PIQUA — Pioneer’s Cooperative Spirit Day and 80th annual meeting was held March 19 at Edison Community College.
Pioneer is a not-for-profit, cooperative distribution utility focused on service to its member-owners in its primary territory of Champaign, Miami, and Shelby counties, as well as portions of the eight surrounding counties.
The events began with a breakfast and legislative update for members of ACRE and Co-op Owners for Political Action. Patrick O’Loughlin, president and CEO of Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives and Buckeye Power Inc., spoke to those in attendance about the Clean Power Plan and how it, along with the recent stay placed on the implementation, could affect Buckeye Power and the Ohio distribution cooperatives. He also discussed Buckeye’s approach to renewable energy.
Pioneer members and their guests were then treated to a light breakfast and refreshments; a member health fair; informational displays on technology, safety and preventive maintenance projects; and the formal annual meeting business session. Twenty-one local businesses and health care providers offered a range of services, tests, samples and information during the health fair event.
Ron Salyer, president and CEO of Pioneer, and Susan Knore, vice president and CFO, addressed the group in a management update presentation. He and Knore reported to attendees that Pioneer, after five-consecutive years of stagnant rates, members would see a rate increase in 2016. Salyer told the audience that the goal of the board and management team since 2010 was to keep rates constant and help members financially during the very slow economic recovery, while still pursuing reliability projects in the past five years. Salyer told members, “Now is the time to increase rates to keep service reliability high and Pioneer financially sound moving into the future.”
The presentation also included a summary of the safety programs and performance of Pioneer employees throughout 2015, an overview of the cost management processes that are in place to help ensure Pioneer’s financial stability in the coming years; and the cooperative’s 2016 solar initiative plans to provide more options for its members.
Board chair Ron Clark spoke during the business session, in accordance with the health fair theme, about the well-being of the cooperative and how Pioneer tests and measures its own health. He touched on the cooperative’s health evaluation, noting that in 2015 the membership gave Pioneer its highest satisfaction rate on the American Customer Satisfaction Index — an 88. The score is the highest Pioneer has recorded in 10 years of testing and above average for electric cooperatives throughout the nation. It is significantly higher than other types of electric utilities.
Clark also discussed Pioneer’s preventive maintenance programs, including pole replacements and updates to multiple substations and delivery points. Those programs, along with various forms of technology, allowed the cooperative’s average outage time per member, including planned outages, to drop to 69 minutes in 2015 — nearly 90 minutes less than in 2010. In his closing remarks Clark told the members gathered, “All of these components are just some of the ways we can determine if Pioneer is healthy now and moving in the right direction to stay that way. I’m proud to report your cooperative is in very good health.”
Clark then honored retiring Pioneer Board Trustee Dwain Hollingsworth of Quincy. Hollingsworth was first elected to the board of trustees in 2004. He served as second vice chair at the time of his retirement. Prior to his 12 years on the board of trustees, Hollingsworth served four years on the Champaign County district board.
The election results for the Pioneer Board of Trustees and each of the county boards were announced during the business meeting, as well. As a democratically controlled organization, those running for their respective boards are Pioneer members and are elected by their fellow members. Voting was conducted by mail and online. Elected to three-year terms on the Pioneer Board of Trustees were: Mark Bailey of Champaign County, Colleen Renee Riggs Eidemiller of Miami County and Orville Bensman of Shelby County. Positions filled on the county boards of the Champaign, Miami and Shelby districts are as follows. Those elected to the Champaign County board are: Douglas Dill, Urbana; Brian Case, St. Paris; Rodney Wilkins, Cable; and John Wilson, Mechanicsburg. Elected to the Miami County board are: William Francis, Piqua; Steven Budde, Tipp City; Jo Ellen Fiebiger, Fletcher; and James Henry, Tipp City. Those to serve on the Shelby County board are: David Borchers, Houston; Bill Clark, Houston; Dennis Aselage, Sidney; and Dan Knasel, Sidney.
During their re-organizational meeting, the Pioneer board elected the following officers for the year: Ron Clark, chair; Ed Sanders, first vice chair; Colleen Eidemiller, second vice chair; Terry Householder, secretary and Ron Bair, treasurer.