Not since April 1, 1954, when 910 people gathered to vote on the location of OPALCO’s headquarters, have so many OPALCO members gathered in one place . Read about the history of Opalco to get the rest of the story). On Saturday, May 5th, 2012, 505 people attended the 75th Annual Meeting of Orcas Power & Light Cooperative on the ferry.
Voter turn-out was robust with a total of 1913 ballots cast for two board positions in District 2 (Orcas, Armitage, Big Double, Blakely, Fawn, Little Double and Obstruction Islands); 1763 absentee ballots were submitted in advance and 150 ballots cast on the ferry. The two successful candidates were incumbents Winnie Adams and Chris Thomerson. The final vote counts were: Thomerson – 1559; Adams – 1455; and Lance Evans – 733. Voter turn-out was at a historic high of 18.3% (2011 turn-out was 12.4%). This was also the first time that OPALCO offered online voting and 403 co-op “pioneers” took advantage of it.
A festive atmosphere with local musicians at the Orcas, Shaw and Lopez ferry landings set the tone for OPALCO’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. A handful of OPALCO’s 75 Longest-Standing Members (or their family representatives) were in attendance including Betty Hall, Vern Coffelt, Emily Reid, Louellen McCoy, Mildred Sandwith, Ellen Madan, Joanne Johnston, Jeri Ahrenius, Joyce Burghardt and Cal McLachlan. Past OPALCO Board members Frank Bret and Ed Marble were on the boat, as well as Joan Crosby, representing her late husband Roger who retired from the board in 2010. OPALCO honored its members who were 75 or greater with a commemorative anniversary mug.
OPALCO members were treated to a healthy and delicious brunch by the Coho Restaurant of Friday Harbor served in a 75th Anniversary insulated lunch bag. Each member received a limited edition commemorative package that included a canvas tote, 75th anniversary lapel pin and the 75th anniversary historical publication. More than 50 members took home door prizes that included local goods, energy efficiency tools, a 55-watt solar panel set-up, gift certificates, 75th Anniversary commemorative items, fun gift baskets, kitchen tools and gardening sets. One lucky member took home a gift certificate for a $750 bill credit! Six members who sent in their absentee ballots were drawn for $75 credits on their next OPALCO bills. The six lucky winners are: Ivaloe Meyer, Diane Steed, Ronald Woodard, Miles Erickson, Thomas Reynolds and Russell Smith.
General Manager Randy Cornelius answered questions about OPALCO’s Broadband Initiative and invited members to attend the Broadband Public Forums around the islands May 14-16. Cornelius emphasized that building out OPALCO’s fiber infrastructure—for Broadband to the community and Smart Grid applications on the electric side—is a big and expensive project that will not happen without member buy-in and some trade-offs. He also discussed the recent rate increase and invited members to weigh in on the Board’s discussion on the overall rate structure this summer when the next cost of service study will be conducted. Board meetings are open to the co-op membership.
Cornelius encouraged members to “do all you can to increase your own energy efficiency and conservation at home. The rates will be going up in the future, but we have some control through energy savings at home and a co-op wide commitment to conservation.” He applauded the volunteer MORE committee for their work in providing incentives for local renewable power in the islands and encouraged members to participate by buying blocks of local member-produced green power on their monthly bills. “For just $4 a month, you buy a block of MORE power and support local renewable energy,” Cornelius explained. He also encouraged members to round up their bills in support of Project PAL, stating, “for less than $12 a year, you can make a big difference for a co-op family that is struggling to make ends meet.”
OPALCO’s 75th Anniversary continues through the summer with Open House events on four islands and a special booth at the County Fair. To fully participate in this historical celebration, go to our website to view the historic timeline, member stories, photos and videos representing the 75-year legacy of our local electric co-op. Members can contribute their own stories, photos and comments via the website or on Facebook (Orcas Power & Light Cooperative).