HEA votes to be counted at Tuesday meeting

Posted: Monday, May 06, 2002

Change is on the horizon at the Homer Electric Association, as final votes come in that could seat new board members and introduce new legislation on member margin payouts.

HEA will close board of directors elections Tuesday evening at its annual meeting, with results to be announced at the end of the meeting. The 5:30 p.m. meeting will be held in the Soldotna High School Auditorium and will allow for final voting on three board seats for District 1 (Kenai-Nikiski), District 2 (Kasilof, Soldotna and Sterling) and District 3 (Ninilchik south to Homer and Kachemak Bay).

The meeting also will offer a chance for those members who don't get ballots back to HEA's Homer office on Monday by 5 p.m. to choose either in favor of or against Ballot Proposition No. 1, a bylaw change which will structure profit payouts to include the addition of Agrium and Chugach Electric Association as customers.

The bylaw change will require HEA to allocate margin payouts, called patronage capital, to members who purchase either gas or thermal energy. This includes Agrium, purchasing steam to manufacture its nitrogen-based agricultural products. Chugach also is included, buying HEA natural gas garnered from Agrium's cogeneration plant.

Currently, the bylaws only provide for such payouts to electric service customers.

"It sounds like a fairly complex issue," said south peninsula board candidate Doug Stark. "They certainly should have put out some information to the electorate."

HEA spokesperson Joe Gallagher, however, referred questions on the issue to the information page available at www.homerelectric.com.

Stark, of Homer, is running against incumbent Mike Pate for a seat in District 3 and said notifying members of the specific of ballot items is just one of the issues the board should revisit. He said adding the Seward utility to the cooperative could have shaky results.

"It's a benefit if we're able to meld it into the system," he said. "It would have the efficiency of HEA. But because it's so far away and Chugach is in between us, we could spend a lot of time and money running back and forth."

He acknowledged that Seward's utility could be capable of operating independently of HEA, as it has since its existence, but was dubious of a positive outcome.

"Things never work out that way," he said.

Bidding for District 1 seats are incumbent Ruth Fitzpatrick and Richard DeMello. The District 2 race features incumbent Jack Hetherton, who is defending his seat against Ed Oberts and former board president Hugh Chumley.

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