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Copyright 2006 -- Collinsville, Oklahoma

Collinsville, Oklahoma
April 19, 2006
VVEC Requests Vote of Member-Owners
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Electric Cooperative Hopes To Replace "Duplicate Regulation" With Self-Regulation


(COLLINSVILLE) -- "Removing Verdigris Valley Electric from the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will result in annual financial savings for the co-op," says John Hibdon, president of VVEC's board of trustees.

The co-op's trustees are asking the membership to vote the 23,700-member cooperative out from under OCC regulation where it has been since 1972 when Oklahoma's co-ops agreed to the regulation in exchange for territorial protection from other electric utilities. Since 1972 all utilities have been regulated by the OCC. However, recent legislation points out such regulation "may be duplicative of the self-regulation by the rural electric co-op(s) and may be neither necessary nor cost-effective."

Hibdon says the co-op's governing board feels dual regulation is too expensive. “Since 2002, VVEC has been assessed almost $104,000 in fees, or an average of about $26,000 each year. These are costs that are passed on to the members, but the co-op isn't allowed to indicate them as separate charges on the monthly bills.”

Hibdon explains that in 1993 legislation limited the State’s ability to increase taxes. "Since then the State has increased and established new ‘fees’ as a way of increasing revenues without a vote of the people. The OCC began levying per-meter assessment fees to every utility it regulates, and we are required to pay those fees,” he says. “The OCC can increase those fees at any time."

"It almost penalizes the co-op for experiencing any growth. As we expand, and the number of meters grows, so do the fees we have to pay," he explains. "The co-ops are designed to be responsive to their members," says VVEC General Manager Alice Houston. "By having trustees who are members also, they are keenly aware of the impact of any decision they make regarding rates or fees, because they will be impacted by them also.Our local trustees can empathize with our members better than can a group of people in Oklahoma City who are not members of Verdigris Valley Electric, and thus, respond more quickly."

"We simply feel dual regulation by the OCC is expensive and unnecessary. We would like the members to vote to do away with the OCC regulation and save the cooperative money," explains Hibdon.

Houston says during the week of April 20 members will receive packets containing information on this issue and a ballot each member can use to cast his or her vote.The ballots must be returned to the independent auditing firm of Briscoe, Burke & Grigsby LLP. The ballots must be mailed in time to reach the auditing firm no later than May 18, or they can be hand-delivered at a special meeting at 6:00 p.m.on May 18 at the VVEC Pavilion in Collinsville. She says no ballots can be accepted at the VVEC ofice and none can be accepted after May 18.

“We encourage everyone to vote yes,” says Hibdon. “Most of the time, we aren’t given the chance to eliminate bureaucratic red tape and save money. But we are in this case. So we are strongly encouraging VVEC’s membership to vote yes, and to return the co-op to self-regulation.”

Anyone with questions about this issue is encouraged to call VVEC at (918) 371-2584 between 7:30 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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