SIKESTON - At the SEMO Electric Cooperative, 2004 was a good year in several ways, as announced by various speakers at Thursday night's annual meeting. And one of the things that helped make it so great was the formation of a member study group.
Last year, many members requested a group be formed to ensure that nothing was being hidden from them. And the board of directors took this very seriously, according to Richard Faulkner, president of the board of directors."
"It's a review of policies and procedures of the cooperative," said Reuben Jeane, general manager and CEO of the cooperative. "It was formed in response to some people's concerns that were based on a lot of erroneous information."
The member study group consists of eight people appointed by the board of directors. They come from different backgrounds and include a banker, teacher and farmer.
John Bixler, group spokesman, gave a short presentation at the meeting, reiterating the goal and purpose of the study group. The main purpose of the group, according to Bixler, was to find if things at the cooperative were being handled the way they should be and if there was any room for improvement.
Bixler encouraged members to bring any concerns to the group. Any questions or issues members would like to be addressed are welcome, he said.
Cooperative members are also owners of the entity, he stressed. "We're all part of this business," he said.
If the group cannot answer a question, members will look into it and consult with the board, assured Bixler. In fact, the group is basically an intermediary between members and the board.
"People may feel inhibited by addressing the board," Bixler suggested. "We all came about as an effort of the board to give absolute transparency."
And members seem to be happy with the formation of the group. Howard Harper, a cooperative member, said he feels that it will help members better understand the operation and procedures of both the board and cooperative.
"If members have any questions, they can just go to these guys," Harper said. "It's a good deal."
So far, the group has responded to concerns by conducting and reviewing an audit. They are beginning to look at rate designs and line extensions, according to Bixler. They have met four times, once with the board of directors to review the audit.
For interested members, the audit is available for their review at the main office of the cooperative.
The group will be in effect until the end of the year, according to Bixler. At this point, all of the findings, both positive and negative, will be presented to the board and published in the cooperative's publication, Rural Missouri.
The members of the study group, in addition to Bixler, are: Eddie Barnhill, Charleston; Randall Arington, East Prairie; Odetta Holland, Advance; Joanne Northern, Bloomfield; Darnell Aufdenberg, Jackson; Shon Stratman, Sikeston; and Henry Retz, Catron.