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REMAC meets with Pioneer

The Rural Electric Member Action Committee REMAC met again last Saturday at the Butler County Fairgrounds, with approximately 250 in attendance including a contingent of Pioneer Electric Cooperative’s management.

According to REMAC President Margaret Pierce, the Pioneer contingent was not expected, yet they were welcomed.

She expressed also her pleasure in the growth of the number who attended.

&uot;Despite the bitter cold and the unheated condition, we still pulled in a large crowd,&uot; she said.

&uot;We were extremely pleased with the turnout.&uot;

Pierce said the set agenda included the need to officially review and adopt bylaws and also educate those present on the grass root movement.

Also, she said they wanted to educate those present on how board members are elected.

&uot;When we asked how many present knew how board members were elected, out of that group, only a handful raised their hands,&uot; she said.

&uot;Very few members understand how their board representatives are chosen.&uot;

Qualifications for board members are as follows:

n They must reside in their appropriate district and be a member receiving service from the cooperative.

n They must not have any conflicts of interest.

n They must not be an incumbent or candidate for elected office that pays compensation in excess of $100.

n The cooperative’s management sets additional criteria.

The procedure of electing trustees is as follows:

n Pioneer’s president appoints a nominating committee.

n The nominating committee nominates trustees to be elected at the annual meeting held at Greenville High School in the summer.

n At least one nominee from each district to be elected, as the same exists.

n Any 15 or more members acting together may make other nominations by petition.

n The board’s secretary must post such nominations at same place as those made by the nominating committee.

n Additional nominations may be made from the floor at the annual membership meeting or any special meeting called for the purpose of electing trustees.

Vice-president Wendell Phelps gave a brief report on an attempt by REMAC officials to attend a board meeting in November following the group’s last meeting. According to Pierce, they were denied access to the meeting.

&uot;We were met in the lobby by Cleve Poole, the cooperative’s attorney,&uot; she said.

&uot;Mr. Poole gave us a copy of the board’s policy dating back to 1983 that in essence said that members are not allowed to speak directly to the board.

This in essence cuts off our access to the board.&uot;

According to Pioneer Spokesman Terry Wilhite, the public does have access to the board.

&uot;Members are welcomed to address any concerns to the board,&uot; he said &uot;A procedure has been in effect for approximately 20 years to accommodate such requests. The board’s procedures are designed to ensure the free and open discussion needed to conduct business.&uot;

Pierce pointed out that the Pioneer officials were not invited to Saturday’s meeting, just as they were not invited to the last one. She said although he was not on the agenda, she invited Malloy Chandler, PEC’s manager to field questions from the audience despite some members’ wishing otherwise.

&uot;Several members in attendance requested that we not let anyone from the Pioneer management have the opportunity to speak,’ she said. &uot;My response was, ‘No, we’re going to set any example.’

Although we had been denied the opportunity to speak to the board, we were going to give Mr. Chandler or anyone else from Pioneer an opportunity to speak if they chose to do so.&uot;

What was Pioneer’s reaction to the meeting?

&uot;We are always happy to have an opportunity to openly answer questions from our members,&uot; Wilhite said.

&uot;We’ll continue to encourage any questions at any time and any place. We’d much prefer they get the information first-hand from their cooperative.&uot;

One of the questions raised again with Chandler revolved around lands leased out for hunting.

Following the last REMAC meeting, Chandler was asked who the property was leased to and he said he was not at liberty to give out that information.

According to Pierce, he said at Saturday’s meeting he is actually the one who leases the property from Pioneer.

She said when the question was asked who set the price and how much is paid, Chandler did not answer.

On Thursday, Wilhite was asked the same question and he explained why the land is leased and how the price is set.

&uot;Several years ago, Pioneer recognized that there was a severe shortage of available land to encourage economic growth,&uot; he said.

&uot;When this land became available, Pioneer purchased it with that intent. Instead of it sitting idle, it is leased for hunting and those profits returned to the co-op. In addition, any earnings from harvested timber also go to Pioneer.

As for who decides on the cost, Wilhite said similar leases employed by International Paper, the county’s largest landowner, determine the rate. He did not specify an amount charged for the 250 acres.

As for how Pioneer plans to work with REMAC in getting questions answered and information to the group, Wilhite said they would work on several fronts.

&uot; We’ll continue to communicate information about our policies, operations and pricing through our monthly magazine, media releases, bill stuffers and other methods,&uot; he said. &uot;In addition, we’ve offered to make available several speakers to appear before the group including, for example, rate experts, meter reading supervisors, Alabama Electric Cooperative and Alabama Rural Electric Cooperative Association officials, as well as our own personnel.

Also, we’re available to answer any questions whether by phone, letter, email, fax or person to person.&uot;

Pioneer’s phone number is 382-6636 and they can reached via email at info@pioneerelectric.com. The offices are located just down from the train depot at 300 Herbert St.

REMAC plans to hold another meeting in January in Lowndes County.

The time, date and location are still being arranged.

Pierce said that would be announced in a few days.

Wilhite said Pioneer would be glad to attend future meetings.

&uot; If any Pioneer members have questions about their cooperative, we will be more than happy to answer them any time, any place,&uot; he said.

&uot;Hopefully, we will be asked to attend all future meetings in order to provide our members accurate and current information.&uot;

Pierce said the meetings would continue to move to different locations so that more and more people could get involved.

For more information on REMAC, call 376-5550, 382-2704 or 382-5757.

To join REMAC, send your name, address, telephone number and Pioneer membership number with $5 membership dues to REMAC, 1036 Wald Road, Greenville, AL 36037.

Membership dues

and other donations are used towards accomplishing goals set by the organization.