OPALCO members boarded the ferry on Saturday, April 30th to participate in the 2016 (79th) Annual Meeting and Board of Directors’ election. Voter participation was slightly lower than 2015 with 2,397 total ballots (2,316 absentee, plus 81 on the ferry) representing about 21% of the membership. The successful candidates were Jim Lett (incumbent) and Brian Silverstein for District 3, representing Lopez, Decatur, Center and Charles islands; and Dr. Jerry Whitfield (incumbent) for District 4, representing Shaw, Bell, Canoe and Crane islands. The member-initiated bylaw amendment did not pass. Guests joined the 261 members present aboard the WSF Elwha for a total of 374 people in attendance.
District 3 Vote Counts:
Silverstein – 1,422
Lett – 1,100
Lewis – 989
Stephens – 750
District 4 Vote Counts:
Whitfield – 1,207
Jacobs – 1,013
Member-Initiated Bylaw Amendment*
Against – 1,301
*Note: At the Annual Meeting, the vote count on the bylaw amendment was incorrectly stated – the numbers were reversed.
OPALCO members enjoyed a bag lunch prepared by Galley Catering of Lopez Island. Guests were offered gifts from the San Juan Islands Conservation District (solar clothes dryer kit, LED nightlight) and Islanders Bank (coin purses and pens). Rock Island staff had set up a free wireless network on the boat for members to use during the annual meeting.
The 2015 Nourdine Jensen Cooperative Youth Scholars were announced: Anneke Fleming (OI) Tenley Nelsen (SJI) and Ryanne Pluff (SJI) were present to receive a certificate and recognition from the board. Each will each receive a $500 scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Youth Rally Co-op Leadership Camp at the College of Idaho this summer. Orcas High School senior Ray Doss will return to the Youth Rally as a youth director.
Board Vice President Vince Dauciunas educated the crowd about the value of the OPALCO grid for efficient electric distribution operations, integrating local distributed power (solar, etc.) and managing the growing number of smart devices and energy storage solutions (electric vehicles, battery banks) that are becoming standard in member homes and businesses. Dauciunas’ explanation will be posted online at www.opalco.com.
General Manager Foster Hildreth pointed to the annual report as the best source for a “state of the Co-op” update and encouraged members to view the online report (www.opalco.com/annualreport), which includes videos and slideshows to help explain our projects and initiatives. In the interest of giving more time to the membership for their comments and questions, Hildreth kept it brief. Reporting on Rock Island Communications, he applauded their progress in getting more than 1000 connections made, 17 poles installed and making 6 or more new LTE wireless connections each day. “Today, with a T-Mobile device, you can access a wireless Internet connection throughout the ferry route from Anacortes to and between the islands” said Hildreth to applause from the audience. “By the end of this year, we will have solved the Internet crisis in San Juan County.” Hildreth thanked his team, the employees of OPALCO, for their hard work this past year. “They work their tails off keeping our co-op running smoothly and delivering reliable power to the membership,” he said. “I appreciate their dedication; they have hearts of gold.”
A member question and comment session took up the majority of the meeting time. More than 20 members shared their support, asked questions and raised concerns.
The names of six members who sent in their absentee ballots were drawn for $50 credits on their next OPALCO bills. The six lucky winners are West Sound Marina, David & Beckie Heinlein, Charles & Laura Deach, Scott Meyers & Brigit Waring, Holly Liberatore and Elizabeth Strash. Opalco congratulates this year’s bill credit winners and offers thanks to all who voted by absentee ballot.
Door prizes were scaled back from prior years in response to OPALCO belt-tightening measures. OPALCO’s vendors donate many of the prizes, and OPALCO provides bill credits and other mission-related items.
A survey will be sent via email to the member households who attended the annual meeting to gauge member preferences and satisfaction for the meeting activities and voting process. The results will be used to plan and improve next year’s annual meeting and election.
OPALCO is required by the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) to hold an annual meeting each year and must have a quorum of 100 members in attendance. Members who missed the meeting can read the 2016 Annual Report online (www.opalco.com/annualreport). An abbreviated print version of the annual report is available at your local OPALCO office, as long as the limited supply lasts.