How the Washington Electric Co-op Began
How the Washington Electric Co-op Began (Reminiscence by a Co-op member printed in the 1964 WEC Annual Report)
One July day Harmon Kelly called on Lorie and Elizabeth Tarshis to suggest their writing to Washington to ask about rural electricity. Raymond Ebbett and Lyle Young met with them. They decided to try to form an REA Co-op. Meetings followed in people’s living rooms.
On July 14th the first public meeting, conducted by Harmon Kelly, was held in the Grange Hall, Maple Corner. It had been hard to get people to come. Meetings had been held before about getting Green Mountain Power and had always ended in disappointment. As Mr. Kelly talked, people became optimistic and began to suggest sources of water power. We even considered the radical idea of a diesel engine. Several strangers sat listening in the dark shadows at the back of the lamp lit hall. One made a long rambling speech against socialistic schemes ending: “And you’ll have to admit I told you.”
We found out who our visitors were when they went to the owners of the best farms and promised them Green Mountain Power within three weeks if they would “give up this nonsense.” Harmon Kelly was told to give it up or lose his job. Neither bribes nor threats worked. On July 29th the REA Co-op was formed with Harmon Kelly, Lyle Young, and Elizabeth Kent Tarshis as incorporators.
My diary for October 7th 1939 reads: “Autumn color splendid. Electricity booming. Stakes set to mark where poles will be.” On October 12th, the first pole was set on the McKnight farm in East Montpelier. I remember it, well braced, standing black against a cold sky with bright leaves whirling in the wind and a man from Washington saying: “You folks don’t know what you’ve started. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a thousand members some day.” The first hundred looked at each other in disbelief. No one imagined there would be more than three thousand in 1964.
On a May night in 1940, for the first time since the power was turned on, I drove along the County Road. In houses, dark last year or with lamps dimly burning, every window was a blaze of light. There was music everywhere – cows listening to records, housewives to radios. I stopped, found one friend happily running a new vacuum cleaner over an already immaculate rug. I hurried on to my own dark house and turned on every one of our new 100 watt bulbs. The miracle had come.
1939 - When it all began
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FACTS ABOUT WASHINGTON ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE (handout at the December 2nd opening)
1. The Washington Electric Cooperative is a farmers’ cooperative organized to provide electric service at cost to its members. It is incorporated under the laws of Vermont. Its original members live in East Montpelier and Calais. That is the section that is being energized today. It is planned to extend the lines into adjoining towns as rapidly as possible.
2. It borrowed from the Federal Rural Electrification Administration enough money to build its lines and leave a modest nest egg to meet its initial operating expenses. Its original allotment, made Sept. 22, 1939, was for $68,000. This provided for the first section of 55 miles. In November, 1939, REA made $2,500 available to the cooperative for relending to its members to enable then to wire their homes. Also, in November, 1939, REA made an additional power plant allotment of $25,000 to enable the Cooperative to build a Diesel Generating Plant at East Montpelier.
3. The loans all bear interest at the rate which the United States Government paid on its long-term obligations issued during fiscal 1939 – 2.69 percent. This is simple interest on the unpaid balance of the loan. It starts when the money is actually transferred from the Federal Treasury to the Cooperative. This is considerably later than the date of allotment.
4. The Cooperative’s loan contract with REA provides for amortization of its construction loan over 25 years. At the end of that time, the Cooperative will own its power system outright. The wiring loan runs for five years. The Cooperative relends this to its members at 6 percent simple interest on the unpaid balance.
5. The Government’s loan is secured by a mortgage on the cooperative’s power system and a lien on its revenues but not on the land over which the lines run. No farmer is ever asked to mortgage his farm as security for a loan from REA.
6. The lines energized today were engineered by Clarke Millen, Resident Engineer and Superintendent, and built by the contracting firm of Day & Zimmermann, of Philadelphia, Pa. The construction contract was signed on October 3, 1939, Construction work on the lines has been completed..
7. The original allotment was based on an anticipated 140 members. There are now 155 signed and paid-up members who plan to take service from the first section. Of these, 90 are ready to receive service today, and approximately 30 more are having their places wired.
8. No consumer can be connected to a line financed by REA until a qualified inspector, independent of the project and approved by REA, has certified that his wiring complies with the National Electrical Code of the Board of Underwriters. This requirement is new in this area, as in many rural regions all over the country. The inspector is J. S. O’Hara, of Morrisville.
9. The Power Plant is being built by the Cooperative under the supervision of C. F. Lewis, R.E.A. Engineer.
10. The officers and directors of the Cooperative are: E. H. Kelley, of East Montpellier, President; Roy Sibley of East Montpelier, Vice-president; Lyle Young of East Montpelier, Clerk and Treasurer; and Lynn Nelson of East Montpelier, Clarence Fitch of East Montpelier, Alex P. Robinson of Adamant, Mrs. Howard Lackey of Calais, John Graham of Calais, and Sydney Morse of Calais.
11. The Cooperative’s staff consists of Clarke Millen, Superintendent Dorothy Brunelle, bookkeeper, and Marshall Hodgeman is in training for power plant operator and “trouble man”.
12. The success or failure of the Cooperative will depend upon the extent to which each member fulfills his responsibility of taking an active part in its affairs. Each member has one vote. It is as important to cast it as it is to go to town meeting.
13. It is the duty of each member who has not already done so to wire his place and take service. It is the duty of all members to urge their neighbors living along the lines to join the cooperative and wire their farms. The more connected members, and the more electricity they use, the lower the rate schedule can be set.
14. Electricity on the farm can be a source of profit rather than an added expense if you will only let it. Your superintendent and your County Agent can help you to find profitable ways of using it. Milk coolers, milking machines, poultry house lighting and electric brooding are a few of the applications possible in this area,
15. This Cooperative has a complete electric system and members receive their service over their own lines direct from their own generators and it is to their own interest to make the fullest use of the service. What they pay for electricity is used to pay for their plant. The cooperative spirit among the members has been reported to be very gratifying.
Governor Aiken Throws the Switch Generating Washington Electric’s First Electricity on December 2, 1939
From the December 4, 1939 Burlington Free Press and Times:
Aiken Slaps Power Companies Again at Cooperative Dedication Starts Current Over 55 Miles To 155 Families, Praises Courage And Foresight of The Cooperative
(Special to the Free Press)
MONTPELIER Dec. 3.–Dedicating the $25,000 diesel electric power plant of the Washington Electric Cooperative at East Montpelier yesterday, Gov. George D. Aiken slapped the rural electrification policy of private utilities once more and praised the “courage and foresight” of the cooperative.
The governor closed a switch at the power plant which sent electricity into 55 miles of lines built by the cooperative to serve about 150 families of Washington county in East Montpelier Plainfield, Calais, Marshfield and Middlesex. The project, costing $68,000, was financed with Federal funds from the Rural Electrification Administration.
Prices Within Reach
“These lines have been built into territories which private corporations have consistently refused to serve at prices within the reach of the people,” Gov, Aiken declared. “It is probably true that extension of lines into these fanning areas would not immediately pay substantial dividends on inflated valuations. But the cooperative, working under the REA program, does not inflate its capital structure, does not pay high official salaries, does not hire high priced attorneys, does not maintain expensive legislative lobbies, does not pay tribute to holding companies and does not employ high pressure and expensive publicity methods to expound its virtues.
“Therefore,” he added, “it can build its lines into more thinly populated but deserving farming communities, charging only such rates as will meet its legitimate costs and provide for amortizing its indebtedness over a 25-year period.”
The cooperative project will furnish actual necessary cost figures on construction and maintenance of electric lines, “information that to date has been sadly lacking and badly needed,” the governor asserted. “If this line can serve a thinly populated area at certain rates, then there should be no reason whatsoever why utility corporations that have heretofore taken the cream of the distributing area should not have their rates fixed at a commensurate figure,” he said.
Commenting on the anomaly of diesel generated power in a State rich in water power resources, Gov. Aiken said, “it seems incongruous and unjust that any farming community should be denied the right to purchase at wholesale any of that power, except at excessive rates, in a State where hydro-electric energy is generated to such an extent that four-fifths of it is exported.”
Installation of the plant, he declared, “should drive home to all who will see or read the fact that our farmers mean business and will not be bluffed nor seduced into paying, to a privileged few, a tribute on a heritage that rightfully belongs to all Vermonters.”
He foresaw that as a result of the new project, “many farms will become more prosperous; those that have become deserted will be repossessed and once more be the homes of people who love to live in the country.”
E. Harmon Kelley, president of the Washington Electric Cooperative, presided at the dedication ceremony which was attended by farmers and their families of this area and REA officials from Washington.
The company gathered first at the new power plant on the Hardwick Road where two diesel engines capable of generating 128 horsepower each were started. The room has space for four more engines of the same capacity which will be set up later, it is expected, as the business expands. As president of the co-operative, E.H. Kelley of East Montpelier, presided at the exercises and introduced the speakers.
Adjournment was made to Village Hall for the remainder of the exercises and many could find only standing room, so large was the company present. Among the speakers were Dr. Robert Craig, assistant administrator, R. E. A., C. A. Winder, director, department of engineering, R. E. A., who told briefly of the movement of the R. E. A. project throughout the country and the benefits it was bringing to the residents of rural areas; and Capt. Clarke Millen, the R.E.A. engineer who has been supervising engineer under the R.E.A., and who is to be retained as resident engineer for the co-operative. A.M. Blakeney, Jr., assistant chief of the wiring utilization section of the R. E. A., furnished some practical suggestions to those engaged in wiring their homes and farm buildings, designed to protect them from poor and faulty wiring and material.
Moving pictures were shown of the history of the Mississippi River, the forests that originally grew along its banks, their destruction, the consequent soil erosion, the building of power dams that followed, and their function in utilities development, to the present case of the Washington Electric Co-operative.
Music was contributed to the exercises by Henry Ebbett of Montpelier Center, violinist, and Virgil McCarthy of Barre, who played the guitar. The two young men also sang. One of the hits of the day was an improvisation by Mr. McCarthy on the parody of the “Old Oaken Bucket”, starting with the lines, “There’s a hole in the rusty old lantern,” and describing the end of that flickering illumination now that better days had come with electricity.
Hot doughnuts, cheese and coffee were served free to the gathering furnished by the Parent-Teacher Association. From the merchants of the surrounding cities and towns had been sent an array of electrical appliances that were of great interest to the visitors and there were representatives of the firms to explain the advantages of the tools on display. Practically every one present inspected the plant before leaving.
On July 28, 1939, a group of 30 neighbors met at the then Maple Corner Grange and created the Washington Electric Co-op.
What Inspired the Community to go to the Effort to Form an Electric Co-op?
First, a quick look at the history of electrical power generation between 1880-1938:
In 1886, Caleb Pitkin, a leading Montpelier manufacturer, hosted a meeting to discuss generating electricity.
By 1908, 12 towns had municipally owned and regulated systems.
In 1909, a weak Vermont Public Service Commission was legislatively established.
By the late 1920’s, there were no small companies. Only a few large utility “empires” remained. Central Vermont Public Service Corp., Green Mountain Power and others were subsidiaries of holding companies whose main offices were in Chicago, Boston and New York. Vermont’s rivers supplied hydropower for export to Massachusetts.
“Two thirds of Vermont’s electric power was exported out-of-state, so Vermont farmers were outraged at being told it was not profitable to serve them.” (History of Electric Power by Lee Webb)
The Burlington Free Press reported that Washington Electric Co-op had received a telegram on September 9, 1939, that they had been granted $68,000 from the Rural Electrification Administration. The envelope below contained the first check received by Washington Electric Co-op.
October 12, 1939 at the McKnight Farm in East Montpelier
Here is the introduction to the Governor from E. Harmon Kelley, President of the Washington Electric Cooperative:
“This ceremony which we are about to observe marks a very important milestone in the lives of the people in this part of Vermont. For months we have labored to bring about this moment and it has been only through the concerted action of everybody, in spite of delays and discouragements, that we now see the first tangible evidence of the fulfillment of our dreams, cheap and adequate power and light available to rural homes which never would have received it except for group action, or, if you please, cooperation of all for the good of all.
Such action is the only alternative to Government ownership or the greed of private industry. Those of us who have participated in the benefits of the Cooperative store at Adamant and Plainfield realize the happy results from communities working together for a common cause.
That this fact is recognized by those taking part in the more complex affairs of business and State is evidenced by the presence here today of many from other sections, many who have given freely of their time and experience to assist in making this project a success. Our own Governor is keenly interested in the prosperity of everyone of us and is an ardent supporter of things cooperative. He has very kindly consented to take a few moments from his multitudinous duties to assist us in this simple pole setting ceremony, a symbol of benefits which will continue after we have passed on. Figuratively speaking, may I express the hope that this timber will bear fruit and the seed therefrom be scattered to every rural home not now enjoying the advantages of electricity.
Permit me at this time to introduce Governor Aiken, who will turn the first earth for the setting of this pole and the start of the power lines of the Washington Electric Cooperative.”
GOVERNOR GEORGE AIKEN’S REMARKS:
“In a land as rich as ours it should be possible for all to enjoy a high standard of living on our farms as well as in our cities and villages.
In these times, innumerable conveniences to lighten the work of the farmer and his family are available, provided electric current is at hand.
While Vermont farmers have been far more fortunate in this respect than the average for the country, yet nearly two thirds of them are still unsupplied with electric light and power from central stations. This condition ought not to exist, and when it is remedied, not only will the farm family find greater values in living, but the Community and the State will profit by reason of the improvement of property and greater income and also from the immigration of people from the larger centers of population who will elect to live up here in these hills, if electric current, good roads, and rapid transportation to the cities are available.
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 they cannot see the possibilities for future development.
Vermonters, on the other hand, do not look with favor on Government ownership of retail distributing lines fearing the extension of such centralized ownership to other local and more personal affairs.
To me it seems that the Cooperative provides a satisfactory answer to the question as to how our farms may be electrified.
It is a proper function of Government to assume leadership in the matter. To make available the results of widespread studies, to provide extension services demonstrating the uses of electricity, to assist in coordinating activities of strategically located cooperatives, to make available funds for construction and early maintenance of the lines where necessary, and to exercise only such control over the local management as may be necessary to protect the public investment.
We appreciate the cooperation of the REA here in Vermont. We hope its services may be further extended. I have confidence in the success of our adventures and compliment the people of Washington, as I did those of Eden and vicinity – on their courage, their foresight and their faith in their communities.”
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 1¢ 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.
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.”
From the November 28, 1939 Burlington Free Press and Times:
The local project is the second cooperative in the state for electrical purposes, Lowell in the northern part of Vermont, being the first with over 100 miles of distribution lines. These towns, East Montpelier and Calais, were not wholly without electricity before the new project, as lines ran along the main roads on state route number 12, from East Montpelier to Hardwick, and along U. S. route number 2, from Montpelier through Plainfield. But these lines failed to send the current far from their trunk lines because of the great cost. When the REA was first organized, the cost of wiring per mile was reckoned at $1,500 and it takes a power company a long time to begin to reap a profit at that rate, but now the cost has been reduced to slightly over $810 per mile and the extension will go rapidly forward.
The method of securing electricity by federal aid is for farmers to organize into a cooperative, then seek a loan through the REA. The next step is to select an engineer to draw up specifications for the job. The engineer’s plans must be sent to Washington for approval after which the cooperative asks for bids on the work. An engineer is sent out from headquarters in Washington to look after the work and see that the lines are properly constructed.
70 Square Miles Affected
In the case of the job nearly-completed an area of about 70 square miles is concerned. The project extends from Montpelier, north to include North Calais and extends into Marshfield, a distance of 11 by 6 miles in all. There are about 55 miles of distribution wires. In the spring it is hoped to add from 50 to 100 miles, to extend into the towns of Middlesex, Cabot and Plainfield.
Wiring contractors from East Montpelier to Peacham are all so busy wiring the 150 houses that want electricity under the new system, that for several months it has been almost impossible to hire any small jobs done in this vicinity. Not all of the whole number of buildings are in readiness at the present date to receive the juice at the first turn of the switch, but all are expected to be ready to be supplied with it at some time in December. The new power house contains a diesel-generated plant, capable of being expanded to six times its present capacity.
The two men from Washington who have been staying on the ,job and looking after details since its start are Capt. Clarke Millen supervising engineer, and C. P. Lewis, who has been in charge of construction and assembling the power plant.
Heading the Washington Electric Cooperative is the following board of directors, leading men in their community: E. H. Kelley, president,, Roy H. Sibley, vice president, Lyle P. Young, secretary-treasurer. Lynn Nelson, Clarence Fitch, all of East Montpelier, and Alex M. Robinson, Adamant, Howard Lackey, John Graham and Sydney Morse, all of Calais.
From Candles To Electricity
It is of interest to know that the farm of H. W. Vincent in East Montpelier, which has been wired, is occupied by the grandson of the settler, Harry Vincent, and the same house which knew tallow candles and kerosene lamps will now, in the third generation, have the benefit of modern electricity. Also the house of Lyle P. Young, fourth in descent from Solomon Dodge, a first settler, and in the same location, though a part of the house was destroyed by fire a number of years ago, has had a Delco lighting system for the last 30 years, but has now been changed over to the cooperative system.
This area of construction was called “No Man’s Land.” Work commenced in three eight-hour shifts. Marshall Hodgeman helped construct the sub-station. When the concrete mixer and gravel pile were producing the concrete, the scrapbook mentions that it was “Vice-President Sibley’s hay keeping the concrete warm”.
Draft of Remarks by Dr. Robert B. Craig, Assistant Administrator, Rural Electrification Administration, at energizing of first section of Washington Electric Cooperative at East Montpelier, Vermont, on Saturday afternoon, December 2, 1939.
You members of the Washington Electric Cooperative can take special pride in the energizing of your first section of lines today, because you have set something of a record in construction. Your allotment was made early in September. You set your first pole on October 12. Now, less than two months later, you are receiving electric service generated in your own plant and distributed over your own electric distribution system: Seldom, if ever before, in the history of the Federal rural electrification program has such speed been achieved.
You could not have achieved this record of speedy construction if you had not understood thoroughly the meaning of cooperation. It took the united efforts of everyone concerned – the REA staff, your employees and directors, and, above all, those of you who live along the lines that are being energized today – to make it possible. If even one of you had failed to display the neighborly spirit that is the heart of a cooperative undertaking, if even one of you had refused to grant an easement so that the line could be run across his property, we should not be holding this celebration now, and you would not be looking forward to obtaining light at the turn of a switch, and listening to an all-electric radio tonight.
You did understand what cooperation means. How could you help but do so? Ever since the Allen boys and Seth Warner and Remember Baker came up into this mountain region after the French and Indian Wars, and began to carve a commonwealth out of the wilderness, Vermonters have known how to work together. The monument at Bennington which I passed on my way up here testifies to this. So does the cave on Mount Mooslamoo, where the Green Mountain Boys hid at times when the Sheriff of Albany was making things too hot for them and they needed a little time to perfect their plans and muster their forces for protecting their homes. So do the long lists of Vermonters who have given their lives on the field of battle in every war in which the United States has engaged – and a list out of all proportion to the population of the State it is.
Because you understand cooperation and because you have inherited the spirit of self-reliance that has been bred in the bone of Vermonters from the beginning, you have worked together to bring yourselves the electric service that no one else could bring you. You borrowed the necessary funds from your Federal Government, at the same low interest that the Government itself pays on its obligations. You have pledged your word that you will pay this money back on the installment plan over a 25 year period, at the end of which you will own your cooperative electric power system in fee simple.
I hope that from this day on you will think and speak of the generating plant and lines of your cooperative electric power system as “our plant” and “our lines”, because that is what they are. They are not “Government lines.” True, the Government has a mortgage on them; but it does not own them, and does not wish to own them. What it does wish is to continue to give you advice and guidance, as it has in the past, and to help you to help yourselves. The terms of the loan contract give REA the right to exercise such supervision as may be necessary to protect the Government’s investment. That is necessary, because the funds with which your power system has been built are public funds which must one day be returned to the Treasury. But we wish to keep that supervision to a minimum, just as we wish to help you with any problems that you care to present to us; and I am confident that if you keep on as you have begun – and the record of your sister cooperative at Eden Mills gives every indication that you will – you will find that your Cooperative’s relationship with REA will become more and more a partnership in the conduct of which you members of the Washington Electric Cooperative have the major voice.
“You will not always have smooth sailing. You became aware of this when you found it impossible to obtain wholesale power at a price and under conditions that you could afford. That is why we allotted funds to enable you to generate your own power. But you can be assured that when troubles come, you can count on the full support of the REA and of the United States Department of Agriculture of which it is a part.
Governor Aiken outlined the situation that made your cooperative necessary in his speech before the New England Conference a few days ago. He said then, as you remember; “there are today private corporations making 20 to 30 percent profit each year, yet there are still tens of thousands of New England farmers without the services of electricity because extension of lines into their territory would not pay the desired dividends on inflated capitalization. So you have determined to wait no longer, but to provide electric services for yourselves.
You will find that you are bringing yourselves not merely the luxury of safe, convenient lights and all-electric radios, but also a helper capable of doing much to makes your farm costs lower and in many instances, your farm income higher. Your Project Superintendent and your County Agent can help you adapt electricity to your particular needs. For instance, a number of members of the Vermont Electric Cooperative around Eden Mills are finding that electric milk coolers not only are cheaper to use than ice refrigerators, but also that their coolers enable than to get a premium of ? cents a hundredweight for their milk because they can deliver it at 50 degrees or lower. Poultry house lights increase egg production during this season of short days and high prices. Electric brooders are proving profitable for raising chicks and turkey poultry on many farms served by REA financed lines all over the United States. Professor Akerman in New Hampshire has determined that they can be used in unheated brooder houses when the temperature falls as low as 40 degrees below zero.
These are only a few of the uses to which electricity can be put on the farm. The reason I mention them is to remind you that the surest way of making your cooperative successful is to make electricity pay its way on your own farms. REA, and all the other agencies and bureaus of the United States Department of Agriculture, are ready to help you find ways of doing this. So are the specialists and County Agents of your own State Extension Service.
Take advantage of the assistance that is available in devising ways to make your electric service profitable. Continue to apply the traditional Vermont qualities of cooperation and self-reliance to your electric cooperative’s affairs. Remember that the vote of every one of you counts for as much at your cooperative’s meetings as does that of the president of the board. Cast that vote at every opportunity. Study the reports of your employees and officers. Do all this, and you can feel confident that yours will be one of the outstandingly successful rural electric cooperatives in the United States.
From the December 4, 1939 Burlington Free Press and Times:
Starts Current Over 55 Miles to 155 Families,Praises Courage and Foresight of the Cooperative
E. Harmon Kelley, president of the Washington Electric Cooperative, presided at the dedication ceremony which was attended by farmers arid their families of this area and REA officials from Washington.
The company gathered first at the new power plant on the Hardwick Road where two Diesel engines capable of generating 128 horsepower each were started. The room has space for four more engines of the same capacity which will be set up later, it is expected, as the business expands. As president of the co-operative, E.H. Kelley of East Montpelier, presided at the exercises and introduced the speakers.
Adjournment was made to Village Hall for the remainder of the exercises and many could find only standing room, so large was the company present. Among the speakers were Dr. Robert Craig, assistant administrator, R. E. A., C. A. Winder, director, department of engineering. R. E. A., who told briefly of the movement of the R. E. A. project through country and the benefits it was bringing to the residents of rural areas; and Capt. Clarke Millen, the R.E.A. engineer who has been supervising engineer under the R.E.A., and who is to be retained as resident engineer for the co-operative, A.M. Blakeney, Jr., assistant chief of the wiring utilization section of the R. E. A„ furnished some practical suggestions to those engaged in wiring their homes and farm buildings, designed to protect them from poor and faulty wiring and material.
Eleanor Roosevelt Writes About Washington Electric Co-op in Her Newspaper Column in the Washington Daily, November 24, 1939
My Day – Many Messages Which Warm the Heart
“I have just received a little bulletin published by the Washington Electric co-operative of East Montpelier, Vt. The bulletin is only two months old, but I predict it will appeal to its circulation….”
By ELEANOR ROOSEVELT
THANKSGIVING DAY IN WARM SPRINGS, Ga.-A blue sky overhead, a warm sun, and. yet enough chill in the air to make a brisk walk pleasant. In the evening, a great log fire on the hearth gives added cheer. We are alone for lunch, but tonight we will eat our turkey with the patients and guests in Georgia Hall.
Many messages have come to us this day which warm the heart. I feel each day an increasing gratitude that I am a citizen of the United States at peace and free.
I have just received a little bulletin published by the Washington Electric Co-operative of East Montpelier, Vt. The bulletin is only two months old, but I predict it will appeal to its circulation. There is a poem glorifying electric lights for rural areas and a practical New England item on a nearby page, which says: “Under the Rural Electrification Administration, lines are being built at a new cost of about $810 a mile. Before Rural Electrification Administration days, $1500 was considered low:”
The question and answer department in this little bulletin amused me, particularly the answer to the question: “If I should want to do something to my wire, is it all right if I put a ladder on the pole and turn off the transformer?” The answer ran: “It is a convenient way out. In order to save trouble for your family we suggest that you make the funeral arrangements first and leave a note for the police so that they will not think it was murder.”
I think we all enjoy keeping in touch with the human side of the REA movement. Like all other things which the Department of Agriculture has a hand in these days, there is a conservation side to rural electrification which affects the lives of human beings. Men and women can get more joy and ease out of life when they have electricity to work for them on the farms.
One farm wife in Knox County, Ohio, tells the story of her new electric range and its uses in harvest time. She fed as many as 20 and 30 men at times and her meals were not light luncheons, for farm hands like real food. “Pies and fried chicken and baked beans,” writes this farmer’s wife, “were what I served:” Yet her monthly bills with all this cooking never amounted to more than $6.57. Besides the range she had a radio, electric lights, a washing machine and an ironer and her farmer husband uses electricity on his corn shellers, emery wheel and cream separator. If this isn’t a story of a better life on a farm, then I do not know what it is.
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From a letter written to Harry Slattery, Administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration by Clarke Millen, Engineer-Superintendent of Washington Electric Cooperative on January 5th 1940.
You will be interested to know that between yesterday and today our office was moved from rented quarters to our own really substantial, fireproof building, which stands on a lot which, on Nov 14th, was practically a swamp. The office is finished in cream wall board with dark brown panel strips and trim. One thing on which I insisted, and which might be considered an extravagance elsewhere than in this northern country, is a native Vermont maple floor. In the panels on the sides walls are six R.E.A. posters by Beall, with which you are doubtless familiar. We can hear the hum of the generators sending 30 KW over lines that were only a dream three months ago, and many times during the past week I have seen in real life the poster of the Lady sitting by her electric light and saying: “Now I’m satisfied.”
I am sure that all of our members would like to join me in thanking you for what has come to pass.
We are planning and working now to extend this service into adjacent areas where the people are in very great need of the benefits of electricity, and are ready to join with us. The number of miles of line which we can construct early next year is limited only by our ability to canvass the territory and prepare plans with the small, force of trained workers available, and to contend with the forces of Nature at this season in a northern country. Some of the roads are already impassible at times.
We sincerely hope that you will be able to visit our Project in the not too distant future.
Reaction to Governor Aiken’s Speech at Washington Electric Co-op on December 2nd, which was broadcast live on WDEV radio, was swift and pointed.
AIKEN AND THE FACTS
From the December 4, 1939 Brattleboro Reformer and reprinted in the Montpelier Evening Argus
If Governor Aiken is challenged to a factual defense of his argument on rural electric power co-operatives, we suspect he will be hard put to dig up the figures. His speech to the New England Conference at Boston was little more than a threat to an industry already discouraged by restrictive regulation and hostile politicians and as long as it is under fire, with every cent of profit endangered, it can hardly be expected to take the long risk of running lines out where customers are a long way apart, small customers at that.Governor Aiken’s talk about farmers resorting to co-operatives and aligning themselves with federal regulation apparently has reference to a couple of electric co-operatives recently organized in northern Vermont. They may be successful but they are up to their neck in debt on capital that only the federal government would be so reckless as to supply. One line supplying a handful of farms was financed with a federal loan big enough to build a system for a sizeable community. This co-operative, moreover, doesn’t manufacture any electricity but buys it from an established company. It just operates a distribution line and the power company will be more than pleased to sell it current at the favorable rate. The company would also have been glad to build the line if it could see anything except loss.The power companies are willing to build rural lines and their conditions (a guarantee of $18 a month revenue per mile) are more than generous. Even this figure could not be possible were it not for the backlog the companies have in serving populous communities. The power company critics evidently realize rural lines are unprofitable for a couple of the municipal ownership bills submitted to the last legislature were so drawn that the municipality would buy only the part serving a thickly settled area and leave the power company holding the bag for all the surrounding rural lines. This little scheme was defeated.As long as the farmers can get the federal government to put up the cash for rural lines they may be satisfied but they might ponder longer if they had to risk their own money. The average farmer is a lot more cautious with his money than the average utility.
From the December 6, 1939 Randolph Herald and News and reprinted in the Barre Times
Our excellent governor has one or two “bugs” that continue to pursue him. One is his animosity to banks and bankers. He looks upon them as Shylocks, fattening off the hard-earned proceeds of toil, overcharging in interest rates, over-discriminating in making loans – tough-hided autocrats. Another bug that bites him is the privately owned public utilities. Apparently he shares Roosevelt’s antipathy to them. In his Boston speech last week he indicated his belief that these corporations are making big money for their officials and for their stockholders on heavily watered capitalization and are not serving the public as they should by failing to carry their service into rural communities. Doubtless there is basis for the governor’s criticism, both of banking and public service corporations, but he makes a mistake in widening it so far. Most banks and most utilities are conducted with as much regard for the public welfare – on which they depend for patronage – as conditions permit. The bed of neither is one of roses. They would both do better if they weren’t harried incessantly by attacks upon them, generated frequently by those seeking political support. A lot could be said within the truth that would make this clear. The alternative proposed by the governor, co-operative enterprises supported by the federal government, has little beyond theory to sanction it. Certainly the Federal Farm Loan organization cannot claim success as a business venture. It is loaded with unproductive farm properties that no private banking system could hold and continue under, with federal approval. Co-operative electric lines won’t function successfully of themselves any more than co-operative telephone lines did. And we know what happened to them.
From the December 15, 1939 Montpelier Evening Argus – “Boilin’ Down” by Val Bowman, city editor
… “Excessive rates, inflated valuations, high salaries, expensive lobbies, tribute to holding companies, high pressure methods” – all these phrases have a very familiar ring and in using them the Governor merely tore a page from the well-fingered glossary of his New Deal contemporaries.
AIKEN’S STRAW MAN
From the January 29, 1940 Brattleboro Reformer and reprinted in the Montpelier Evening Argus
It is our hope that Governor Aiken is not playing politics with rural electrification, for we do not know of anything that in the long run would have a more harmful effect on (1) rural areas at present not electrified and (2) the Governor’s career in public service. Certainly his latest remarks, issued after a conference with the state rural electrification board, do not reflect a dispassionate, constructive attitude. When he openly advises farmers to ignore power companies’ offers of electric service he appears, on the face of things, to be trying to create a straw man to knock over.
Governor Aiken’s charge that the utilities are “re-skimming” the state calls for explanation. According to him, they are picking the most profitable customers in the community and leaving the majority of less profitable ones in a position of not being able to get service at all. Does the Governor mean by this, for example, that the recent extension of Twin State lines in West Guilford and Guilford has precluded the possibility of electric service in Green River? Or if West Guilford and Guilford Center didn’t have electricity Green River would get it sooner? The laymen’s impression is that the closer the lines are to Green River the greater the possibility of a connection.
The Governor is exceedingly proud of the electric Cooperatives he has fathered, but we wonder whether there will be so much in them to be proud of ten years hence. They are financed with money borrowed on liberal terms from the federal government, and have no reserve. Has the Governor stopped to wonder who is going to put the lines back up when a storm comes along and tears them down? Has he stopped to wonder who is going to re-set the poles when a flood washes them away? It strikes us that the farmers who get service from strong companies with a backlog of urban consumption will have more and better light in their homes than those who pin their hopes on a shaky Cooperative.
December 2, 1941 Winter Says REA Seeks Socialism – Tells House Agency Has Hoard of Copper in Texas to Aid Its Utility `Program’ – PLOT BY `REDS’ IS CHARGED – Communists and Sympathizers, He Says, Are Scheming to Control Our Economics
Special to The New York Times
Washington, Dec. 1. The Rural Electrification Administration was accused today on the floor of the House of hoarding millions of pounds of copper, not for the purpose of employing this vital defense metal in the distribution of current to new farm homes but to further a program of socialization of the utility industry.
Making these allegations as he displayed pictures purporting to show a twenty-three-car trainload of copper “hidden” in Texas cotton fields was a Kansas Republican, Representative Thomas D. Winter.
More frequently than not Mr. Winter has voted with the House’s isolationist group on matters relating to the Roosevelt foreign policy. Today, as he leveled his charges against the REA, he asserted that the Administration had led the nation into an undeclared war.
But now, he told his colleagues, it was the duty of every American citizen to give his best efforts in carrying out the national policy which the majority had approved. The REA and what he called its “Communists” and “fellow-travelers,” he said, were not doing this.
“Supported by the powerful farm vote,” he declared, “they are capitalizing on a popular cause, electrification of the farm, to seize control of a large segment of our, economic and political life.”
He introduced a resolution calling for a Congressional investigation of the REA.
Says Copper Is in Heavy Strands
The copper stored down in the Texas cotton fields, Mr. Winter asserted, could never be used to illuminate a single additional rural home or barn. It was in heavy cables of three and seven strands, he pointed out, usable only for high transmission lines, to serve existing cooperatives whose members are already receiving current.
For even that use, he said, the copper cables located in fields at Gilmer, Quitman, Emory, Troup, Mount Pleasant, and Henderson, Texas, could not be put to work within two years.
Meanwhile, Representative Winter said, the Office of Production Management is allocating certain amounts of copper for the continuation of REA lines, but allows no copper to private companies for expansion, either rural or urban. ….He made this charge:
“I say to you that the Rural Electrification Administration is teeming with Communists, fellow-travelers and bureaucrats who put political theory above the safety of their country.”
Even before Aiken’s speech, the REA was under attack from right-wing Republicans. On the day that Franklin Wood (engineer in the REA Research Division) visited the Washington Electric Co-op office and made recommendations for the diesel plant, he was mentioned in the Burlington Free Press on October 26, 1939. Mrs. Millen, who was collecting news articles for the Washington Electric scrapbook did not seem terribly concerned about the allegations, noting with a caption, “The Seats of the Mighty Under Fire.”
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.
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- The Washington Electric Co-op was alive and well in the 1950’s. Consumer demand was up for electrical appliances and so was the demand for electricity. The annual meetings were well attended, and were a source of community as well as business.
- In the 1950’s, the Federal Hydro Project study was advocated by President Truman because New England and other Northeastern states had “the highest power rates for residential consumers.” The St. Lawrence Project was the single source, which could relieve the short supply and cost.
- Prize winners at the Annual Meeting were: bathroom scales– Mrs. Emma Duff, Mrs. Ralph Morgan, Mrs. Ruth Sargent; heating pad– Mrs. Clinton Sawyer, Mrs. Lewis Nelson; clock- – Lyle Felch, Berthold Coburn, Arthur Spooner; iron- – Anna Gendron, Norma Raymond; and coffee maker– Mrs. Stella Russell, Mrs. Andrew Warren
- On May 14, 1950 the Orange Grange hosted a dinner for co-op employees to show off cooking with their new electric range.
- The co-op occupied a newly constructed office by the end of 1950. This was the site of the former diesel plant, which was used in the early years to supply power.
- During 1950, a new two-way radio system was installed. This enhanced the work of the line crew in restoring service and made safety of our crews an additional benefit.
- During the afternoon of the 1955 Annual Meeting, members enjoyed a musical program put on by the Willie Wirehand Trio. Mrs. George Hodge of Topsham was the grand prize winner of a new Preway electric range.
- St. Lawrence Seaway Project in the 50’s
- In 1953, Canada said that it would proceed on the St. Lawrence Seaway Project even without the help of the United States. This was after the Seaway Bill was killed in Congress on June 18, 1952. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed the Seaway Bill after 40 years of studies and litigation. Senator Prouty of Vermont introduced the project for a deepened channel to the Hudson River. The power development as of June 5, 1954, was still not settled. St. Lawrence/Niagara Power is pulling into the station with Vermont legislature and federal help. Low cost energy for the northeast is on the horizon!
- August 10, 1954, witnessed ground breaking ceremony of the power project on the St. Lawrence Seaway at Messena, New York. Power is in the amount of 1 million horsepower.
- By 1955, the Co-op served approximately 2,746 members, and operated 774 miles of line.
- 1955-56, New York Governor Harrisman signed the contract allocating 100,000 KW, of St. Lawrence Power to Vermont.
- In April 1957, the Vermont legislature passed S.72 allowing the Public Service Company to contract to bring St. Lawrence Power to Vermont.
- Meanwhile, the Board considers developing the Wrightsville Dam as a power source for the co-op.
- One of the more important business items taken up at the 1958 Annual Meeting was the adoption of the Cooperative’s bylaws. These bylaws enabled the Cooperative to more readily conform to its status of being incorporated under the Electric Cooperative Act.
- In June 1958, Washington Electric Co-op met with the Public Service Company to request a stock purchase of Velco (St. Lawrence Transmission). Thus, St. Lawrence Power began to flow in 1958.
- Members also voted to petition the 1959 Vermont Legislature to enact legislation creating a Power Authority for the State of Vermont, with broad powers authorizing it to deal with facets of generating, transmitting and pooling of electric energy. They voted to also petition the Legislature to examine existing contracts affecting St. Lawrence power rates.
- In August 1959, there was a 1.5 cent rate for electric heating.
- Co-op sponsors the Rural Queen contest for the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Sandra Robertson of Moretown was the winner and she will represent the co-op at the NRECA annual meeting in February 1960.
- In May 1960, there was a ground breaking for the new addition to the office building in East Montpelier.
- In January 1960, the Co-op was involved in a Community Development Program.
- On December 16-17, there was an open house to show off the new addition to the building as well as celebrate 21 years of service. Also, the new array of appliances for sale were on exhibit.
- In 1960 the Cooperative’s system saw tremendous growth as indicated not only in kWhs bought and sold and kW of demand, but also in line construction and new constructions. For example — new connections during the past year number over 230 compared to 166 for the previous year — an increase of 39%. We have built approximately 17 1/2 miles of new transmission line, distribution line, and service line. Total line mileage of entire system is now over 900 miles.
- The 23rd Annual Meeting was the largest annual meeting in the Co-op’s history, with over 1,000 people attending.
- In June 1962, manager Frank Sahlman left the co-op for Washington D.C. to assume new duties as Director of International Cooperative Development. The Board appointed Co-op Line Superintendent Sailey Ennis as Acting Manager and later hired him as the Co-op’s General Manager, a position he held until 1977.
- In 1963, the Co-op continued to work with R.E.A. to develop a program of Rural Area Development in several areas of the co-op’s system. The Co-op hired Richard Macombs to lead the R.A.D. effort. Loans were made available for the R.A.D. Project and Washington Electric Co-op was the conduit to administer these loans through Farmers Home Administration.
- Duke and the Swingbillies entertained members at the 1962 Annual Meeting. Organized in 1938, the Swingbillies entertained thousands of people and performed over Mt. Washington TV. Also with the gang were Pete Ross, one of the top North Country accordionists, and lead vocalist Rusty Wellington, who recorded for MGM and Arcade Records.
- In November 1964 the Peace Corps created an encampment for training on the Fitch Farm in Calais, which is on the co-op line. They returned to Vershire in 1966.
- In Vermont, as well as the nation, there was heated debate on REA’s role in the electric utility industry, and in 1967, Congress threw out the Supplemental Loan Program.
- In December, 1965, the last rural home in the town of Peacham was electrified. Friends of Mr. and Mrs. Wood of Ewells Mills in the town of Peacham were on hand to help them celebrate the replacement of kerosene lamps with modern electric bulbs.
- In 1965, it was noted in the annual report that 77% of Co-op revenue came from the farm segment of the membership.
- The Northeast Public Power Association (New England/New York) was formed in 1968.
- Washington Electric Co-op began data processing systems for part of the operation.
- In 1969, Washington Electric Co-op recognized the Adamant Music School located in the co-op region as a 26 year old entity.A sales tax of 3.0% was imposed on all expenses (even power). Later power was deducted from the assessment.
- On July 24, 1968, the Co-op’s outdated Websterville Substation was retired and the new Jackson Corners substation plus 4.45 miles of transmission line from Graniteville to Jackson Corners were energized. These new facilities improved service to over 800 members in Barre, Berlin, Northfield, Williamstown, Washington, Corinth, Roxbury, Brookfield, Chelsea, Vershire, Randolph and Tunbridge — nearly one quarter of the Co-op’s membership.
- In April 1970, electric co-ops came under the jurisdiction of the Vermont Public Service Board, which certified service territory for all utilities and set rates.
- On June 8, 1970, the Co-op purchased 2,431 shares of stock in the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.
- The next year, a new operations building was proposed. Bids were reviewed and plans were made to complete the new facility in mid-1971.
- In 1972, new environmental rules were issued with a potential of up to 200 days delay in connections to new members.
- Fire destroyed our garage across from the co-op office on April 8, 1972. The loss was estimated to be at least $150,000.
- The Ford administration made an attempt to scuttle REA and place operations under administrative rule making. With support from Aiken/Humphey and others, this move was overturned.
- The Co-op filed for an 18.75% increase in September. The co-op asked for an additional 28.9% in December 1973.
- The Cooperative’s new operations warehouse was completed in 1973.
- The Purchased Power and Fuel Adjustment Clause was put into effect on January 10, 1974. This gave the Co-op the ability to pass through increases or decreases in power costs each month, and eliminate the need to file a formal rate case with the Public Service Board in order to cover power costs.
- The Board voted to discontinue the sale of appliances.
- The Co-op contracted with Central Area Data Processing Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri, for computer services, replacing United Data Processing of Pennsylvania.
- Financial constraints during the early 70’s led to some very drastic cost-cutting measures. Some of those efforts included no increase in wages for non-union employees, a delay in implementation of the union contract wage, and temporary elimination of the right-of-way clearing budget. Six employees were laid off, and the positions of six employees who left the Co-op in 1974 were not filled. The Co-op received a 26.3% rate increase in 1975.
- Power costs rose nearly 50% between 1970 and 1976. Between 1975 and 1976 alone, there was a 21% increase in pTheodore Barry Associates, a management consulting firm from New York, was hired by the Vermont Public Service Board to study all utilities in Vermont. The purpose of the study was to determine how effectively the Vermont utilities are managed in this state. This is the first time in the United States that all electric utilities in one state will be subject to this study.
- On-going controversy between Co-op management and a few members of the Board of Trustees, prompted eight (8) members to seek election to three seats on the Board during the 1976 Annual Meeting.
- At a special meeting on February 15, 1977, the Board voted to dismiss the general manager, and appointed long-time employee Dean Shattuck as interim manager until a permanent replacement could be hired.
- Also in 1977, an offer was made by Green Mountain Power Corporation to purchase, contract with or lease the Cooperative. The Board unanimously voted not to open negotiations with Green Mountain Power.
- In1978, the Board hired John Rohr from Ohio as the Co-op’s new general manager. Still facing financial difficulties, the new manager proposed filing for further rate relief with the Vermont Public Service Board. It was revealed by the President in his report to the membership that the deficit by year’s end was expected to be approximately $400,000. The Public Service Board granted another 20% increase in rates in April, 1979. At the same time, it ordered a professional review of staffing and management practices at the Co-op.
- The 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting was held at the VFW in Montpelier. George D. Aiken, former Vermont Governor and U.S. Senator, was special guest speaker.
- The Co-op Board agreed with REA to a deferral of principal payments to REA to enable the Co-op to pay off its short-term debt.
- Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) and Washington Electric Cooperative representatives met to discuss mutual aid, joint purchasing, and power supply. A committee of the two co-ops was formed to study these and other issues.
- The Board continued to investigate the feasibility of contracting to purchase power from the controversial Seabrook nuclear power plant. Many opinions, both pro and con, appeared in the Co-op’s membership newsletter. A petition by members was filed with the Public Service Board in opposition to the Co-op contracting for Seabrook Power.
- In 1979, the Board hired a local realtor to pursue the sale of the Co-op’s administrative office building. The intent was to use funds from the sale of the building to construct an addition to the Co-op’s warehouse building for office space.
- Debate revolved around the construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant and the Co-op’s investment in nuclear energy after the REA gave approval for the co-op to buy a share of Seabrook in early 1981. The Board also voted to commit the co-op to 3.0 Mw of capacity in another nuclear power plant, the Millstone #3 unit.
- In 1981, John Rohr left after 3 years as manager and Robert Toombs was hired to assume the position on June 29, 1981. That same year, a huge ice and snowstorm hit the Co-op system in late February.
- In June,1981 Washington Electric Co-op (WEC) filed an 11.47% increase in rates and the Board voted to select part ownership of Seabrook and Millstone commitments with REA funding.
- WEC along with Vermont Electric Cooperative launched a campaign to remove co-ops from the jurisdiction of Public Service Board (PSB) rate making, and introduced an appeal to the Vermont Legislature. The co-op explores hydro sites in the co-op region. Montpelier Hydro Co. offers sale of output from Wrightsville dam subject to an acceptable contract.
- In 1982, the Board approved signing of the Vermont Support Agreement for capacity from the Quebec/VT interconnection transmission line. The PSB denied the co-op’s proposed investment in Seabrook and the Washington Electric Co-op Board voted to appeal that decision to the Vermont Supreme Court.
- A petition was filed with Vermont PSB to halt any further funding for Seabrook 2 and study the future of Seabrook. Meanwhile, a loan application to REA was approved for Millstone participation.
- The Co-op sought ownership of the Wrightsville Hydro Power Source. The Board approved filing with REA for financing the Wrightsville Project. WEC purchased the Wrightsville Project from Montpelier Hydro. The Co-op began the process of establishing a Generation Transmission Co-op to accommodate our hydro development. The Board also studied the alternative power supply from “cow power” in the form of methane.
- Co-op began to receive share of Ontario Hydro through Vermont Public Power Supply for years, representing 5 Mw or 20 to 25% of the co-op power requirement. The increase in the cost of Millstone drew further evaluation from the Washington Electric Co-op Board.
- Thirty-five percent of the co-op system was affected by heavy wet snow on March 11, 1983. That same year, the PSB approved the co-op’s purchase of the Wrightsville Project. The Co-op filed a request to increase rates by 6.8%.
- The Co-op began payments for the decommissioning fund for Vermont Yankee. The REA approved a loan in the amount of 3.2 million to construct the Wrightsville site. Construction began in the spring of 1982.
- An additional 1.8%, increase in rates over and above the 6.84% previously in effect was approved by the PSB to recognize recovery of Vermont Yankee’s unscheduled shutdown.
- Board elected to double the Right-Of-Way Program in 1984. Contractor Crane Service of Morrisville was awarded the construction contract for the Wrightsville Project.
- April 1984, New York Power Authority decided to reduce sales of low cost power to Vermont, declining to 4 Mw (down from 15 Mw). The Co-op agreed to a lease of state owned land at the Wrightsville Dam area. The dedication of the McNeil Woodchip Generation Plant was made in May 1984. An engineering firm was hired to study the McNeil Woodchip Generation Station as a source of power for Washington Electric Co-op.
- In 1984, The board continued to negotiate the purchase of the Moretown Hydro site. The WEC Generation and Transmission Committee held an organizational meeting, electing officers and taking action necessary to complete other business to make the organization viable. The new Generation and Transmissions Committee at WEC proposed to take financial responsibility for the development of the Moretown Hydro site, subject to approval of REA and Vermont PSB. The Generation and Transmission’s new REA name designation is “VT 13 Aiken” in honor of George Aiken’s contribution to WEC and the REA Program.
- Public utilities sued for reallocation of PASNY Power, the preferred clause in the Niagara Redevelopment Act of 1957 as the basis of intent of Congress to allocate this power to co-ops and municipals.
- In 1985, The Vermont PSB gave a conditional “yes” to the co-op agreement with MMWEC and the Seabrook power arrangement. If “full funding and regulation approval are not secured by all Seabrook participants by April 15th, then Vermont utilities will be ordered to pull out of the project.” The co-op is a participant, through Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, in a project call “Highgate” to deliver Canadian power.
- The Board voted a sum of money to be donated to the Governor Aiken Lecture Service and vote to name the Moretown hydro site the “George D. Aiken Hydro Dam.” Governor Aiken passed away on November 19, 1984. The Vermont PSB and REA are reluctant to approve purchase of Moretown Hydro Project.
- On May 29, 1985, the Board of Washington Electric Cooperative voted to file a 23.55% rate increase with the PSB. The PSB turned down the co-op’s attempt to purchase and construct the Moretown Hydro.
- Seabrook payments for interest expense could begin in January 1986. Vermont Yankee’s scheduled outage of 32 plus weeks will cost the co-op approximately $550,000. The Department of Public Service filed a lawsuit representing 6 participants in an attempt to invalidate the Seabrook contract.
The co-op Rate Case before the PSB had opposition from the Vermont PSB and 5 co-op member interveners. At issue was the treatment of MMWEC (Seabrook) interest payments due to begin in January 1986. The Board elected to hire a local law firm to represent WEC and five other utilities in the Seabrook lawsuit brought by the Vermont Department of Public Service in its attempt to void the Seabrook contracts by participants in Seabrook contracts.
- The co-op sent a questionnaire to members to determine if members were interested in satellite television reception.
- The interveners gave a position paper in the Co-op Currents about the co-ops current Rate Case before the PSB. In addition, the co-op should pursue greater involvement in the conservation effort. The remaining item is the delay of payments to Seabrook of interest. The Board voted to place interest payments for Seabrook in escrow until the PSD suit is settled.
- The town of East Montpelier voted not to pursue purchase of the co-op office complex.
- The Board President announced the formation of an Advisory Committee made up of 12 co-op members. The Board approved a settlement of an agreement with the Wrightsville Recreation District. Energy Solutions was hired to advise the board of possible programs to resolve the question of future power needs with an alternative in “Energy Efficient Options”. Among those alternatives is refrigeration replacement, residential lighting, security lights, domestic water heating, electric heat and school energy efficient programs. These programs could reduce demand by 20% and help reduce the co-op’s need for new power supplies. Energy Solutions are in the process of seeking financial support for the options proposed to WEC. They seek $3 to 4 million to fund a full scale national demonstrations project. The board and management fully support the effort.
- A Superior Court judge upheld, in 1987, the co-op and five other Vermont utilities’ position that they did not violate any loans in entering the MMWEC/Seabrook Contract. It stated they were not required to seek voter approval for the contract.
- A board member introduced a resolution calling for halt to nuclear power development with efforts made to provide a safe future in reliable energy supply. The board tabled consideration of the resolution until the February meeting. The budget called for no rate increases in 1987. Refinancing of the McNeil Woodchips Plant saved WEC $206,000.
- The co-op voted to contract for 2.5Mw of Quebec power that flows through the Highgate site. The Board approved a resolution calling for the federal government to stop nuclear power development.
- Co-op sought a Department of Energy grant to pay for a statistical survey of a member economic feasibility study, program design and one or two test pilot programs in the energy efficiency supply option proposed by Energy Solutions. Seabrook payments will increase due to MMWEC being denied refinancing of short-term debt for tax exempt, verses taxable basis. The co-op will be assessed at the rate of $91,000 per month beginning in 1988.
- On Sunday, October 4, 1987, a snowstorm struck Vermont causing severe damage to Co-op lines. Crews from Hardwick, VT and New York co-op assisted in restoration of power.
- The amount of the Seabrook loan is $3,338,000. It was projected that a new contract with Ontario Hydro will save co-op $600,000 over 5 years. It was reported, by the manager, that if REA/CFC financing was not available, an increase in rates would be in the 25% range.
- The co-op sold 20 acres to Huntington Homes to build a 76,000 square foot manufacturing plant next to the co-op garage complex on Route 14.
- In 1988, VEPPSA and eight other utilities joined signing a $ 5.5 billion power contract with Hydro Quebec. A letter to MMWEC on February 18, 1988 expressed that they (the Co-op Board) would suspend payments on the contract. The REA loan request for financing MMWEC debt was rejected. An overall increase of 6.21% filed with PSB, became effective on July 20, 1988.
- The Co-op Trustees voted to suspend payments to MMWEC on February 13, 1988, citing the impossibility of the co-op to continue. The Moretown Hydro Energy Company will develop Moretown 8. The output will be to Vermont Power Exchange and wheeled through co-op systems.
- Together with Hardwick Electric, the co-op is seeking a Federal Grant to bring television opportunities to rural Vermont. Also plans were developed to apply for a grant with the Department of Energy for $700,000 to assist in implementation of Innovative Demand Side Energy Management Techniques.
- The PSB, ordered Vermont utilities to participate and develop a program of Least Cost Planning and Demand Side Management. VEPPSA, WEC or small utilities were allowed to develop their own plan with extended time to comply.
- The Board authorized the WEC attorney and general manager to work with the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) counterparts to negotiate with MMWEC on options in regard to WEC/VEC participation/ obligations to the Seabrook Project 6. The Vermont Supreme Court on September 27, 1988 declared the Seabrook contract illegal, which could save the Co-op $43 million. MMWEC asked the Vermont Supreme Court to reconsider the Seabrook decision. The Supreme Court on February 28, 1988 denied MMWEC request to open the case. The Co-op trustees voted to cease membership in the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority. MMWEC sued WEC, two co-op trustees, a former manager and several attorneys and law firms (who had represented the co-op) for $16 million for their expenses in the Seabrook law suits. The co-op has filed a suit against MMWEC to recover the $1 million that was paid to them in a prior period.
- The co-op district incurred a heavy rain and flooding on August 4 and 5th, 1988. One home, along with roads, was washed out.
- The co-op started considering a joint effort in a collaborative process to address the PSD orders for investigation into Least Cost Planning and Demand Side Management.
- In 1989, WEC officially joins a collaborative effort to design New Energy Conservation and Demand-Side Management Program that may significantly reduce electric usage. WEC and Vermont Public Power Supply Authority joined in an analysis of a concept to buy and sell power through a single entity.
- In 1989, the Board approved filing for a 7.1% increase in rates. The WEC and Vermont Electric Co-op collaborative group selected Vermont Energy Investment Corporation as the contractor to research energy saving possibilities.
- In 1990, the Board considered leasing the co-op fleet, however, found under further analysis that this was not a prudent move.
- Several area informational meetings were arranged to provide information to the members.
- The February issue of Co-op Currents gave an evaluation of the proposed contract to purchase power from the Hydro Quebec power supply source, giving an opportunity by all parties to express their views. The Vermont Public Service Board gave conditional approval of the Hydro Quebec Contract for 340 mw, while reserving the remaining 110 mw for future consideration.
- On August 14, 1990, high winds tore through the area, causing extensive damage..
- The 1990’s were marked by an interest in conserving electricity and offering new products.
- On March 20, 1990, a snowstorm was declared the worst in Co-op history. The cost of restoration, which took over four days, was $100,000 with over 5,000 members affected.
- A 1990 Customer Survey to determine how average members utilize their power was sent to over 1,000 Washington Electric Co-op members. The response rate was over 50%.
- The Co-op applied for an interest free loan of $100,000 through the Rural Economic Development Association of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The loan was used to renovate an abandoned elementary school in Marshfield to a multi-use community center.
- Also in 1990, a petition was received by trustees, with approximately 900 member signatures, to remove or recall five members of the Washington Electric Co-op Board of Trustees. The petition called for a special meeting of members to consider the removal of the officers and trustees (who were named).
- A Collaborative Study Group proposed eight energy saving programs for Washington Electric Co-op.
- In 1991, Co-op members voted on whether to receive power from Hydro Quebec which had received partial approval from the Vermont Public Service Board. The membership voted to retain existing contracts and not to increase participation in future Hydro Quebec supplies.
- In 1991, the Board doubled the line clearing budget to $200,000 annually.
- The Co-op Board elected to bring suit against the engineering firm that contracted for the Wrightsville Hydro Project.
- Demand Side Management moved forward and became a major factor when new power supply options were considered. Washington Electric Co-op filed with the Public Service Board a $3.7 million, five-year plan to implement comprehensive Demand Side Management Programs. The Public Service Board approved the Co-op’s proposed investment in demand-side management, calling the program “The most comprehensive and ambitious of programs proposed by any Vermont utility to date.” Co-op members voted 3 to 1 in favor of the Co-op’s proposed investment in energy efficiency programs. The Co-op moved forward with a $30,000 grant to study lighting and refrigeration in small mom and pop stores in Co-op country.The Rumney School in Middlesex was assisted financially by the Co-op to retrofit all lighting in the rural school.
- In 1992, Co-op trustees voted to accept the Co-op attorney’s opinion on Hydro Quebec, that the vote of the Board and members was valid.
- In 1992, the Co-op dismantled the four-bay garage attached to its main office building, and constructed a new addition to the building consisting of office space and handicap ramp.
- The new Marshfield Community Center, made possible by a zero-interest Rural Economic Development grant sponsored by Washington Electric Cooperative, opened with several types of tenants.
- The Board approved the twenty-year Integrated Resource Plan. The plan called for economic mixing of demand-side and supply-side resources into a least-cost plan for the future. Sixty farms on the Co-op system were targeted for inclusion in the Demand-Side Management Programs. Also, the Co-op offers $30.00 per unit to change out refrigerators when old ones needed replacement.
- The Co-op investigated potential for offering a digital satellite TV service to Co-op members, but decided not the commit to this investment at this time.
- The new trash rack was installed at the Wrightsville Hydro site.
- The REA denied the Co-op a Section 12 finance application to cover a portion of the Demand-Side Management expenses. The Co-op curtailed a portion of the its Demand-Side Management Programs and continued to seek financing from REA.
- A Magistrate called for dismissal of Seabrook lawsuits. This cleared the way for the Co-op to recover the million dollars paid to Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Corporation under contract for the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
- In 1993, the Co-op began offering a new home construction program as part of “Energy Efficiency Saves”, the name the Board adopted for its Demand-Side Management effort. Under this program, new homeowners could qualify for assistance in investing in energy-saving measures, as well as rebates under the programs when they qualified. Upon qualification, a member building a new home could also be eligible to receive an energy efficient mortgage. Also, the Co-op offered fuel switching for heat and water heating with savings to be shared as a means to make the switch cost effective. Washington Electric Co-op offered free pick up of old freezers and refrigerators for Washington Electric Co-op members.
- The East Montpelier Fire Department occupied a portion of the Co-op garage in East Montpelier Village.
- The Co-op Vice President appeared before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on October 8, 1993, to give views on a reorganization plan for the agriculture department.
- In March 1994, Co-op Currents dedicated the issue to Robert Laclair, a line foreman who died in an automobile accident on his way back to the operations building after a day of work.
- The Co-op contributed to a new solar installation in Middlesex that charged an electric vehicle on off peak times.
- The Co-op received the Governor’s Award for its part in Environmental Excellence in pollution prevention.
- The Manager discussed a new program of competition in the utility industry, which would allow consumers to “choose” their electric supply entity.
- In 1995, the Co-op won its lawsuit against the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Corporation, and money previously paid under the Seabrook nuclear power contract ($924,000) was refunded.
- The Rural Electric Administration (REA) was replaced with the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which offered new extended programs to provide rural development, water and sewer services.
- The Co-op Board adopted a new policy aimed at assisting farmers with stray voltage problems. The Co-op hired a forester to manage the Co-op’s new Vegetation Management Plan.
- In 1996, Vermont contemplated adopting energy-saving building codes, while the Co-op had already incorporated such criteria in its New Home Construction program.
- The new manager was interviewed on the subject of deregulation of the utility industry. The chairman of the Public Service Board spoke to the members at the annual meeting, discussing the prospect of competition and reform of the electric industry, and saying the PSB was optimistic about utility restructuring.
- After two years without a rate increase, the Co-op filed for a 5.0 % increase in rates, 73% of which was due to the effect of the Hydro Quebec power contract. Washington Electric Co-op filed a “proposed” restructuring plan with the Public Service Board. In that filing, the Co-op introduced the idea of developing a “retail company”.
- The Board found it necessary to oppose some of NRECA’s policies on environmental issues and actively appealed the policies.
- In 1997, a survey of members found the majority of members were satisfied with service from their Co-op. A “Consumer Company” was formed to create a larger organization that “people could join from anywhere in Vermont.” The Co-op sent a positions paper to the Legislature which “sets out a course and time table that is not unduly hasty or arbitrary and to assure itself that Vermonters are likely to be better off after restructuring than before.”
- The Co-op recouped $65,000 for Seabrook legal fees in a settlement with co-op attorneys.
The Co-op used a $30,000 grant to assist the Waits River Store to implement new technology when they expanded store capacity in cooling. Other stores in Co-op country also benefited by the grant.
- A public hearing was held on the formation of a Vermont Consumer Energy Co-op to be a party to restructuring of utilities. The Vermont House put the brakes on restructuring as the case for competition was unproven.
- In 1998, a big ice storm in January caused extensive damage and an outage of 2 to 4 days duration. Orange County, having been declared a disaster area, qualified the Co-op for a reimbursement of approximately $60,000 from FEMA to cover damages caused by the ice storm.
- The Co-op held discussion groups of members at the annual meeting to elicit members’ views on a variety of subjects. Among those subjects discussed were sources of electricity, competition and choice, products and services, and community involvement.
- A federal loan of $600,000 without interest was secured through Washington Electric Co-op for construction of the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center.
Members of Washington Electric Co-op were given the opportunity to join the Vermont Fuel Buyers Group and save on the purchase of heating fuel and kerosene.
- The Co-op tested a new concept in micro inverter solar panels and associated equipment. A contest was developed for members interested in competing for one of those systems.
- In 1999, the Washington Electric Co-op presented a new concept of creating co-op venture utilities in Vermont in a concept paper, “Consumer Ownership of Vermont Utilities.” Staff members of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association expressed support of the concept before the Public Service Board of Vermont.
- Washington Electric Co-op opposed the sale of Vermont Electric Cooperative to Vermont Public Power Supply Authority.
- In May, 1999, the Co-op held a large celebration to commemorate 60 years of providing electric service to rural Vermonters.
2000 – 2005
- WEC system sustained serious damage as a result of Tropical Storm Floyd. Received over $150,000 in FEMA assistance.
- Energy Efficiency Charge supporting Efficiency Vermont showed up on WEC’s February bills and became part of all Vermont utilities’ bills.
- In May 2000 WEC membership approved construction of the new Moretown substation.
- Governor Dean re-enacted signing of Act 143 at WEC’s operation center; Electric Co-ops Legislation (S.113) was signed into law in June 2000
- WEC website went on line for the first time.
- A February 2001 snowstorm provided WEC’s first opportunity to test a new power-restoration plan, tying together computerized mapping and information system to provide a more efficient response to storm related outages.
- U.S. Representative Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. announced a $1 million federal grant to help WEC develop a wind power installation. After a long search, WEC selects First Wind as a wind power partner for a project in Sheffield.
- January 15, 2002, Manager Patt signed the back of some stock certificates, concluding the sale of WEC’s ownership interest in the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation back to that company. WEC’s power supply contract with Vermont Yankee ended in 2002.
- The Board of Directors established a “Community Fund” for local causes which is funded through capital credit donations from current and former members.
- On Tuesday, September 14, 2004, WEC’s operation team performed the final, complex tasks to make WEC’s new, $400,000 substation in South Walden, fully operational. By the end of the day Co-op members in Cabot, South Walden, Wheelock, Stannard, Woodbury, East Calais and Greensboro (about 1,075 members in all) were connected to the modern, state-of-the-art facility.
- Membership approved landfill methane project on June 29, 2004 on a 1,633 to 86 vote. The Coventry plant began full time generation on July 1, 2005 which made 40% of WEC power mix generated from methane. Hundreds of people attended an open house at WEC’s new $8 million, 4.8-megawatt landfill gas-to electric generating station on September 17, 2005, in Coventry, Vermont. Speakers included Governor Jim Douglas and Congressman Bernie Sanders.
2006 – 2009
- At the May 23, 2006, annual meeting WEC’s membership gave permission to construct a new $849,000 substation in Maple Corner on a vote of 1,046 – 53.
- An early a.m. fire on August 8, 2006, temporarily sidelined WEC’s methane facility in Coventry.
- On behalf of the Co-op, in October General Manager Avram Patt accepted the 2006 Renewable Energy Industry Champion Award at the fifth annual conference of Renewable Energy Vermont.
- On Friday, September 8, 2006, WEC energized the new Maple Corner substation which was designed to directly improve service to some 814 Co-op members.
- In October 2006 WEC members voted 1,670 to 51 to add a fourth engine to the Co-op’s landfill methane plant in Coventry. The new engine was put into operation Friday, January 12, 2007, with generation capacity now expanded from 4.8 MW to 6.4 MW.
- WEC and the entire central Vermont community lost a uniquely gifted man and a quiet voice who spoke to our better natures, with the unexpected death of Director Wendell Cilley on September 1, 2008.
- The PSB issued a Certificate of Public Good on September 17 for approval of a $3.1 million project to add a fifth engine to the Coventry methane plant. A special membership vote was held on October 7, 2008, approved the project on a 1,802 to 50 vote. The fifth engine went on line on June 17, 2009.
- In February 2010, the Board of Directors voted to publicly support the closing of the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when its license expires in 2012.
- WEC filed for its first rate increase in 11 years. An increase of 23.81 percent was requested, however, WEC and the DPS agreed to a 19.44% increase with new rates effective January 2011.
- On Friday morning, May 26, 2011, a storm caused mud, water, and septic waste to flood inside and outside the WEC office. Employees were temporarily housed at Goddard College and at the WEC maintenance facility until temporary office trailers could be set up in the parking lot.
- It was nearly a year to the date of the flood when employees watched at the trailers were removed from the parking lot and the office was reopened to its membership.
- The Board of Directors used this unexpected disaster as an opportunity to make major renovations to the office making WEC more energy efficient and more modern.
- WEC escaped major damage from Hurricane Irene which hit Vermont on August 26 dumping up to 11 inches of rain in some places and washing away people’s farms, homes, businesses, and livelihoods. Some 260 state roads and an uncounted number of town roads received severe damage and destruction; more than 30 bridges were ruined or destroyed.
- The Co-op was saddened by the death of former Co-op Director Cornelia Swayze who passed away September 10, 2011, at the age of 71.
- WEC ‘s Board of Directors saw the fruits of their partnership with First Wind on October 26 when they attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and tour at First Wind’s Sheffield wind farm. WEC now receives a share of the power generated from the wind turbines.
- On November 15, 2011, WEC filed for 2.27% rate increase to take effect January 2012. PSB approved the increase on August 7.
- WEC unveiled its revamped website in November 2011.
- WEC publicly expressed serious concerns about the proposed acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service Corp (CVPS) by Green Mountain Power (GMP).
- 2012 was the International Year of Cooperatives. WEC highlighted local cooperatives in each 2012 issue of the Co-op Currents.
- May 24, 2012–nearly a year to the date of the flooding of the office building, WEC employees moved into the newly renovated office space.
- WEC begins the transition to an automated metering infrastructure.
- WEC Community Fund assists the Town of East Montpelier in their quest to join Front Porch Forum.
- General Manager Avram Patt announces his retirement from the Co-op after 16 1/2 years. His last day on the job will be June 30.
- Board of Directors adopted a statement opposing a moratorium on wind development in Vermont.