DMEA meeting a celebration of rural ingenuity

By Hank Lohmeyer


DMEA meeting a celebration of rural ingenuity | DMEA, business, Elevate Fiber,

Photo by Hank Lohmeyer Attendees of DMEA's annual meeting last week viewed a promotional video of this area that was produced by DMEA and the City of Montrose.

There was no contest for the three DMEA director terms coming up for election this year. As a result, at DMEA's annual meeting held at Hotchkiss High School on June 15 Mark Eckhart was returned to his board position for district 7; John Gavin was returned to his board position for the north region; and, Damon Lockhart was named to the district 6 board position formerly held by Terry Brown who chose not to run again.

There was a short business session that featured the inaugural screening of a four-minute-long promotional video for the region that was jointly produced by DMEA and the City of Montrose. The video will be available for use by government, agencies, or other groups for business information and recruiting.

In its annual report document for 2016, DMEA reports an increase in total assets from $178 million in 2015 to $187 in 2016. Patronage capital at the end of 2016 was $89 million compared with $87.8 million a year earlier.

Other statistical highlights of the report included addition of 307 meters on the system; a census of 32,837 active meters; 98 DMEA employees; and average electricity use "per residence" at 748 kwh per month.

The event was a social gathering featuring a free dinner of brats and sides, information booths and entertainment. A highlight for many were the bucket truck rides, where attendees got a bird's eye view of Hotchkiss High School and the surrounding peaks.

"We've worked to transform our meeting into a true community night: a time for friends and neighbors to gather together and celebrate," said Virginia Harman, vice-president of member relations and human resources. "It's an opportunity for our employees from operations to customer service to engineering to meet some of the people they work for every day. Likewise, our members get to see and experience all different aspects of the co-op."

Featured speaker Diane Smith did not address rural electricity issues nor DMEA's once favorite topic -- local renewable energy. Instead, Smith, an attorney and high-tech online entrepreneur from CEO Jasen Bronec's home state of Montana, addressed the issue of opportunities available to internet businesses. She recounted her experiences working in corporate America and Washington, D.C., and her transition to living in the small town of Columbia Falls, Mont. Smith's main point: the people who live in rural communities already know how to get the important things done.

"We all know that the people who live in our communities have always accomplished tremendous things. Our members are resourceful, determined and spirited. It's those qualities that drove our first members to found DMEA and today, it's those qualities that have brought Elevate to life," said Harman.

The annual meeting was an all-DMEA event, though the co-op's wholly owned subsidiary, Elevate Fiber, was in evidence. DMEA considers Elevate to be a private enterprise, but nevertheless made some information about its internet service provider arm available. The annual report stated almost 200 miles of fiberoptic cable has been installed and that Elevate has 186 live customers; 729 pre-registrations for service; and the ISP has four employees.

DMEA is a rural electric distribution cooperative, located in Montrose. DMEA was originally founded in 1938, as Delta-Montrose Rural Power Lines Association. A board of directors from nine districts covering three counties governs the cooperative. DMEA serves approximately 32,000 residential, commercial, and industrial meters, and over more than 3,000 miles of cooperative-owned distribution line.