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Springtime (finally) – play ball!

It was an interesting winter that seemed to extend longer than normal. But at last the calendar has turned to spring. The spring season means the start of Major League Baseball and our annual Florida trip for spring training baseball.

Other than the weather, there are some interesting contrasts between Florida and Illinois. It seems that anywhere you go in Florida, there are all types of construction underway. In Illinois, the growth mainly seems to be in the Chicago area. Florida’s population increases by nearly 1,000 people every day. Illinois has consistently lost population over the past few decades. It is amazing the number of current and former Illinois residents that we run across on our trip.

Florida does not have a state income tax, while the Illinois tax recently increased, and there is talk of modifying the tax to a graduated income tax. (If the exodus of Illinois residents seemed high previously, it will likely be even higher under a graduated tax regime). Florida generally does not have the underfunded state pension issues found in Illinois, but Florida does have some severe education and environmental issues that are worsening with the population growth.

Five years ago I wrote a few columns regarding federal environmental regulations and the impact on generation supply resources. In many areas, this issue has been pushed down to the state level. Both Florida and Illinois are experiencing an increase in solar renewable energy. However, Illinois, unlike Florida is also experiencing significant increases in wind generation. The large Illinois renewable energy growth is primarily due to legislation passed in late 2016.

Just a few weeks ago, in early March, companion bills were introduced in the Illinois legislature to significantly increase future renewable energy percentage targets in the state. Although early in the process, this will be a key issue to monitor. Cooperatives favor an inclusive mix of all types of generation, including renewable energy at proper levels.

As you know, Illinois co-ops receive a significant portion of energy from plants powered with Illinois coal. We will keep you updated on this extremely important issue.

We are rolling out a new bill format this month. The new format gives you more in-depth information about your electrical use. Details about the new format are highlighted on pages 2 -3.

April is also a month in which we recognize our employees through Lineworker Appreciation Day on Monday, April 8; and Administrative Professionals’ Day on Wednesday, April 24. Our employees are dedicated to providing member focused services in all interactions with EIEC membership.

Enjoy the vibrant colors of springtime and your favorite baseball team in action.

Cooperatively,

Bob Hunzinger

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EIEC bill has new format and enhancements

Information on SIDE ONE of your bill:

1. EIEC Information: Our main phone number and how to contact us.

2. Your Account Information: Your account number.

3. Current Bill Amount and Due Date: Summarizes total amount or budget amount
due and due date for the service location listed.

4. Important Message: Valuable communication from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative.

5. Your Name and Address: The contact information we have on file for your account.

6. Account Message: You may see account specific messages displayed in red on certain bills. These are tailored messages for a member account.

7. Average Daily Electric Use: Compares this month’s energy use with the previous month and the same month from a year ago.

8. Monthly Electric Use History: Shows historical data regarding electric consumption for the past 13 months.

9. Daily Electric Use: Lists your daily electric use and includes weather information, so you can see how much temperature impacts your bill.

10.Payment Stub: If you are mailing in your payment, detach this portion and please send it with your payment.

Information on SIDE TWO of your bill:

11. Previous Billing Details: Previous balances and payments.

12. Meter Reading Details: This is the actual location of your electrical service. It includes your service location, meter number(s), and current and previous meter reading along with your kWh use.

13. Peak kW demand: This reflects your highest kilowatt demand during any 15-minute segment of the billing period. It shows when you are putting the largest demand on the electric system.

14. Current Bill Information: Your rate and service duration for this billing cycle.

15. Distribution: This is the local costs to get electricity to your home or business. It includes poles, wires, substations, staff, and other operating expenses. Your Base charge is the monthly recurring charge. It represents the fixed costs incurred, even if no electricity is used.

16. Electric Supply: This is the cost of wholesale power that EIEC purchased from Prairie Power, Inc., a generation facility. PPI is made up of 10 Illinois electric cooperatives, including EIEC.

17. Transmission are the costs EIEC pays to get electricity from power plants over high-voltage electric lines to the 25 substations on our distribution system. These charges originate from the owners of the distribution lines.

18. Generation Investment: This is based on your kWh use and represents EIEC’s long-term investment in the Prairie State Energy Campus (PPI).

19. Power Cost Adjustment: This is the difference between the actual cost of the electricity we get from PPI and our projected costs. The PCA varies each month.

20. Public Utility Tax: This tax is administered by the State of Illinois and applies to each kWh of electricity that you use.

21. Total tax and other fees: This section may include outdoor light rental, service upgrades, deposits, adjustments, and other miscellaneous charges.

22. Total Current Month Charges: This is the amount you owe for electricity for the current month.

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Protect yourself and your family: Call JULIE

April is National Safe Digging Month and we want to remind homeowners and professional excavators in Illinois to call JULIE, Inc. (JULIE) at 8-1-1 before every digging project this spring, regardless of the size or depth. This is a free call and service.

JULIE’s helpful call center agents are available to receive and process requests 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 8-1-1. E-Request is also a convenient option for homeowners who prefer to enter their own utility locate requests via the website: www.illinois1call.com.

When calling 8-1-1, homeowners and contractors are connected to JULIE, Inc., the Illinois One-Call System, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig.

Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both.

Every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first contacting JULIE. Striking a single line can cause personal injury, costly repairs, environmental or property damage liability, and inconvenient power outages.

When you are considering home improvement projects like building a deck, landscaping, fence installation, swing set assembly, or installing a mailbox, call JULIE.

The depth of utility lines can vary due to erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

Occasionally homeowners think they already know where the utilities are located. It’s always a good idea to contact JULIE, just to be safe.

From time to time, people believe what they’re planting is very shallow and they won’t have to dig very deep. Line depths can change over time and homeowners may be surprised by how close lines are to the surface.

Homeowner sometimes think, oh well, I had my garden in this space last year, so I don’t need to contact JULIE this year. By going just a little deeper, or to the left or right, you can hit a line. It’s happened to people before with shocking consequences.

Homeowners may have called JULIE several years ago and are convinced they know where the lines are located. Why take the chance, be safe and call JULIE again!

JULIE is a free call and service. Call before you dig.

 

 

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People to Know: Don Gerdes, Forester

Tips and Techniques for Felling and Cutting Trees is a very popular seminar at the EIEC Annual Meeting every year. Don Gerdes, EIEC forester, is the presenter and often there’s standing room only for his seminar, as he is very knowledgeable about everything having to do with trees. He talks about safety when using a chain saw and Don always has a fascinating story about his interaction with raccoons.

Don has over three decades of experience and he learned from some of the best in the business. Don began his vegetation management career with Price Tree Service and was eventually recruited by Dean Price to work for the co-op as a forester. Don has continued in his role of forester and now he works in concert with Junior Price to keep power lines free and clear of limbs, branches and trees.

As forester for EIEC, he has the important job of managing a tree trimming rotation of every four years. Don and Junior trim and remove tree branches and limbs on a planned schedule throughout the 10 county EIEC territory. Eastern Illini’s primary responsibility is to provide safe, reliable electricity to members. Keeping lines clear of trees is necessary to deliver better quality service to EIEC members.

The distance a tree is trimmed depends on the type of tree and voltage. In some instances, the removal of a tree is required. This is especially the case when public safety is involved. A tree may be removed because it is dead, dying, or damaged. The methods used to trim trees help the tree retain its natural shape, decrease future trimming needs, and direct future growth away from electric lines.

Don wants members to know how important it is to look up, look down and all around before planting a tree. Always call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before digging. JULIE will arrange for underground cable related to electric, cable, telephone, and gas lines to be safely located and marked. Sometimes selecting the wrong tree and planting it near utility rights-of-way can cause safety concerns and service interruptions. With years of experience under his belt, Don has seen outages and power interruptions decrease significantly due to proper trimming and maintenance of trees near power lines. Don’s favorite tree is the Official State Tree of Illinois, the White Oak. He’s not really a fan of walnut trees and he is dreading the removal of more than 100 ash trees on the acreage he owns in DelRey.

When Don isn’t busy trimming trees with his chain saw, you’ll find him cheering on his grandchildren at baseball games. He also enjoys bow hunting and trapping coyotes. Whenever possible, Don travels to one of his favorite destinations: Payson, Arizona, a cool mountain town in the Tonto National Forest. Payson is home to the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo and a very scenic area of Arizona.

Don has several unique goals on his bucket list. He wants to hunt elk in Arizona. A permit is required for elk hunting and an annual lottery determines who gets the permits. Don also has plans to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Don was amazed by the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon when he visited. He hopes to someday hike down the South Rim.

Don is married to Sherri whom he met at the Onarga Best Supermarket when he worked there as a young adult. He has two children, Amanda and Jake and seven grandchildren.
Don recently purchased a paddle boat, so his grandchildren can paddle around the DelRey swamp located on his property.

Don’s favorite meal is steak and potatoes. Air conditioning in his home and vehicle is the modern convenience Don can’t live without.

These days Don has his hands full with his rambunctious dog, Sammy. Sammy is a Jagdterrier, which is a German-bred, tenacious terrier who is known for hunting wild boar, badger, fox and weasel. Don traveled to southern Oklahoma, just six miles from the Texas border to pick up Sammy. His pup is an extremely athletic dog, but according to Don, quite a pistol.

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Building Catherdrals

Next month’s national cooperative annual meeting will mark the end of the two-year tenure for Board President Phil Carson, who is a member of the Tri-County Electric Cooperative Board in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Phil is a super person, who is very humble, with many redeeming qualities (perhaps the best of which is that he is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan). Phil has also never met a stranger. He is the first person from Illinois to lead the national organization – quite an honor. Below is a portion of his last column published in the national cooperative magazine.

“At last year’s Annual Meeting, I talked about Cathedral Thinking, a philosophy based on the workers who helped build the world’s magnificent cathedrals but weren’t alive to see the final product.

Instead, they found satisfaction in their legacy – in the knowledge that they were part of something bigger than themselves. Our cooperative movement began 80 years ago to improve the quality of life for people in rural communities, and we continue to advance that mission every day, though it may look slightly different as our world evolves.

And as things change, we should remind ourselves what makes up the rock-solid foundation of our co-op cathedral: transparency, honesty, and doing things right. These will serve as the base for our cooperatives no matter what the future holds. They, along with an ongoing commitment to good governance and regular self-examination will help ensure we’re living up to the principles on which our movement was founded.
Remember that governance is not something you ever finish.”

Phil, on behalf of the members, employees, and directors of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, thank you for your commitment and service to the nation’s electric cooperatives.

Indeed, governance is something that is continual. EIEC undergoes an annual audit from an outside accounting firm. The auditors are just completing their work reviewing calendar year 2018 financials and performance. If each of us were to undergo an audit of our lives to this point – what would the audit reveal?

Using Phil’s analogy above, let us reflect on the cathedrals that each of us are building. What will our legacy be? Eastern Illini directors and employees are working hard and considering the future to leave the best possible legacy for future members.

As the calendar turns to springtime, stay safe and enjoy the spring growth and vibrant colors.

Cooperatively,

Bob Hunzinger

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Three DYI projects that save energy & money

Winter weather can have a big impact on your energy bills, hitting your pockets a little harder than you would have liked.

Now that spring is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to tackle a few DIY efficiency projects for your home. The good news: You don’t have to be an energy expert to do this!

There are several easy ways to save energy, but if you’re willing to take a hands-on approach, here are three projects you can do now to start saving.

Make the Most of Your Water Heater.
Let’s start with one of the easiest projects: insulating your water heater. Insulating a water heater that’s warm to the touch can save 7 to 16 percent annually on your water heating bills. If your water heater is new, it is likely already insulated. But if your water heater is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation.

You can purchase a pre-cut jacket or blanket for about $20. You’ll need two people for this project. Before you start, turn off the water heater. Wrap the blanket around the water heater and tape it to temporarily keep it in place. Use a marker to note the areas where the controls are so you can cut them out. Once the blanket is positioned correctly, tape it permanently in place, then turn the water heater back on. If you have an electric water heater, do not set the thermostat above 130 degrees to avoid overheating.

Seal Air Leaks with Caulk.
The average American family spends $2,000 annually on energy bills, but unfortunately, much of that money is wasted through air leaks in the home.
Applying caulk around windows, doors, electrical wiring and plumbing can save energy and money. Silicone caulking is the most popular, because it is waterproof, and won’t shrink or crack. Before applying new caulk, clean and remove old caulk. The area should be clean and dry before you apply the new caulk. Apply the caulk in a continuous stream, and make sure it sticks to both sides of the crack or seam. Afterwards, use a putty knife to smooth out the caulk, and wipe the surface with a dry cloth.

Weatherstrip Exterior Doors.
One of the best ways to seal air leaks is to weatherstrip exterior doors, which can keep out drafts and help you control energy costs. Make sure the weatherstripping you select can withstand temperature changes, friction and the general “wear and tear” for the location of the door. You’ll need separate materials for the door sweep and the top and sides. Measure each side of the door, then cut the weatherstripping to fit each section. Make sure the
weatherstripping fits snugly against both surfaces so it compresses when the door is closed. These simple projects, you can save energy and money.

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