Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting for Saturday

When I decided to fight a coal fired power plant 3.5 years ago, I didn't know much about energy production and my knowledge of efficiency and conservation was pretty pedestrian. And I was clueless about the poor condition of our rivers and streams.

What I didn't know at the time, was that there were also some serious problems with the governance at my electric co-op, Washington EMC. It became very clear at the first Annual Meeting in October 2008 that the Board of Directors had no interest in member concerns and questions.

This Saturday is the fourth meeting I will attend since the plant was announced. In the past three years the Board and CEO have refused to recognize members, told us the EPD would answer our questions (which it can't do when the questions concern the governance and decisions made by the Board and CEO) and tried to hide behind a CEO who has said very plainly he doesn't like speaking in front of large groups.

Hello? He works for the 15,304 metered customers who are MEMBERS of the company paying him. Surely once a year he can manage to answer our questions. We aren't interested in shouting, but we are entitled to being treated politely AND having our questions answered where all members can hear the questions and the answer.

In May two FACE members and I met with the CEO Frank Askew, CFO Wendy Sellier, EMC attorney Skip Wommack, the Board Chair Mike McCoy (who has served for 37 years without opposition until this year, but term limits is another issue), and Billy Helton, who lives in and represents the district where the plant would be located.

We agreed that we disagree on the plant, asked some questions, and were still disappointed in the lack of research and business planning they could use to support their insistence on this $2.1+ B project. We did get them to agree to a Q&A after the door prizes are drawn at the end of the business meeting (which is the reason most people attend. If the prizes were drawn first the room would be empty in 5 New York minutes).

When I confirmed the Q&A with Askew in August, he back pedaled saying that because FACE has said that we know people are intimidated by speaking out, EMC leaders would instead speak with people one on one. I may not agree with Billy Helton's support of the plant, but ALL MEMBERS owe him their thanks for insisting that the Board honor their previous agreement.

Yesterday I posted the 990 tax return with the Board and CEO compensation figures in it. I don't want to take issue with how much Askew is PAID BY MEMBERS, but I do think that for someone making north of $209,000 a year now, he could and should have answered the questions raised by the people writing his paycheck at earlier meetings.

I, nor FACE, are endorsing or supporting a candidate in the one contested race. What the organization is doing is encouraging members to attend the meeting this Saturday (Elder Middle School on the Linton Rd in Sandersville with registration and voting beginning at 8:00, business meeting at 10:00, Q&A immediately after prizes are drawn at the end of the business meeting). FACE understands that there are many people in the community who are afraid for their jobs. or have other pressures exerted on them to support the plant. FACE and others in our community are willing and ready to ask questions and hear the answers in a public setting where all EMC members can listen and learn for themselves.

Whether you support Plant Washington or not, EMC members need to be involved in OUR co-op. There are serious issues which need to be addressed even if the plant goes away tomorrow. All of us need to step up and do our part as members to put this co-op back on track to serve the members better than we have experienced in the last 3+ years.

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