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Message from the President: Preparing for future members

Our board chairman, Tom Schlatter, and I recently attended our regional electric cooperative meeting in Milwaukee. This meeting combines cooperatives from Region 5 (Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin) and Region 6 (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota).

In addition to the perfunctory business portions of the meetings relating to resolutions and elections, there is a lot of time devoted to education, training, and learning and sharing with other cooperatives.

Highlights included current and future challenges and opportunities related to how cooperatives are changing to meet the needs of future members. Here are a few of the areas important to members:

  • Battery storage
  • Broadband Internet
  • Carbon constraints
  • Member communication on various platforms
  • Member information needs and expectations
  • Rapid pace of changing technology
  • Renewable energy
  • Young adult member engagement

EIEC, like many of our fellow electric distribution cooperatives, is constantly evaluating items like those listed above and others to continue to provide safe, reliable, and valued services to our members and their communities in a cost-efficient manner.

Harvest Time
Harvest in our area is starting later than normal this year but will soon be in full swing. Please take time to work safely in all aspects of your operation.

Be aware of the locations of poles and power lines. Always treat all lines as energized. Never drive over downed power lines. Call us for assistance if there is an incident or if something seems abnormal – and then wait for trained personnel and help to arrive.

Please view the video on our website for more information about vehicle accidents involving downed power lines and staying safe: www.eiec.org/staying-safe-in-an-accident-involving-downed-power-lines/

Enjoy the weather pattern change to the fall season (and try not to think of the winter weather to follow).

Please take time to complete our annual survey on page 3 or you may complete it online at www.eiec.coop. We utilize survey results to ensure that we maintain our excellent level of service to our members.

Sincerely,

Bob Hunzinger

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Sharing Success Grant to Lake Iroquois

Lake Iroquois Association near Loda, Illinois is the most recent recipient of the Sharing Success program from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative and CoBank, a cooperative bank serving vital industries throughout rural America.

Lake Iroquois Association will receive $5,000 to help in the on-going maintenance of the lake and fish restocking after a devastating fish kill on July 8, 2018 when the 80 acre lake experienced a phenomena called inversion, also known as lake turnover, which reduced the oxygen levels in the water when the surface water cooled down quickly in turn causing the water and sediment on the lake’s bottom to rise causing the fish to die.

“We are member driven and community focused, “ said Mike Wilson, Vice President of Member and Community Relations for Eastern Illini. “When I heard about the fish kill at Lake Iroquois and the devastation to the ecosystem, it just made sense to find a way to help the association and the 240 EIEC members who live at the lake.”

“We are grateful to Eastern Illini and CoBank for their commitment to supporting Lake Iroquois,” said Jim Shearl, Lake Iroquois Association board member. We restocked the lake with 1,000 channel catfish and 1,000 large-mouth bass this spring and plan to add walleye and red sun fish this fall. This generous contribution will be beneficial to our on-going restoration process.”

Eastern Illini’s donations were matched by CoBank through its Sharing Success program. Sharing Success was established in 2012 to celebrate the International Year of the Cooperative. Since the program’s inception, CoBank and its customers have together provided more than $36 million in support to charitable organizations. CoBank has increased the annual matching fund to $4 million in 2019, which is beneficial to communities served by electric cooperatives across the nation.

“Sharing Success has had a broader and deeper impact than we ever imagined,” said Aaron Johnson, CoBank’s vice president of the electric distribution division. “We are delighted with the growing participation in the program by our customers, and deeply grateful to them for their assistance in identifying worthy charitable causes deserving of our support.”

If you are aware of a 501 (c) (3) or a non-profit organization that is located in the Eastern Illini service territory that could benefit from a Sharing Success Grant, call Mike Wilson at 800-824-5102 to obtain an application.

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October is National Cooperative Month

When you think of October, pumpkins, Halloween and beautiful fall foliage naturally come to mind. But October is notable for another reason – it’s National Co-op Month! This is the time of year when cooperatives across the country, including Eastern Illini, celebrate who we are and more importantly, the members we serve.

Cooperatives are different than other types of businesses. When the market declines to offer a product or service, or does so at a very high price, co-ops intervene to fill the need.

Similar to how Eastern Illini was built by members who came together to bring electricity to our community, cooperatives are conveners for the common good. Your electric co-op exists to provide safe and reliable energy to you, the members of the co-op. Equally important is our mission to enrich the lives of the members we serve.

As a co-op, we are well-suited to meet the needs of the community because we are locally governed. Eastern Illini’s leadership team and employees live right here in the community. Our board of directors, who helps set long-term priorities for the co-op, live locally on co-op lines. These board members have been elected to the position by neighbors like you.

We know our members (that’s you!) have a valuable perspective. That’s why we are continually seeking your input. Whether through community events, our social media channels or the annual meeting, we want to hear from you.

Our close connection to the community ensures we get a first-hand perspective on local priorities, thereby enabling us to make more informed decisions on long-term investments, such as electric vehicles, and equipment and technology upgrades.

Another feature that sets our co-op apart from a traditional utility is one of our core principles, “Concern for Community.” Eastern Illini gave $5,000 to the Lake Iroquois Association to help cover the cost of replacing fish in the lake and a portion of the funds will be used for an ecosystem maintenance program.

We also participate in the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, where we take our community’s young people to Washington, D.C. for a week-long immersion to experience democracy in action. This year four high school students made the trip.

Ultimately, the larger community benefits from these programs because of you and your neighbors. You empower the co-op through your membership and through your participation in and support of these programs.

We hope you will think of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative as more than your energy provider, but instead as a local business that supports this community and powers economic development and prosperity for the people. We will continue to learn from our members about their priorities so that we can better serve you – because your electric co-op was built by the community, for the community.

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It’s the Co-op Calling

As a member of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative you have access to 24/7 service from us and you can always reach someone by phone any time day or night. If you call us at 1-800-824-5102 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. you will hear the following recorded message:

Welcome to Eastern Ilini your local, member driven and community focused electric cooperative. We’re glad you called, and we are ready to help. This call may be recorded as part of our commitment to quality service.

Did you know you can view and pay your bill with your smart phone or computer? It’s a great way to track your electric use and even report an outage. Ask one of our Member Care Representatives about how to get started with SmartHub.

If you know your party’s extension, enter it now or choose from the following:

To make a payment with our automated system, PRESS 1,

To report a power outage, PRESS 2,

To speak with our operations group about outdoor lighting, new service construction, or to report downed power lines, PRESS 3.

For all other issues, stay on the line and a Member Care Representative will assist you.

To reach the automated system directly call 1-888-836-2352.

Anytime Monday – Friday, before 7:30 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. and on weekends, you can speak with our after hours service who will assist you with any request.

You will receive an automated phone call from us whenever a planned outage may be needed for system maintenance. Besides receiving a phone call, we will also send you an email message.

That’s why it is so important to be sure we have a good phone number on file for you, so you don’t miss out on these important messages! We realize many members have disconnected their landlines and now use only cell phones. Email addresses also often change, so keep us informed by giving us a call at 1-800-824-5102 and confirm that your contact information is current and correct.

We encourage all Eastern Illini members to consider signing up for SmartHub. SmartHub is a convenient and easy to use on line system that provides information from your computer and smart phone.

You can view or pay your monthly electric bill and so much more! SmartHub lets you report an outage, get updated outage information, update your account or contact information, view your hourly, daily, and monthly electric use, and receive bill reminders. And, SmartHub is free!

Please be aware that Eastern Illini will never call a member and demand immediate payment of your electric bill or ask for a credit card for payment over the phone.

Several members have reported that they have received calls claiming their bills are past due and payment is due immediately. Any request to pay your bill in this way, or by wiring money is a scam and should be reported. Call us if you are suspicious of the call or have questions.

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Downed power lines in a accident? STAY SAFE!

If you come across a downed power line, stay as far away from it as you can and call 911 and Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative at 1-800-824-5102. Assume it is live. Never touch a downed power line or anything near it. Do not drive over down power lines. Should a power line fall on your car when you’re driving, slowly continue to move completely clear of it. If your car can’t move away from the power line, stay in the car until help arrives. If a person or pet comes in contact with a power line, stay clear and call 911 immediately. Do not touch them or the wire. This video shows what happens when your vehicle crashes into a power pole.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLVzvMTgGDY

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Message from the President: Sharing of Ideas

The Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) recently held their annual meeting in early August in Springfield. Cooperative directors and staff from across the state attend this event. Among the many excellent topics, there was a presentation that was especially pertinent to the rural areas served by electric cooperatives.

We have all heard and seen many examples in our local region of the decline of rural small cities, towns, villages, and the surrounding communities.

It was heartwarming to hear the views and work of Zachary Mannheimer and others with McClure Engineering Company (based in Iowa). Their place maker group works with rural communities and towns to revitalize and establish viable businesses that will hopefully attract and retain millennials and the younger generations who will establish roots in these areas.

Various surveys show that the younger generations want to move out of the cities and into more rural areas. Some of the key drivers mentioned included:

– Access to hi-speed internet service
– Flexible work hours
– Recreational activities
– Connecting across generations
– Cultural amenities and other related activities important to them

Interestingly, many of the successful examples cited included microbreweries serving as a catalyst for or spin-off from development. It is good to know there is activity to improve rural areas.

Passing the torch
At a recent EIEC employee safety meeting, a panel of retirees (with retirement dates ranging from 1997 to 2017) regaled current employees with humor, stories, lessons learned, and advice. Many of the retirees commented on the number of new (and young) faces in the audience.

Included among the various themes discussed were:
– The importance of safety in all aspects of the co-op
– Appreciation for the opportunity to work for EIEC and the pride they had in serving and representing members (who are the cooperative’s owners)
– Sharing of work practices and cooperation among cooperatives both statewide and nationally
– Changing technology over the years and the increasing pace of change
– Awareness of generational change and differences among employees
– The culture, spirit, and family nature of EIEC and of co-ops in general

As current employees, we are doing our best to continue the cooperative principles and legacy of over 80 years of dedicated service by employees throughout the years to our members.

We hope you will take time to enjoy the cooler weather as we transition into early fall on the calendar.

Cooperatively,

Bob Hunzinger

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Ways to Have a Safe Harvest

Farm work continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farming is the 6th most dangerous occupation in America. Unfortunately, almost 58,000 adults are injured each year doing farm work and 29 are killed. Over the next few months, farmers will be working longer hours – starting their days before sunrise without resting until long after the sun sets. There will be slow moving tractors, oversized combines, and grain loaded trucks in the fields and on the country roads and also on heavily traveled roadways.

To ensure you and your favorite farmer are safe during the upcoming harvest, follow these farm safety tips:

MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT

Most farm accidents and deaths involve outdated machinery that lack safety features. Make sure your equipment is maintained according to the manufacturers’ recommendations to prevent rollovers and accidents. Have farm trucks serviced regularly. Conduct a safety check before taking the combine to the field.

BE ALERT ON THE ROAD

Most accidents happen at dawn or dusk, as they are commuting times for drivers. They happen most often when a driver attempts to pass a slow-moving vehicle, or does not realize a farmer is turning or stopping. Drivers need to allow adequate time and distance for farm equipment to make wide turns. Farm machinery typically travels at 25 mph or less, so drivers need to be prepared to slow down to avoid a rear-end collision. Drivers of farm equipment should turn on their flashing lights and use slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs to draw attention to equipment traveling at slow speeds. Be careful of soft edges on the roadway when moving over to allow vehicles to pass.

HAVE A PLAN FOR GRAIN BIN SAFETY

Train and educate farm workers on grain storage hazards and risks involved when entering a grain storage bin. Follow safe bin entry practices like Lock Out Tag Out and utilize a lifeline system. Have an emergency action plan in case an accident happens and make sure everyone on your farm is trained to follow it. There should always be a person outside the bin anytime someone is entering the bin.

GET PLENTY OF REST, EAT HEALTHY, AND TAKE BREAKS

Drink plenty of fluids and have healthy snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up. Don’t push yourself past healthy limits. Accidents are more likely to happen once fatigue sets in. Drive the combine only while you are alert and aware of your surroundings. Hours of steady operation can lull you into a hypnotic state. To avoid dangerous situations, schedule a break for all workers every two to three houses. Change jobs with someone else who can run the combine for awhile. Accidents are more likely to happen once fatigue or dehydration sets in.

TELL YOUR FAMILY & OTHERS WHERE YOU’LL BE WORKING AND WHEN

Keep the lines of communication open. Always have a cell phone on you in case of emergencies. Do your part to make this a safe and healthy harvest season.

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Advanced Technology Enhances Electric Service

It’s a new school year and students and teachers are getting ready for a fresh year of learning!

From kindergarten through college, students attend school to gain knowledge about a broad variety of subjects and learn new skills that will prepare them for the future. Teachers provide that knowledge along with a welcoming environment for learning.

In a similar vein, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative is continually learning in order to advance technology that improves electric service, reliability, safety and in turn, enhances quality of life for the members we serve in our local communities throughout our 10 county service territory.

We keep abreast of industry trends because the energy sector is rapidly changing. Innovations in technology and energy types are fueling demand for more options. On the member front, people are looking for more ways to manage their energy use with smart technologies. Members expect more convenient payment methods – whether through automatic bill pay, pre-pay, online or in person.

At Eastern Illini, we’re working to help sift through the options for our members in ways that benefit the greater community. At the same time, we never lose sight of the top priority–which is to provide safe and reliable electricity.

Technology improves efficiency at EIEC

For example, automated meter reading (AMR) is the technology of automatically collecting energy consumption data and transferring it from the electric meter to the co-op. Because this information can be collected remotely, it enhances our system’s efficiency, helps control costs and improves work processes.

Similar to AMR, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is an integrated system
of smart meters, communications networks and data management systems that enables two-way communication between utilities and consumers. In the event of an outage, AMI helps to distinguish between events that impact a single home or multiple outages. This is critical because resolving either issue is a very different process. The two-way communication is integral to AMI because it provides a means to verify that power has been restored after an outage. However, one of the biggest benefits from improved technologies, especially for outages caused by extreme weather is pinpointing the outage location, which helps to reduce risk for crews.

In addition to providing essential information during major outages, Eastern Illini analyzes AMI data for anomalies including faults, damaged meters or energy theft. Detecting these problems early helps our cooperative save money and improve reliability for the whole community.

Member’s interest in renewables is at an all-time high. Nationally, the increasing use of solar energy is paving the way for new methods of generating and using electricity. U.S. energy experts say we won’t be able to meet national energy goals without solar. That’s why we continue to research how best to adjust our energy mix and explore emerging technologies for members.

At Eastern Illini, our “school year” is never over. We continue to learn from our members about their priorities, and we will continue to research the issues so that we can better serve you, now and in the future.

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