Nov/Dec 2019 MEC

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November/December 2019


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

Supporting 4-H And Food Pantries

SE Fiber Build Board Elections

The North Pole Express ALL ABOARD


You don’t have to lower the thermostat to control your heating bills. WaterFurnace geothermal systems use the clean, renewable energy in your own backyard to provide savings of up to 70% on heating, cooling and hot water. And because WaterFurnace units don’t use any fossil fuels or combustion, the EPA calls it the most environmentally friendly and cost effective way to condition our homes.2 Contact your local WaterFurnace dealer to learn how WaterFurnace is good for the environment, your budget and the feeling in your toes. YOUR LOCAL WATERFURNACE DEALERS Bad Axe B & D Htg (989) 269-5280

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Caro AllTemp Comfort, Inc. (866) 844-HEAT (4328)

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visit us at WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. 1. 30% through 2019, 26% through 2020 and 22% through 2021 2. EPA study “Space Conditioning, The Next Frontier” (Report 430-R-93-004)

In This Issue November/December 2019 || Vol. 39, No. 10


Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives FEATURED PHOTO FROM


Your photo could be featured here. michigancountrylines

Executive Editor: Casey Clark

Follow Us On Instagram!

Editor: Christine Dorr Design and Production: Karreen Bird

Come share in the splendor of rural Michigan with us

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


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.

@michigancountrylines michigancountrylines A crystal clear reflection of the Ore Dock in Marquette by @justin_palmer_photography

ON THE COVER All Aboard The North Pole Express! One of the few remaining steam-powered engines in the country, the Pere Marquette 1225, better known as the North Pole Express, shuttles passengers of all generations into an idyllic blast from Christmas past each December.

6 MI CO-OP COMMUNITY The Call Of The Michigan Wild

For these three friends from Escanaba, Michigan, their enthusiasm for the outdoors was their strongest bond. Emily Haines Lloyd

10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Spread Holiday Cheer With Festive Cookie Recipes Christin McKamey & Our Readers

Featured Guest Chef: Enjoy this snow storm soup recipe from Kim Springsdorf, executive director of Steam Railroading Institute. Enter Our Recipe Contest And Win A $50 Bill Credit!

14 FEATURE All Aboard The North Pole Express Multiple generations of families share this unique Michigan experience. Emily Haines Lloyd

18 MI CO-OP COMMUNITY Best of Michigan: Bakeries

Get ready to devour this member-recommended list of Michigan’s best bakeries. Guess Our New Mystery Photo And Win A $50 Bill Credit!

Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation

(Required by U.S.C. 3685) 1. Publication Title: Michigan Country Lines. 2. Publication No.: 591-710. 3. Filing date: 10/1/19. 4. Issue frequency: monthly, except August and December. 5. No. of issues published annually: 10. 6. Complete mailing address of known office of publication: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 7. Complete mailing address of headquarters or general business office of publisher: 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 8. Full names and complete mailing address of publisher, editors, and executive editor: Craig Borr, Christine Dorr, Casey Clark, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 9. Owner: Michigan Electric Cooperative Assoc., 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 10. Known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding one percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities: None. 11. Tax status: Has not been changed. 12. Issue date for circulation data below: Sept. 2019. 13. Extent and nature of circulation: Avg # of copies each issue during preceding 12 mo.

Actual # of copies of single issues published nearest to filing date

A) Total No. of copies ................................ 241,500 ................... 242,882 B) Paid and requested circulation ............ 241,500 ................... 242,882 C) Total paid and requested circulation ... 241,500 ................... 242,882 D) 1) Free distribution by mail .........................188 ...........................155 2) Free distribution outside mail .................920 ...........................887 E) Total free distribution ...............................1,108 ....................... 1,042 F) Total distribution.................................. 222,141 ................... 243,924 G) Copies not distributed ..................................... 0 ...............................0 H) Total ..................................................... 222,141 ................... 243,924 I) Percent paid and/or requested circ. .........98.7% .......................99.7% 16. Publication of statement of ownership: November 2019 17. Signature and title of editor: Christine Dorr, Editor








CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


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

Amy Pales

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Bring On Winter: We’re Ready Robert Hance, President/CEO

I learned a new phrase this week: Polar Coaster. Don’t confuse this with the Polercoaster, which is a type of amusement ride consisting of a very tall tower wrapped with a steel roller coaster. It’s apparently the same length as a traditional horizontal roller coaster, presented in a vertical format with a much smaller overall footprint. It’s now on my bucket list! Polar Coaster is how the 2020 Farmers’ Almanac is teeing up the 2019–20 winter season. “Are you ready for another winter ride, full of chills and thrills? This winter will be filled with so many ups and downs on the thermometer, it may remind you of a ‘Polar Coaster,’” its website says. Of course, media outlets picked up on the hype and are encouraging people to brace for an unusually freezing, frigid and frosty winter. Under these circumstances, I like to remind people of two things. One: most of you reading this live in Michigan, and in Michigan, we know how to do winter. Two: it’s nearly impossible for meteorologists to create an accurate five-day forecast, so why do we put so much stock in a long-term forecast from a 200-year-old almanac? Regardless, just hearing “Polar Coaster” takes many of us back to last winter, when we were gripped by an unusually frigid January. Even more impacting, many remember the winter of 2013–14, when a combination of brutal cold and supply issues prompted unprecedented price spikes from many retail propane providers and mass fear from propane users desperate to keep their homes and families safe during the bitter cold. For more than 20 years, we’ve offered a unique propane experience for customers in southwest and west-central Michigan, in the form of a capped rate, provided without additional fees and guaranteed through the entire heating season (June 1–May 31). How do we do it? It’s a combination of art and science, with a little bit of luck occasionally thrown in. We monitor the wholesale gas markets throughout the year, securing gas when conditions are favorable so that we can provide stability and peace-of-mind pricing for our 6,500 customers. This year, another opportunity fell into our laps as we met a new gas supplier who helped us lower our costs well beyond this heating season. In fact, we’ve secured enough supply that we are now announcing a price decrease for the 2020–21 heating season. It’s a great opportunity for current customers and new customers who come our way, as we can confidently offer a rate of $1.599 from June 1, 2020, through May 31, 2021. It’s the first time in our 20-plus-year history that we’ve been able to guarantee prices for two back-to-back heating seasons so early, a tribute to our talented and hard-working team. Our team is ready to tackle whatever Mother Nature sends our way, this winter and next. Want to experience our difference? Learn more at

MEC NEWS OF NOTE Get Engaged As A Co-op Director One of the seven guiding principles of cooperatives is democratic control. When you take your electric service from Midwest Energy & Communications, you are more than a customer; you are an owner who has a voice and is encouraged to take an active role in the life of the organization. We are governed by a nine-member board of directors, and each is elected to serve a three-year term. Directors are elected by and represent you and others who live in their districts. This is an important role as directors make critical decisions on behalf of all co-op customers. Three board seats are up for election next year. If you are a co-op electric customer interested in serving, please contact us for a petition, then secure 30 or more valid signatures. Your completed petition and biography must be returned to our Cassopolis office by 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2020, to be placed on the ballot for one of the three terms ending in April 2020. Ballots will be mailed to the district customers on Jan. 21 and counted on Feb. 11. Board members must reside in the district they represent. In 2020, Districts 1, 2 and 5 will be up for election. District 1 is currently represented by Fred Turk of Decatur and includes Decatur, Hamilton, Penn, Porter (Van Buren County), Marcellus and Volina townships. Jim Dickerson of Bloomingdale is the current director in District 2, which includes Arlington, Bainbridge, Bangor,

Fred Turk

Jim Dickerson

John Green

Bloomingdale, Coloma, Covert, Hartford, Keeler, Lawrence, Paw Paw, Pipestone, Silver Creek, Watervliet and Waverly townships. The current District 5 director is John Green of Dowagiac. District 5 includes Howard, LaGrange, Milton, Pokagon and Wayne townships. For more information about serving on the board of directors, please call the cooperative at 800-492-5989.

In 2020, we may implement an electronic voting option. It’s a quick and simple process, but we need accurate email addresses in our system. Please contact us at 800-492-5989 to add or update your email address, or do it yourself using your SmartHub app.

We will be closed on the dates listed below. Make a payment or report an electric outage via SmartHub or by calling 800-492-5989. Drop box payments made at our solutions centers will be processed on the next open business day.


Thursday, Nov. 28 & Friday, Nov. 29


Tuesday, Dec. 24 & Wednesday, Dec. 25

New Year’s

Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020

The Call Of The

Michigan Wild By Emily Haines Lloyd


n the Midwest, hunting and fishing are more than just seasons, they are often traditions. For a group of childhood friends from Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it’s a bit of a calling. Mike Aho, Doug Latvala, and Ben Irving grew up playing hockey together, a popular pastime in Escanaba. Aho’s and Irving’s dads also played together in a bluegrass band. However, as the three friends, now grown with families of their own, sit around over beers, their love of the outdoors is possibly their strongest bond. “It seems like everyone in the U.P. has a camp,” said Irving. “Itʻs where you go on the weekends to either hunt, fish or prepare for hunting and fishing season.” “And drink beer,” adds Latvala. The three laugh and it only takes a moment to realize that Mother Nature nurtures more than the wildlife, it nurtures lifelong friendships. How deep does the love of camp go? Latvala was born on the opening day of deer hunting season and, when his mother went into labor, someone had to head out to the

Get your own Michigan Wild hat from

woods to find Latvala’s dad. As family lore goes, dad hung out with his newborn for a few hours and actually went back out to camp. So, it's fair to say, the love goes deep. So deep, the trio still spends a great deal of time out in nature together, even though they are separated by significant distances—Latvala lives in Marquette, Aho in the Metro Detroit area, and Irving all the way out in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “The U.P. is more than a location, it’s a way of life,” said Aho. “The outdoors is ingrained into our families. Along the way, we decided to start sharing our photos and experiences on Instagram and called it Michigan Wild (@MichiganWild).” When the guys started Michigan Wild, it was simply a hashtag, but it’s caught on quickly, with more than 9,600 followers who now tag their outdoor adventures similarly. Michigan Wild isn’t a business (although you can buy a cool ball cap with their logo on it), it’s more of a movement. “I live in a cul-de-sac community,” explains Irving. “And the excitement my son has when I tell him we’re going to go on a hike is amazing. I don’t want him to lose his connection to the outdoors. I think we just want to remind people how wonderful and simple it is out there.” “Yeah, that’s it. Camp is simple,” adds Aho. “After being tied down by the grind of work, you wake up at camp, make coffee, talk a little and head out. When you come back, you’re excited to hear everyone’s stories. If someone in a neighboring camp brings in a deer, everyone goes to help. It’s basic hunter/gatherer culture and you’re reliving that. But, with a sauna.”

Photo courtesy of Jim Behymer

The guys laugh again. Each of the men makes it clear that they enjoy the hunting and utilizing the venison from deer season throughout the year, but it’s the community and sheer awe of the wilderness that keeps them connected. One look at some of their most frequent hashtags nods heavily toward that— #getoutdoors #whatgetsyououtdoors #itsinmynature. “A lot of camps are dying out,” said Latvala. “We want to make sure our kids get to have some of these experiences that have literally made us who we are. So, if we can build a little enthusiasm or interest around all the amazing things the Michigan wilderness has to offer, then that’s what we want to do.” Their big takeaway is to not be intimidated by wilderness. “Ask if you have questions,” said Latvala. “Everyone out there is happy to see other faces. Ask the group you see in the forest or ask guys like us online. We hope to encourage you to get out there and enjoy the Michigan wild.”

@michigancountrylines + @michiganwild Usher in opening day with the Michigan Wild crew. Get behindthe-scenes footage of their hunting prep and first day in the woods on the @michigancountrylines Instagram account, Nov. 14 & 15.

While the Michigan Wild guys are the first to encourage anyone to do things their own way, a few decades in the woods has taught them a tip or two.

Venison Cudighi

This spicy Italian sausage is an Upper Peninsula staple, and if you’re like the guys from Michigan Wild, you enjoy utilizing your own venison and reliving memories from deer camp. Doug Latvala shares his favorite Cudighi recipe. 5 5 2 3 1 1 1 ½

pounds venison pounds pork shoulder teaspoons black pepper tablespoons salt teaspoon cinnamon teaspoon nutmeg teaspoon allspice teaspoon clove

½ teaspoon mace ½ teaspoon ginger 1–3 teaspoon(s) red pepper flakes (depending on heat desired) 1 cup Paisano sweet red wine 1 cup water

Grind and mix pork and venison together. Hand mix all seasonings, red wine, and water ingredients with the meat mixture. Let stand in refrigerator for 24–48 hours to marinate. Package as patties, links or bulk, and freeze or use within three days. Serving suggestion: Make patties and pan fry Cudighi, melting mozzarella cheese over the top. In a separate pan, sauté green peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Warm up your favorite pizza sauce. Layer patty, sauce and vegetables on your favorite type of bun and enjoy!

• Don’t be afraid to change your tactics: keep the hunt fun. • Set yourself up so you are ready to shoot. The pain of a beautiful buck walking by without getting off a shot will sting for a while. • When using binoculars, squeeze them to the brim of your hat for more stability.

• Never pass up a deer on the first day that you’d be happy to have on the last day. • Start a deer hunting tradition with your family or friends. It keeps the momentum and the memories going. Simply planning the trip over email or text will be a little five-minute vacation in your day. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Save Energy And Money On Home Water Heating


econd only to space heating and cooling, water heating is the next largest source of energy consumption in U.S. homes. We use hot water every day for showering, doing dishes, washing clothes and a multitude of other tasks—and the cost to heat that water adds up, especially if you have a standard electric or propane water heater. While standard electric resistance water heaters are relatively inexpensive to purchase, they are costly to operate. On the other hand, heat pump water heaters cost more upfront, but provide significant savings over time. Advanced heat pump technology helps to slash electricity consumption by up to 70%. Why switch to a heat pump water heater? Heat pump water heaters are up to 3.7 times more efficient than a standard electric water heater. While they do use electricity, they use

a fraction of the energy consumed by a standard electric water heater. Additionally, heat pump water heaters provide: • Quick payback compared to standard electric (recoup the upfront cost within one year with rebate) • Electricity cost savings of 50% or more (compared to standard electric models) • Reliable hot water • Dehumidification of surrounding air • Flexible modes of operation to manage energy use and hot water output • Quiet operation For a limited time, you can receive a $700 rebate. From now until the end of 2019, the Energy Optimization program is offering a bonus $200 rebate towards a new heat pump water heater. The bonus incentive is in addition to the current $500 rebate, meaning you’ll receive $700 off your purchase.

Visit for more information or call 877-296-4319 with any questions.

Soak in the


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▪ EFFICIENCY — Reduce energy consumption by 50% or more compared to standard electric water heaters. ▪ COST SAVINGS — A four-person household can save up to $300 a year in energy savings. ▪ QUICK PAYBACK — Recoup upfront costs in one year with rebate. | 877-296-4319 Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Other restrictions may apply. For a complete list of participating utilities, visit

FAIR SEASON County Fair Animal Purchases And Donations We spend a lot of time in the summer making the rounds to our regional county fairs. This is a meaningful way to support the local 4-H programs and students in our service area, and maximize the investment by donating meat to local food pantries. • Lenawee County: We purchased several animals from the small animal auction and a hog from the large animal auction. We processed 161 pounds of sausage, bacon, chops and ribs to donate to the Neighbors of Hope Women & Children’s Ministry program. • Van Buren County: We purchased 13 animals and donated meat to Eleanor’s Pantry in Paw Paw, Friends of Decatur Human Services, Cooperating Ministries in Hartford, Gobles-Kendall Area Ministerial Pantry, and Lawrence Community Food Pantry. • Cass County: We purchased four animals and donated 957 pounds of meat to Edwardsburg Food Pantry, Vandalia Church of God Food Pantry, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Cassopolis, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry in Dowagiac and the Marcellus Food Pantry. • Berrien County: We purchased one beef steer and two hogs, which resulted in over 900 pounds of meat getting donated to Helping Hands in Cassopolis, Action Ministries in Dowagiac and The Salvation Army in Niles. • St. Joseph County: We purchased three hogs and are in the process of identifying the benefitting food pantry. Photo top left: MEC employee Patty Clark with Faith Wiedyk. We purchased Faith’s broiler chickens. Photo bottom left: MEC Director Fred Turk brings meat to the Friends of Decatur Human Services food pantry.

MSU Farm Safety Day On Sept. 7, we teamed up with Michigan State University and the Cass County Farm Bureau to help teach children and adults about safe farming practices. The event served 22 children who learned how to stay safe when working with grain bins, animals, combines and chainsaws. The adults learned about transportation emergencies, grain bin safety, emergency preparedness plans and farm stress. Photo right: Kids learn about electricity safety from MEC Lineman Mike Miller.



Christmas Cookies Spread holiday cheer with these festive cookie recipes. Photos by Robert Bruce Photography Recipes Submitted By MCL Readers And Tested By Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

Winning Recipe!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies Benjamin and Jessica Bain, HomeWorks Tri-County ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened ¾ cup brown sugar ½ cup white sugar 1 egg 2 teaspoons vanilla

1¾ ¼ ½ 1 1

cups all-purpose flour teaspoon salt teaspoon baking soda cup dried cranberries cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well. Add cranberries and white chocolate chips and stir to combine. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12–15 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then transfer to cooling racks.

Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at


Aunt Neenee’s Cream Cheese Cookies Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy 1 cup butter, softened 3 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 cup sugar

1 1 2½ •

egg teaspoon vanilla cups flour dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheet. In a large bowl, mix the butter, cream cheese and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla; beat well. Stir in flour and dash of salt until combined. Roll into 1-inch balls. Roll in red and green sugar. Bake 12—15 minutes.



Grandma Huhn’s Spice Cookies Sharon Hoffman, HomeWorks Tri-County

1 cup brown sugar 1 cup white sugar 1 cup lard (do not substitute oil or Crisco) 3 eggs 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup sour cream 1½ tablespoons nutmeg 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1 tablespoon allspice 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 teaspoon baking soda 2½ teaspoons baking powder 6½ cups flour

This soup recipe from Kim Springsdorf, executive director of Steam Railroading Institute, can be made with whatever yummy things you have in the refrigerator. Be creative, this is a soup that is never the same. Let it simmer and enjoy!

Cream sugars and lard together. Mix in the remaining ingredients, adding the flour last. You can place dough in floured freezer bags and freeze for two weeks to let the spices intensify, or you can immediately roll out, cut and bake at 350 degrees F for 7—10 minutes.

Snow Storm Soup

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies Mary Ellen Wynes, HomeWorks Tri-County ¾ 1 2 4 2 2 2 ½ 1

cup vegetable oil cup cocoa powder cups sugar eggs teaspoons vanilla cups flour teaspoons baking powder teaspoon salt cup confectioners sugar

Mix oil, cocoa powder and sugar. Blend in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and remaining dry ingredients. Chill overnight. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into confectioners sugar. Roll in the sugar and form into balls. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Do not overbake.

Savory Cherries: due December 1 Chili Cook Off: due January 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Go to for more information and to register.

Enter to win a


energy bill credit!

1 pound bacon 2 pounds ground beef, stew meat or both 1 onion, finely diced 4 ribs of celery, sliced thin 2 carrots, halved and sliced 6–8 whole garlic cloves, minced 4 cups beef broth 1 lb. potatoes, baked, cooled and diced 2 cups fresh mushrooms 1 can diced tomatoes 2 cups kidney or great northern beans 4 tablespoons flour • salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, cumin and chili powder to taste • optional: olive oil, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese and whipping cream Cook bacon and beef in soup stockpot. Set aside. Sauté vegetables in the grease, until tender. Add olive oil if needed. Add flour to vegetables and mix until thick. Slowly add broth and bring to a boil to thicken. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for approximately 3 hours——be sure to stir often. The soup is even better the next day! Add shredded Parmesan cheese, cream cheese or heavy whipping cream at the end of your cook time for a creamy finish. Serving suggestion: For individual servings, you can add toasted bread, top with cheese and put soup bowls under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese. The soup is best served with 12 inches of snow and a bonfire in the great outdoors! Read the full story about the Steam Railroading Institute on page 14, and find this recipe and others at MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Midwest Energy & Communications offers a variety of residential programs to help you

save energy & money Appliance Recycling Program

Cash incentives are available for recycling old and functional appliances, including refrigerators and freezers, plus ride-along items like dehumidifiers and window air conditioners.

ENERGY STARÂŽ Products Program

In-store and mail-in rebates are available for qualifying ENERGY STAR lighting and appliances.

Efficient HVAC Program

Receive cash incentives when you purchase qualifying heating and cooling equipment. There are multiple ways to maintain the comfort of your home. Ask your local contractor what options can help you save energy and money.

Online Home Audit

Complete an online home energy survey to assess the energy performance of your home. Receive free energysaving products in the mail for completing the survey, as well as tips for making improvements right away.

Income Qualified Services

Income Qualified Services are available to customers in need of assistance to complete energy-saving home improvements. No-cost options include free product kits with energy-saving items and free in-home consultations by trained professionals to identify areas where additional energy savings are possible.

Home Energy Express Program

The Home Energy Express Program provides free delivery of energy-saving products to your home, as well as complimentary installation by an Energy Optimization program contractor.

Manufactured Homes Program

The Manufactured Homes Program helps qualified residents improve the comfort and energy performance of their manufactured home, manage their electric energy use, and reduce electric bills by providing nocost energy efficiency improvements, such as testing and sealing of the home’s heating and cooling system, and water and energy-saving products. | 877.296.4319



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SIGN UP TODAY | 800.492.5989 Twelve-month contract required. Offer valid until 12.31.19 to new customers only. Free installation available to Midwest Energy & Communications electric customers only. Internet services are not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13

The North Pole Express ALL ABOARD

By Emily Haines Lloyd Photos courtesy of Steam Railroading Institute Staff Photographers Scott Shields, Matt Churcott, George Dines and Matthew Malkiewicz


f you thought Christmas arrived by a reindeer-drawn sleigh, you haven’t felt the ground shake or seen the smiling faces of eager passengers as The North Pole Express comes chugging into the Owosso train platform outside the Steam Railroading Institute. The Pere Marquette 1225 (the North Pole Express) is one of the few steam-powered train engines in the country still operating today. Every winter it transforms into an

idyllic blast from the past as passengers have their tickets punched by a volunteer conductor. The commitment of nearly 100 volunteers per trip make it possible for passengers to experience the journey from Owosso to Ashley’s Country Christmas in Ashley, Michigan. Travelers, some wrapped up cozily in their pajamas, enjoy carol singers, card games, and if they’ve been a good girl or boy, a glimpse of Santa once they arrive in Ashley. Hot cocoa and snacks are served along with a healthy dose of nostalgia. “It gets me every time,” said Kimberly Springsdorf, executive director of Steam Railroading Institute (SRI). “Watching the faces of the passengers—multiple generations of families sharing this unique experience together, their smiles and laughter—it’s magical.” The magic that is all around today’s train travel is deeply rooted in nostalgia surrounding trains in the United States. What was once a powerhouse industry of

“Watching the faces of the passengers—multiple generations of families sharing this unique experience together, their smiles and laughter—

its’ maical. ”

building and trade has become something quaint, which is an odd word for mammoth engines like the Pere Marquette 1225, which is 16-feet high, 100-feet long and weighs over 400 tons.

A group of engineering students from Michigan State University formed the MSU Railroad Club fifty years ago with the challenge to see the engine, which was a static display on campus, run again. Their charge was taken up by the Steam Railroading Institute when the 1225 was moved to Owosso. In addition to continuing restoration of the engine, SRI strives to educate the public about steam-era railroading in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. Its focus includes the preservation of the skills and technology for maintain steam locomotives by operating steam-era equipment and providing the experience of steam locomotives in operation. The Pere Marquette 1225 stays in working condition through ticket sales from mainline excursions, special events, demonstrations, and tours, as well as individual and corporate donations. “You can’t imagine the time, effort and investment it takes to maintain 1225,” said Springsdorf. “When a part breaks on this engine, you don’t just run down to a shop. You either have to borrow it or build it. From absolutely every aspect, running this engine is a labor of love.”

Love is exactly what you see and hear from the train travelers who plan months in advance to take one of the 22 North Pole Express trips the Steam Railroading Institute offers annually. A variety of other excursions across Michigan, including fall color tours, hobo camp, and an opportunity to run the 1225, are offered by SRI. Tickets sell out quickly, but keep your eyes peeled for a Christmas miracle and a few last-minute seats that may be available. All tour dates are announced in the spring. Visit to learn more or call 989-725-9464, and fi nd them on Facebook and Instagram, too.

The Maic of

The Moies When moviemakers were producing the now iconic “The Polar Express” starring Tom Hanks, Hollywood crews took a trip to Michigan to study none other than the Pere Marquette 1225. The blueprints from 1225 were used as the prototype for “The Polar Express” and even the sounds of the chugging engine and the whistle were recorded to bring the beloved movie train to life.

SE Michigan/Northern Ohio Fiber Internet Construction Plan The year 2020 marks a major milestone for customers in our southeastern territory as we officially kick off fiber internet construction. We know the wait has been long, but we promise it will be worth it. As Gregory from Bristol, Ind., explains: “We have never had cable or internet service; our only option was satellite or cellular data. This has been AMAZING. We have been able to reduce our cost of entertainment simply by utilizing fiber. We have never felt comfortable using internet for our kids’ education because we are on a data plan; now we can use web-based services to help our kids. For years we contemplated moving from our home simply because there was no internet service there. Now we can enjoy our home and not worry about moving. It’s a first-world problem, but it has been a wonderful new world for us now.” Here is the construction schedule for your new internet service. As with our SW build, your service address is connected to the electric substation that serves you. We call them zones for internet construction. Substation

Walkout Work Begins

Construction Installations Starts Begin



Oct. 2019

Q2 2020


Q3 2019

Q1 2020

Q3 2020


Q1 2020

Q3 2020

Q4 2020


Q3 2020

Q1 2021

Q2 2021


Q1 2021

Q3 2021

Q4 2021

How do I know which zone I am in? If you haven’t registered for service yet, please visit and click the Check Eligibility button on the homepage to enter your address. Once registered, you will see your zone. Plus, we will keep you posted on construction progress. If you already registered for service, please visit to log into your existing account and check your zone under My Dashboard.

SIGN UP NOW Head to to explore our internet packages and enter your address to register for service. We’ll keep you updated on construction progress and will contact you as we get closer to installation to confirm your order.

Q1: Jan–March, Q2: Apr–June, Q3: July–Sept, Q4: Oct–Dec

SmartHub Gets An Upgrade Our online and mobile app provides a lot of features that help you manage your account and pay your bills. It’s available 24/7 via a web browser or mobile device.

payment. It also enables you to contact us with one click of a button right from the home screen.

This fall, the mobile app version gets an upgrade designed to help you access the features you need quickly and efficiently. Besides a fresh, new look, the upgrade has updated navigation to make it easier to access billing and

If you haven’t signed up for SmartHub yet, you can do so on our website at or download the mobile version from the Apple or Android app stores.


Fuel Mix Report Midwest Energy & Communications NOTICE OF OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT On Aug. 1, 2019, Midwest Energy & Communications (“MEC”) filed an Energy Waste Reduction Plan (“EWRP”) to comply with 2008 PA 295, as amended, MCL 460.1001, et seq., in Case No. U-20384. Any interested person may review the filed EWRP on the MPSC website under Case No. U-20384 at, at MEC’s office, located at 60590 Decatur Rd., Cassopolis, MI 49031, or at the office of the Commission’s Executive Secretary, 4300 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917. Written and electronic comments may be filed with the Commission and must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2019. Written comments should be sent to the Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909, with a copy mailed to MEC. Electronic comments may be emailed to All comments should reference Case No. U-20384. Comments received in this matter will become public information, posted on the Commission’s website, and subject to disclosure. The Commission will review the EWRP together with any filed comments and provide a response indicating any revisions that should be made. If the Commission suggests revisions, MEC may file a revised EWRP. A Commission order will be issued on or before the 90th day following the publication of notice.

The fuel mix characteristics of Midwest Energy & Communications as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ending 06/30/19.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Regional average fuel mix used Your co-op’s fuel mix

Fuel Source Coal 25.67% Oil




Gas 13.33%





Nuclear 42.45%


Renewable Fuels 16.38%











Solid Waste Incineration









NOTE: Biomass excludes wood; solid waste incineration includes landfill gas; and wind includes a long-term renewable purchase power contract in Wolverine’s mix.


Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

co-op entrepreneurs

Regional Average Fuel Mix

SUBMIT A NOMINATION TODAY! Emissions And Waste Comparison

Michigan Country Lines is on the hunt for entrepreneurial movers and shakers to showcase in our March 2020 magazine. We know co-op members are awesome and there is no shortage of pioneers, innovators and leaders in our service territory. Featured entrepreneurial endeavors can be small start-ups, large operations or anything in between. If you know a friend, neighbor or coworker we should consider, nominate them by December 31 at Self-nominations are accepted.


Type Of Emission/Waste

Your Co-op

Regional Average*

Sulfur Dioxide



Carbon Dioxide







Oxides of Nitrogen High-level Nuclear Waste

*Regional average information was obtained from MPSC website and is for the 12-month period ending 06/30/19. Midwest Energy & Communications purchases 100% of its electricity from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.


Guess this photo and enter to win a


energy bill credit!




3 8 6


Best Bakeries Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo above by November 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at or send by mail to: Country Lines Mystery Photo, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Include the name on your account, address, phone number and the name of your co-op. Our Mystery Photo Contest winner from the September issue is Marlene Moreno, a Cherryland Electric Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as Cherry Point Farm & Market in Shelby. The photo shows the arbors around the central garden and the lavender labyrinth to the outside of the arbors. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September and November/December.

1 2

Great Lakes Bakery and Antiques Mall, Muskegon Sandi Hillis makes the best cakes ever with all-natural ingredients and even gluten-free options (but you’d never guess!) Jennifer Sylvester, Great Lakes Energy Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery, Copper Harbor My favorite Michigan bakery, Jamsen’s staff are a hoot and make some of the best pastries in the Keweenaw. “Gotta have it” items include the cheddar, bacon and chive scone and the thimbleberry frosted donuts. Nathan Miller, Ontonagon REA


Boyne City Bakery, Boyne City Boyne City Bakery is the BEST French bakery, in the U.S. Each time I go into this bakery I feel like I’m stepping back into a French bakery in France from the delicious pastries and breads, to the French-speaking baker, to the polite employees, and the French-themed decor and ambiance. Go today and enjoy a “little piece of French heaven”! Evelyn Howell, Great Lakes Energy


Sunset Acres Bakery, Charlotte Heavenly angel food cakes, melt in your mouth molasses cookies, rich rhubarb squares and so much more. Everything from Sunset Acres Bakery is beyond good, it’s delicious!! Robin Musselman, HomeWorks Tri-County


Tecumseh Bread and Pastry, Tecumseh This is a bakery owned by a husband and wife team that bakes fresh each morning and mills their own flours at night. They produce wonderful coffeecakes, cookies, bread, and pies. I always take something from their store to family out of town for my “made in Michigan” gift. Carol Kruse, Midwest Energy & Communications


Goodale’s Bakery, Grayling The best quality ingredients mixed with decades of experience and served by the most helpful staff guarantees the best baked goods you’ll ever find. Alan Riegel, Great Lakes Energy



Flour Pot Bakery, Elk Rapids Flour Pot has wonderful pastries, muffins, and cookies. Around Fat Tuesday in February, they make hundreds of paczki (a filled donut) that are scrumptious! Becky Granger, Great Lakes Energy

Photo by Susan Luter



Satisfy your sweet tooth with these member-recommended bakeries throughout Michigan.

Bay Bread Co., Traverse City A husband-and-wife-owned team bakes over 40 kinds of delicious artisan loaves of bread and sweets. Stacey Wilcox, Cherryland Electric Cooperative

September 2019



Stephenson Bakery, Inc., Menominee This is a real bakery with perfect sweet creations—— awesome doughnuts and friendly, attentive staff. Brenda Gustafson, Alger Delta

Best of Michigan UP NEXT! Chocolatiers: Tell us about your favorite places for melt-in-your-mouth chocolates. Submit your favorites at under the MI Co-op Community tab by November 25, and this indulgent list will be published in the February issue.


(989) 356-2113 Hurry, 30% Federal Tax Credit 989-356-2113 decreases December 31, 2019

Over the years, our best source for new customers has always been our current family of happy and loyal customers. You know the value of our superior commitment to customer care, combined with the unique price stability that is the cornerstone of our approach. And now we’re giving you an extra reason to share the MEC Propane difference. For every customer that you successfully refer, we will give you AND the new customer $

100 once the tank is set and service is activated. To refer yourself, just mention our

Tell-a-Friend program when you call to sign up for new service and you may also qualify.

Sign up now and enjoy two seasons of great rates.

2019-20 Rate



per gallon

2020-21 Rate



per gallon

Propane services are only available to customers in southwest and west-central Michigan and northern Elkhart County, IN. Some restrictions may apply. New tank must be set by 12/31/2019 to qualify. 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.

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