The 81st Annual Membership Meeting of the Whetstone Valley electric Cooperative, Inc. was held on Thursday, March 23, 2023 at the Milbank High School Theater in Milbank, SD. Registration opened at 6:00 pm and voting polls opened when a quorum of 50 members had registered. Two candidates ran for the open Director position for District 2; Kent Frerichs and Matt Cameron both of Wilmot.
At 7:00 pm, voting was closed, and the meeting was called to order by President Bill Tostenson.
President Tostenson stated that 211 voting members had registered, and more than 50 members were present, creating a quorum.
Tostenson invited everyone to stand for the singing of the National Anthem. The anthem was led by Shaylee Schuchard and Nadia Thue.
Tostenson invited Pastor Barb Mckewin, of Parkview and Tabor United Methodist Churches in Milbank and Big Stone to give the invocation.
Following the invocation, Tostenson introduced the Board of Directors, former directors, former employees, and special guests. He offered special thanks to outgoing Director, Dale Jensen for his 15 years of service to the co-op.
Tostenson called on Secretary Strasser to give notice of the meeting and present the minutes of 2022.
Secretary Darren Strasser affirmed that the Notice of Annual Meeting had been mailed to the membership and the unapproved minutes of the 2022 Annual Meeting had been delivered to those attending.
Tostenson called for a motion to waive the reading of the Notice of Annual Membership Meeting and to approve the minutes of the 80th Annual Meeting as presented. A motion from the floor was seconded and carried.
Tostenson pointed out that the Financial Statement and Treasurer’s report was included in the material delivered to those attending. A motion from the floor to approve the Treasurer’s Report was seconded and carried.
Tostenson noted that capital credits in the amount of $7,749,497 have been returned to members and that $478,248 has been approved for the 2022 general retirement to be credited to members in May.
Tostenson called on the Cooperative’s General Council, Harvey Oliver, to announce the election results.
Mr. Oliver announced that Districts with open seats were 1, 2, and 5. He reported that the elected Director for District 2 was Matt Cameron. Oliver also reported that only one candidate for districts 1 and 5 were submitted: Dave Behrns and Bill Tostenson respectively. With no other members nominated for these districts, the candidates were duly elected.
Tostenson called on Whetstone Valley General Manager, Dave Page for his report and to introduce the employees.
General Manager, Page welcomed the members to the Annual Meeting of the Cooperative. Page reported that Whetstone has 1,460 miles of power line and that some of plant is 70 years old or more. He discussed the importance of continual replacement of aging infrastructure to maintain resiliency and reliability of the electric system. He reported that nearly $2 million is invested each year for new construction and line replacement. He also reported on technology improvements that include updated mapping, metering and outage management systems.
Page discussed the changes the electric industry is experiencing, highlighting a shift to more wind and solar electric generation. He also discussed new types of electric loads that will impact the demand for energy in the future. He also reported changes in material lead times and the cost of equipment are increasing, stating that it can take more than a year to receive some items.
Page reported that electric rates at Whetstone Valley have remained the same for more than six years and that they are not expected to increase in 2023.
He pointed out that wholesale power costs from East River Electric and Basin Electric Cooperatives have not increased for several years. He also reported that local costs have been controlled, in part by leveraging exceptionally low interest rates for capital infrastructure investments. Page reported that resulting excess margins produced by power cost credits from Basin and East River Electric were deferred to 2023 to delay the need for an anticipated rate adjustment.
Manager Page discussed the nature of not-for-profit electric cooperatives and the allocation and return of equity to its members. He stated that sufficient rates are required to support the return of equity in the form of capital credits.
Page concluded his report and thanked the Board of Directors for their commitment to the cooperative and their communities. He thanked them for the time they invest to keep abreast of changes within the electric industry and regulatory matters.
Page introduced the employees. Those attending showed their appreciation to the team of employees with applause. He presented milestone service awards to Journeyman line technician, Luke Kovel for five years of service, Journeyman line technician, Tristan Hall for five years, Journeyman line technician, Brian Davis for 10 years, and Operations Manager, Jon Christensen for 15 years of service.
Page announced that this year’s Whetstone Valley / Basin Electric $1,000 scholarship was awarded to Carter Phinney.
Manager Page expressed his appreciation to East River for technical services they provide to Whetstone.
President Tostenson called for any unfinished or new business from the floor. With no further business, and a motion and second from the floor, President Tostenson adjourned the meeting.
Tostenson announced that there would be no tour of the Basin Electric facilities in 2023 and that future tours are being planned.
There was a drawing for $50 for children 13 years of age or younger in attendance.
Another drawing for $100 was held for those 14 to 18 years of age in attendance. The winner was Macy Mueller.
The winner of the $500 cash drawing was Diane Berkner of Milbank.