REMAC should work with Pioneer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 15, 2003

Recently a group of Pioneer Electric customers, known as members since Pioneer is member owned, came together and formed an "action committee" based on their dissatisfaction with the local utility provider. Pioneer management was not invited to the meeting.

The group, who is calling itself the Rural Electric Member Action Committee, REMAC for short, said their motivation and goals were to better educate and inform cooperative members on their rights and duties and keep watch on how members' business was being handled. They also wanted to make sure rates are held in line with other cooperatives and insure that the "proper and best people" are nominated and elected to the board of trustees each year.

The latter assumes that the "proper and best people" don't currently reside on the board and since the board members are nominated by coop members and voted on by the coop's membership, it leaves us scratching our heads as to why this is an issue. There are elections every year across the nation and not everyone's candidate always wins, it's the democratic way that this country was founded and thrives on today.

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Pioneer Electric says they are always open to members to discuss their concerns and issues and listen to their ideas on how the cooperative can better serve its membership. That's why it strikes us odd that if this was a group of disgruntled members who was looking for answers, why was none of Pioneer's management invited to attend? It would seem to us the logical thing to do if in fact this group was looking for answers.

Pioneer admits that its rates are higher than some of the other cooperatives in the state due to its collection liability and the number of meters per mile, saying it is one of the smallest coops in state with the greatest distances in service area.

Since the majority of Pioneer's membership is in Butler, Dallas, Lowndes and Wilcox counties, some of the poorest and most rural counties in the state, we can see where the dynamic of tough collections and extremely rural area could affect pricing and create a pricing range when compared to other coops in counties such as Pike, Covington, Houston or Baldwin.

It also needs to be clear that without cooperatives such as Pioneer and others, there are many parts of our state that may be without power today because of the challenges a rural state such as Alabama has.

And Pioneer, like any company that seeks to maximize its potential for its stockholders (members), has delved into other areas that have the potential to generate revenue and increase shareholder value. If in its beginnings General Electric decided to only stick to light bulbs they wouldn't be the company they are today and their stockholders would be the worse for it.

REMAC obviously has some concerns about how the coop is being run and since it is member owned, they have a right to have their questions answered.

We suggest they invite those that have the facts and information that can answer those questions to their next meeting.