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the S.S. Badger is a floating reminder of maritime history and an enduring symbol of the Great Lakes’ rich heritage. The 410-foot ship can accommodate 600 passengers and 180 vehicles, including cars, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks, during her sailing season of June through early October.

“The Badger is the last coal-fired passenger steamship in operation in the United States. With Great Lakes surrounding Michigan’s two peninsulas, the state has relied on ferries to transport people, vehicles, and products for over 130 years,” said Sara Spore, general manager of Lake Michigan Carferry, the company that manages the S.S. Badger. “As a moving National Historic Landmark (NHL), she continues to serve as a unique maritime tradition.”

Uniquely registered as a historical site in both Michigan and Wisconsin, the Badger holds numerous accolades, including being designated as a mechanical engineering landmark and named Ship of the Year by the Steamship Historical Society of America.

In 2016, she received the nation’s highest historic honor when the U.S. Department of Interior officially designated the Badger as a National Historic Landmark—making her the only NHL that moves.

14 JUNE 2024

Tradition Meets Entertainment

After making the difficult decision to end the 2023 season early due to unexpected damage to the Badger ’s ramp system, Lake Michigan Carferry is excited to get back at it. While refunds were issued for those who had already booked passage for later in the 2023 season, there were disappointed passengers, as well as a staff who is eager to please each season.

“Our staff, passengers, and both port cities are looking forward to the upcoming season,” said Spore. “The Badger is a fun experience for passengers with many favorite traditions onboard.”

Spore isn’t exaggerating—the S.S. Badger offers more than just transportation; it provides a memorable experience steeped in tradition and entertainment. From free Badger Bingo and onboard movie lounges to kids’ play areas and arcade games, the ship offers many activities to enjoy during the voyage. Additionally, passengers can indulge in food and beverages at onboard bars and restaurants, browse the gift shop, or simply relax on the outside decks, soaking in the scenic beauty of the Great Lakes.

The Badger is the last coal- red passenger steamship in operation in the United States. With Great Lakes surrounding Michigan’s two peninsulas, the state has relied on ferries to transport people, vehicles, and products for over 130 years.”

The Legacy Continues

The S.S. Badger’s journey reflects not only the evolution of maritime technology but also the changing environmental consciousness. Originally designed to transport railcars, the Badger has adapted to meet modern sustainability standards. Lake Michigan Carferry has undertaken significant initiatives to ensure the ship’s environmental impact is minimized. With the cessation of ash discharge into the lake and the implementation of new ash-retention and combustion-control systems, the Badger now serves as a model of eco-friendly maritime transportation.

As the S.S. Badger embarks on another season, it does so not only as a historic vessel but also as a forward-thinking model of sustainability and stewardship, ensuring that its legacy continues for generations to come. With its rich history, environmental initiatives, and commitment to providing an exciting and memorable voyage, the S.S. Badger remains an essential part of Michigan’s maritime heritage and a beloved way to traverse the waters between Michigan and Wisconsin.

/ssbadgerferry /ssbadgerferry /ssbadgerferry ssbadger.com @badgerferry_official

Get fiber phone w/ unlimited calls from MEC!

Residential: $39.95/mo. + tax

Combine fiber internet & phone from MEC and enjoy a $10/mo. discount on your phone bill.

LEARN MORE AT teammidwest.com/phone



Y OU GET: Any kid 0–5 years old

Age-appropriate FREE books every month

Studies show the most important development happens from 0-3 years old, and kids who own books are better set up for success.

MEC proudly supported our local Imagination Library affiliates, the United Way of Southwest Michigan, and the Lenawee Community Foundation in 2023 as part of our vision of creating vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities. Find your local Imagination Library partner: imaginationlibrary.com


2023 ANNUAL REPORT Consolidated

Report of Independent Auditors

Following are excerpts from the audit report. The full report may be accessed at TeamMidwest.com or by calling 800-492-5989.


We have audited the consolidated financial statements of Midwest Energy Cooperative (the Cooperative), which comprise the consolidated balance sheets as of December 31, 2023 and 2022, and the related consolidated statements of operations, equities and margins, and cash flows for the years then ended, and the related notes to the consolidated financial statements.

In our opinion, the accompanying consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of the Cooperative as of December 31, 2023 and 2022, and the changes in financial position and, where applicable, cash flows thereof for the years then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

Basis for Opinion

We conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAS) and the standards applicable to financial audits contained in Government Auditing Standards, issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. We are required to be independent of the Cooperative and to meet our other ethical responsibilities, in accordance with the relevant ethical requirements relating to our audit. We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is

sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our audit opinions.

Responsibilities of Management for the Financial Statements

Management is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the consolidated financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, and for the design, implementation, and maintenance of internal control relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.

Auditor’s Responsibilities for the Audit of the Financial Statements

Our objectives are to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the consolidated financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error, and to issue an auditor’s report that includes our opinions. We are required to communicate with those charged with governance regarding, among other matters, the planned scope and timing of the audit, significant audit findings, and certain internal control-related matters that we identified during the audit.

Moss Adams March 28, 2024

Director’s Compensation Disclosure

Elected directors are paid a monthly retainer of $500 and a per diem based on board position, and years of service or credential status for meetings attended on behalf of the cooperative. The chairman is paid a monthly retainer of $600.

Statements of Operations

Balance Sheets

Years Ended Dec. 31 (Dollars in 000) 2023 2022 Operating revenues $ 131,747 $ 126,690 Operating expenses 110,893 109,160 Interest expense 7,354 6,374 Operating margins (deficits) 13,500 11,156 Capital credits 3,971 4,315 Nonoperating margins (deficits) 10,489 3,502 Net margins $ 27,960 $ 18,973 Interest Expense 8% Property Taxes 5% Depreciation 14% Operations & Maintenance 13% Administrative & Member Services 11% Cost of Purchased Power 49% Residential Sales 62% Commercial & Industrial Sales 34% Irrigation Sales 4%
Dec. 31 (Dollars in 000) ASSETS 2023 2022 Net electric plant and equipment $ 391,428 $ 304,060 Other assets and investments 43,003 39,792 Current assets 42,260 53,186 Deferred charges -Total assets $ 476,691 $ 397,038 LIABILITIES, EQUITIES, AND MARGINS Patronage capital and other equities $ 135,458 $ 107,388 Long-term debt 270,530 238,226 Other liabilities 2,738 2,166 Current liabilities 66,457 47,885 Deferred tax liability 1,506 1,324 Deferred credits 2 49 Total liabilities, equities, and margins $ 476,691 $ 397,038 Where Our Sales Come From Where Your Dollars Go 17 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Grandparents at the Doorstep:

Building Stronger Families and Happier Childhoods

“When can I have a sleepover at Grammy and (Grand)Dude’s?” my four-year-old asks me as we are wedged in her twin bed reading “The Little Mermaid” for the hundredth time. “Probably this summer,” I reply. She smiles, closes her book, and snuggles in, bringing the covers up to her chin while still smiling. As I lay next to her, I think, “We are so lucky.”

I saw a meme recently that said “The greatest parenting hack is to live close to the grandparents.” This could not ring more true. Having my parents, my mother-in-law, and—before his passing—my father-in-law nearby has definitely been the ultimate parenting hack. Not only are my husband and I so grateful for the (free and last-minute) childcare our parents provide, we also love the special relationships they build with both of our daughters.

I look at my youngest as she holds her hands up in the air with a scrunched-up grin on her face, asking “up up” to my dad. I watch my oldest zip around the house in anticipation of my mother-in-law’s weekly visit and patiently answer questions and talk about her grandpa and why we can no longer visit him anymore. I listen and quietly chuckle as she explains to me that she is eating from the outside of her plate inward because “Grammy told me the food is colder on the outside first.” I smile as she asks if her grandpa knew about her baby sister. “Yes,” her dad responds, “and he was so excited about her, and so proud of the big sister you were becoming.”

The birthday celebrations, sleep-overs, trips to McDonald’s, visits to the library, etc., are of course, fulfilling and enriching for our girls, but it’s also the mundane and the not-so-fun stuff that really makes my heart full. It’s the midnight phone call to watch the oldest while we take the youngest to the ER for a fever that won’t go away. It’s the 6 a.m. text “Can you watch M today? School is cancelled and I don’t have any sick days left.” It’s the “Z won’t stop crying and I don’t know what to do, can you come over?” It’s having the world’s best, most trusted babysitters ready to share their wisdom, time, or possibly just a calm space with our most treasured possessions. Having grandparents live close by is more than just a parenting hack; it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Their unwavering love and support create a foundation of security and joy for our daughters, and I cannot wait to see how their bond continues to deepen in the years to come.

“Having grandparents live close by is more than just a parenting hack; it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

About the Author: Alexandra is an instructional technology coordinator at Charlevoix Public Schools. She enjoys reading, sleeping, and getting outside with her family.

Guest Column

Win $200 for stories published!

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

MI CO-OP Guest Column
18 JUNE 2024

• Attaches to your home’s existing heating system, it does not replace it.

• Delivers 90% on average of your home’s heating needs and 100% of your home’s cooling needs.

• If you have a well and are heating with propane, fuel oil, electric or wood, your current heating and cooling cost is likely greater than it would be to fully finance and heat & cool with a Well-Connect.

• Installs in one day, any time of year. No drilling or excavation is required.

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No matter what the weather does, your rate is secure. We establish a rate and cap it through the heating season with no extra fees.

Multiple billing and delivery options to fit your family’s needs.

No pricing games and no hidden fees — just a strong commitment to your comfort, safety, and stability. 120 TANK RATE



• Metered Service: Pay monthly for what you use, along with a $15/mo. meter fee.

• Variable Budget: Pay roughly the same amount every month and avoid a large settle-up payment at the end of the season.

• Auto Fill: Get tank fills automatically based on estimated tank levels.

• Seasonal Fill:

Get your tank filled every August and again in February, if needed.

• Will Call: Call us for delivery when you need gas. A $25 fee applies.

June 2024 – May 2025


June 2024 – May 2025 250 AND ABOVE TANK RATE

• Remote Monitor:

For customers who have an alternate heat source, pool, stand-alone generator, or other unique circumstance. We install a monitor on your tank, and our team tracks readings and schedules deliveries as needed. The remote monitor is a one-time purchase of $150 with a $5/mo. monitoring fee.

Credit check and 12-month contract required. Tank set fee of $1 plus applicable fees for trenching and securing township permits. Propane services are not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission. LEARN MORE & CHECK ELIGIBILITY

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