Gierszewski Retires

Connie Gierszewski retired in June after 35 years of serving the members with contagious energy and enthusiasm. If you have stopped by our office during the last three-and-a-half decades, you’ve likely had the pleasure of speaking with Connie.            

Connie started with Nodak in 1982 as a computer operator. Her job duties changed over the years, but her eagerness to help members and co-workers never changed. She was promoted to billing supervisor in 1994, and held the position until recently.

“Connie has always treated our members with compassion and was our ‘go-to person’ with any questions or problems,” said Blaine Rekken, Member/Energy Services Manager. “We greatly appreciate all she has done to help the cooperative and members throughout the years. She will be greatly missed.”

Connie, her husband, Joe, and son, Blake, plan to spend some summer days with friends and family at their favorite place on Fox Lake. She also will be working “part-time” with Joe at his company, Joe Fix-It. When she is not at the lake or working, she attends pottery class, Yoga and plans to try golfing.

Congratulations and best wishes to Connie.

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Know What’s Below

Summer is officially in full swing, which means it is time to dig into those outdoor projects. But, before homeowners and landowners start those projects, they need to call 811 to locate any underground utilities. Calling 811 is free and ensures that property owners can dig safely without cutting into a fiber optic cable or severing an underground electric line.

Whether it is a homeowner tackling a do-it-yourself project or a professional contractor, the person who is actually doing the digging should call 811 before starting the project. The call must be made 48 hours before the project begins – excluding weekends and holidays – to ensure local utilities have enough time to locate the buried lines.

Homeowners who are simply planting a garden at a depth less than 12 inches are not required to call 811 before they plant their produce. The North Dakota 811 system takes information about digging projects 24 hours a day and seven days a week and then passes the information on to the appropriate gas company, cable company, or an electric cooperative like Nodak Electric. Those utilities have 48 hours to locate the lines and mark the ground with the appropriate colored paint. This is a completely free service.

Utility companies, however, are only required to mark the buried lines that they own and operate and not the lines that are privately owned. This means Nodak Electric crews will mark the underground lines that run from a main electric line to the meter but not the lines that run from the meter through a yard to a home, shed or shop.

Professional electricians and private locating companies will do this work but often charge a fee for locating the buried lines. The fee, however, is small in comparison to cutting into a gas line or electric line and creating a dangerous situation and being held responsible for the repairs.

Following these rules and safety practices will help homeowners avoid digging into buried lines and ensure that digging into those summer projects will be safe and enjoyable.

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New Hire

Blaine Thompson has been hired as a commercial accounts supervisor.

Blaine was previously employed by May-Port CG High School as a math teacher.  A Bismarck, N.D., native, Blaine graduated from Century High School and went on to earn a math degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Blaine and his wife, Paige, currently live in Grand Forks.

In his spare time, Blaine enjoys being outdoors playing golf, spending time with family and attending UND hockey games.

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What’s On That Pole?

You probably don’t pay much attention to the utility poles found throughout Nodak’s service territory, but did you know these tall structures are the backbone of our distribution network? Strong, sturdy utility poles ensure a reliable electric system, which is why we routinely inspect the thousands of poles found on our lines.

Throughout the year, our crews check poles for decay caused by exposure to the elements. They know which poles are oldest and conduct inspections through a rotational process. Typically, a standard wooden distribution pole is expected to last more than 50 years. Occasionally, poles need to be replaced for other reasons besides decay and old age. Weather disasters, power line relocation, car crashes and machinery damage are potential causes for immediate replacement.

When a pole needs to be replaced, crews will start the process by digging a hole, typically next to the pole being replaced. The depth of the new hold must be at least 6 feet of the new poles height. Next, the new pole must be fitted with bolts, crossarms, insulators, ground wires and arm braces – all of the necessary parts for delivering safe and reliable electricity. Then, crews safely detach the power lines from the old pole. The new pole is then raised and guided carefully into position, and the lines are attached, leaving the new pole to do its job.

So, the next time you come across a Nodak crew replacing a pole, use caution and know that this process ensures a more reliable electric system for you, our members.

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All Seasons Garden Center

Temperatures are warming up, flowers are blooming and the planting season is upon us.

Whether you are looking to beautify your lawn this summer or simply want a bouquet of flowers, All Seasons Garden Center in Grand Forks is ready with a wide array of products and services. For nearly four decades, All Seasons, a Nodak Electric Cooperative member, has been providing the region with floral arrangements for fresh and silk flowers, landscaping and nursery services, a well-stocked garden store and an amazing gift shop. The family-owned business even offers community garden plots for you to do your own planting this spring.

As its name would suggest, All Seasons is a year-round operation that prides itself on producing its own annuals, perennials, the majority of its shrubs, and even decorative mums and poinsettias during the winter. The company is the only local florist with continuously running greenhouses.

In addition to a great selection, All Seasons boasts knowledgeable and personable service. That level of service attracts passionate and loyal customers from across North Dakota, Minnesota and other areas of the country.

Visit All Seasons at 5101 South Washington Street in Grand Forks, or learn more at www.allseasonsgardencenter.net.

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See Something, Say Something

There is a well-known proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. What is meant by that is a child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child. In all aspects the village takes an active role in teaching, nurturing and protecting the child.

In much the same way, we take that approach to electrical safety at Nodak. The idea is that safety is everyone’s business and their most important responsibility. Each employee needs to act in a safe manner so they don’t get injured and so they don’t hurt anyone else, but it’s also incumbent upon every employee to do the best we can to ensure our co-workers don’t hurt themselves. From this aspect, co-worker safety can come from seasoned employees properly training others by passing along the knowledge they’ve gained through experience, or it could come from a new employee speaking up about something they see as a potential hazard. Together we look out for each other’s safety.

It’s also a high priority at Nodak to do what we can to help our members stay safe. Electrical accidents and fires in homes across the country are responsible for thousands of injuries and electrocutions annually. To do our part to bring those numbers down, we frequently provide safety content in our newsletters and our social media. We also take great care to construct and maintain an electrical distribution network that meets all codes and requirements and is as safe as possible from the public’s perspective.

Thisis where you come in. Although we continually watch for potential hazards on our system, sometimes you may notice an issue before we do. Vehicles can damage electrical equipment without de-energizing it, or sometimes nature can cause overhead wires to hang lower than they should, or even fall to the ground. We would like you to join the village and help us keep everyone safe by contacting us if you see any potentially dangerous situation. With your help, we can make sure everyone goes home safely.

Electricity doesn’t have to be unsafe, but it is unforgiving. As long as we treat it with the caution and protocol it demands, it is safe and it does its job to better our lives. If we don’t treat it properly, its unforgiving nature can have disastrous consequences. In short, that is why we continually try to raise awareness about the dangers of electricity. We all depend on electricity to power our lives, but accidents can happen. With your help, we can reduce those numbers and enjoy the benefits of safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

Thank you for doing your part to stay safe and promote electrical safety.

 

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Grant Program Opportunity

The Rural Development Finance Corporation (RDFC) is pleased to announce it has approved a 2017 grant allotment of $2,000 available to Nodak Electric Cooperative, Inc., to be used to support community-owned entities, non-profits and community-based projects.

  • Eligible projects: include community-owned businesses (café, grocery store, motel, other); community facilities (such as ambulance services, fire districts, recreation, hospital/clinic, community center, etc.); or community-based projects (such as school/youth projects, other) that benefit rural areas.
  • Matching funds: $4 of other funds to every $1 of RDFC funds.
  • Maximum/minimum grant amounts: The minimum grant amount is $500; the maximum is $2,000 for year 2017.

For more information or to apply, please call Gretchen Schmaltz at 1-800-732-4373.

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Youth Tour Winner To Visit Washington, D.C.

Isaac Joerger was selected to represent Nodak Electric Cooperative at the 2017 Washington, D.C., Youth Tour. Isaac is the son of Bob and Melanie Joerger of Mayville, N.D., and is home schooled. He will join other North Dakota Youth Tour contestants and more than 1,600 other students from across the country in D.C. the week of June 10-16. The Youth Tour educates students about electric cooperatives, the cooperative business model and the legislative process. He will have an incredible experience visiting unforgettable historic monuments, museums and the U.S. Capitol.

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Your Small Change Makes A Big Difference!

Operation Round Up® is a program that rounds up members’ monthly electric bills to the next whole dollar amount. The resulting funds are put into a special account to assist others in need. The funds collected through Operation Round Up are used for a variety of projects, programs and items throughout the Nodak service area.

The Round Up board meets quarterly and considers each application that has been received since the previous meeting. It awards funds to the applicants based on how well the application fits the original funding guidelines: 1. Individuals or families in crisis; 2. Services – ambulance and fire; 3. Community youth needs with emphasis on permanent benefit; 4. Scholarships with emphasis on re-education of displaced agricultural people; 5. Senior needs with emphasis on permanent benefit; and 6. No requests for funding of utility and space heating energy will be accepted.

Operation Round Up is a voluntary program with roughly 60 percent of the 14,386 members participating. Since the program started, a total of $778,384 has been distributed to individuals  and organizations throughout the Nodak Electric service area.

2016 Recipients and Dollar amounts

Doug Clifton  1,000
Jaxon Dietz 490
Jordan Haydon 145
Leslie Hensrud 500
Francine McClendon 600
Christian Nelson 1,137
James Ottem 458
RayAn Osowski 1,000
Lalo Perez 1,000
Luke Riley 2,000
Linda Schwols 1,000
Linda Scott 280
BreAnn Ziegelmann 2,000
Altru Ambulance Service 125
Aneta Ambulance Service 125
Binford Ambulance Service 125
Cooperstown Ambulance Service 125
Drayton Ambulance Service 125
Finley Ambulance Service 125
Fordville Ambulance Service 125
Hillsboro Ambulance Service 125
Hoople Ambulance Service 125
Hope Ambulance Service 125
Lake Region Ambulance Service 125
Lakota Ambulance Service 125
Larimore Ambulance Service 125
McVille Ambulance Service 125
Michigan Ambulance Service 125
Northwood Ambulance Service 125
Pembina County Ambulance Service 125
St. Ansgar Hospital Ambulance Service 125
Valley Ambulance & Rescue Squad 125
West Traill Ambulance Service 125
Grafton HS After Prom Party 50
Devils Lake HS After Prom Party 50
Cavalier HS After Prom Party 50
Central Valley HS After Prom Party 50
Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page HS After Prom Party 50
Park River HS After Prom Party 50
Red River HS After Prom Party 50
Dakota Prairie HS After Prom Party 50
Midway HS After Prom Party 50
Larimore HS After Prom Party 50

Northwood & Hatton HS After Prom Party 50
Edmore HS After Prom Party 50
Thompson HS After Prom Party 50
Valley-Edinburg HS After Prom Party 50
Minto HS After Prom Party 50
Drayton HS After Prom Party 50
Fordville-Lankin HS After Prom Party 50
GF Central HS After Prom Party 50
Myron Anderson 500
Ryan Erickson 165
Alexis Everson 500
Austin Gray 480
Earl Grise 773
Owen Hayden 165
Leslie Johnson 500
Shane Krom 70
Hunter Landreville 750
Carlene Peltier 500
Jazmyn Raysor 650
Connor Soeby 250
Orin Soli 1,000
Kari Spivack 380
Frank Votava 910
Janet Werven 270
Gary Woinarowicz 750
Donnada Aipperspach 1,195
Garrett Barclay 460
Christie Carlson 1,000
Jared Carpenter 2,000
Emiliano Contreras 1,000
Donald Jensen 1,500
Archer Lemer 1,000
Tami Ostlie 500
Tobiason Ripley 630
Nicholas Titus 500
Anthony Wagner 2,000
Leo & Lenore Beauchamp 1,700
Community Violence Intervention Center 1,000
Sylvester Grabinski 550
Robert Laney 284
Gail Nash 135
Debra Nygaard 285
Harlan Strand 1,000

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Message To Our Members

Finding the proper blend of resources for our wholesale power mix can be a delicate task. Each source has pros and cons associated with it, such as varying costs, reliability, availability and environmental impacts. That is one reason we believe the best approach for our membership is what’s been termed an “all of the above approach.” Each of North Dakota’s various natural resources has unique benefits that the others may not, so utilizing all types of North Dakota’s bountiful natural resources, including coal, wind, natural gas and hydroelectric has long been our approach. This diversity in generation sources helps to insulate us from the impact of targeted environmental rules, unplanned outages and changes in market conditions.

Elsewhere in this report, you will see that 42 percent of our wholesale power mix now comes from renewable sources. At the end of 2016, our wholesale power provider, Minnkota Power Cooperative, commissioned an additional 100 megawatts of wind capacity from the Oliver III wind farm near

Center, N.D. With the addition of these 100 megawatts, wind now accounts for 34 percent of the generation capacity, hydroelectric from the Garrison Dam makes up another 8 percent and another 55 percent comes from North Dakota lignite coal. To take advantage of this diversity, we have begun offering our Infinity Renewable Energy Program to those members who would like to purchase up to 100 percent of their energy from these renewable sources.

The addition of more wind energy is in part a response to the strong federal government push away from coal. Although we believe that North Dakota’s bountiful coal deposits provide a great resource for clean, affordable electricity, the environmental push toward a more carbon-constrained world is a stark reality and one the nation will move toward. To keep rates low, reliability high and North Dakota’s economy strong, coal needs to remain part of the nation’s resource mix for the long term. The new administration’s approach to environmental regulation gives us hope that the Clean Power Plan regulation implemented under the Obama Administration will be redrawn in a more thoughtful, deliberate way, so we can maintain our “all of the above strategy” into the future.

When we look back on 2016 from an operational perspective, I think we would characterize it as one of mixed results. One of the warmest winters on record and a cool wet summer in parts of our service territory helped keep kilowatt-hour sales lower despite healthy growth in new services. Although we posted a net increase of 329 new members and 373 new service locations, we ended 2016 with kilowatt-hour sales down 2.3 percent from 2015. Consistent growth in membership leaves us optimistic that sales will be robust when weather patterns return to something we would consider more North Dakota normal.

In April 2016, we adjusted our rates by 5 percent in response to a wholesale power cost increase from April 2015. Since the end of 2014, we have been using our Revenue Deferral Plan to help stabilize your rates. Through long-term planning, we’ve been able to delay the impacts of millions of dollars in wholesale power cost increases to our membership. With wholesale power now accounting for more than 84 percent of our total expenses, managing how these costs are passed along is a critical part of keeping your rates affordable.

Technology is one of the ways we continue to work to provide better service at a reduced cost. Consequently, we are excited about the introduction of SmartHub in 2016. SmartHub is an app that allows member access to account information 24 hours a day. With SmartHub, members can now view and compare hour-by-hour usage, pay bills or interact with your cooperative right from your phone, tablet or computer. The availability of this data helps members analyze their own energy usage to confirm when and why power was used.

Cost is one of our most important performance measures; however, reliability is also an important aspect to providing a good value for membership. In this vein, we are happy to report that our wholesale power provider, Minnkota Power Cooperative, is planning $1.4 million in blink mitigation updates to their transmission system in Nodak’s service territory during the first quarter of 2017. These updates will help lessen the number of interruptions our membership have due to lightning activity and wildlife contacts.

In closing, we just want to point out that while 2016 wasn’t a record year by most measures, it certainly was a good one. We met all our financial requirements, we kept rates affordable, kept the power on and sent everyone home from work without serious injuries. Thank you for your patronage this past year and more importantly, all your support on issues important to your cooperative. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve and work with you this past year.

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2016 Youth Tour

During the 2016 electric cooperative Youth Tour, Britton Bina joined 1,600 fellow youth representing cooperatives from across the nation June 11-17 in Washington, D.C. Nodak Electric sponsored Bina.

The action-packed tour included visits to the Smithsonian Museums, Lincoln Memorial Museum, National World War II Museum, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Newseum, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon. Another highlight was a riverboat cruise along the Potomac River. In addition to sightseeing, Bina and the other 14 North Dakotans in his tour group had the chance to meet and ask questions of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer.

To earn a seat on the all-expense-paid Youth Tour, North Dakota students entered an essay-writing contest and answered the following question: “Pick one of the four Touchstone Energy™ Cooperative core values – innovation, integrity, accountability or commitment to community – and describe how you see this in action at your family’s electric cooperative.” The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives judged the entries.

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