REA takes up member resolutions

Vanessa Dietz/Daily Mining Gazette The Ontonagon Rural Electrification Association Board will discuss member resolutions at its next meeting on July 20.

HOUGHTON — The Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association (OCREA) Board is working on evening out districts to ensure equal representation to its 5,000 members and will consider other changes recently enacted by a quorum of members.

At an annual meeting on June 17, members overwhelmingly passed resolutions demanding the board rescind changes it made to OCREA bylaws and increase transparency with the membership, in addition to redistricting.

“Yes, we will be discussing them on July 20,” said OCREA Board President Calvin Koski, noting the agenda of the next board meeting will include the resolutions.

He said at least one of the resolutions is already being addressed.

The OCREA board asked the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA) to analyze its membership roster to identify possible ways to redraw lines between districts to make each contain roughly the same number of customers or members. MECA is a Lansing-based trade association for electrical cooperatives.

“They have two districts that are significantly larger than the other five,” said MECA President Craig Borr. “If you live in a district that is one of the larger ones, you’re underrepresented. It needs to be somewhat equitable.”

Borr estimated his job will be done in a month or two, adding he will advise the OCREA Board to allow members to comment on MECA’s redistricting proposals.

“We are clearly looking at providing a session for feedback,” Borr said. “Our recommendation will be to do something like that to vet the proposal. It’s only difficult because you’re changing the geography for the members.”

Borr noted the inequity in membership among the seven districts is largely due to rapid expansion in the Houghton area, which is a good problem to have.

“Most of the growth has occurred in the Houghton area … because of the attractiveness of the university,” Borr said. “MTU is thriving.

“Hopefully, it’s a problem that occurs again. That’s good for the community at large.”

Borr said the MECA operates as an “impartial third party” to provide feedback on bylaw-related concerns.

“We provide support with issues like this for our members,” Borr said.

He sees the boards’ efforts as a positive sign.

“You need to be proactive with the membership,” he said. “They are the owners. The spirit of what the members are saying makes a lot of sense. Clearly, some of those issues can be resolved fairly easily,” he said, noting MECA has plenty of experience working with cooperatives.

“We can certainly share with them how to provide that information to members,” he said.