INSIDE: SVECâ€™S VOICE
Cooperative leaders take part in legislative conference
MEET YOUR TRUSTEE
Get to know District 9 Trustee Bill Hart
AROUND THE COMMUNITY
SVEC hosts Touch-aTruck event for kids
CURRENTS November 2019
Michael S. McWaters Executive V.P./CEO
Suwannee Valley Currents is a monthly newsletter published by Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, © 2019. It is distributed without charge to all consumermembers of the cooperative.
Speaking with one voice There are few things in life more frustrating than not being heard. Maybe you’re a parent who doesn’t feel like your kids listen to you. Maybe it’s that friend who asks for your advice but never takes it. As Americans, we are raised to believe that a government should listen to its people, and when it doesn’t, we speak with our votes. One of the best parts of being a member of a cooperative is that you don’t have to wonder if we’re listening. Democratic control is built right into the cooperative model. In fact, it’s one of our seven governing principles. Once a year, we even hold an annual meeting where members are encouraged to talk to their cooperative leaders about how the system is run. But how does a cooperative make sure its voice is heard when it comes to the issues changing the electric industry? Even with so many members, SVEC is just one utility among many in Florida, not to mention across the nation. The answer is that, just like our members worked together to bring electricity to a place investor-owned utilities wouldn’t, cooperatives can pull together to make sure their voices are heard. We do that with the help of groups like the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, which represents the common needs of cooperatives across the country. Earlier this year, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with a group of other SVEC employees to take part in NRECA’s Legislative Conference. Events like this provide us the opportunity to discuss common goals and concerns with our fellow cooperative leaders, as well as to speak with lawmakers about policy. On the state level, the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association gives a focused voice to the many electric cooperatives throughout our state. They also make sure lawmakers understand what sets cooperatives apart from other utilities. You can learn more about the issues cooperatives are fighting for on both the state and national levels in this newsletter. I hope you will take a moment to read about just a few of them that could have major implications for cooperatives in Florida and beyond. Speaking of traveling to our nation’s capital, it is again time for our high school juniors to apply for the Youth Tour of Tallahassee. The tour is a wonderful opportunity for young people to learn about how the cooperative model works and to get an up-close look at how our state government operates. Additionally, two of the students who go on the tour will also be selected to represent SVEC in Washington, D.C. for the National Rural Electric Youth Tour. In this issue, you can also get to know our District 9 trustee, Bill Hart, a little better, see photos from last month’s Touch-a-Truck event and much more. At SVEC, we never take for granted that we are owned by our consumer-members and would not exist without you. That’s why our members will always have a voice with their cooperative, and it’s just another reason we are proud to serve you.
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WE BELONG TO THOSE WE SERVE Business Office: 800-447-4509 11340 100th St. Live Oak, FL 32060 Lobby Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday Drive-thru Kiosk Open 24 Hours 24/7 Power Outage Reporting 800-752-0025 svec-coop.com facebook.com/sveccoop @SVEC_COOP_FL Instagram.com/sveccoop SVEC is an equal opportunity provider and employer. On the cover: Earlier this year, employees from SVEC and other electric cooperatives traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss important legislation and policies with lawmakers. See story, page 4.
Suwannee Valley Currents
EFFICIENCY TIP Are the season’s lower temperatures making your home too cool? Instead of turning the heat up, try keeping blinds and curtains open during the day to let Florida’s natural sunlight raise the temperature. At night, keep them closed to trap that warmth inside.
SVEC IS NOW ON INSTAGRAM Follow us on social media to stay up to date with everything happening at your cooperative. Get information on outage updates, cooperative news and community events, and check out the best snapshots from our day-to-day operations on our new Instagram page.
Facebook: facebook.com/sveccoop Twitter: @SVEC_COOP_FL Instagram: Instagram.com/sveccoop
Office closing for
SVEC’s office will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 28, and Friday, Nov. 29, in observance of Thanksgiving. Our 24-hour outage reporting system is always available, as is our drivethru payment kiosk. We will have standby crews ready to restore power if needed.
Give us a call
Have you tried the new SmartHub? The latest update to the SmartHub app makes it easier than ever to track your usage and see everything you need to know about your electric account at a glance. • Details about your usage are right up front, letting you monitor your account quickly and easily. • Popular features like viewing your bill, paying your bill and contacting SVEC are now available at the tap of a button. Visit svecsmarthub.com today to sign up and check out the new, improved SmartHub app!
Suwannee Valley Currents
If you’ve noticed a street or area light that isn’t on or is malfunctioning, let SVEC know. You can request a repair through the SmartHub app by tapping on “Report an Issue” at the bottom of the home screen and selecting “Other Issues/General Inquiry” and then “AREA LIGHT OUT.” Once there, use the comments section to let us know where the problem is. You can also call 800-447-4509 to report a problem over the phone. An SVEC member service representative will contact members who report a malfunctioning outdoor light by the end of the next business day.
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Our members know that Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative is a little different from other utilities, whether they’re investor-owned or municipal systems. But for local lawmakers who may not be familiar with the cooperative model, those differences may not be so apparent. That’s where the Florida Electric Cooperative Association comes in. FECA represents 1.2 million members getting electricity from 17 cooperatives throughout the state, amplifying their voice with legislators on both the state and federal level. “My job is to talk to those lawmakers and help them understand that cooperatives are not-for-profit, so every policy that impacts electric utilities also impacts our members and their constituency,” says FECA Director of Government Affairs Allison Carter.
The association also advocates for policies that will help Florida cooperatives complete their mission of providing safe, affordable and reliable electric service to consumer-members. Policy issues range from changes to property rights policies that could impact the land where cooperatives run their lines to how government agencies respond to hurricanes. As discussions around climate change have increased on the federal level, issues around renewable energy have also come to the forefront in the state legislature. Carter helps lawmakers understand that Florida cooperatives are open to harnessing resources like solar energy, as long as those programs aren’t forced on them. “We don’t care for mandated programs, because they might not work for every scenario,” she says. “Our goal is to relate that, as cooperatives, if there are new financial costs, we have to go to the members and ask them to pay for it. That has a significant impact.”
THE RURAL ACT
SVEC Executive V.P./CEO Michael McWaters and other SVEC employees visited Washington, D.C., last April for the NRECA Legislative Conference.
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If there is one issue that has dominated Carter’s time over the last couple of years, it’s a bill known as the RURAL Act. The bill seeks to undo changes to how cooperatives receive FEMA and other assistance made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which designated grant money as nonmember income rather than as capital. When hurricanes ravage cooperatives’ electric systems, as they have recently in the state of Florida, those co-ops spend a lot of money to restore service in a timely manner. Cooperatives can apply to have some of those repair-related costs reimbursed by FEMA, reducing the financial burden on cooperative members. Suwannee Valley Currents
Under the 2017 tax revision, those payments are considered grants and are defined as income. That small change poses a big threat to the tax-exempt status of many cooperatives, because they must receive at least 85% of their funding from members and no more than 15% from grants and other sources. If a cooperative making repairs after a major storm receives FEMA grants exceeding that threshold, it would have to pass along the cost of the tax on the grant money to members already having to pay more due to repair costs. “It’s a situation where the cooperative is in a devastating situation,” Carter says. “Its members are already having to pay for the storm, then the cooperative is reimbursed by FEMA and members are having to pay a penalty at that phase as well.” Two Florida cooperatives are already facing that situation following Hurricane Michael, while three more may exceed the 15% cap when they finally receive grants to pay for repairs they made after Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, as part of their visit to Washington, D.C., in April for the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA) Legislative Conference, SVEC employees discussed the importance of the RURAL Act with leaders including Reps. Al Lawson and Neal Dunn and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. FECA has also built broad support for the bill, with 21 Florida lawmakers and over 230 legislators nationwide cosponsoring it. “We are very excited to have bipartisan leadership saying we’ve got to fix this,” Carter says. “So we hope that it will be resolved by the end of this year or tax time next year.” Suwannee Valley Currents
Employees from SVEC and other cooperatives discussed the importance of the RURAL Act with leaders including Rep. Al Lawson.
Whether it’s on the federal or state level, advocating for cooperative-friendly policies is as much about education as it is about politics. In fact, Carter says she spends the majority of her time keeping track of incoming representatives and making sure they have a firm understanding of what cooperatives do. “Right now we have built relationships with some members of the state legislature who are very familiar with electric cooperatives,” she says. “But with eight years being the maximum a legislator can serve, you’re constantly in a mode of educating new lawmakers about the electric utility world, because it’s not an easy world to understand.” As someone who is fairly new to the cooperative world herself, Carter is able to draw on her own experiences to help lawmakers better understand the electric industry. And while some people might find the cyclical task of educating lawmakers repetitive, she always enjoys getting to see the moment when everything comes together for them. “The cooperative difference is what makes us so unique,” Carter says. “We’re not there to make money, we’re there to provide power and that’s it. So it’s always fun to watch and see the lights come on when new lawmakers realize how we’re different.”
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MEET YOUR TRUSTEE
Q: What do you like most about living in the Suwannee Valley?
Q: What are you most passionate about as a member of the board?
It’s a good rural community and a farming community. I just like living out in the country.
Mainly, providing reliable electric service all the time and helping the members of Suwannee Valley Electric. The farmers and other people in our area are still very dependent on SVEC. Affordable electricity is a necessity for people in rural areas. So I enjoy serving people and it’s important to me to help SVEC continue to keep everybody’s lights on.
Q: What line of work were you in before you retired?
I worked for the school system. I started out as a teacher, where I taught both elementary and high school. Then I got into administration. I was an elementary school principal and eventually became the assistant superintendent.
Q: What’s the most important impact SVEC has on its community?
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
This is a rural area, and we keep the power on so that our members can have amenities like electric lights, water heaters and electric pumps that wouldn’t work without electricity. We take it for granted now, but when SVEC was created, investor-owned utilities would only serve cities and towns. They wouldn’t go out in rural areas. And they still won’t. That’s what cooperatives do so that farming communities can have all the benefits electricity brings.
I live on a farm, so I tend to my cows and do other things around the farm. I just enjoy working out in the open air.
Q: What made you want to serve on the SVEC board?
BILL HART District 9
My dad was on the board back when the cooperative was first created, and he spent a lot of time convincing people to sign up before that. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and carry on the legacy he started here. I have also served as secretary, vice president and president of the Seminole Electric board.
Bill Hart represents District 9, which covers Lafayette County south of the Suwannee River. He lives on a farm west of Mayo and has served on the SVEC board of trustees since 1989.
H AM I LT O N C O UN T Y
7 HUNTER White Springs
SUWAN N EE VACANT C O UN T Y Wellborn
C O L UM B I A C O UN T Y
L AFAY ET T E C O UN T Y
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Suwannee Valley Currents
The truth about Florida’s deer rut By Tony Young, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission There are a lot of theories and differing opinions on what causes the white-tailed deer rut. To get to the science behind it and learn the facts about what impacts the rut, I asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) whitetailed deer research biologist Elina Garrison. “As winter approaches, decreased daylight triggers does to come into estrus,” Garrison said. “Latitude, therefore, plays a part as seasonal day length varies with geographic latitude.” Some hunters believe deer from other states released in Florida years ago is one of the reasons why the deer rut here is the widest-ranging of any state – from July in extreme south Florida to early March in extreme northwest Florida and the Green Swamp Basin. “While it seems unlikely that genetics due to restocking is the only explanation for the variation in Florida’s breeding dates, there is some research that suggests it may play a part,” Garrison said. “Florida, as were many other southeastern states, was part of restocking efforts in the 1940s
through the ’60s when deer were introduced, mostly from Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.” The reason the rut varies so much in Florida is that it can, Garrison said. Florida’s relatively mild climate and long growing season allows fawns to be born at various times of the year. “As far as I know, there are no other states where breeding occurs as early as July and August as it does in extreme south Florida,” she said. “The rut is timed so fawns are born during the driest time of the year, giving them the greatest chance of survival and allowing them to grow to an adequate size before the beginning of the wet season in June.” Although it is a popular theory among hunters, Garrison says several research projects have proven there is no relationship between the rut and the moon phase. “The breeding chronology study we did shows that conception dates within an area vary as much as from nine to 110 days, with an average of 45 days, and most does breed within 60 days, meaning rutting activity can occur over a two-month period,” Garrison said.
This story originally ran on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website on Feb. 4, 2019.
Suwannee Valley Currents
Red Velvet Cake From Lynn Cummins 2 1 1 2 3/4 1 1/2 2 2 1 1 1
cups flour teaspoon baking powder teaspoon salt tablespoons cocoa cup oil cups sugar ounces red food color eggs cup buttermilk teaspoon baking soda teaspoon vanilla
Sauce: 3/4 cup milk 1/2 cup sugar Stir the first four ingredients together. In another bowl, cream the oil, sugar, food color and eggs together. In a cup, stir the buttermilk and baking soda. This will bubble up. Alternate adding the dry and milk mixtures into the sugar mixture, beating thoroughly. Stir in vanilla. Divide into 2 greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cake tests done. To create the sauce, bring the milk and sugar to a boil. As soon as you take the cake layers out of the oven, evenly distribute the sauce over them. Let set for 15 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans to cool on a rack. When the cake is cool, frost with cream cheese icing (recipe follows). Cream Cheese Icing: 8 ounce cream cheese block, softened 1/4 pound butter, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla 4 cups powdered sugar Cream the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl. Gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat well, adding up to a tablespoon of milk if the icing is too thick.
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SVEC in the
COMMUNITY APPLY NOW FOR THE 2020 YOUTH TOUR
Last month’s Touch-a-Truck event hosted by SVEC was a huge success, giving kids from across the Suwannee Valley a chance to sit behind the wheel of a variety of specialized vehicles and meet the professionals who operate them on a regular basis. The Oct. 12 event featured fire trucks, a police car, a trash truck, a farm tractor, a gyrocopter, an ambulance, a concrete mixer and a school bus. SVEC also provided a bucket truck and digger truck, while the sheriff’s office brought a boat, a military-style truck and its mobile command trailer. Thank you to all the organizations that participated, including: • Ag-Pro • City of Live Oak Fire Department • City of Live Oak Police Department • City of Live Oak Public Works Department • National Guard Armory, Live Oak
• SRM Concrete • Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office • Suwannee Fire Rescue • Suwannee County Schools Transportation Department • Wings Over Suwannee
When kids weren’t exploring the vehicles on display, they could also play in a bounce house, have their faces painted and ride on a kiddie cart. SVEC was able to raise $223 for United Way of Suwannee Valley by selling hot dogs, snow cones and cotton candy. Thank you to everyone who came for the fun. If you missed out on this year’s event, we look forward to seeing you next year.
For the 42nd consecutive year, SVEC is proud to sponsor a tour of Tallahassee for up to 10 high school juniors. While there, students will explore the cooperative business model and Florida’s legislative process. Possible activities include a tour of the state Capitol, participation in a mock bill debate on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives, and visits to the governor’s mansion and the Florida Supreme Court. To be eligible for the tour, which will be Feb. 12 and 13, a student must be enrolled in the 11th grade of a high school or home-school program in SVEC’s service territory and have an unweighted grade point average of at least 3.0. The student must also be a dependent of an SVEC member but cannot be a child or grandchild of a current SVEC employee or trustee. Two of the students who go on the tour will also be selected to represent SVEC in Washington, D.C. for the National Rural Electric Youth Tour scheduled for June 20-25, 2020. They will be flown to Washington and join students from around the country on visits to sites such as the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Smithsonian and Mount Vernon. More information and a tour application form are available through junior-class guidance counselors or online at svec-coop.com/youth-tour. Applications are due back to SVEC by Jan. 17, 2020.