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79th ANNUAL MEETING

In accordance with its bylaws, PIE&G will conduct its annual membership meeting on Friday, October 28 at the Onaway High School, 4549 M-33 Hwy. in Onaway, MI.  

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.  The general business session begins at 10:00 a.m. where members will hear various reports on the cooperative.  The meeting concludes with director election results and door prizes. Lunch will be provided after the meeting.

For more information about the meeting and your director candidate ballot, please refer to your September-October issue of Country Lines magazine.

Mark your calendar and plan to attend! 

All Politics Is Local

In two months, Americans will go to the polls and cast votes for a president, 34 senators, 435 members of Congress, 12 governors, 5,920 state legislators and countless other local races.

While the presidential race is at the top of most voters’ minds, it is the state and local races that have a more direct and immediate impact on the “kitchen table” issues that matter most to families. For rural America, the stakes in this election are especially high.

Rural America continues to experience population decline driven by out-migration of residents to larger urban areas. The trends underlying much of this out-migration—issues such as globalization, technology advances and the shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service and knowledge-based economy—are largely beyond the control of any community, state or even country.

Although the challenges facing rural America are global, the prevailing sentiment among rural stakeholders and researchers is that the solutions are largely homegrown. In other words, if rural America is to enjoy a prosperous future, it will be thanks to the ingenuity, self-reliance and determination of its people. The rural electrification movement is a prime example of this.

When for-profit utilities based in urban areas declined to build electric lines in sparsely populated rural areas, the residents of those communities banded together to form cooperatives and build their own systems with the help of government loans. Today, America’s electric cooperatives are finding new ways to support and promote the interests of the communities they serve.

Co-ops Vote
One program that is particularly relevant today is the Co-ops Vote initiative. This non-partisan, nationwide program is designed to promote civic engagement and voter participation in communities served by electric cooperatives. Co-op members can go to vote.coop to gather information on the voter registration process in their state, dates of elections, information on the candidates running in those elections and explanations of key issues affecting rural America.

Visitors to the website can also take a pledge to be a co-op voter. By taking this pledge, they can send a message to candidates at all levels of government that electric cooperative members will be showing up at the polls in force and are paying close attention to the issues that impact the quality of life in their communities.

Growing our own leaders
Mil Duncan, a noted scholar on rural economic development issues, said in a recent essay, “far and away the biggest challenge rural development practitioners face is the need for greater human capital—for more leaders, more entrepreneurs…”

To answer the call for more rural leaders, America’s electric cooperatives created the Washington Youth Tour program. Each year, approximately 1,700 high school students representing electric cooperatives from across the nation converge in Washington, D.C., for a weeklong, all-expenses-paid leadership development experience.

Previous Youth Tour participants have become university presidents, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and members of Congress. Many more have returned home to serve in many underappreciated leadership roles—coaches, small business owners, church deacons, county commissioners—that form the backbone of our communities.

Making the most of natural strengths
One of the greatest advantages enjoyed by electric cooperatives is their ability to leverage the unique strengths of the communities they serve.

The members of each cooperative are empowered to explore different approaches to solving problems and figure out what solutions are best for their community. This applies to the energy sources they use to generate electricity, the technologies they use to operate the system and the policies and procedures they adopt. What works for co-op members in Michigan might not be right for co-op members in Oregon.

While many rural communities face similar challenges driven by similar factors, the best way to address those issues can vary widely from community to community.

Fostering connectivity
In the early 1900s, electricity access was a key factor in determining the quality of life and economic prosperity of a community. Those that had electricity enjoyed many modern conveniences. Those without it languished in darkness and struggled to compete.

When electric cooperatives brought electricity to rural America, the playing fi eld was leveled and small towns experienced a renaissance. A similar trend is unfolding as broadband access makes its way to more rural communities.

One recent high-profile example involves Christopher Ingraham, a data journalist at the Washington Post. In 2015, he wrote a short article based on a dataset from the USDA that ranked American communities on qualities that are often indicators of desirable places to live. The community with the lowest score in the USDA ranking was Red Lake County, MN.

His story generated a lot of comments, including many from the people of Red Lake County who encouraged him to come out for a visit. He did, and was struck by the kindness of the residents and beauty of the landscape.

As a journalist who writes about data, Ingraham wasn’t tied to any particular location. As long as he has a reliable high-speed internet connection, he can do his job and email his editor the fi nished stories. In March of this year, he announced in another story that Red Lake County had won him over, and he’d be moving there with his wife and young children. He can make this move because of high-speed broadband.

The shift to a knowledge-based economy might hurt some traditional rural industries, but as more companies embrace teleworking, employees who were forced to move to large cities to work in certain industries can keep their jobs while working remotely from rural communities.

Expanding access to broadband in rural areas is one of the key issues addressed by the Co-ops Vote program, and Ingraham’s story is just one example why.

Taking action for the future
The challenges facing rural America will not be solved by one person, one idea or one action. But on November 8, we will determine which leaders we trust to enact policies that will help small communities help themselves.

Study the issues that are critical to the future of your community. Look at the positions and backgrounds of every candidate running for every race, from the president to county road commissioner. Then join millions of fellow electric cooperative members at the polls.

The Wheels on the Bus

Admit it. You just sang “go round and round” in your head. September brings cooler temperatures, football season, and the start of a new school year accompanied by a fleet of familiar vehicles on northern Michigan roads. Recognized by their distinctive color and flashing lights, school buses transported an estimated 26.9 million students in the United States last year.

Buses can only operate with a dedicated crew of drivers, and one of the best can be found in Chippewa Hills. Kent Blackmer says the first day of school can be a bittersweet time. “Summer is over, but I see all the kids again!” Yes, Kent loves being part of the kids’ day. He feeds off their energy each morning, and Ken admits some days can be pandemonium, especially with the elementary kids. High school students, however, are surprisingly mellow, most listening to their music or reading during the trip to and from school.

A six-year veteran of the Chippewa Hills School District, Ken enjoys many laughs with the kids each day. Most know him by name. Some simply refer to him as Mr. Bus Driver. Either way, he says, the kids are “respectful and well behaved.” And the parents? "Supportive and, like most of us, happy to have an expert behind the wheel!"

While Kent enjoys driving, he says the job does have its share of stress. “You always have to be on guard. My job is to be aware. Sometimes awareness can be difficult, especially when noise levels rise or winter roads are slippery, but I can’t get distracted.” Safety is paramount. Kent insists that students follow rules on his bus. And while he can’t control other motorists on the road, he hopes drivers watch out for his big yellow bus. “Unfortunately, people do run my stop sign.” When they do, he gets a plate number and reports the driver.

School buses across the state roll out every morning and afternoon with drivers like Kent, happy to be behind the wheel. Kent said he does have an all-time favorite part of the job. “It may seem silly,” he remarked. “But I always enjoy the reaction of the family pets when they see their children coming up the driveway happy to see them come home.”

Man standing in front of bus

Back to school. A Michigan bus driver shares the joys of his job.

Is Your Ceiling Fan Spinning In the Right Direction?

Are you feeling the heat this summer? You may want to give your ceiling fan a little "direction."

If you set it with the correct fan blade direction, a ceiling fan will work tirelessly to distribute indoor air in a way that cools your room in the summer and warms it in the winter. If you adjust your thermostat accordingly, this will lower your monthly utility bills year-round.

Summer = Counterclockwise

On those hot summer days, set your ceiling fan on a counterclockwise rotation. A counterclockwise spin "turns" your ceiling fan into performing like a regular box fan, sending a rush of air downward, cooling your skin and making it seem up to eight degrees cooler than it is.

If you have multiple ceiling fans and use them to keep cool instead of using the air conditioner, then you are saving energy and saving money.

Winter = Clockwise

It may seem far off now, but winter is coming. To make a room feel warmer in the wintertime, get that fan going in a clockwise direction, on a "low" setting. This gently pushes the cool air at the bottom of your room upward, displacing the warm air near your ceiling and recirculating it to where you can feel it. This makes the room feel warmer without running your furnace, and paying for the gas, propane or electricity.

Remember These Three Things

You won’t get any benefit from your ceiling fan if you don't:

  1. Turn it on when you’re in the room
  2. Adjust the thermostat accordingly
  3. Turn it off when you’re not in the room

Ceiling fans are good at following orders. Give them the right instructions – the right spinning direction, the right speed and turn them off in unoccupied rooms – and adjust your thermostat accordingly and you could save 15% to 40% on your summer air conditioning costs and reduce your winter heating bills, too.

Ceiling fan

Working Toward A Sustainable Future, Starting Now

Electric cooperatives have a unique ability to ‘act ahead.’ Not only are we forward-thinking, but we’re agile enough to make decisions today that will continue to serve our members in the future. We’re investing in the infrastructure, technology and employees needed to provide the right type of power at the right price both today and into the 21st century.

While we are your direct source for electricity, we do have a man behind the curtain helping support us in providing you with affordable, reliable and renewable energy. Wolverine Power Cooperative is our generation and transmission partner – a co-op in its own right that makes key decisions about where your electricity comes from and how your electricity gets to you.

Wolverine makes its decisions about our energy future by balancing five key components.

1) Diverse Supply Mix: By refusing to rely on a single source of power, Wolverine ensures that our members don’t run the risk of seeing skyrocketing prices or outages when one power source isn’t available.

2) Asset Ownership: Wolverine owns and operates seven power plants of their own to ensure that we’re not relying solely on outside forces to bring our members their electricity.

3) Environmental Stewardship: Wolverine proudly maintains compliance with every major and minor regulation put in place to protect our planet, and they’re leading the state in renewable energy generation with their commitment to harnessing the power of wind.

4) Competitive Rates: Since they’re a non-profit entity, they provide wholesale power direct to consumers without middlemen that require payouts.

5) Long-Term Price Stability: Wolverine works hard to plan for the future to ensure that PIE&G's members’ bills remain level as energy prices continue to ebb and flow. Wolverine is making decisions now to benefit our members for decades to come.

PIE&G is able to stay agile because we exist for our members, not for the bottom line. Because our decisions are based on humans instead of dollars, we are able to rally our community around their own ideals. You want more access to renewable energy? We’ll work with Wolverine to build a power supply mix with more renewables than the rest of the state. You want to keep your bill low? Wolverine helps us stay on the cutting edge of technology to ensure that we are only running the necessary generators when you need them. You’ve heard that Michigan is in an energy crisis? Wolverine has been building additional electric capacity for decades to ensure our members will never be in the dark.

In short, we’ve got you covered. To us, that’s what it means to be sustainable.

Our doors, phone lines and comment boards are always open. If you’re concerned about the future of energy in Michigan, please let us know. We’d love to ease your mind directly. Take a look at Wolverine’s website for more information about power sources, supply and our cooperative dedication to you.

Wolverine Power Supply

 

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

You can’t see, taste or smell carbon monoxide, but it can be deadly. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a gas that is found whenever fuel is burned. Known as the “silent killer,” CO causes an average of 430 deaths per year and more than 20,000 hospital emergency room visits according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Where does carbon monoxide come from?
CO is in fumes produced by items that burn fuel, including kerosene, propane, and gas space heaters, improperly working furnaces, gas water heaters and dryers, wood stoves and fireplaces. Car, truck and boat exhaust fumes contain CO as do fumes from fuel-powered generators and power washers.

How can carbon monoxide poisoning affect your health?
CO is dangerous because it blocks your body from absorbing the oxygen it needs. CO poisoning can occur suddenly or happen over a long period of time. Symptoms depend on the amount of CO a person is exposed to, the length of time exposed, and the general health and age of the person. Mild symptoms may seem like the flu and include: mild headache and weakness, dizziness, sleepiness, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, nausea and/or vomiting. High levels of CO or lower levels of CO exposure that last a long time can cause confusion, loss of muscle control, blurred vision, extreme headache, weakness, fainting, convulsions and even death.

Who is most at risk of harm to their health?
Anyone can be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. However, those most at risk are:

  • infants,
  • the elderly, and
  • people with heart disease, lung disease, or anemia.

What should you do if you have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • Go outside and get fresh air immediately!
  • Call 911 and tell them you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning, or go to the emergency room if you are able to get there without help.
  • A simple blood test done at the hospital can usually detect carbon monoxide poisoning. Medical treatment is available.

What can you do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • DO purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors that meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard 2034-95. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper placement, use and maintenance. If the detectors plug into the wall, be sure they have a battery backup.
  • DO leave the house if the alarm sounds on your CO detector. Go to a hospital emergency room or call 911 if anyone is feeling sick. If no one is sick, call the emergency number for your heating service or 911. Stay out of the home until your heating service or fire department says it’s okay to go in.
  • DO have a heating professional inspect, clean, and adjust your fireplace, wood stove, gas appliances including furnaces and water heaters, and chimneys/vents every fall—before the start of home heating season.
  • DO purchase gas appliances that vent their fumes to the outside. Have them installed by a heating professional.
  • DO read and follow all of the instructions for any fuel-burning devices.
  • DO make sure that your car, truck, or boat has a working, airtight exhaust system. Repair exhaust leaks immediately.
  • DO pay attention to symptoms (headache, dizziness, tiredness and/or a sick feeling in your stomach), especially if more than one person is feeling sick or if people and pets are feeling sick.
  • DON’T operate fuel-powered machines such as generators, power washers, or mowers in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces.
  • DON’T cook or heat with a grill indoors, even if you put it inside a fireplace.
  • DON’T run vehicles in the garage, even if the door is open. Carbon monoxide can build up quickly and enter your vehicle and home.
  • DON’T sit in a parked vehicle with the engine running for a long period of time, especially if your car is in snow.
  • DON’T use gas stoves or ovens to heat your home.
  • DON’T use an un-vented gas or kerosene space heater indoors.
  • DON’T close the damper to the fireplace unless the fire is completely out and the coals are cold.
  • DON’T ride in covered pickup truck beds or campers. Air moving around the vehicle can draw exhaust in.
  • DON’T swim or play near the back of a boat where the motor gives off exhaust.
  • DON’T ignore symptoms! You could die within minutes if you do nothing.

PIE&G Communities First Fund Awards $17,400 in Grants

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op members continue to generously assist area community organizations and individuals through the voluntary round up of their electric and natural gas billings.  Member contributions to the Communities First Fund provide funds for grants and scholarships in their local communities within the PIE&G service area. 

At a recent meeting, the PIE&G Communities First Fund Board of Directors finalized awards of $5,400 in grants to the following recipients:

Montmorency County:

Montmorency County Commission on Aging  ($3,000) for kitchen upgrades at the Senior Centers in Atlanta ($1,000 to purchase an ice machine), Lewiston ($1,000 to purchase an oven and range), and Hillman ($1,000 for a food warmer).

Presque Isle County:

Presque Isle County Sheriff Department ($2,400) to purchase a vest, gas mask, and medical kit required for membership in the Northern Michigan Mutual Aid Emergency Response Team (ERT).

At their June meeting, the PIE&G Communities First Fund Board of Directors awarded $12,000 in grants as follows:

Alpena County:

Long Rapids Township Volunteer Fire Department ($2,000) to purchase a thermal imaging camera designed to assist fire fighters in search and rescue efforts and to locate from a safe distance internal fires sources in structures.  

Montmorency County:

Atlanta Church of Christ - The Caring Place ($2,500) to purchase food for The Caring Place food pantry. The pantry provides food and clothing assistance to approximately 232 households in the county each month.

New Beginnings Ministries ($2,500) to purchase food for the Hillman Area Resource Pantry (HARP).The pantry currently provides food to over 400 people per month.

Otsego County:

Otsego Memorial Hospital Foundation ($1,000) to purchase new age appropriate books for the Reach Out and Read program.

Presque Isle County:

Peace Lutheran Church  ($1,000) to enable The Peace Project to purchase and distribute personal hygiene items to families.

Posen Consolidated Schools ($1,500) to defray the cost of student transportation and admission to the Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI to further learning of American History.

United Way of Northeast Michigan ($1,500) for the purchase of food and personal hygiene products to be distributed at the Presque Isle County Project Connect Event, where two to three hundred people receive donated goods and services.

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op provides electric and natural gas service to more than 42,000 member-owners, and serves a nine county area across northeast Michigan. PIE&G headquarters is located in Onaway. 

Perform An Annual Safety Inspection On Your Boat And Dock Before Lifting The Anchor

Water comprises almost one-half of Michigan, so it’s easy to see why the state boasts a thriving recreational industry and leads the nation with nearly 1 million registered pleasure boats.

For boating and water safety, there are items you must legally have on your watercraft—life vests, fire extinguisher, throwable flotation device, and properly working lights—but make sure the boat and the dock are safe, too.

To help prevent accidents, the National Electrical Contractors Association says:

  • All installations should be performed by a professional electrical contractor.
  • All dock receptacles must comply with the National Electrical Code, which mandates a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI measures a circuit’s current and senses any imbalance (such as a discharge into the water), which trips the GFCI and cuts off the power.
  • Test any GFCIs every month. Locate it along the ramp to the dock so it can be easily tested by local fire departments.
  • Metal dock frames should have “bonding jumpers” that connect all metal parts to an on-shore grounding rod. This means any dock part that becomes energized by electrical malfunction will trip the GFCI or circuit breaker.
  • Ask neighbors if their dock electrical systems have been inspected and are up to Code.
  • Household wire is not suitable for boats.
  • Do not use wire nuts (these are for solid conductor wire, which should never be on a boat) or splice connectors (can cut wire strands)!
  • Fuses are rated to protect the wire, not the stereo. If a fuse blows continuously, something else is wrong.
  • If you rent a dock or boat, notify the owner of safety violations immediately.
  • Have your boat’s system (especially with onboard generators) checked at least annually and when something is added or removed.
  • Ropes, string, masts and rigging also conduct electricity—don’t be the common ground between water and electricity

PIE&G and MI Electric Co-ops Donate 10,500 Meals To Local Food Banks

On April 18, 2016, volunteers from Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, together with seven other Michigan electric cooperatives, assembled 10,500 meals for donation to the Kids Against Hunger Coalition.

Child hunger remains a serious problem in Michigan, with one in five kids not getting enough food regularly.  When children lack access to nutritious meals, they don’t have what they need to reach their fullest potential.

PIE&G employees helped assemble fortified soy-rice casserole-style meals specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of children. These packaged meals were then distributed by each co-op to local food banks in their respective service territories throughout Michigan.  Recipients in PIE&G’s service area include Atlanta Church of Christ - The Caring Place, Hillman United Methodist and Calvary Episcopal Food Pantry, Presque Isle Food / Baby Pantry and The Salvation Army – Cheboygan County Emergency Food Pantry.

“Participating in this service project with my cooperative colleagues and partnering with Kids Against Hunger was a rewarding experience,” says Brian Burns, CEO at PIE&G. “As an electric co-op, ‘Commitment to Community’ is one of our guiding principles. This project was yet another opportunity to put that principle into action.”

The 2016 food packing project was a new activity added to an annual conference attended by Michigan’s electric cooperatives.

Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Ceiling Fans

Celing fan

People typically think of fans only for summertime comfort and lower air-conditioning costs. Ceiling fans are unique in that they can also reduce your wintertime heating bills with proper use. Here are six tips for getting the most out of your fans:

1. Set your thermostat a few degrees higher and run your ceiling fans during the summer to decrease electric bills. Leaving your thermostat at the same temperature, or leaving your fans on while no one is in the room will not increase your savings.

2. In winter, reverse the rotation of the fan blades and run it at a low speed. This moves the hotter air collecting near the ceiling throughout the room without creating a cold breeze, and allows you to save some of your hard-earned money.

3. If you feel the need to get a fan after reading about how cost effective they are, select a fan that is Energy Star certified. The newest and most efficient motors are DC (direct current) motors, which can offer up to six speeds and use only 33 watts of electricity.

4. When hanging your fan, be sure it is about eight feet above the floor to prevent injuries or damage to your fan. A downrod should be included in with your fan to provide the proper height.

5. When selecting a lighting kit for your fan, consider getting one with LED lighting. They are efficient, last for many years, and most are dimmable.

6. Lastly, getting a remote control for your fan can help you save energy by making it easy to turn off, or adjust your ceiling fan settings. Some newer fans can even be controlled by a smart phone fan application.

 

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