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Setting of the First Pole on October 12, 1939

picture taken by Mrs. Beamish

From an R.E.A. press release written by Mr. Saponaro, of the Rate Division:

Governor Breaks Ground for First Pole

A cool, windy Thursday morning did not cool the enthusiasm of some 150 farm people who witnessed the setting of the first pole of their own REA financed electric Cooperative. Governor George Aiken, in helping to set the first pole, stressed the cooperative method as the most democratic for Vermont farmers to obtain electric service for themselves. The Governor emphasized the successful record of Vermont Cooperatives, pointing them out as leaders in the north eastern section of the United States. He indicated that the cooperative form of organization could bring electricity to the farmers more satisfactorily than either complete government ownerships or the banker control of electric facilities.

President Kelly of the Cooperative introduced several other speakers, including Mr. H. E. Drown, a Director of the Vermont Electric Cooperative; Mr. Ebbett, a leader in the cooperative movement in this area; Captain Clarke Millen, Engineering Supervisor of the Washington Electric Cooperative; Mr. Bowman, Superintendent of the Eden Mills Project; and Mr. R. J. Beamish, REA Regional Engineer. Mr. Beamish outlined the four years of REA growth, during which time $250,000,000 have been allotted to approximately 700 Projects in 44 States. He estimated that about 750,000 farm families will receive electricity over 250,000 miles of distribution line as a result of the program to date. He also indicated that 55 miles of line in Washington County would be ready for energy by December first.

Ultimately, it is expected that 300 miles of line to serve around 1000 farmers will comprise the entire project, which will be locally managed and owned by the members of the Cooperative receiving service.

To date, an acceptable wholesale power rate has not been obtained. In sharp contrast to the 1.9 cents per KWH rate being asked by the local company, REA financed projects throughout the country are now obtaining wholesale rates averaging approximately 1ยข per KWH. Negotiations are now in progress and should be completed as a result of a conference in Boston with officials of the Holding Company controlling the local operating company.

REA representatives stated that interest in other parts of New England is evidenced by other applications being submitted from unserved areas in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

From the Burlington Free Press:

Aiken Speaks At Ceremony At E. Montpelier – Calls Co-operative Satisfactory Answer To Farm Lighting

MONTPELIER, Oct. 12. – An official ceremony, with Gov. George D. Aiken as principal speaker, marked the setting of the first pole in a line of over 50 miles for the Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc., at East Montpelier today.

Pointing out that nearly two-thirds of Vermont farms are still without electricity, Gov. Aiken called the cooperative the “satisfactory answer” to the problem of farm electrification.

Recently Filed

Articles of association were recently filed by the Washington Cooperative, which has headquarters in Adamant. E. Harman Kelley of Montpelier is president of the organization. The project is being financed by a Federal grant from the Rural Electrification Administration, and is the second such project in Vermont, another having been completed earlier this year in Eden.

Discussing the problem of rural electrification, Aiken said, “It is not to be expected that private utilities can, within a short time, expand their services to meet the situation at a cost the people can pay. Some private companies cannot afford the cost even though they have the willingness to cooperate and serve.

“Others, unfortunately, appear to be under the control of those who have no sentimental attachment for Vermont – and little interest in us. Their motive seems to be to get the last drop of blood at as little expense to themselves as possible. Therefore, they lack the desire to serve thinly populated rural areas and apparently cannot see the possibilities of future development.”