As we close out a year full of unprecedented times, we want to thank you for your continued support and membership. Please allow me to introduce myself on behalf of YEC’s Board of Directors, who are honored to continue serving you. My name is Tom Settlemyre. I represent District 1 on your board and currently serve as chairman. I am happy to share insight from the board room, as well as a review of your co-op’s 2020 accomplishments.
Service, growth and internet
The year 2020 was difficult to navigate for all of us. For the first time, we canceled our annual meeting and closed our lobby to keep our members and employees safe. Despite the pandemic, we are proud to say we continued our dedication to you, serving you with excellence, remaining productive and completing many system improvements.
This included upgrades on nine existing substations and breaking ground on our new Aycock School substation, which will serve members living near McConnells. We are on track for this to come online in the spring. We’ve also started work on several other new substations that will be constructed in the next few years. We continued our backlot burial project, putting miles of our overhead lines in congested areas underground; trimmed 390 miles of right-of-way, staying true to our five-year right-of-way trimming cycle; worked to enhance communication and the transparency of our business; and responded to 100% of all outages within one hour.
Although our board meetings looked different this year, we continued to look out for the best interest of our entire membership, striving to improve the quality of life in our area. We completed 21 training sessions to better understand the jobs of YEC employees and how we can best support them in their mission to take care of you. We conducted a feasibility study to offer fiber internet to the unserved areas of our territory. Upon review, we are excited to announce we will be partnering to offer high-speed fiber internet in phases to members identified in this study. YEC members west of York and McConnells, including members in Cherokee County, will benefit from this new offering. We will communicate directly with affected members in the spring. As we move forward with this new venture, we will share more.
Bylaws and drive-thru Annual Meeting
Each month we study safety reports, approve financial documents and provide direction, vision and approval for economic development projects to plan for future growth. We set goals for improvement, and annually review and suggest bylaw changes to protect members’ rights. Please look for several proposed bylaw changes in March’s South Carolina Living, as well as information regarding our first-ever drive-thru annual meeting. We look forward to enlarging our existing drive-thru experience to include all attending members, enhancing convenience, as well as increasing registration and voting hours to improve accessibility.
Every dollar counts
Last year, we made several important financial advances to secure our future and save money for members. We reduced part of our debt and lowered our average interest paid by over 1%, saving us millions of dollars. We completed two capital credit retirements, returning more than $2 million to members. Thanks to these strategic moves and the efficiency of employees, we will not only extend our streak of 10 years without a rate increase, but also slightly lower rates for all members beginning this month for 2021. Perhaps one of the most impactful financial contributions has been to distribute more than $3.1 million dollars to those in need in our community through our Operation Round Up Trust, all because of your generosity.
Thank you for allowing us to serve you and make a difference. Please let us know if you need anything. We’ll be in the board room working for you.
Chairman, District 1