From Wayne-White Electric Cooperative's President & CEO Chris Hopfinger:
We enjoyed seeing so many of our members and getting to visit with everyone recently at our Annual Meeting on June 9 in Wayne City. For those that were unable to attend, I wanted to provide a summary of the information that was presented to the membership at our meeting.
This past year has been challenging, but the Cooperative is in a good position. Operationally, our distribution system continues to provide reliable service to our members. To help reduce outages, we have invested in the system by changing poles, replacing aging conductors, and continuing tree trimming. In 2022 we replaced approximately 1,800 poles and upgraded approximately 130 miles of wire all to improve the distribution system to serve the members. We experienced more wind in our area in the spring of 2023, which caused more outages than we are accustomed to. Using our outage management system, we are tracking the specific causes of all outages to determine how we can improve our electric service. Our SCADA system is almost fully operational. As I reported last year, this system will help our employees with outage information to reduce outage times. The operation of the City of Fairfield system continues to go well. I reported to the city council earlier this year on the progress that has been made and the satisfaction of our agreement, which provides a financial benefit to the membership without affecting quality of service.
Financially, the Cooperative is in a strong position. We are making sure the Cooperative is prepared to handle any future challenges. For the first time in ten years, we implemented a rate increase this spring, beginning with April usage, bill date May 1, 2023. Residential customers received a $9 per month increase on the Service Availability charge. The cost-of-service study that was completed earlier this year showed that the Service Availability Charge was not covering our fixed costs, the costs we incur regardless of kwh sales. These costs have increased dramatically over the past few years; for example, since 2018 the cost of a standard pole has gone from $259 to $446, and a residential transformer has increased from $671 to $1,308. Our costs of power supply from Hoosier Energy have increased as well. However, the cost-of-service study indicated that our energy charge is adequate to cover those costs. The Cooperative is in a strong financial position, and the Board will only raise rates when necessary to keep the Cooperative in that position. As of now, we do not anticipate another increase in 2024. Also, the Board is committed to retiring Capital Credits yearly, unless it affects our financial strength. At our last Board Meeting, the Board approved retiring more than two million in capital credits covering the last half of 2001 through part of 2004. If you received service from Wayne-White during that time, those checks will be mailed in late July.
At last year's annual meeting I discussed the issue of rolling blackouts. Although we did not experience any blackouts, this is still a concern for the Cooperative in the future. With the transition to alternative forms of generation, reliability needs to be a top priority. We continue to advocate at the state and federal level to make reliability the top priority. If the time does come when rolling blackouts are necessary, Wayne-White, along with Hoosier, has a plan to minimize the effects and keep you informed. Watch our newsletter, website, and Facebook page for updates throughout the summer.
Speaking of the communications platforms we use to connect with the membership, you may have noticed a change. Earlier this year we decided to refresh our brand. As you may have seen around the area on a few of our trucks, we have updated our logo. This new logo keeps with some of the traditions of the old Cooperative logo but is unique to Wayne-White. You may have also noticed a few updates to our newsletter. We are still committed to providing the members with important information in the newsletter, with an updated look. We are currently working on a way to deliver the newsletter electronically if members are interested. In this newsletter, you will notice information on an updated bill format that will be coming later this summer. We feel this new bill format will be easier to read and contain more information to help the members manage their usage. The first mailing of this new format will contain a bill stuffer on how to read your bill. Along with all these changes, we are also updating our website this summer to give you more information with easier navigation. We are excited about these changes and hope it improves the members' ability to interact with the Cooperative.
With all the challenges the electric industry faces, Wayne-White is committed to providing you, our member-owners, excellent electric service, and superior customer service.