Co-op meet has democratic, game show flavor

-A A +A
By Lou Elliott Jones

When Central Florida Electric Cooperative holds its annual meeting, it’s nothing like the stuffy affairs held by some corporations, or even the ones that feature a proxy fight.

The members who own the co-op greet each other as if they are at a family reunion. 

Whole families come, even bringing babies that are just weeks old. 

It’s a democratic affair as customers question the management then stick around for a raffle that features cash prizes, gift cards and merchandise.

Co-op workers keep the hundreds who turn out refreshed with soda and water, provide demonstrations of how to conserve energy, hand out gift bags containing rain gauges, thermometers, energy saving CFL light bulbs, and perhaps the best item of all, a cookbook with recipes collected from members and employees.

Tim Hastings, manager of member services, said this year’s meeting was a little slow getting started, but he was pleased at the turnout that filled the chairs set out in the co-op warehouse on County Road 321.”I used to think it was just about the prizes,” Hastings said, “But it’s about people knowing they can come here and express their opinion to the board of directors.”

He said the turnout was impressive considering the season. “This is an area where people like to hunt and fish,” he said.

Hastings said the event was helped by the cool, dry weather. “It’s a good, beautiful day. It makes it a lot more enjoyable in the warehouse.”  That’s because the cavernous steel building is not air conditioned.

Members got to vote by mail for candidates for the board of directors and the results were announced shortly after the meeting began.

But first the co-op’s stakeholders heard reports from the three high school seniors they sponsored on a trip to Washington, D.C., this year.  Each spoke of the impression seeing the National Cathedral, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. 

Then came the president’s report and the news was good.

“We were not expecting any growth in the number of meters,” Randy Mikell, president, said. That was borne out. 

However, the record cold temperatures this winter and the high temperatures this summer have meant higher power usage, Mikell said. “We expected high power bills we all had to deal with,” he said. 

For customers, the cooperative had good news on cost savings and improved service. 

New self-reading meters will continue to be installed and meter readers will be phased into new jobs with the co-op, Mikell said. 

A new telephone system is coming as is a new office that will have an improved customer service area. 

Mikell said the board was “really surprised” to find that customer liked and utilized the new system to pay bills at Drummond Community and Perkins State banks, and online using debit and credit cards. Continuing in that modernization, he said, the website will also be upgraded.

One customer asked about payments saying he received his bill on the 17th of the month and being required to pay it within 12 days — on the 29th. He asked why customers could not get 30 days to pay their bill. 

Mikell said customer service representatives could help the customer change his due date, allowing more time to pay.

Charlotte Maupin of Trenton, said had a question about the new meters. She said after they were installed in her neighborhood everyone’s bills went up by $20 to $30. 

Mikell suggested that the higher bills could be due to the hotter weather this summer and increased use of air conditioning.

In the board elections: Mikell, Alan Mikell and Kyle Quincey were all re-elected.