ST. MARYS — The possible consolidation of Midwest Electric Cooperative with the Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative was discussed at the Midwest Electric Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 1, at St. Marys Memorial High School.
Also during the meeting, Midwest awarded a scholarship to a St Marys student and the 3 directors were sworn in for new terms.
In regards to the possible consolidation, Matt Berry, Midwest CEO, told a crowd of over 200 shareholders that a study to consider the advantages and disadvantages of joining with the 14,000-member Paulding Putnam coop is expected to be completed by August or September of this year.
Berry said it was projected that the 10,000-member Midwest Electric would realize $11 million in savings, especially in duplication of services.
“For example, we will not need two CEOs; however, our first objective is our customers,” said Berry.
He added that once the completed study is sent to the board, both boards will “look hard” at each cooperative’s core culture and how their technology matches in regards to billing, mapping, and metering.
Berry said the other cooperative is almost duplicate of theirs, with comparable electric rates, the same community giving program, retirement plans, and customer satisfaction rates. He said Paulding Putman had an equity margin of 52 percent versus Midwest’s 45 percent.
There is no plan to perform layoffs if consolidation happens, Berry said, depending instead on attrition from retirements and resignations.
Berry said the shareholders would be kept informed about the study through various media, including the coop newsletter. He did not think the membership would be asked to vote on the issue any sooner than spring of 2020.
Each cooperative would need to have a 51 percent approval from the shareholders to move forward on the merger.
In other news about Midwest, Berry said that they had just completed nine years of improvement in service reliability at a cost of $18 million and would be beginning an automated billing and metering process. Other automation improvements to come would result in outage corrections of minutes rather than hours.
Berry also said that, of the over 940 electric cooperatives in the nation, Midwest is in the top 4 percent in regards to total cumulative margin of profit. The co-op holds on to profits for 16 years for operation’s costs, then rebates the balance to shareholders.
At the same time, said Berry, Midwest has maintained a 91 percent consumer satisfaction rating, compared to the statewide average of 84 percent among the other 24 Ohio cooperatives.
Berry pointed out that all the work is being done by a small cadre of employees.
“We have the same number of employees as we did 30 years ago,” he said.
In other action, St. Marys resident Adam Paul Mielky had his name drawn as recipient of a $1,000 scholarship. He recently graduated from OSU Lima and plans to go to Bowling Green State University this fall to study high school education.
Finally, three new board directors were sworn in. They are Kathy Brake, for the Van Wert area, Steve Bauer, for the Auglaize/Shelby area, and James Weichart, for Mercer/Darke counties.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.