AEC holds 69th annual meeting

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Diane Sieker photo

The Anza Electric Cooperative Inc. held their 69th annual meeting virtually, Saturday, Sept. 19, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A link to the 40-minute presentation was posted on the AEC website and on YouTube. KOYT-FM 97.1 provided audio simulcast, the election results and a question and answer session live.

Anza Electric Cooperative Inc. is a member-owned, nonprofit electric utility providing power for about 5,200 meters representing 9,000 people and businesses.

The AEC is a Class A member of the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, which provides wholesale electric power from the Apache Generation station in Cochise, Arizona.

Board president Tom Firth introduced the AEC board members Chilli Ainsworth and treasurer Harold Burdick in District 1, Mike Machado and Ryall Stewart for District 2 and vice president Steve Lauzier and Secretary Steven Silkotch Sr. for District 3.

The candidates included Chilli Ainsworth and Roberta “Birdie” Kopp for District 1; Hope Adams, Gerald Clarke, Mike Machado and Ed Wall for District 2 and Steven Lauzier and Keith Penny for District 3.

Audit report results

Firth introduced audit manager Jarrod Bryant from Bolinger, Segars, Gilbert and Moss LLP, who gave the auditor’s report on the financial condition of the AEC via video message.

Typically, the audit reports are given to the AEC in time for the June annual meeting, but this year has had to be different due to the pandemic. The financial information is available on the AEC’s website.

The AEC is in strong financial health, according to Bryant. The AEC’s equity to assets ratio indicates good financial health.

Board treasurer Harold Burdick said that the audit was approved by the AEC board in July.

Next to speak was Jessica Nelson, general manager of the Golden State Power Cooperative. This organization provides cost-saving services such as legislative and regulatory lobbying to electric cooperative utilities.

Nelson said she was impressed by the way the cooperative has responded to the pandemic – from making masks to ensuring that the community has the food, information and financial support resources it needs.

Additionally, rural cooperatives have been at the forefront of providing internet services during these unprecedented times, and the AEC has provided this service to its members, she said.

AEC has sponsored the Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry since September 2019.

Debbie Espinosa of F.I.N.D. mobile pantry spoke of the partnership between F.I.N.D. and the AEC to help feed the community.

Born of the need during the Cranston Fire, F.I.N.D. was encouraged by Rep. Raul Ruiz to help support Anza. Kevin Short, general manager for the cooperative, contacted F.I.N.D. and helped form the working relationship.

F.I.N.D. distributes food once a month at the AEC’s facilities in Anza. On average they serve over 300 local families a month.

“We fed over 8,300 people in your community,” Espinosa said. “We have distributed over 160,000 pounds of food, which translated into about 25,000 meals to your community and 50% of that is in the form of fresh produce.”

She thanked the Thimble Club, the High Country Conservancy and CoBank, who donated to these efforts.

Short gave the general manager’s report and reviewed the progress of the cooperative and updates on various programs.

“Our mission is to provide reliable utility services to its member-owners at the lowest possible cost through the use of well-trained employees and board members and will operate consistent with the Seven Cooperative Principles,” Short said. “It’s been my honor and privilege to work with the finest group of dedicated and professional individuals anywhere. The employees of our cooperative are hard at work every day to ensure the best possible utility service for our members.”

Short introduced some key staff members – Jennifer Williams, government relations liaison and human resources manager; Debbie Winger, manager of member services; Shawn Trento, network administrator of ConnectAnza; Laura Snider-Manseau of office services, and operations manager Brian Baharie were highlighted.

The financial health of the AEC is excellent, Short said. The 2020 financials showed $1,052,411 net margins, the second highest in AEC history; $5.7 million net margins since 2015; 29 % increase in gross revenue since 2015; 28.5 % Increase in total plant value since 2015 and $23.5 million capital credit allocations total.

Over $500,000 in capital credits were retired in June 2020.

Short talked about the AEC’s involvement with the community and the various programs that help members.

The AEC sponsors several high school students for the youth tour. Unfortunately, this program was canceled due to the pandemic, but the cooperative provided the teens with funds to purchase computers to help them in their future studies.

The winners were announced by Short: Sienna Clark, Charlotte Holliday, Melissa Hamlett and Adam Roberts.

The Cooperative Connections helps small businesses within the community, Short said. The program has assisted over 325 families with donations of $120,000.

Other charitable partnerships include Anza Community Building Inc., High Country Recreation, the Anza Scholarship Fund, Food for the Faithful, the Anza Thimble Club and more.

Short said the cooperative’s support of the American Heart Association’s fundraising efforts raised over $7,000 for the Heartwalk in the spring.

This month marks one year of partnership with F.I.N.D.

Infrastructure report

Short touched upon infrastructure improvements to facilitate reliability and safety.

Short explained the Hoover Dam energy contribution and the Apache Solar Array that help give the cooperative low-cost renewable sources of power. Also contributing is AEC’s SunAnza solar array.

The 2-megawatt SunAnza solar plant, along with the coming Phase Two 1.4-megawatt facility, are slated to power at least one grid at a time during a systemwide outage.

The Grid Alternatives/Santa Rosa Community Solar project is underway as well.

System recorded 10 outages in 2018-2019, he said, and one this year.

Southern California Edison has been hardening their circuit and improving the AEC’s reliability.

Distribution circuit upgrades consist of replacing existing circuit conductors, modernizing the meter fleet and improving system communications. The digital two-way radio system is completed, with the entire control network now on ConnectAnza fiber optic cable.

Weather reporting and forecasting are available on the cooperative’s website, featuring real time conditions on the system to assist with fire prevention and mitigation.

An update on ConnectAnza internet service was given, reporting over 2,100 members connected to date.

“We’re making great progress,” Short said. “We are working closely with the Hemet Unified School District to enable internet access to all the kids in our area.”

The AEC’s rates are much lower than those of SCE and SDGE. The annual comparison at 1,000 kilowatts revealed SCE at $239.43, SDGE at $315.43 and AEC at $163.

“We have enjoyed very stable rates for the last decade,” he said.

Election results

Election results were presented via a KOYT-FM 97.1 simulcast.

The elected District 1 member is W.A. “Chilli” Ainsworth.

The elected District 2 member is Mike Machado.

The elected District 3 member is Steven Lauzier.

For more information on the 2019 annual report, visit https://www.anzaelectric.org/ or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Anzaelectric/.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.