By John Bartley, CEO/General Manager Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative
After 2 years of holding virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC) returned to an in-person annual meeting this year.
We celebrated our 81st anniversary because we were unable to celebrate our 80th in person.
As we close 2022, I want to reflect on some of GCEC’s other milestones and accomplishments.
GCEC was one of eight electric co-ops that participated in the Home Runs for Heroes softball tournament, which raised $20,000 for the Fallen Linemen Organization.
We worked with our generation and transmission cooperative, PowerSouth, and fellow distribution cooperatives CHELCO and West Florida, to host appreciation lunches for WJHG/WECP, WMBB, WPGX and iHeartMedia.
Other ways we have been involved in local communities are by:
- Hosting regular blood drives.
- Collecting items to benefit the Children’s Home Society.
- Sponsoring a Warrior Beach Retreat.
- Participating in the Ronald McDonald House Casual for Kids Day.
- Sponsoring the Taunton Festival.
- Donating to United Way.
- Sponsoring a job fair at the library in Wewahitchka.
- Participating in R.E.D. Fridays (Remember Everyone Deployed) by buying red T-shirts for GCEC employees.
- Wearing pink T-shirts and pink hard hats for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
- Joining CHELCO and West Florida Electric with a contribution to St. Jude.
- Continuing to be involved in organizations such as chambers of commerce, Emerald Coast Business Women’s Association and Elevate Bay.
Hurricane Michael Recovery
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid $3,775,071.36 to GCEC for Category F projects.
This year, the co-op eliminated the Storm Cost Recovery Rate Rider from members’ bills.
Facilities & Growth
Plans are in the works to remodel or build a new GCEC headquarters. Dewberry has presented preliminary drawings.
The Southport remodel and addition is underway.
Approximately 10,000 homes are expected to be added to our system during the next few years, thanks to expansion of Cedar Creek, Fanning Bayou, Hodges Bayou, Lake Merial and several other planned subdivisions.
System Maintenance & Upgrades
Upgrades to the system along Highway 77 have been completed. The rebuild continues along Highway 22, with expected completion near the end of the year.
The Highway 22 project will give us the ability to transfer load from East Callaway to Wewahitchka to better serve Wewahitchka if the Wewahitchka Substation were to go down.
Rights-of-way are on track. This has prevented outages systemwide.
Tyndall Air Base
GCEC is sponsoring several Tyndall events this year and into 2023.
We bought a large excavator to move heavy equipment into small areas where a truck or crane will go.
A 3-person lighting crew, led by Jason Curry, replaced several large lighting projects in the flight line. This was done in-house with equipment we bought to handle heavy concrete poles.
We added a full in-house water crew doing all but large water projects, which are contracted out. The crew stays busy fixing leaks and broken pipes.
We added a full line crew on base led by Jacob O’Bryan.
The bore crew stays busy with all of the projects.
The overall rebuild is still a ways out, as we still only have 35% of the design.
We received an excellent Contractor Performance Assessment Report.
The cooperative conducted a residential satisfaction survey.
Products, Services & Technology
GCEC offers a $100 rebate to electric vehicle owners who log on to our website and provide information about their EVs and charging habits. This will help us plan our system and rates.
GenerLink’s transfer switch continues to sell well. We saw a spike after Hurricane Ian.
Meter poles also are selling well.
The co-op is participating in a manufactured home digital marketing campaign to promote rebates.
Our mobile app went live in January.
New IT policies have been put into place to further enhance cybersecurity.
The co-op sent information in bills educating members about solar installations. We plan to add a section to our website with a calculator so members can determine if solar will pay off for them.
12 high school juniors participated in the Youth Tour program this year, and 2 winners from that group were able to travel to Washington, D.C. Because of the pandemic, we had no trips to Tallahassee since 2020 or Washington since 2019.
Also for the first time since 2019, we participated in the Empower Energy Education Workshop for local teachers.
Other ways we have contributed to our youth include:
- Awarding $10,000 in scholarships to high school seniors.
- Taking the bucket truck to Palm Bay Academy for a presentation.
- Sponsoring back-to-school luncheons at Deane Bozeman School and Waller Elementary School, and teacher appreciation luncheons at Bozeman and Southport Elementary schools.
- Participating in a flag-raising ceremony at Waller Elementary School.
- Sponsoring Wewahitchka High School’s awards day.
- Presenting a safety program at the Natural Disaster Prep Rally at the Wewahitchka library.
Live Line Safety Demonstration Trailer
We continue to educate the public about safety around power lines. This year, our safety trailer made appearances at:
- Big River Gospel Fest.
- Honey Festival.
- Southport Elementary.
- Department of Transportation training in Marianna, Panama City, Chipley and Ponce de Leon.
- Kinard Community Day.
- Bay Haven Charter Academy’s summer camp.
- North Bay Haven Charter Academy’s third grade career day.
- Florida Council of Cooperatives Education and Leadership Conference.
- Wewahitchka High School.
- Community Day at Waller Elementary School.
- Gulf Correctional Institution’s career fair.
- Our 81st annual meeting.
The co-op added nine employees to its workforce. Nineteen earned promotions.
We held an Employee Appreciation Luncheon, a Lineman Appreciation Luncheon and a Christmas party. Other “fun days” included College Colors Day and our annual Halloween chili feed.
Many of our employees came together to repair the deck and build a wheelchair ramp at the home of fellow employee Bob Logan and his wife, Liz.
This year, we hosted apprentice training at our office not only for our employees, but for apprentices from other co-ops.
We are proud to offer a wellness program and incentives to our employees. We sponsored a weight loss challenge and awarded cash prizes.
Safety training is held at least once a month for all GCEC employees. Topics include CPR, active shooting, pole-top rescue and fire extinguisher operation.
Dwight Van Lierop was appointed by the board and then elected by the membership.
Carl Goodson earned Board Leadership and Director Gold certifications. Eddie Jones renewed his Director Gold credential.
GCEC continues to meet the requirements of a Five-Star Co-op.
We have 100% participation by our employees, management and trustees in the Action Committee for Rural Electrification.
We participated in the state legislative cookout in Tallahassee.
On behalf of everyone at GCEC, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2023.