Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) held its 80th Annual Meeting on August 29, 2018, at its headquarters in Hughesville. The Board of Directors election was conducted by mail prior to the meeting.
The following SMECO members were elected to serve on SMECO’s Board for three years: Samuel “Jack” Hammett in Calvert County; Fern G. Brown and Kenneth L. Dyson in Charles County; and W. Rayner Blair III and William R. Cullins III in St. Mary’s County. Several bylaw amendments were also included on this year’s ballot, and all of them were passed.
To allow more time for printing annual meeting notices and ballots, one of the bylaw amendments adjusts the deadline for nominations for Board of Director candidates. Additional amendments provide guidelines for any future online voting that the Board may consider for SMECO’s annual meeting. Because of a misprint on the ballot, votes for one of the proposed amendments to the bylaws were not counted. If approved by the Board of Directors, that proposed amendment will appear on the ballot next year.
In 2016, SMECO members voted to amend the bylaw that outlines requirements for meetings and voting, and this is the second year the election was conducted entirely by mail. Ballots were mailed on July 26, and customer-members were instructed to return their ballots by mail by August 22. Members who returned their ballots were eligible to win one of 36 electric bill credits of $50 each. More than 6,000 members voted, and election results were announced at the meeting.
Richard A. Winkler, Chairman of the SMECO Board of Directors, welcomed SMECO’s members to the event and called the meeting to order. SMECO’s president and CEO, Austin J. Slater, Jr., explained that an electric cooperative’s members have the ability to vote each year for their representatives who serve on the board. While SMECO has approximately 138,000 customer-members, in 2016 only 882 members registered to vote, and 16 percent of those voted by absentee ballot.
In other matters, Slater said that SMECO completed installing 167,000 smart meters at homes and businesses throughout Southern Maryland last year. SMECO expects the new meters to improve outage response times, increase efficiency, and save money. “Smart meters represent the ‘new normal’ for energy companies,” he explained. “They are safe and secure, and exemplify SMECO’s continued investment in improving customer service. We project that SMECO will save upwards of $5 million per year in operational costs.”
A capital credit general refund of $3.7 million was issued to members last month. “Passing savings on to members demonstrates electric cooperative values,” Slater said. In addition, he explained that SMECO’s margins for 2017 totaled $23.4 million, and all of those funds were allocated to members’ capital credit accounts. “Our Board of Directors is committed to refunding capital credits to members, when financially feasible,” he added.
According to Slater, “We continue to focus heavily on cost reduction and performance improvement, and we have racked up some significant cost reductions of $4.2 million since we began a concerted effort in 2017. We are going to stick with this effort as we fine-tune our operation and continue to eliminate unnecessary costs while focusing on process improvement.” Earlier this year, SMECO was able to refinance $135 million at a very favorable interest rate of four percent through the private placement market. “Establishing this source in the capital markets allows the cooperative to obtain financing without onerous and costly government requirements,” Slater said.
More than 5,400 SMECO customer-members have had solar panels installed. SMECO continues to receive about 12 applications per week from customer-members who want to install solar power at their home or business. Slater said, “We are excited about this green and clean resource, and we are ready to help our members consider and implement this option.” He concluded his remarks by thanking the customer-members who attended the cooperative’s 80th annual meeting and said, “We are looking forward to the next 80 years of serving the good people of Southern Maryland.”