Covington Electric Cooperative holds annual meeting virtually

Published 8:15 am Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Covington Electric Cooperative leaders had hoped to host an in-person annual meeting this year, but with COVID surging in January, it simply did not seem like the safe thing to do.

Preparations for such a large event take place months in advance; therefore, decisions must be made early. With this in mind, the decision was made to conduct all business relating to the annual meeting virtually.

Like last year, CEC had ballot packets mailed to all members so they could make their voices heard in this year’s board election. Each member received an annual meeting packet in the mail that contained a ballot for the election of trustees to represent Districts III and IV. This packet gave members the option to vote online using a specified website and a personal identification number, or they could cast their vote by mail using the pre-paid, self-addressed envelope. Ballots were not accepted at any CEC office. The confidential ballot process was conducted entirely through an independent tabulator.

On April 7 at 3 p.m., CEC held its virtual annual meeting and the video was streamed through its website covington.coop and social media channels. During the co-op’s presentation, reports were presented by Board Chairman Willie Smith, President and General Manager Ed Short, Senior Vice President and COO Mark Parker, and Public Relations Manager Patty Singleton-Seay.

Smith opened the meeting by explaining why CEC decided to hold the meeting virtually again. He acknowledged some of the benefits of electronic balloting including the fact that more members participate because it’s easy and convenient. Smith reminded members about the retirement of capital credits in the amount of $988,129.93 in February. These credits were applied directly to active electric accounts and he explained the process for credits on inactive accounts.

Smith expressed hope that CEC will conduct an in-person annual meeting in 2023 and he thanked the members for their support. He then introduced Ed Short.

Short opened his comments by stating there were no major weather events that impacted the CEC system in 2021. CEC did send crews to assist co-ops in Tennessee and Louisiana to help in their recovery efforts after major storms caused widespread damage in their service areas. Short then discussed the impact of covid on the CEC workforce detailing work hours lost due to illness or exposure and the costs involved. He covered mitigation efforts by the co-op to help limit the spread of covid and stated that 67 percent of CEC employees are vaccinated.

Short then spoke about the build-out of Buzz Broadband, the co-op’s fiber to the home internet service. He explained that the CEC board approved condensing the time frame to implement the service from four years down to two years barring issues related to materials or labor. “Buzz has a corporate home at 18146 Galileo Drive in the Opp industrial park,” said Short. “You might say why that location? A building that can house the material and the employees was available, it is just about mid-point of the CEC footprint and it’s adjacent to Hwy 84,” he added.

Short encouraged the CEC membership to visit Buzz Broadband online at buzzbroadband.com and to pre-register for service. He also discussed grant awards for this project. “As reported last year, we were awarded some $13.8 million from the FCC to be paid over 10 years if Buzz reaches the required milestones in the build-out. We were also awarded $1.5 million from the state, again subject to meeting the required build-out steps of completion. I have no doubt all these will be met if materials can be obtained in a timely manner. This is good, but we need our county commission and our state legislators to assist in obtaining additional grant dollars to help with this project,” he added.

Other business highlights included a detailed report from Mark Parker about Buzz Broadband, an update on CEC’s community involvement efforts from Patty Singleton-Seay, and the re-election of two members to the CEC board of trustees. Willie B. Smith of Brantley in District III and Heflin Smith of Kinston in District IV. Three $2,500 bill credits were awarded as the top three major prizes to Kay W. Hampton, Susan B. Fillmer, and David Reeves. Scott Ward was the winner of a $600 bill credit, Vickie F. Weidman won a $500 bill credit, and Curtis R. Peacock won a $400 bill credit.

Other prize winners were as follows: Five members won $300 bill credits — Thomas E. Reed, Mable L. Levens, John Cleve Henderson, Warren Dennis Mann, and Mercer D. King. Five members won $200 bill credits—River Falls Community Center, Jennifer Wood, Glenn Louis Furukawa, Elbert W. Cameron, and Geraline Dixon. Ten members won $100 bill credits—Leda Croley, Melvia Lisa Goodson, Jeremy Lamar Burchfield, Joyce Cook, Kent Williams, James William Wismer, Cathy Catoe Leverington, Ann D. Sidney, Matthew R. Hammett, and Roy A. Cosby. Ten members won $50 bill credits—Christina Walker Parker, Jody C. Daughtrey, Jerome Ward, Flint Harrelson, Dennis Mitchell Cook, David D. Brown, Randall Frye, Willard Luker, Sherill Dale Taylor, and Robert Smithart.