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78th Annual Membership Meeting Held
New date, new location, same great crowd!
Mt. Vernon
The 78th Annual Membership Meeting of Ozark Electric Cooperative (OEC) was held on Friday, August 1, 2014, at the Mt. Vernon High School campus. The new location and earlier date this year did not seem to affect the number in attendance. With more than 900 members registering and bringing family and friends, an estimated 1,600 attended the event. This year tables were set up outside under the tent and also inside the air-conditioned commons area for the members to sit at while they enjoyed the ever-popular grilled steak sandwiches prepared by the Southwest Cattlemen’s Association and served by Ozark Electric linemen. Several members commented that they appreciated the tables for eating and the air-conditioned commons area and gym. After lunch they were entertained by “High Strung” Bluegrass Band for an hour and a half in the gym before the business meeting started. Other activities available to members that day and compliments of the Cooperative were free blood pressure, heart rate, etc., screenings administered by Mercy Corporate Health; free well water testing by the Lawrence County Health Department who tested 60 samples; and the following organizations had representatives on hand to visit with members: Missouri Association of Electric Cooperatives, Jefferson City; Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., Springfield; Missouri Veterans Home; and Vaught’s Tree Service & OEC’s Right-of-Way Department. OEC also provided an informational table with brochures on various topics including electrical safety and energy conservation tips and a table of materials just for the kids.

Business Meeting
Promptly at 1:00 pm, Board President Gary Duvall called the business meeting to order. The invocation was given by Board Director David Trogdon. The crowd was then led in the “Pledge of Allegiance” by Ozark Electric Cooperative’s 2014 Washington D.C. Youth Tour Delegate Breanna Kelley, Monett High School; and the 2014 Jefferson City Cooperative Youth Conference & Leadership Experience (CYCLE) Delegate Karsen Sims, Greenfield High School. The meeting continued with Attorney Rod Widger reporting that the required quorum of 271 registered members was reached early and when checked at 12:45 pm, 877 members had already registered. The previous annual meeting minutes and financial reports were presented by Secretary-Treasurer James Stine and approved by those members present.

Guest Speaker
President Gary Duvall then introduced Mr. Barry Hart, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC), an organization to which all Missouri electric cooperatives belong. Mr. Hart began his talk with assuring the members that Ozark Electric Cooperative has always believed in the democratic cooperative principles, in service for all, and in involvement in community. He noted that OEC is a very strong cooperative, and he emphasized that it gets its strength due to strong leadership and member involvement. He gave a short history of OEC stating that the original members who organized the Cooperative wanted to make sure that the entire area was served with electricity to improve the lives of all Southwest Missourians. He reminisced that when the Cooperative energized the first lines on September 23, 1938, some members had trouble coming up with the $5 required for membership, so they had to be encouraged by the early organizers to sign up. The first Board of Directors actually went out to survey properties so the lines could be built to the first members. Looking to the future, Mr. Hart said there are challenges and threats ahead for Cooperative members. He explained that currently this area of the country enjoys the lowest cost electricity in the United States. He posed the question – “How do we continue providing these services at the lowest costs?” He encouraged all members to get involved and fight to keep their electricity rates affordable, just as the early Cooperative organizers had to fight to get electricity to this area. Hart urged members to contact their state officials and to sign up at the Cooperative Action Network booth there at Annual Meeting to send emails to the EPA asking them to reconsider proposed regulations that would shut down power plants and increase rates. In closing, Mr. Hart recognized retiring longtime OEC Board Director Jimmie Crouch and thanked him for his 42 years of service to the Cooperative.

President’s Report
Board President Duvall then returned to the podium to give the annual president’s report beginning with addressing the question of whether there will be a rate increase in 2015. He told the membership at this time the answer is unknown. He said the budget had been trimmed back considerably but if OEC received a rate increase from our power supplier, it would have to be passed on to the membership. He told the members present that there would be an allocation of Capital Credits for 2013 on the August billing, and that Capital Credits would be paid out in December for previous year(s) allocations as deemed due by the Board. He noted that the 2013 allocations would not be in that payout. He assured the membership that our system is in good shape – poles, lines, transformers. He also thanked the members for working with OEC with regards to rights-of-way maintenance. He commented on the new software that has been installed to help members track their costs and usage and which is beneficial in running the Cooperative more efficiently. He noted that Ipads were now being used by linemen out in the field to help more quickly locate problems along the lines that serve our 32,000+ members. He encouraged members to take advantage of the conveniences of the new technology by accessing the website and Facebook pages to receive/send communications to the Cooperative. President Duvall wrapped up his report by introducing General Manager Patrick Oehlschlager.

General Manager’s Report
General Manager Patrick Oehlschlager next gave his report beginning by thanking everyone who worked to put the meeting together and the membership for coming to the new meeting site. He acknowledged the steak sandwich lunch prepared by the Southwest Cattlemen’s Association, the entertainment provided by “High Strung” Bluegrass Band, the exhibitors present, and the employees - all of whom helped Ozark Electric put on a great meeting. He then introduced the two retiring Board Directors: Mr. Jimmie Crouch, 42 years of service; and Mr. Dwain Hughes, 10 years of service; and thanked them for their leadership and service to the Cooperative. A video was then presented that explained the Cooperative way of doing business. Mr. Oehlschlager followed up with comments on the beliefs and values of the Cooperative world. He assured the membership that the Cooperative was not against renewable energy resources; however, he noted that the renewables currently available cannot meet our Cooperative’s or the world’s electricity needs. He reminded members that “we must continue to make our voice heard”, and that they do have a say in the Cooperative because it is member owned and not there to satisfy Wall Street investors or stockholders that do not live here. He emphasized to members that if the EPA is allowed to shut down coal plants, our costs will go up.

Board Elections
Next the election of the Board of Directors was conducted by Cooperative attorney, Rod Widger. Since they were running unopposed for three-year terms each, District 1, Wendall H. Bolin, Walnut Grove; District 5, Larry Moennig, Wentworth; and District 8, incumbent O.D. Cope, Jenkins; were all elected by voice acclaimation by the membership present.

Conclusion of Meeting & Attendance Prize Drawings
Attorney Widger then asked for any unfinished business. There was none. He then asked for any new business. Two separate members spoke: one asking about electricity problems at his location and the other asking about the Cooperative Action Network cards to be filled out. Widger fielded the questions to the proper personnel to be answered. President Duvall then adjourned the business meeting and called up Jane Brewer and Stacy Estes, Member Services, for the drawing of attendance prizes. Many nice prizes were donated by Co-op vendors and Ozark Electric.

2014-15 Board Officers Elected
Following the business meeting, your Board of Directors met and elected Board officers for next year as follows: Steve Stone, President; James Stine, Vice President; and Ron Crighton, Secretary-Treasurer.

Help us keep your rates affordable
Help Ozark Electric Cooperative keep your Electric Rates Affordable - The Impact of EPA Regulations on You
We’ve written before about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to eliminate coal as an energy resource at new power plants. This is very concerning because these regulations, along with the ones EPA has in store for existing coal-based power plants, have the potential to drive up your electric bills. Missouri enjoys some of the lowest electricity rates in the country because 75% of electricity comes from clean coal resources.

Now is the time for electric cooperative members to join their voices together to send a clear message to the EPA:  please remember consumers as you are writing these regulations. You can help first by visiting www.Action.coop today and sending a comment to the EPA.  You can also help by sharing the link to your friends and family.

What’s at stake? Providing safe, affordable electricity, at Ozark Electric Cooperative is our #1 priority. While these EPA regulations are technical, the potential increase in electric rates is something we take personally because we know it’s difficult to make ends meet month-to-month. We know the tough choices you face – we all face – in trying to live on a budget. That’s what sets cooperatives apart from other utilities and that’s why we must stick together.

Thousands have answered the call already and sent comments through www.Action.coop. In fact, as of Friday, March 7, these are the number of action.coop EPA contacts:

    National contacts:          302,192
    Missouri contacts:          100,318
    Ozark Electric contacts:     6,052

Missouri, once again proving it really is the "Show-Me" State, is still leading the way in the nation for the most # of contacts: 100,318, which is 33% of all contacts made nationwide and more than the second- and third-place states combined - South Carolina with 40,801 and Indiana with 25,779. But we need more. Here at Ozark Electric Cooperative we look out for you. And we don't take this request lightly. It only takes 30 seconds to help raise our voices together.

We’ve encouraged all of our employees to sign up … and ask their friends and families. For several months, we have asked you, our members, to also contact the EPA. And now we’re asking the same from you – if you have not already done so - please help us fight proposed regulations that could drastically increase your electric rates.

We need you to take a stand and urge your families and friends to join us. Visit http://www.Action.coop/. And talk to your neighbors about what we’re doing and why.

We’re powering the future, driving economic growth and fostering innovation for you. And we don’t want these new regulations to get in our way of progress. Please join the call and help us keep moving forward. Please watch the following video featuring Ozark Electric Cooperative General Manager Patrick Oehlschlager to learn more about this important issue.

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