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.


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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Keep an eye out for the new bill design

Eastern Illini members shared with us they want to see more in-depth information about their electrical use including average temperatures compared to daily electric use. We agreed and gathered members’ thoughts and good ideas and incorporated them into a redesigned electric bill that more clearly provides the information in a concise and easy to read format.

Prior to the bill being distributed, we want to answer some upfront questions related to the bill redesign.

Why is EIEC redesigning its bill?
The last major redesign of EIEC’s bill occurred more than 20 years ago.
A minor change to the way information was reported saw modifications to the EIEC invoice six years ago, so we felt it was time for some enhancements and improvements that benefit members.

Using member feedback, we wanted to update the bill with a modern look and feel and provide useful information that is easier to find and understand.

How did Eastern Illini come up with the new bill design?
Through a series of focus groups involving members, employees, and others, we gathered feedback. The redesigned bill combines this valuable input, and industry best practices, resulting in a new bill that makes it easier to understand and manage your energy costs.

What are the key enhancements that have been made as part of the bill redesign?
• More color has been incorporated throughout the bill to improve readability and highlight important messages.

• Key information like your balance, due date, and payment options are prominently displayed. Historical data and daily electric use are prominently displayed.

• The new bill design is accessible through SmartHub, so you can pull it up on your phone, computer, or tablet wherever and whenever. We encourage you to sign up for SmartHub at www.eiec.coop.

• In-depth graphs in color will provide monthly temperature information, so you can see your daily use in comparison to average temperatures.

Will my account information change as part of the bill redesign?
No, member account information will NOT change. Your account number and meter number(s) will remain the same.

Will I still be able to pay my bill the same way?
Yes. How you pay is your choice. We offer many convenient ways to pay your electric bill. Those numerous options are still available.

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Would your home pass an electrical inspection?

If you’re getting ready to sell your home or just wondering how electrically sound it is, there are some general guidelines out there to assess the condition of your home’s wiring and electrical bones. Although it varies depending on where you live, most local codes follow the National Electric Code (NEC).

The NEC is an industry-specific document that outlines required practices for all aspects of residential and commercial electrical installation.

Local code always wins out when there are variances, so be sure to check with a qualified electrician or local building department for specific code requirements.

Electrical malfunction is dangerous. U.S. fire departments respond to more than 45,000 home structure fires annually that involve electrical failure or malfunction. Home fires result in 420 deaths, 1,370 injuries and an annual $1.4 billion in direct property damage.

In general, here are some all-house guidelines that an inspector would look for. Remember they may or may not align with your local electrical code but they are NEC-mandated. If your home has any of the following defects, it may not pass an electrical safety inspection:

• Old knob-and-tube, along with BX cable wiring, common from 1880 to 1930.

• New lights installed into old wiring.

• Overcrowded wires producing excess heat or spliced wires that were illegally installed (they must be installed by an approved method).

• Broken or missing carbon monoxide detectors or smoke alarms.

• Non-insulated/non-contact-rated recessed lights that touch attic insulation, which is a fire hazard.

• Improper overcurrent protection, which means the breaker or fuse is too large for the wire rating.

• Improper grounding and bonding of electrical panels and devices.

Here are some other kitchen and bathroom specific things to consider:

• Does your electric range, cook top or oven have a dedicated 240-volt circuit?

• Does your microwave, refrigerator, and garbage disposal each have its own circuit?

• Are outlets GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters)? GFCIs are designed to protect people from electric shock around water.

• Does your combination fan and light have its own 20-amp circuit?

• Do the light fixtures in the shower or tub area have a “lens” cover? Are they moisture resistant?

• Does each room have a wall switch installed beside the entry door?

• Are outlets installed no farther than 12 feet apart?

• Are ceiling fixtures controlled by a wall switch and not just a pull chain?

There are also hallway, staircase and garage code requirements, as well as those for the electrical service panel and wiring. It’s always a good idea to have an electrician inspect your home.

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People to Know: Paul Crutcher

Many of us have seen the movies Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide, and other submarine films, but very few of us can say we’ve lived in a submarine.

Eastern Illini electrical engineer, Paul Crutcher, spent six years in the Navy and he lived aboard the USS Charlotte, a 360-foot-long, 6,900-ton submarine. Paul was a nuclear field electrician who managed electrical aspects of the nuclear power plant on the USS Charlotte. His stint in the Navy had him stationed for most of the time in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Paul is from Fairbury, Illinois and graduated from Prairie Central High School. He joined the Navy right out of high school and followed in the footsteps of many family members who served in the military. After serving in the Navy, Paul graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in electrical engineering.

These days, Paul spends his time as an electrical engineer for EIEC. He joined the cooperative in June of 2018 after spending seven years working for Ameren.

Paul uses his technical abilities to enhance and maintain a well-designed, soundly constructed and reliable electrical system for EIEC members. He is responsible for overseeing long and short-range distribution system planning, design, inspection and reliability. Paul has oversight of the engineering services department personnel, managing mapping and system engineering software operations, and analyzing opportunities and new technology to improve overall system reliability and operations.

Paul reports to Brad Smith, Vice President of Operations and Engineering and together they work to enhance and improve the electrical infrastructure of 4,500 miles of line in a ten-county service territory. Safe and reliable electricity 24/7 is the mantra in the operations and engineering department of Eastern Illini.

Paul also works with Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and smart grid efficiencies including prioritization of electrical system improvements. He is just finishing updating an electronic mapping system that interacts with the technology used by linemen and servicemen and provides accurate, robust, and easy to use data that enhances the ability to predict outages. The electronic mapping data is updated monthly to keep information current.

In his role at EIEC, Paul is involved in renewable energy. He works with policies, procedures, and processes regarding solar installations. He assists with savings estimations, service quality assurance, and third party installation crews.

Paul really likes the hands-on aspects of his position and enjoys the ability to make a difference with members. He always strives to make a positive impact on their interaction with the engineering department.

Paul and his wife, Rachel, reside in Paxton and have three children: Timothy, age 4; Joseph, age 2; and Lori, age 10 months.

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