October 28, 2021, marks the 80th anniversary of Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC). Throughout the year, look for articles that celebrate our history in Florida Currents magazine. We hope readers enjoy learning more about GCEC.
False claims that electric cooperatives were hoarding copper wire during World War II brought cooperative leaders from different states together to defend themselves.
As a result, in 1942, America’s electric cooperatives formed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to provide a unified voice for cooperatives and to represent their interests in Washington, D.C.
There appears to be a time-lapse in Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative records between 1941 and 1945 due to World War II. The next board meeting recorded was held at the U.S. Post office building in Panama City on June 27, 1945. The board convened to approve a loan contract to borrow $100,000 from the United States of America. The cooperative would use these funds to build and operate electric transmission, distribution, and service lines for its 330 members.
In the August 9 meeting, purchases of the first truck, tools, equipment, meters, transformers, wire, poles, and other essential materials for the cooperative to build, operate, and maintain electric transmission, distribution, and service lines were commissioned.
In September 1945, GCEC hired Southern Engineering to start building lines from Wausau, Washington County, to and including Southport, Bay County. In a telegram from the Rural Electrification Administration, the first rates were proposed: the first 20 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a month at 9.75 cents a kWh, next 30 kWh a month at 6.5 a kWh, next 100 kWh a month at 2.5 cents a kWh. All use over 200 kWh a month was 1.75 cents a kWh. The minimum monthly bill was $1.
Also in September 1945, it was brought to the board’s attention by acting Project Engineer Claude Smith the need to lease a 100 kilovolt-ampere mobile unit with a transformer voltage 480 to 7,200-12,500 from Glades Electric Cooperative in Moore Haven at a monthly rental of $350 to energize lines in Southport.
In October 1945, the matter of compensation for board members was addressed. It was decided each director would be paid $3 for attendance of regular meetings and 5 cents a mile traveled. That same month, GCEC bought from the city of Wewahitchka (the Connell family) an electric generation plant, transmission lines, and appurtenances for $70,000.
In November 1945, the board of directors and GCEC approved William H. Sapp and his firm as the co-op’s attorney.
On December 1, 1945, Claude Smith, acting project engineer and stand-in manager for GCEC, resigned from his position due to his obligations at West Florida Electric Cooperative.
With the absence of a GCEC manager, the board asked for applications to fill the position. On December 3, 1945, the board voted to hire Edward O. Cone as manager. His starting pay was $250 a month.
During the January 2, 1946 board meeting, Ernestine Joyner was approved and appointed as the first bookkeeper for GCEC, with a starting pay of $125 a month.
The first lineman, E.L. Bailey, was hired February 23, 1946, at a salary of $150 a month.
In the June 1946 board meeting, a method of billing was proposed and established. The minutes read: “Each member shall read his meter on the 25th of every month and shall mark the reading thereof on the Cooperative’s meter card for that purpose. The meter card shall be returned to the Cooperative office within three days. All meter cards postmarked no later than the 27th of each month shall be deemed returned within the three-day period.”
- Late fees consisted of 5% of the net amount of the bill.
- There was a $1 connection fee after the bill payment in full (lineman was to collect).
- Any member whose service had been discontinued twice for nonpayment of a bill was required to post a cash deposit with the cooperative of an amount equal to the sum of his energy bills for the two months preceding the second delinquency, or $5, whichever was larger.
On July 21, 1947, the Wewahitchka system was energized by the newly built lines. The White City lines were energized August 1, 1947. Power generation was initiated at the Wewahitchka generating plant.
Be sure to check your March edition of Florida Currents for a continuation of the history of GCEC.