Good morning and welcome! Thank you for being here today for Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative’s 75th Annual Members’ Meeting. I’m your cooperative’s CEO and general manager, John Bartley.
For 82 years, all of you—our member-owners—have trusted us to energize your homes and way of life. Although we call this our annual meeting, it is really a celebration for you to enjoy good food, good music and, most of all, good fellowship.
Attending the co-op’s annual meeting is truly seeing democracy in action. Thank you for your participation in our election. We had nearly 3,600 members take the time to mail in their ballots or to cast their votes online, and election results will be announced toward the conclusion of today’s meeting.
As you know, by casting your ballot, you were entered to win a gift card, an electric bill credit and the grand prizes: Solo stoves. We are proud to offer these prizes to our membership in appreciation of you taking the time to vote. And remember—every member who voted will receive a $5 bill credit.
We will also announce our scholarship winners. Today, we have 27 high school seniors from nine high schools joining us. These students applied to win one of 10 $1,000 awards that may be used to continue their education at a college, university or technical school. We are delighted to assist these students and thank them and their families for joining us today.
While we are on the subject of youth, I am pleased to announce that we are continuing the more than 50-year tradition of recognizing great students through the Rural Electric Youth Tour program. Earlier this year, local high school guidance counselors and civic organization representatives nominated high school juniors to compete for a chance to travel to Washington, D. C., this sum- mer. In February, all students nominated traveled to Tallahassee for our state Youth Tour. Following the Tallahassee trip, we held our Youth Tour competition, and this year’s winners are Andrew Pliscofsky of A. Crawford Mosley High School and Noah Taunton of Wewahitchka High School. We are proud to have them representing us in Washington this year.
This summer, at the Empower Energy Education Workshop, local educators will attend to learn more about a balanced approach to energy generation.
I want to thank the management and employees for a job well done during the past year. Day or night, rain or shine, calm or storm, your cooperative employees work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep your homes comfortable and energized. We are lucky to have such incredible people working behind the scenes to power our homes, businesses and communities. Through whatever else comes our way, your cooperative’s employees and board are here to keep the power on and serve you, our members. Our employees and board members are dressed in logoed red shirts today, so if there is anything we can help you with, please let us know.
And not only are these men and women keeping the lights on here at home, but they are also assisting other electric cooperative member-owners. In September, we responded to an SOS from Peace River and Lee County electric cooperatives and sent employees to assist in power restoration efforts follow- ing Hurricane Ian.
Here, we are approaching the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Michael. The Category 5 storm cost $94 million in damage to our distribution system. Since our last annual meeting, we have eliminated the storm cost recovery rate rider, imple- mented in June 2019. The reve- nue collected through this rate rider was only used for storm restoration costs not reimburs- able by FEMA and was pre- dicted to possibly be in effect for 5 years or until June 2024.
We are proud of our prog- ress—not only as a co-op but as a community. We have com- pleted repairs to our Southport office while accounting for future growth, and are working with engineers and contractors to determine the most cost- effective way to repair or rebuild our headquarters building here
In 2011, GCEC’s 50-year contract to own and maintain the electric and water distribu- tion systems at Tyndall Air Force Base commenced. We have completed several water and electric projects, including replacing aging infrastructure. This contract has given us the opportunity to hire more employees and help stimulate local economies by buying materials and expanding your cooperative.
Today, our primary duty is helping Tyndall Air Force Base fulfill its mission to recover and rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Michael. Supporting Tyndall is not only our job; it is our great honor. Supporting the base of the future allows GCEC to directly contribute to the security of our great country and support our freedom. We are proud to be a part of Team Tyndall.
Safety training is held at least once a month for all GCEC employees. We are also commit- ted to safety training for our community. Today, we have safety demonstrations using our live-line demonstration trailer. We hope that you will take the time to attend one of the pre- sentations. We are proud of this trailer, built by our employees, and enjoy taking it to local schools, festivals and training sessions to educate our members and keep them safe.
Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative is a 5-Star Co-op. That means we encourage our consumer-members to learn about federal, state and local elections and help make sure they are registered to vote; empower consumer-members to make independent, educated decisions about voting for the future of their cooperative and community; engage with elected officials by inviting them to visit the cooperative and meet with the co-op’s consumer-members; and develop a political game plan to advance and advocate for issues on behalf of the electric cooperative.
Our employees have a mis- sion: to deliver safe, affordable and reliable power. One way that we ensure reliability is through our rights-of-way pro- gram. If vegetation comes into contact with power lines, it can interfere with your electric ser- vice and cause a potentially dangerous situation. It is vital this vegetation be cleared from the power lines to provide reliable electric service and prevent hazardous conditions.
We realize most property owners regard trees as an asset. However, federal law states it is GCEC’s responsibility to eliminate hazardous conditions. The co-op tries to work with each landowner to preserve landscap- ing when maintaining rights-of- way If we are trimming in your area, we ask that you please mark anything buried under- ground that can be harmed by our trucks and heavy equip- ment. Please be aware that we will need access to fenced-in areas. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to bring you quality, reliable service.
We know how busy everyone is these days. That’s why we offer multiple ways to do busi- ness with your co-op. Our lob- bies and drive-thrus are open, and you can reach us over the phone during regular business hours. Don’t forget that our drop boxes, automated phone system and website are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for payments or reporting power outages. And, if you
haven’t downloaded our app, we encourage you to do so. It is available from the App Store for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. It offers a variety of convenient features, including the ability to view and pay your bill and report an outage.
Don’t forget that if you can’t make it to one of our office locations, you can pay your bill at retailers such as CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General and Family Dollar. Visit GCEC.sedc- checkout.com to get started.
We are proud to offer rebate programs for electric vehicles, HVAC and water heaters, as well as products, including GenerLink, meter poles and surge protectors. For more information, please stop by the marketing booth in the conference room and speak to Shannon Hill.
In March, we began the pro- cess of a residential end-use survey. Approximately 1,500 of you received a survey by email or the U.S. Postal Service. The data collected by this survey infor- mation is critical: it serves as the basis for generation, transmis- sion and substation planning, the financial forecast and vari- ous member services programs. For all of these reasons, your participation in this survey is of great importance. If you were selected to participate, we hope you will provide valuable feed- back so we may best serve your future power needs.
On behalf of all of your co-op employees and board here providing this great celebration for you, please enjoy our annual meeting, our celebration of you, our member-owners. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve all of you. Thank you again for your time and attention this morning.