78th Annual Meeting Recap

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78th Annual Meeting Recap

Held at the Rough Rider Center Arena in Watford City, ND, McKenzie Electric Cooperative’s 78th annual member meeting took place June 6th, 2023.

As attending members entered the event space, they were greeted with views of a mock distribution line created by McKenzie Electric line crews specifically for this year’s annual meeting. This display featured 25-foot poles that bracketed the stage and 15-foot poles angled towards the crowd. While many see power lines as they drive down county roads and highways of the area, a display with all the hardware typically displayed on McKenzie Electric distribution line provided an opportunity for members to see how electricity is distributed up close and personal.

Kicking off this year’s meeting, Jessie Veeder-Scofield, a Watford City area local and Nashville recording artist, entertained the crowd with live music as meals were served and guests found their seats. As a cooperative powering the Bakken and the people who call the area home, Jessie’s renowned single Boomtown was the perfect prelude to the cooperative business meeting. An excellent homecooked meal of shredded beef and cheesy potatoes, accompanied by watermelon and all the desserts you could imagine was served by local 4H Clubs while Jessie performed.

Various booths were on display throughout the meeting space to provide members information on how distribution hardware functions. Interns with the engineering department presented and educated attendees on fuses, underground elbows and cable, and other hardware typically concealed below ground or out of the view of the public. A consistent fan favorite, the mini-distribution display used at events like T4 provided a chance for members to view the functions of McKenzie Electric’s electrical hardware in a controlled, de-energized setting. This booth also displayed the gear cooperative employees use to keep them safe out in the field.

To accommodate McKenzie Electric members who have children, bouncy houses and activities were available in the Field House next to the RRC arena. Aside from an evening of bouncing around, goodie bags including plastic hard hats, lightning bolt stress relievers and stickers and magnets were provided to attending children.

McKenzie, and the surrounding counties, are home to many Veterans who have served in the Nation’s armed forces. Prior to the National Anthem performed by Jessie Veeder-Scofield, Veterans in the audience were asked to stand and be recognized for their service in protecting the country and it’s citizens. The business portion of the meeting followed, providing highlights of 2022 and how the cooperative navigated the various storms of the year.

“Weathering the Storm Together” was the theme of the 78th Annual Meeting and encompassed the various trials faced throughout 2022. While storms caused by weather are easy to recognize, issues such as material acquisition, inflation related challenges, and resource adequacy can quickly become storms of their own. Board President, Clayton Monsen (District 2B – Arnegard), shared an update on how the cooperative met these storms through long range planning and acquiring material well in advance of planned projects.

McKenzie Electric’s CEO, Matt Hanson, followed Monsen’s report diving into more detail on how pre-planning, and the ability to pivot resources insulated the membership from prolonged outages during storm events. Starting with the weather, Hanson highlighted two major winter events in 2022 – the April blizzard and the three weeks of frost and fog experienced in December.

The April blizzard was one of the worst winter weather conditions the cooperative has ever observed in its 78 years of operation. Freezing rain coupled with high winds and heavy snow quickly became a problem due to the weight on cooperative structures and how worsening road conditions impacted the ability of McKenzie Electric crews travelling to outage areas. Fortunately, the cooperative had material in place to remedy outages in short order. Since this storm, significant improvements have been made on how McKenzie Electric and its staff prepares and responds to these types of outages. Shortly after the April blizzard, a member facing outage portal was released to provide members real-time updates on outage restoration. Along with revamped internal processes and coordination between County Road crews, emergency management personnel, and communication providers, the cooperative was well prepared for the storm encountered in December.

Continuing through the theme, Hanson spoke in depth on matters such as supply chain challenges, physical and cyber security of cooperative infrastructure, and resource adequacy concerns as reported by the Southwest Power Pool. Looking to the future of the cooperative, Hanson introduced a project underway in 2023 that includes the addition of 100 megawatts of capacity in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation area. This project will include three new substations, approximately 60 miles of transmission line, and strategic replacement of conductor to increase reliability within the project zone.

Closing the CEO report, Hanson reported on the cost of power and the breakdown of where McKenzie Electric members’ dollar went. With nearly $0.90 cents of every dollar going towards power costs, this figure illustrates how the cooperative puts the member first by minimizing costs were possible without compromising the reliability of their service. Following the CEO Report, Lance Rambousek with Brady, Martz and Associates reported on the financial standing of McKenzie Electric which remained financially strong throughout 2022.

Each year, three directors are elected to their respective districts. Running unopposed, Travis Thompson (District 1C – Keene), Clayton Monsen (District 2B – Arnegard), and Ray Tescher (District 3A – Trotters/Homesteaders Gap) were reelected to their positions on the board.

As the key program harnessing the generosity of McKenzie Electric’s members, the Operation Round Up report was presented by two directors of the program, Kim Neprash and Nikki Darrington. Since the adoption of Operation Round Up by cooperative membership in 1998, over $250,000 has been distributed on behalf of the membership to individuals with emergency medical costs, aid for civic and charitable organizations, equipment upgrades to schools and parks, and new and necessary equipment for ambulance and rescue departments.

Closing the meeting, service awards were presented to cooperative employees who reached work anniversary milestones. They included Lynette Hanson – 40 years; Colt Rangen – 15 years; Jim Hansen – 15 years; Zane Frick – 10 years; Dan Marmon – 5 years; and Justin Bentz – 5 years. Following service awards, 2023 scholarship and student program winners were announced.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in the future of your cooperative, McKenzie Electric encourages every member to attend the next annual meeting. Stay tuned for the date announcement! Thank you to all the members in attendance, we look forward to seeing you next year at our 79th annual meeting!