Three incumbents were re-elected to the Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative board of trustees, with results announced July 17 at the organization’s 82nd annual meeting at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington.
Over a 30-day period, 1,619 members cast ballots by voting online or a mail ballot.
In an address to the membership, board president John Eaton congratulated the three incumbent trustees on their election to another three-year term. “For the first time in 21 years, LMRE had two contested races,” Eaton said. “This level of involvement is healthy for the cooperative.”
In District 8, Keith Lowe defeated David Bertram. Both are residents of Spencer Township. Lowe, 70, has been a member of the LMRE since 1997. He owns KEL Nutrition and serves as a nutritional consultant for the agricultural industry. District 8 includes Homer and Spencer townships and Spencer village in Medina County, and Canaan and Congress townships plus the village of Burbank in Wayne County.
In the District 5 race, which encompasses LaGrange Township in Lorain County, Judy Pickworth defeated Kathleen Duplaga. Pickworth, 66, is a retired middle school and high school teacher. She begins her 13th year on the board.
In District 2, James McConnell, 72, of Pittsfield Township, ran uncontested. He is part-owner and operator of Hickory Grove Farms. McConnell has been on the cooperative board since 1997. District 2 includes Camden, Henrietta, New Russia, and Pittsfield townships in Lorain County and Florence Township in Erie County.
The event, which featured children activities, a petting zoo, a reptile show, electric safety demonstrations, and dinner, attracted about 1,600 members and guests.
General manager Markus Bryant said about 62 percent of LMRE’s main power lines have been replaced since 2000.
An ongoing challenge is keeping rates affordable with little or no growth in new members, he said; over a 20-year period, the cooperative used to average 300 to 350 new services a year but since 2008 there has been a dramatic drop-off in the number of annual new services. With a modest increase in the number of services the past two years, the cooperative is optimistic a new trend is developing.
“That’s one of the reasons we need a $2 per month increase in the basic service charge each year,” Bryant said. “We need to invest about $3 million a year in the system to maintain the quality of our electric service.”
To strengthen its electric distribution system, the cooperative is working through a four-to-five-year, $18 million construction work plan that calls for a new substation and construction of a fiber optic ring to improve communications between the office and its substations.
Bryant said the continual investment in the distribution system makes LMRE one of the largest property taxpayers in Lorain, Medina, and Ashland counties. As a result, the cooperative’s property tax has nearly tripled since 1999 to $1.5 million.
Treasurer Keith Lowe said in a video shown to the membership the cooperative refunded more than $1.2 million in patronage capital credits in 2017. Since 1982, the cooperative has refunded more than $24 million in capital credits.
“Our rates are competitive and yet we still refund margins to our members,” Lowe said. “That’s part of the value of being a cooperative member.”