Author: Chris Hayes

15th Annual Kentucky Lineman’s Rodeo

Teams from electric cooperatives around Kentucky will be in the area Sept 26-27

Electric cooperatives power more 1.5 million people across Kentucky. Everyday, lineworkers labor in all conditions to keep the power on for their members. Once a year, some of these lineworkers come together in a unique competition.

The Kentucky Lineman’s Rodeo attracts the best lineworkers from around the commonwealth to compete in events based on traditional lineman tasks and skills. This year, Nolin RECC along with Kentucky Electric Cooperatives is hosting this friendly competition at the Hardin County Fairgrounds September 26-27.

The action begins Thursday, September 26 at 9am with individual Journeyman, Apprentice and Senior events. They will compete in Hurtman Rescue, Skills Climb, Angle Clip and a mystery event. On Friday, September 27, there will be a Lineman Memorial at 7:30am with team competition starting at 8:30am. Team events include Hurtman Rescue, Cutout Replace, Suspension Insulator and a mystery event.

“Safety is a priority for all of our lineworkers in everything they do. The Rodeo is about friendly competition, but the focus really is on safety and the skill it takes to do the difficult work that they do in their jobs everyday,” says Nolin RECC Manager of Communications Sarah Fellows.

The first Kentucky Lineman’s Rodeo was held in August 2005, with nearly 70 linemen competing. The Rodeo has grown to over 200 teams and 250 apprentices. The event is free and open to the public.

Jackson Energy provides loan that will provide jobs, decrease waste

 

Southeastern Environmental Solutions is turning recycled material into revenue. A Rural Development Loan through Jackson Energy Cooperative will help the Laurel County company grow while decreasing waste products in landfills.

The $2 million no-interest loan is offered through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office and the loans are administered by local electric cooperatives, like Jackson Energy. The company expects to add 30 new jobs over the next three years as a result of the loan.

“We recycle material that at one point in time would go into a landfill,” said Ernest Matt House, co-owner of Southeastern Environmental Solutions (SES). Other owners include Mike Bargo and Russ Asher. “We’re taking scrap material, mainly from the automotive industry, and repurposing it.” House said the scrap mainly comes from materials used for headliners and flooring that goes down before carpet is installed in vehicles.

The loan will be used to purchase an additional machine for the company’s site in the Fariston Industrial Park.

House said SES operates three shifts at the facility and has 15 employees. The additional machine will allow them to process more material. Scrap material comes into the company in big rolls and is shredded. “It looks like syrup,” he said of the first steps in processing, “which then freezes and is chopped into pellets.”

The pellets are eventually turned into fabric. An 80,000 lbs. load of scrap material generates 40,000 lbs. of finished product, which makes its way back to the automotive industry.

“One thing I’ve learned,” House said of the recycling process, “is how much everything has polyester in it.”

Currently, the company works with a broker to sell the finished product. House said the ideal situation would be to establish a working relationship with one or two companies to get their scrap material and ship the finished product back to them.

“The Rural Development Loan program allows Jackson Energy to help local companies expand,” says Jackson Energy President & CEO Carol Wright. “This is the twelfth loan we have administered to companies throughout our service area. Our mission is to improve the quality of life in the region not only by providing electric service but also through economic development.”

 

 

 Tri-County Electric 2019 Annual Meeting summary

 

Rain may have canceled some outdoor plans at the Tri-County Electric Annual Meeting, but the community and cooperative spirit were thriving inside Metcalfe County Middle School in Edmonton, Kentucky, on the evening of May 2. In the gymnasium, 220 members registered for the meeting. 

After registering, members made their way around the gym to visit booths from Kentucky Living and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Kids in attendance could also register to win an iPad and get their names airbrushed on free T-shirts by Robert and Beth Hollingsworth of Brush of Air. Always a favorite, Denny Whalen was on hand to draw caricatures for members who attended. 

At 7 p.m., members were encouraged to walk over to the school auditorium for the start of the business meeting. Once everyone was seated, one member won $100 cash. 

Mark Linkous, Edmonton District Director, welcomed everyone and called the meeting to order. The Metcalfe County VFW Post 6281 presented the colors, and Michael Gill, principal of Metcalfe County Elementary School, along with several of his students led the pledge of allegiance. Janey Miller, Todd Young and Kelli Barrett sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and retired Edmonton employee Joan Whitlow led the invocation. Co-op Attorney Ken Witcher Jr. read the notice of the meeting, as well as the proof of mailing. 

Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Tri-County Electric Paul Thompson introduced business and political leaders as well as TVA and other Tri-County Electric partners. Thompson took the opportunity to recognize the co-op’s representatives on last year’s Washington Youth Tour—both were in attendance. 

Officials, including David Callis, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, took a moment to recognize the late George Cowan, a longtime Tri-County Electric board member, who died last year. 

Callis spoke to the members in attendance, recalling time he spent the past week in Washington, D.C., advocating for members. “We talk about you and your needs,” Callis said. 

Chris Perry, President and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, reminded members of TV commercials from years past—including one that says, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Perry reminded the crowd that, “Tri-County is listening to you.” 

Thompson reported on Tri-County Electric’s strong financial position and reiterated the meeting theme: Your Neighbor, Your Energy. “We truly are your friends and neighbors,” Thompson said. 

Nearly 60 door prizes were awarded during the evening’s activities, including the $100 Tri-County Electric gift cards, iPads, cash and the grand prize Ford Explorer won by getting name from Tammy Dixon. Tri-County Electric’s logo was displayed on the camp chairs given out to attendees, and free refreshments, including hot dogs and ice cream, were provided for everyone. 

Thompson, Linkous and the board of directors expressed gratitude to Metcalfe County Middle School for the use of their lovely school, and they thanked all the employees and volunteers for making the meeting a success. 

As required by the TCEMC bylaws, a meeting of the Tri-County Board of Directors was held immediately following the annual meeting. Officers elected were President Mike Miller, Scottsville District; Vice President, Mark Linkous, Edmonton District; and Secretary-Treasurer, Ray Goad, Lafayette District. 

Inter-County Energy 2019 Annual Meeting summary

 

With overcast sky and light rain, members entered beneath the U.S. flag hung between two Inter-County Energy bucket trucks at Boyle County High School, Danville, for the 81st annual meeting, Friday, May 3, 5–7 p.m., with entertainment at 6 p.m. and business meeting at 7 p.m. 

Booths lined hallways with about 10 employees registering 413 members, with approximately 1,000 people attending. Members received a bucket with LED bulbs. There was free popcorn and Perryville Christian Church sold drinks and food. Outside people lined up for free homemade ice cream scooped by 4 Generations, Stanford. They watched safety demonstrations and checked out an electric vehicle. Kids received free hard hats and caricature drawings from Denny Whalen and assistant, who were attending Inter-County’s meeting for the first time. 

A constant flow of people stopped at booths, including free health fair screenings, SimpleSaver fans, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives cutting boards, recipe cards and Co-ops Vote sticky notes from Kentucky Living, with registration for the Ultimate State Fair Giveaway. 

People gathered in the auditorium at 6 p.m. to hear the Zach Shelton and 64 to Grayson band. At 7 p.m., everyone convened in the auditorium, where emcee Thom Whittinghill recognized veterans in the audience. The Marion County High School Junior ROTC presented the colors and Samuel Bullock, Stanford, sang the national anthem. 

With a sign language interpreter, Chairman Joe Spalding welcomed members; Director Louis Kerrick gave the invocation. Director Allen Goggin provided a safety moment about farm machinery on roads. Spalding introduced other directors and President/CEO Jerry Carter, who then recognized special guests, including member Georgia May Pike, Washington County, who has attended all 81 annual meetings. 

Spalding called the business meeting to order and Attorney Hadden Dean served as parliamentarian. Spalding confirmed the quorum and also the official notice by reading the proof of mailing. Dean announced the election of Allen Goggin, Boyle District, and J. Kevin Preston, Garrard District, both unopposed. In the third year of absentee ballots, he noted that nine votes were cast April 12-26 at Inter-County and Lebanon offices. 

Preston’s financial report referenced the 2018 annual report, which was mailed in Kentucky Living this week. The annual audit showed no deficiencies. Chairman Spalding noted in his report that our power is changing from coal to other sources and renewable energy like Cooperative Solar. Since 2013, he says Inter-County has been fortunate to receive competitive pricing from PJM, which provides wholesale energy to 13 states. This year for the first time, 16 co-ops received $1.8 million in capital credits from East Kentucky Power; Inter-County received $120,000. 

Carter began his president/CEO report with a moment of silence in memory of former employee Eugene McCowan, followed by honoring four retirees—Darryl Adams, Kent Loomer, Eugenia Adkins and Robert “Bob” Denny—with 85 years of combined service. Carter reviewed statistics, noting that Inter-County is one of the fastest growing co-ops in Kentucky with $131 million in assets; however, there was an operating loss in 2018 of $1.147 million, primarily due to increased vegetation management, equipment cost and steel construction hardware. 

Carter told the audience that for years Inter-County Energy has had higher electric rates than the for-profit IOUs, but he is happy to announce that is no longer the case. Inter-County Energy’s monthly customer charge is less and the meter per kWh cost is the same. 

He recognized the co-op’s 63 employees, commending all for going one year, or 118,000 hours, with no loss-time accidents. Carter said that Inter-County shows “Commitment to Community,” with employees who serve on many boards, councils and organizations. Christmas Blessings, which began in 2008, and a silent auction, raised $5,018 last year for children in 13 families. Since 2008, the program has raised $32,000, helping 249 children in 37 families. The co-op is committed to students by giving safety demonstrations, and last year by sending six students on the Washington Youth Tour and providing six others with $1,000 scholarships. Inter-County also is involved in community and economic development. 

Carter ended by reminding the audience of the co-op’s mission: to provide long-term, valued electrical energy and services to members through a culture of safety, accountability, innovation, integrity and commitment to community. 

The meeting ended with the drawing for six $500 Visa cards for members. 

 Grayson RECC 2019 Annual Meeting summary

 

Grayson RECC’s annual meeting was May 9, 2019, at the co-op headquarters. Carol Ann Fraley, president and CEO, greeted visitors from her rocking chair post on the porch of the plantation-style facility. The temperature was in the 70s, with occasional wind gusts and light showers throughout the daylong event. This provided a nice atmosphere for the 1,172 registrants, plus additional visitors, who attended the event. 

A steady stream of visitors picked up their buckets and bulbs, entered a drawing for a quilt and enjoyed hotdogs and popcorn while meandering through several activities on the grounds. East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) manned a booth with information and giveaways, and they also gave visitors an opportunity to check out a ChargeChangeKY electric vehicle. At Grayson RECC’s booth, visitors spun the wheel for prizes and picked up a bag of goodies, and at the Kentucky Living booth they gathered information on how to enter for a chance to win the Ultimate Kentucky State Fair Experience this summer. 

At 6 p.m., Fraley and the Grayson RECC board of directors convened the business meeting, along with approximately 40 attendees. The meeting was called to order by Board Chairman Harold Dupuy. Following his remarks, Fraley thanked the employees for all their hard work and shared accomplishments of the past year. Details were on the annual report handed out in members’ buckets and included eight major projects completed over the course of what Fraley described as “a very rainy year.” Fraley also touched on Grayson’s recent completion of a rate case with Public Service Commission (PSC), and said they will be working with the commission on follow-up items over the next few months. 

Legal Counsel, Derrick Willis declared there was a quorum, and a motion was passed to approve the 2018 meeting minutes, with no old or new business to discuss. There were no elections during the annual meeting. 

Fraley thanked Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, who stopped by and visited with employees and members prior to the meeting. Fraley also thanked EKPC and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, along with board members’ wives and all the folks on hand to help with the meeting and daylong events. 

The meeting concluded at 6:15 and was followed by drawings for the quilt and door prizes. Prizes included an Amazon Echo, pressure washer, TVs and a soundbar, a small refrigerator, ION robot vacuum cleaner, Visa gift card, Sony PlayStation, and a Ring floodlight security camera. 

Co-ops Care: Cowboy friends and archery coaches

Concert blessings

HOPKINSVILLE

On July 27, popular country music singers and songwriters will take the stage for the 13th annual Brice Long and Friends Benefit Concert in Hopkinsville. Six months later—around Christmas—profits from that performance will help some 50 families in Christian, Trigg and Todd counties.

The tie between the concert and the Christmas event goes back to 2005 when renowned songwriter Brice Long wanted to give back to his native Hopkinsville after achieving success in Nashville, including a Country Music Association nomination for Song Of The Year for Like A Cowboy.

Long created Back2Back and named Pennyrile Electric’s Brent Gilkey as chairman of the nonprofit foundation.

Since its inception, Back2Back has raised more than $551,000 and helped more than 320 families.

“This foundation has just grown and grown,” says Gilkey, vice president of member services and communications for Pennyrile Electric. “Each year we talk with families in need and find out their most urgent needs. Back2Back representatives then make deliveries to families in each county. We focus on the family’s needs but also provide items that the children just want. Each delivery is customized for that particular family.”

Coaches help archery team members prepare their bows for a competition. Photo: Tony Martin

Bull’s-eye

BENTON

Tony Martin, manager of operations for Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation, has spent much of his free time in the past three years focused on a yellow dot.

Both of his children—Jon, 14, and Nya, 12—started archery at New Harmony Baptist Church. Dad Tony realized this was their passion, so he wanted to support it. Tony now volunteers as an archery coach for sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders at both New Harmony Baptist Church and North Marshall Middle School. This year the team went to the state championship.

But it’s not their prowess with a bow and arrow that attracts Tony or the kids to the sport.

“The thing I like about archery is that you don’t have to be really athletic to participate,” Tony says. “It’s really good for kids who are not natural basketball or baseball players. Every child fits in.”

It’s also rewarding for the coaches.

“Nothing can pay you for what you get in return for volunteering,” Tony says.

Kentuckian heads federal energy commission

How a veteran Kentucky co-op worker inspired FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee 

As a high school student in Lexington, Kentucky, Neil Chatterjee learned about rural electrification from the passenger seat.

His girlfriend’s grandfather, Robert “Bob” Sowders, would drive Neil and Rebecca across Kentucky’s backroads, territory Sowders served during his 41 years with the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.

“He would drive us around parts of rural Kentucky and point out communities that not even a generation earlier didn’t have access to a consistent supply of affordable electricity,” Chatterjee recalls during a conversation in his Washington, D.C., office.

Twenty-five years later, Neil and Rebecca are married with three children, and Chatterjee is now in the driver’s seat of U.S. energy policy as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Among the Kentucky mementos on his bookshelves is an electric co-op paperweight from Rebecca’s late grandfather. The tiny transformer inside transports Chatterjee to the early energy education that first piqued his curiosity about electricity.

“I just kind of asked him, ‘Hey Grandpa, what is it exactly that you do? What is an electric cooperative?’ And he explained it to me. He explained the significance of rural electrification and what it meant for Kentucky, not just rural Kentucky but all Kentuckians. And that was my introduction to the electricity field. And if you had told me back then that someday I would be working in this capacity, I don’t think I would have believed you.”

Regulating the nation’s energy

Nominated to FERC by President Donald J. Trump, Chatterjee was confirmed by the Senate in 2017. He has served as chairman twice: He served four months in 2017, and was again named chairman on October 24, 2018.

“You have to take the whole country’s perspective into play when you set these policies,” Chatterjee says. “But where you’re from impacts how you view the world and how you navigate these difficult policy issues, and I think my roots in the Bluegrass certainly color the way that I approach things here. And I want folks in Kentucky to know that there are people in Washington who understand the challenges and opportunities that Kentuckians face.”

In the May issue of Kentucky Living, Chatterjee detailed FERC action on energy issues and shared how he traveled with Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to Kentucky communities affected by the closing of coal mines and power plants.

“People don’t have alternative forms of employment. The only value that families have is their homes, and oftentimes they have owned these homes for generations. But their homes lose value because people aren’t willing to move to an area without hope for economic prosperity. That’s really, really difficult for me to swallow,” Chatterjee says.

Though the Federal Power Act does not enable FERC to factor in those considerations in its decision making, Chatterjee hopes to connect energy and technology innovators with potential opportunities in Kentucky.

“Kentuckians are familiar with working in the energy business and a lot of these entrepreneurs in the energy space want to come to Kentucky and do business in Kentucky. And so, perhaps that will be my contribution to helping these communities struggle with this difficult energy transition.”

Chatterjee talks about his love for University of Kentucky basketball. Photo: Alexis Matsui

Bluegrass roots run deep

Chatterjee’s desire to help people is in his DNA. His parents, Sunil and Malaya Chatterjee, are noted cancer researchers who moved to Kentucky from Buffalo, New York, to work at the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center.

“They brought us down over Thanksgiving break to visit Lexington under the premise that we were going to go to a UK basketball game,” Chatterjee says.

Because fellow Buffalo native Christian Laettner had been his tennis coach, Chatterjee was a Duke University basketball fan. Yet by the time Kentucky won the national championship in 1996, Chatterjee was a member of Big Blue Nation.

“I ran out on the court,” Chatterjee laughs. “I think I jumped on Allen Edwards’ back at some point to try to get closer to the net. It was so fun.”

A graduate of Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Chatterjee says most of his best friends are folks that he met here. “My roots in the Bluegrass run deep.”

Speaking at the Kentucky Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment in Lexington earlier this year, Chatterjee saw the faces of fellow Kentuckians and friends. The last time he had been on that hotel ballroom stage he was giving a toast at his wedding reception.

His mentor Mitch McConnell

“I still consider myself to be a Kentuckian,” Chatterjee says, crediting Senate Majority Leader McConnell with the propulsion of his energy leadership. After first working on energy issues as an aide to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio, Chatterjee served in government relations for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He then became an energy policy advisor to McConnell, who he says has meant “everything” to his career.

“Starting from just giving me an opportunity, taking a chance on me. Trusting me. What I have learned from him I could write volumes,” Chatterjee says. “His approach to leadership, to policymaking, to governing, he’s just been incredible. And then I think one of the more understated elements of his impact to Kentucky in his career is the fact that not just me, so many Kentuckians have gotten opportunities to serve at high levels of government because of him, because of the opportunities he has given us. And I think, look, it’s good for Kentucky to have people who understand Kentucky in positions where policy decisions are being made.”

And the lessons Chatterjee learned from a Kentucky electric co-op veteran 25 years ago continue to resonate in the FERC hallways today.

“That electricity is the one public policy area that touches literally every single American,” Chatterjee says, “And that we are so blessed in this country to have the sophisticated infrastructure that we do. I would say that the electric grid is probably mankind’s greatest invention. And the U.S. grid is a fascinating thing. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain it, but it’s important. And that’s what Grandpa Sowders taught me.”

What to pack for Youth Tour

FOR THE BUS RIDE:

  • COMFORTABLE CLOTHES
  • PILLOW
  • PHONE CHARGER
  • ANY MEDICINE NEEDED DURING THE DAY
  • WE WILL HAVE SNACKS, DRINKS & MOVIES TO PLAY ON THE TVs

DURING THE WEEK:

  • TWO DRESSY OUTFITS
  • CASUAL OUTFITS
  • TENNIS SHOES

DRESSY OUTFITS:

  • MALES – SUITS & TIES, DRESS PANTS, SPORTS COAT & TIE
  • FEMALES – DRESSES OR PANTS SUIT, DRESS FLATS RECOMMENDED

CASUAL OUTFITS:

  • MALES & FEMALES – WALKING SHORTS, NEAT JEANS OR PANTS, CASUAL DRESSES, SHIRTS WITH COLLARS, & DRESSY TEES

What to look for in HVAC repairs

How do I select a good HVAC contractor to fix my old air conditioner? Is there any simple maintenance I can do myself?—Barb

Finding a good contractor to repair or replace an old air conditioner is important because you want your system to keep running for a long time after the work is done.

When selecting a contractor, first check with your relatives and friends for recommendations. When a contractor gives you a list of references, call each one.

You also can check with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association, Inc., and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.Reputable contractors will belong to one or both of these organizations, and you can search online for a list of members in your area.

For a repair job, get quotes from at least three contractors. Be wary if they immediately want to replace the system with a new one. They should determine the problem and also provide a quote for repair.

Take your time to evaluate the quotes and recommendations, even though your family might be uncomfortably warm for several days.

Maintenance tips

There are several maintenance tasks you can do yourself each summer to keep your air conditioner running efficiently, but don’t eliminate regular professional service even when it seems to be running properly.

Having adequate air flow through the outdoor condenser coils is imperative for good efficiency and a long life. Make sure there is at least 3 feet of clearance around the housing where the coils are exposed to the outdoor air.

If you notice some of the heat transfer fins on the coils are bent over and touching so air cannot flow between them, separate them with the tip of a scraper, but don’t flex them too much or they may break off. Make sure all the screws on the outdoor and indoor sheet metal housing are tight. Tape any leaky supply or return duct joints.

If your unit has a low-cost, standard fiberglass filter, replace it often. Though more expensive, a filter with a MERV 11 rating or MERV 8 at the minimum is best.

JAMES DULLEY is a nationally syndicated columnist who writes on energy efficiency and do-it-yourself energy topics.