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Co-op Grows and Sees Changes

Newspaper Account of Public Hearing Supporting Electric Cooperatives by the Vermont Legislature, February 28, 1941

This was the headline in the Barre Times, reporting on a hearing on H.112, a uniform act to govern organization and operation of electric cooperatives in Vermont. Meanwhile, it had been a busy time for Washington Electric Co-op, which had been expanding and seeing changes.

Cooperative Goes Through a Time of Change and Growth

On December 26, 1941 the Barre Times reported:

“A farewell dinner was held at the Brown Derby Thursday evening for Capt. and Mrs. Clarke Millen and Marshall Hodgeman. This event was arranged by the directors of the Washington Electric Cooperative of which Capt. Millen has been superintendent-engineer for: the past three years and Mr. Hodgeman has been diesel electric operator during the same time. President E. H. Kelley presided at the after dinner ceremonies and called upon each one present for remarks. Both he and Vice President Fitch stressed the splendid service rendered by these two and very keen regret at their going. Capt. Millen in his response reviewed the work of the past three years and voiced sincere appreciation of the cooperation he had had from the patrons. Mrs. Millen, who has rendered valuable assistance in the office, made fitting response. Mr. Hodgeman spoke feelingly of the many courtesies extended him and of his enjoyment of the work and regret at leaving. On every side there was a feeling of real loss in the going of these three at the same time wishing them Godspeed in their new fields of activity. Capt. and Mrs. Millen are leaving soon for their former home in New Jersey. Mr. Hodgeman has enlisted in the U. S. Navy and left the next morning for his new duties.”

In 1943, Washington Electric acquired the L.E. Johnson Electric System in West Danville, including Joe’s Pond as well as the Waits River Electric Corporation. In 1946, REA allocated loan funds to Washington Electric Cooperative for the purchase of a power site at the Wrightsville Dam on the North Branch of the Winooski River (Barre Daily Times, September 23, 1946)

On December 10, 1947, the Barre Daily Times reported:

Electric Co-op Reports Progress On Anniversary – Washington Co-operative Founded Eight Years Ago; Now Serves Over 1900 Patrons

Progress in the growth of their organization was recalled yesterday by officers of the Washington Electric Co-operative on Depot Square, who celebrated the eighth anniversary of its original organization.

Sen. George D. Aiken, who was governor of Vermont at that time, threw the switch at the East Montpelier Diesel plant of the cooperative, which sent electric current to the comparatively few original members of the cooperative.

The history of the organization dates back to the first meeting, held July 14, 1939 at the Maple Corners Grange hall near Adamant. E.H. Kelley of Montpelier was chairman of the meeting, and later became the first president of the co-operative. At that time it was anticipated that approximately 25 miles of line would be strung to serve about 77 members. Today, the cooperative is reported to have expanded to include about 640 miles of wire, servicing over 1900 rural, users of electricity.

Records on the growth of the firm show that in the past year alone approximately 100 miles of line were erected to serve about 300 new members, and that some 400 applications for service from the Washington Electric Co-operative are listed in the firm’s books. During the month of November about 12 miles of wire were added to serve 36 new members in the West Groton area.

Starting next year the cooperative plans to start system improvement work, including the placing of voltage regulating equipment and automatic switching equipment and changing the line from a one-phase to a three-phase circuit from East Montpelier to East Calais. Plans also call for reconstruction of electric power facilities servicing the towns of East Topsham, Vershire, West Danville and Corinth.

Manager Frank Sahlman of the local Depot Square office, stated today that the proposed changes are in line with the policy of the cooperative to provide better service to the growing number of members. When the cooperative was originated eight years ago, only 45 kilowatt hours a month was the average used by each patron, compared to the present rise to over 140 kilowatt hours each month registered as, an average used by the present large number of cooperative members.

Officers of. the cooperative on their eighth anniversary are: President, Gordon Loveless of East Montpelier; vice-president, John Larkin of Tunbridge; treasurer and clerk, C.W. French of Plainfield.

During 1947, data indicates that the average use increased from 45 KWH/month to 140 KWH/month primarily due to farm use. It was also revealed that sources of power to meet the co-op needs was in critical supply and the local power company was proposing penalties if your co-op could not back up power for our needs. The co-op finally negotiated a contract for all power purchases from Green Mountain Power Corporation in 1948 and began talks on power from the St. Lawrence.

In 1949, Washington Electric Co-op raised rates for the first time, nearly 10%. In the Vermont legislature, a proposal by Rep. Keith Wallace to establish a Vermont State Power Authority was defeated.