Manager’s Message

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – May 2022

Vegetation Management Considerations

I know people who planted trees in memory of loved ones who died. Some plant trees and landscape after the birth of a family member or to honor cherished former pets.

In nearly all cases when someone dedicates time, money, and energy to plant a tree, an emotional investment accompanies that effort and binds the planter with the plant.

These attachments are good for the soul and the environment.

I am thankful for the trees on our property and look back with pride on the many my family has planted, including more than 300 in a series of windows.

With all the inherent good we receive from having trees in our lives, they also pose significant challenges beyond pruning, and combating pine beetles, blight, and fallen twigs on the lawn.

Wasco Electric Cooperative has a relationship with trees and vegetation that we can never escape.

One of the most consistent causes of power outages across the nation is trees. They create difficult situations. On one hand, we recognize and respect the connection most landowners have with their trees. On the other hand, we must relentlessly trim and remove trees that will create outages if left unattended.

This challenge can be overwhelming, especially during and after major storms such as those we had in December, January, and last month.

One reality we face is that healthy trees outside of a right-of-way can have limbs or treetops that break and travel hundreds of feet in high winds and cause electrical failures.

How in the world can we prevent every one of these from affecting our membership? We cannot.

No matter how devoted to vegetation management we are, we can’t prevent every tree/power line contact. Strong trees growing outside rights-of-way can be blown over into power lines and break under the weight of snow loads. Unless all trees are removed for hundreds of feet from either side of power lines, utilities will have trees contacting power lines. It is impossible to avoid all contacts.

Conversations about how the broad swaths of treeless hillsides look surrounding transmission lines in our otherwise forested areas frequently include people describing the sight as an ugly bald spot. I don’t like them either, but I propose that hundreds—or, in many cases recently across the United States, thousands—of charred acres are a much more alarming sight.

Our goals in vegetation management include maintaining safe electric service and preventing ignition sources for fires. This is a difficult task.

WEC asks that you help by working with our crews to allow for the most thorough and beneficial trimming and removal of potentially problematic trees to minimize interruptions and ignition potentials. When planting sentimental leafy additions to your private ecosystem, please locate them at least 50 feet from power lines.

We hope you understand our ongoing efforts at vegetation management. We strive to balance the many complex considerations involved.

Thank you,

General Manager Ned Ratterman

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – April 2022

Member Appreciation Picnic

Ned Ratterman headshotWe have been busy planning for our first-ever Member Appreciation Picnic. This is an opportunity for Wasco Electric Cooperative staff to connect with members after having to cancel the last two annual meetings.

Join us Saturday, June 11, at Tygh Valley Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, cooperative programs, safety presentations, games and much more. Watch Ruralite and our social media channels for more details.

Spring Safety

As spring approaches, many of us are itching to get outdoors and start working or playing. As outdoor activities start, I want to remind everyone to be aware of where overhead power lines are in relation to your activities.

Tree trimming, irrigation pipes and ladders are of particular concern. If a line appears too close to the area you are working, call us for assistance to evaluate the situation before you start.

If you are planning any kind of excavation project, Oregon law requires you to contact the Oregon Utility Notification Center at 811 two business days before you dig. The notification center will notify us, and we will locate and mark any Wasco Electric-owned underground wires in the area to be excavated.

Capital Credits

Capital credits are unique to cooperatives. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. Cooperatives, on the other hand, work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate leftover operating income back to their members.

Capital credits represent your share of the cooperative’s operating income, or operating revenue remaining after operating expenses. The amount designated in your name each year depends on your energy purchases for the year. To calculate this, we divide your annual energy purchase by the cooperative’s remaining operating income for the year.

Recently, each member received a statement of their 2021 capital credit allocation. The allocation amount is based on yearend operating margins of $951,105 divided by the total patronage from 2021 sales of $11,727,958. This equates to 8.11% of each member’s 2021 billings allocated back to the member.

Most months, Wasco Electric receives more cash from operations than is necessary to pay for operating expenses. However, the cooperative needs cash for purposes other than paying for operating expenses. Wasco Electric must service its debt—payments of principal and interest on money the cooperative has borrowed. Wasco Electric also must use cash to pay for capital expenditures.

The distribution of capital credits and its effect on the financial well-being of the cooperative is an issue the WEC board considers each year. It is the policy of the cooperative and the discretion of the board to return capital credits as long as the cooperative is financially fit to return them without additional borrowing or raising rates to pay capital credits.

In 2021, Wasco Electric refunded $500,003 in general retirements of the 1991, 1992, and a portion of 1993 capital credits. Additionally, the cooperative retired $48,354 in special retirements to the estates of deceased members.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

 

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — March 2022

Take Boy Scouts’ Rule to Heart

Ned Ratterman headshot“Be prepared” is not just something taught by the Boy Scouts as brand recognition. It’s a smart philosophy for all of us to live by. Fortunately, you are not alone when it comes to being well-positioned to know how to avert certain crises, when an active emergency exists in your area, and how to react when they happen.

Wasco Electric Cooperative (WEC) partners with many entities outside our cooperative, from individuals, businesses, and communities to all forms of governmental agencies. Some of the most important within our network are the emergency management offices within each county. It is reassuring to know we have experts in the field of emergency response to rely on in tense situations and can use these resources to create and execute plans beforehand to prevent or dramatically soften the results of a predicament. As with all considerations within our lives, communication is essential in successful interactions.

When WEC has an outage that may affect many members—or fewer members for extended periods—we strive to communicate this possibility with you in a reasonable timeframe. We all know social media is an incredibly effective way to spread the news, but we cannot communicate exclusively through Facebook or Twitter to relay important information.

You may think we can make phone calls to members when we foresee the need to contact you. This is possible in some cases, but not all. Due to limited phones and communication lines, we are severely limited to the number of calls we can generate at any given time. This is where the counties come to the rescue.

We have emergency management coordinators working for us and are at our service if we ask for their assistance. They can efficiently send mass notifications in cases of severe weather, unexpected road closures, when help is needed to find a missing person or to coordinate evacuations.

Recently, when discussing large-scale member notifications, Wasco County Emergency Management Coordinator Sheridan McClellan reminded us the county is best capable of executing this task. We can, and should, use existing systems to notify members about outage information.

This is made much easier if you sign up for citizen alerts within your county of residence. The process is simple, only taking a minute or two to complete.

First, go to your county’s website and find its emergency management department. Once there, you should be able to find a link to sign up for the free service. Some of the benefits of joining are the flexibility to select multiple addresses, which phone number to use, and whether you prefer emails or texts. In essence, you pick how and where you are notified.

Please consider partnering with WEC and the public servants in the county you call home to provide the most effective means of widespread notification for a range of benefits to you and your neighbors.

Be safe and healthy,

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — February 2022

A Stitch in Time

Ned Ratterman headshotLike most well-run organizations, electric utilities create contingencies in anticipation of major disruptions. One example in which backup plans are necessary is when handling large outages that may include multiple days of members without power.

No one wants to have outages, but they inevitably occur, and we must respond in an effective manner. Fortunately, disruptions are rare and our amazing line crews can quickly restore power.

Wasco Electric Cooperative members benefit from a 99.97% service availability index, but when you are out of power that can be hard to appreciate.

As many of you know firsthand, we had massive, prolonged outages in mid-December and early January, mainly in Wasco County. Trees, wind, and ice buildup on the lines were the main culprits.

We built our system to endure heavy storms, but there is a point at which building power lines capable of withstanding all storms becomes prohibitively expensive.

Technically, you could build a system to withstand a hurricane or blizzard with 50 mph gusts, but that would cost many times more than typical infrastructure and is unrealistic based on the cost versus benefit. This necessitates our being ready for storm and outage restoration. Planning and preparation are key to successful responses.

When large-scale outages happen, we experience many challenges, including safety concerns for employees and the public; a need for additional manpower; travel difficulties; equipment, including dealing with breakdowns; finding problems in difficult terrain and navigating in the dark; access to damaged equipment; office support; and battling fatigue.

My greatest concern is for the lineworkers who often work lengthy shifts and eventually operate off adrenaline. As a team, we need to make sure they are clear-headed and capable of working safely. When they let us know they need rest, they aren’t exaggerating.

This is why we have mutual aid agreements with neighboring utilities to call for help when our employees cannot respond to all of our members’ needs in a timely manner.

In December, four crews from other organizations helped our lineworkers. This was a difference-maker. Without prior planning, it would have been much more difficult and undoubtedly delayed repairs.

WEC put out the call for help and quickly found support. The help did not change the reality of our line crews working extended hours for many days, but the result was much better than if we had tried to do this work alone. That option would not have been acceptable to you or us.

By nature of owning electric lines, we understand we must repair and replace lines continuously. Think of driving a 1940 model car with no plan to upgrade or make repairs. That would not be prudent or even possible at some point. Poles rot, lines break and transformers wear out.

Part of our ongoing preparedness is selectively working on areas most in need of replacement. That mindset will never change, nor will our staff’s dedication to complete work in a fiscally responsible manner.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — January 2022

General Retirement of Capital Credits

Ned Ratterman headshotLast month, Wasco Electric Cooperative (WEC) retired the remaining 1991 balance, all of 1992, and a portion of the 1993 capital margins to members and former members. The total capital credits returned to these members was $500,000.

The co-op also retired $38,312.02 to the estates of deceased members during the year, bringing the total capital credits returned to the members in 2021 to $538,312.02.

Capital credits are unique to cooperatives such as WEC. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. Cooperatives work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate their operating income back to their members.

Capital credits represent your share of the cooperative’s operating income—the operating revenue that remains after operating expenses. The amount designated in your name each year depends on your energy purchases for the year. To calculate this, we divide your annual energy purchase by the cooperative’s operating income for the year. The more electricity you buy, the larger your share of the capital credits.

Next month, each member who received service last year will be mailed a statement of their 2021 capital credit allocation. The members’ allocation amounts are based on the year-end operating margin.

Capital credits are not necessarily dollars in a bank account. Instead, they represent funds that have been invested in the co-op’s utility plant.

Most months, Wasco Electric receives more cash from operations than is necessary to pay for operating expenses. However, the cooperative needs cash for purposes other than paying for operating expenses. Wasco Electric must service its debt—payment of principal and interest on money it has borrowed.

The cooperative also must use cash to pay for capital expenditures. The amount of cash needed for capital expenditures is largely determined by the growth of a utility and the replacement schedule of its aging system.

Your board of directors considers distribution of capital credits and the effect on the financial well-being of the cooperative each year. The board has the discretion to return capital credits as long as the co-op is financially fit to return them without any additional borrowing to pay capital credits.

Board of Directors

Congratulations to our reelected board members: District #1, Bob Durham; District #2, Stacy Eakin; and District #3, Mike Collins.

Thank you to our members who attended our virtual meeting. Your attendance was much appreciated.

If you have questions about your cooperative, feel free to reach out to me at (541) 296-2740.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — December 2021

General Retirement of Capital Credits

Ned Ratterman headshotThis month, Wasco Electric will retire the remainder of the 1991 capital margins to members, along with the 1992 capital margins and a portion of the 1993 capital margins. The total capital credits to be sent to members who received service in 1991 is $81,031; in 1992 is $283,452; and in 1993 is $135,517.

In addition to these general retirements, this year the co-op has retired $31,320 to the estates of deceased members through October 2021, bringing the total capital credits returned to members in 2021 to $531,320.

Capital credits are unique to cooperatives such as Wasco Electric. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. But cooperatives work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate margins from their operating income back to their members.

Capital credits represent your share of the cooperative’s operating income, which is the operating revenue (margins) that remains after operating expenses.

The amount designated in your name each year depends on your energy purchases for the year. To calculate this, we divide your annual energy purchase by the cooperative’s operating income for the year. The more electricity you buy, the more capital credits you earn.

Next February, each member who received service in 2021 will be mailed a statement of their 2021 capital credit allocation. The member’s allocation amount is based on the year-end operating margins.

Capital credits are not necessarily dollars in a bank account. They represent funds that have been invested in the co-op’s utility plant.

Most months, Wasco Electric receives more cash from operations than is necessary to pay for operating expenses. However, the cooperative needs cash for purposes other than paying for operating expenses. Wasco Electric must pay principal and interest on money it has borrowed.

The cooperative also must use cash to pay for capital expenditures. The amount of cash needed for capital expenditures is largely determined by the growth of the utility and the replacement schedule of its aging system.

The distribution of capital credits and its effect on the financial well-being of the cooperative is an issue your board of directors deals with each year. It is the policy of the cooperative and the discretion of the board to return capital credits as long as the cooperative is financially fit to return them without borrowing more or raising rates to pay capital credits.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — November 2021

Special Meeting Set For November 20

Ned Ratterman headshotDue to the ongoing pandemic and our continued efforts to keep our members, employees, and community healthy, this year’s in-person annual meeting has been canceled. In its place, we will hold a special meeting virtually via Zoom on Saturday, November 20.

This year’s director elections will take place exclusively via mail-in voting. Your ballot will be mailed to our auditing firm, Connected Professional Accountants LLC, which will validate and tabulate the election results.

The information booklets—including virtual login information, résumés of the candidates for election, financial reports, and the absentee ballots for the director election—were mailed to each member November 1.

We know a virtual meeting is not the same as seeing you in person, but we want to remain connected with our members and inform you of the happenings at the cooperative. Members who attend via Zoom will receive a $25 bill credit on their December billing statements.

If you have any questions about the meeting or your cooperative, please contact our staff at (541) 296-2740.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — October 2021

Following a Sentinel

Before I interviewed for the general manager position at Wasco Electric Cooperative (WEC), I spoke with retiring manager Jeff Davis about myriad subjects to gain an understanding of the organization, employees, board, and membership.

It did not take long to realize I was speaking to a man who gave his best throughout his lengthy career because he cared deeply and was motivated to serve. Jeff was lucky because he loved his job and his community. In return, he gave the best he could because he felt obligated and wanted to be part of a great business.

When thinking of the electric cooperative business model, the ideal employee recognizes the uniqueness of how and why we exist and adopts the philosophy of benevolence. Jeff did exactly that. You were all the beneficiaries of his commitment for four decades.

I believe in setting goals. The first I have set for myself and WEC is to be as committed as Jeff was and continue supporting our employees to ensure excellent member service.

What differentiates consumer-owned utilities from investor-owned companies are the team members who are compelled to stand watch over the system and do their best to provide the magic of electricity. With customer service seemingly in decline in most industries, we will strive to give. We see our members as neighbors, community partners, and friends. We want to get the lights back on for you as quickly and safely as possible.

I look forward to traveling the service territory in the coming weeks and months and meeting our members. Fortunately, our annual meeting is fast approaching November 20, which will offer a great opportunity to get to know one another.

I am excited to be here in such an interesting geological location with unique cultures and commonsense individuals. I pledge always to respect the foundation on which WEC was built and do my best to continue what has thus far been steadfastly protected.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — August 2021

Cooperative News

Dan Funkhouser Retires

Wasco Electric Cooperative employee Dan Funkhouser retired at the end of July after 35 years of service.

Dan began his career with Wasco Electric in 1986 as a journeyman lineman in Grass Valley. For more than three decades, he played an integral part in providing reliable power to our members in Sherman County. The commitment and personality Dan brought to the job will be greatly missed.

Dan and his wife, Jeanene, will continue to reside in Sherman County and enjoy retirement by traveling and visiting family.

We all wish Dan the very best in his retirement years.

Nominees for WEC Board

The Wasco Electric Cooperative bylaws provide the method for nominating candidates to the board of directors.

The board of directors appoints a committee of at least five, but not more than 11, members not fewer than 30 days nor more than 90 days before the date of the annual meeting, to select nominees for election to the board.

The list of candidates must be posted in the WEC office at least 20 days before the election.

Other nominations may be made by providing a petition signed by at least 15 members, not fewer than 15 days before the election.

Candidates will be selected from three districts, with one director elected from each district each year.

  • District 1 serves The Dalles, Mosier, and Dufur areas.
  • District 2 encompasses Sherman County and Southeast Wasco County, including Shaniko, Antelope, and Ashwood.
  • District 3 includes the areas of Tygh Valley, Maupin, and Warm Springs Reservation.

If you, as a member, are interested in becoming a candidate for the board of directors, contact the Wasco Electric office so your name may be submitted to the nominating committee for consideration at its September meeting.

Members of the nominating committee appreciate hearing from members who are willing and able to serve.

If you wish to become a nominee by petition, please have your petition—containing 15 member signatures—to the WEC office by Wednesday, September 15, so your picture and résumé will be received in time for publication in the annual meeting booklet and Ruralite.

If you are asked to serve on the nominating committee, please make an effort to attend the meeting and offer your input for the good of your cooperative.

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Manager’s Message — July 2021

The End of an Unforgettable Journey

My lovely wife of 38 years, Julie, and I plan to travel during my retirement. We recently took a trip to the Painted Hills in Central Oregon.

A journey that began in December 1981 will come to an end in late August. I am retiring after nearly 40 years of service with Wasco Electric Cooperative, the last 15 as your general manager.

What began as an opportunity to do some pickup work during my college years soon blossomed into an unforgettable career opportunity.

I have been blessed to have worked with—and for—some amazing people, from fellow employees to board members and you, the members.

Throughout my career, I have met some amazing people, creating lasting friendships, and doing my best to serve the membership. For that, I thank you all.

As I leave, I have no doubt your cooperative will continue to thrive in its mission of providing you with competitively priced, reliable energy and related services. The staff at your cooperative are some of the best. Their commitment to providing you the best service possible is unwavering.

As for your next general manager, the board of directors started a search in early spring and will have selected the new manager by the end of this month, with a start date in late August.

It’s now on to my next journey in life: the joys of retirement. I thank you all for your support and trust over the years. Until we pass again, farewell my friends.

Jeff Davis
General Manager