News & Events

Our 2015 district membership meeting dates have been set: May 11 - District 5          Fulton Elementary Gym May 12 - District 1          St. Mary’s Church, Charlotte May 13 - District 7          St. Michael’s School, Remus May 14 - District 3          Eagle Park Hall (election) May 18 - District 4          Vestaburg Middle School May 19 - District 6          Beal City High School (election) May 20 - District 2          St. Edward’s, Lake Odessa The business meeting will start at 6 pm following a light supper. Watch your mailbox for your invitation and registration card, with all the details.
America’s electric cooperatives have designated the second Monday of April as National Lineman Appreciation Day. On April 13, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative will honor the hard working men who often work in challenging conditions to keep the lights on. The full text of the resolution, which the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Board adopted unanimously, follows: “Whereas linemen leave their families and put their lives on the line every day to keep the power on; Whereas linemen work 365 days a year under dangerous conditions to build, maintain and repair the electric infrastructure; Whereas linemen are the first responders of the electric cooperative family, getting power back on and making things safe for all after storms and accidents; and Whereas there would be no electric cooperatives without the brave men and women who comprise our corps of linemen; “Therefore be it resolved that NRECA recognize the Second Monday of April of each year as National Lineman Appreciation Day and make available to electric cooperatives, materials and support to recognize the contributions of these valuable men and women to America’s Electric Cooperatives.” We proudly recognize all electric linemen for the services they perform around the clock in dangerous conditions to keep power flowing and protect the public’s safety. Electric linemen do not often receive the recognition they deserve. They work all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions far from their families, going above and beyond to restore power to their communities. Our linemen, as well as linemen from across the nation, truly deserve this special day of recognition. HomeWorks Tri-County Electric invites members to take a moment to thank a lineman for the work they do. We’ll be posting photos of our crews at work on our Facebook page all day on April 13. Please join us there to show your support for the people who light our lives.
Last fall, an independent company surveyed 300 HomeWorks Tri-County Electric members to help us learn more about your expectations, and how we’re doing at meeting them. Our first report, in last month’s issue of Country Lines, covered the top “satisfaction drivers,” such as courteous and knowledgeable employees, quality customer service, and reliable electric service, all of which scored 90% or higher. In fact, we score an outstanding 86 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The ACSI is based on four questions asked of customers in similar surveys across the US every year. With an 86, we rank higher than most other electric co-ops nationwide (81), as well as Apple (84), Cadillac (80), and Southwest Airlines (78). There are two areas that we’re taking a closer look at: ownership and renewable energy. As a cooperative, we are owned by the people we serve. That’s everyone who buys electricity from us. However, 51% of those surveyed said they feel they are customers, not co-op members; and a significant number say it’s not important to attend an annual meeting (36%) or vote to elect the board of directors (29%). These results tell us we need to do a better job of educating all members about their role in a democratic organization, especially since we are member-regulated. HomeWorks has been providing renewable energy for several years, through our generation partner Wolverine Power Cooperative. Wolverine is a leader in Michigan, involved in the state’s first commercial wind farm since 2009. We also launched our Community Solar Garden last spring, making solar power easily affordable to any interested member. We’ve used Country Lines to report regularly on each of these projects. Yet, 62% of those surveyed didn’t know what kind of renewable energy HomeWorks offers, and 2% said we don’t offer any. For the record, the state of Michigan requires us to get at least 10% of our energy from renewable sources as of the end of 2015. With Wolverine’s help, we’ve met and passed that goal. On page xx, you can read more about the renewable projects Wolverine is working on. We’re very pleased that the survey tells us so many members rate HomeWorks highly on their satisfaction scale, and we learned that we have a lot more education and communication to do on a few subjects. Thank you for taking time to share your opinions with us, and thanks most of all for the great responses. We’ll keep working hard to earn your trust and satisfaction.
Some very cold weather is predicted for the coming week. With the deep snow and slippery roads we already have in mid-Michigan, be prepared if you plan any travel. Follow these tips if you are stuck in the snow: Try to stay calm and don't go out in the cold. Stay in your car: you will avoid getting lost and your car is a safe shelter. Don't tire yourself out. Shovelling in the intense cold can be deadly. Let in fresh air by opening a window on the side sheltered from the wind. Keep the engine off as much as possible. Be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning and make sure the exhaust pipe is not obstructed by snow. If possible, use a candle placed inside a deep can instead of the car heater to warm up. Turn on warning lights or set up road flares to make your car visible. Turn on the ceiling light; leaving your headlights or hazard lights on for too long will drain the battery. Move your hands, feet and arms to maintain circulation. Stay awake. Keep an eye out for other cars and emergency responders. Try to keep clothing dry since wet clothing can lead to a dangerous loss of body heat.  Prepare an emergency car kit Always have winter safety and emergency equipment in your car. A basic car kit should contain the following: Food that won't spoil, such as energy bars Water—plastic bottles that won't break if the water freezes (replace them every six months) Blanket Extra clothing and shoes or boots First aid kit with seatbelt cutter Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush Candle in a deep can and matches Wind‑up flashlight Whistle—in case you need to attract attention Roadmaps Copy of your emergency plan Items to keep in your trunk: Sand, salt or cat litter (non-clumping) Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid Tow rope Jumper cables Fire extinguisher Warning light or road flares
by Tom Manting, Chief Information Officer At HomeWorks, we try to blend old-fashioned service with new technology to add greater value. Some recent examples are our automated metering program, combined with SmartHub™, the app and online service that gives members control of their energy information. There’s also been our online outage map, and a variety of bill payment options that take advantage of technology. Obviously, these don’t work the same way for every member, and not every member makes use of them. But for some, these are great solutions, offering convenience and saving time or money. We’re now looking at a service that’s been around a while, and not only in the electric industry. You may already use a prepaid cell phone or a prepaid credit card. These programs are like paying for gas as you put it in your car’s tank, or for food at the grocery store - you “pay as you go” rather than waiting for one bill each month. Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, as just one example, started its prepaid electric program in 2006 and now has about 4,500 of its 52,500 members participating. In recent surveys, 88% said they would recommend prepaid service to others, and 86% feel they are more aware and/or more conservative of their electric use with prepaid. How can our members benefit? Individual members will: have better control of their energy budget be able to make smaller, more frequent payments choose their own payment schedule, when it’s convenient for them be able to take energy efficiency measures and see the results right away have a low start-up cost, and in some cases, could save money on late fees, collection charges, etc. All members will benefit from lower costs through the cooperative prepaid service because it: reduces unpaid account write-offs cuts time and money spent on collection efforts saves the co-op over $6 per member per year by eliminating a paper bill (plus it’s good for the environment), and provides a new billing option we can offer Our plan is to get a pilot program started by mid-2015. Please watch Country Lines for updates later in the year. We have a lot to learn about how prepaid metering can work here, but we think it’s a great opportunity to provide a useful new service that adds value for many of our members. February, 2015
A $10,000 gift to Manna’s Market in Lake Odessa was presented Tuesday, Jan. 6, by HomeWorks   Tri-County Electric Cooperative of Portland, represented by director Wayne Swiler and general manager Mark Kappler. The gift was made possible by a $5,000 matching grant from one of the cooperative’s lenders, CoBank, as part of CoBank’s Sharing Success program. This $3 million charitable fund was designed to benefit cooperatives and the charitable groups they support throughout rural America. CoBank first launched the program in 2012 in conjunction with the International Year of Cooperatives. “We were pleased to have this opportunity to support an organization like Manna’s Market, where my wife, Pam, and I have volunteered our own time. Our rural communities need these services and this gift will help Manna’s Market stock its pantry and serve our neighbors,” said Swiler, who represents Barry and Ionia counties on the HomeWorks Tri-County Electric board. CoBank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. It’s also a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation’s rural economy. CoBank is headquartered outside Denver, Colorado. HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative believes community service is an essential part of its mission to provide its members and customers with energy, comfort, and communications solutions that will enhance their quality of life. The co-op was created in 1937 by farmers in Eaton, Ingham, and Jackson counties, and moved its headquarters to Portland in 1941. Since 1993, the Tri-County Electric People Fund, has granted over $1.8 million to needy families and organizations across mid-Michigan in its 13-county service area. The People Fund is supported by member-owners who voluntarily round up their monthly electric bills. Manna’s Market is a nondenominational, faith inspired, non-profit Michigan corporation serving all of Barry County and the communities of the Lakewood School District, including Vermontville and Mulliken in Eaton County, by extending a helping hand and providing food, clothing and baby pantry items for those facing dire circumstances beyond their control. Photo caption: From left, Manna’s Market board members and volunteers Dan Hankins, Robin Michalski, and Jayne Flanigan accept the $10,000 check from HomeWorks Tri-County Electric general manager Mark Kappler and director Wayne Swiler, with his wife, Pam. For more information: http://www.mannasmarket.org/about.html http://www.cobank.com/ http://www.homeworks.org/
Contributors whose photos we print in 2015 will be entered into a drawing and Country Lines will pay the winner's January 2016 electric bill (up to $200.00)! Click here to submit your photo electronically. (A new page will open with the submission form.) To send by mail: Include your name, address phone number, photographer’s name and details about your photo. Identify the people left to right and tell us their relation to you. Mail to: HomeWorks Snap Shot Contest Attn: Country Lines Snapshots 7973 E. Grand River Ave Portland, MI 48875 Photos will not be returned. Do not send color laser prints or professional studio photos. Here are the monthly themes coming for the rest of 2015: TOPIC PUBLICATION ISSUE DEADLINE My Favorite Pet March January 16 Kids at Play April February 13 Cars May March 16 Sunrises & Sunsets June April 15 America the Beautiful July/August May 15 Country Roads September July 16 Action/Sports October August 13 Michigan's Splendor November/December September 17
September may be the traditional back-to-school month, but we have education on our minds almost all the time. In fact, “Education and Information” is the fifth of seven Cooperative Principles we operate under. For instance, we send you Country Lines magazine 10 times a year to keep you updated on your electric cooperative. And in this issue, you’ll find notices for three programs which support education in our service area: Teachers or school districts can apply for Touchstone Energy classroom technology grants for up to $2,500 to purchase tools or software that will help them educate young minds. Since we started this program in 2011, we’ve given nearly $100,000 in support back to our area schools. High school sophomores and juniors can apply for the Youth Leadership Summit (April 22-24), which could lead to winning a week in Washington, D.C., in June. High school seniors, and adults furthering their education, can also apply for Touchstone Energy scholarships. In upcoming issues of Country Lines, we’ll inform you of the board election process and about the annual member-owner meetings in which we come to each of the seven districts to visit with you and bring you co-op news. This kind of information is essential to the democratic governance of a cooperative like ours. Speaking of board elections, we have two new directors to educate. Kimber Hansen was elected last year in District 4, and has already started attending the courses offered to electric co-op directors. Luke Pohl was appointed to the District 3 board seat in September, and will serve through next year’s election. Board policy calls for directors to become certified during their first three-year term; both are already asking good questions at the board table and bringing their own experience to the wide variety of decisions board members are asked to make. Employees are no exception to our education program. Everyone attends regular safety training on general subjects, and as their jobs require, on some very specific subjects. Most of our managers and supervisors have earned certification through our national organization. This education serves two purposes - making sure they’re up-to-date on the latest laws, regulations, programs and technologies, while developing a nationwide network of co-op professionals that we can call on. All of this emphasis on education benefits you as member-owners because it means the decisions made in running your electric co-op are not based on "best guesses" or a need for profit. Instead, HomeWorks runs on facts, experience, and your input. Country Lines - January, 2015
Our offices will be closed for Thanksgiving    -  Thursday, November 27  (re-open Friday, November 28, at 8 am) Christmas Eve   -  Wednesday, December 24, and Christmas         - Thursday, December 25 (re-open Friday, December 26, at 8 am) New Year's Day - Thursday, January 1 (re-open Friday, January 2) As always, we have crews on call for service emergencies. Please call 1-800-848-9333 or use the free SmartHub app to report any problem. Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!
If you’re familiar with Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” you’ll know that one of those habits is “Sharpen the Saw.” To us, that means continually improving by using the tools we have in a better way, being open to new technologies that help us provide you with better service, and learning every day. For instance, we’re still figuring out how to tell you about all the useful features of SmartHub®, a self-service site that gives you instant access to your account via computer or mobile device.  Sure, you can pay your bill, but you can do so much more. With SmartHub, you can check your energy use and compare it to last month or last year. You can “bookmark” a date when you replaced an appliance, to track how it changes your energy use patterns. You can also update the information on your account, such as your phone number, send us service requests, or even report a power outage and skip being on hold when our phone lines are temporarily overwhelmed.  On page 9 of the November-December issue of Country Lines (a pdf file of the page is linked below this article), you can read more about our latest technological change – our online outage map. The map we had was adequate, but showed only basic information. Working with other co-ops and our data processing vendor, we now have a new interactive online outage map that will help us answer more of your questions.  When there’s an outage, you want to know: 1) Does the co-op know my power is out? 2) When will the power be back on? and 3) What caused the problem?  Working with this new map program, we’re learning to adjust our internal work processes in order to gather and share the information you want. This will include the cause of an outage, as soon as it’s known, and an estimated time for restoration of your service. Both of these new tools give you power over the information you receive from HomeWorks. Moving forward this way helps us keep our saw as sharp as possible to serve you well.

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