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RIO GRANDE, Ohio — For the first time, Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative held a virtual annual meeting for its consumer-members because of coronavirus-related restrictions, according to a news release.

While the traditional pancake breakfast and visits with members were missed, it was a safer way to keep members apprised of cooperative business, said Tonda Meadows, BREC’s executive vice president and general manager.

During the meeting, trustee election results were revealed: Ronald Hatfield was elected to represent Lawrence County; members re-elected Roy Sprague, representing Gallia County, and J. Wesley “Wes” Williams, representing Ross, Pike and Scioto counties.

Last year, members voted to approve online and mail voting prior to the annual business meeting, which proved invaluable for this year’s online format, according to the release. Voting participation increased nearly five times over 2019.

The cooperative also announced recipients of its 2020 scholarship outreach program:

  • Samantha Caskey ($1,500) of South Point High School will attend Denison University to study philosophy, politics, and economics. As the first-place winner, she won an additional $1,400 scholarship in the statewide electric cooperative competition.
  • Cara Sheets ($1,200) will attend Ohio University with a major in Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) and a minor in Spanish.
  • Austin Mahr ($800) will attend Ohio University to study biological sciences, with plans to go on to OU’s college of osteopathic medicine.
  • Jaylyn Whaley ($1500), recipient of BREC’s technical scholarship, will attend Morehead (Kentucky) State University for a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

BREC also recognized Ashley Beasy of Gallia Academy High School and Meredith Humphreys of Ironton High School, who were selected to represent the co-op on the annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., which was canceled because of the ongoing pandemic.

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative Board Chair Paul Berridge announced that the organization returned more than $1.7 million in excess revenue back to its consumer-members in 2019. As a cooperative, BREC operates at cost; excess revenue is distributed back to members, not shareholders.

Meadows reported on the big news of the year: BREC’s $2.5 million grant to install fiber lines that will, in the near term, enhance service reliability and, in the future, allow for broadband internet expansion in the area.

She also updated members on several long-term projects that will enhance service reliability for years to come.

“We have continued to rebuild weakened and heavily loaded lines throughout our territory,” she said. “We’ve added protective devices to improve service reliability and installed equipment in many areas that allow us to re-route service to other lines when we are performing maintenance work or experiencing an extended outage.”

BREC has also continued an aggressive tree-trimming schedule to combat tree-caused power outages, trimming 156 miles and mowing 125 miles of rights-of-way and removing more than 3,000 “danger trees” that could fall into power lines. Meadows thanked members who have alerted the co-op of potential trouble trees.

Rio Grande-based Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative (www.buckeyerec.coop/) provides energy to more than 18,000 homes and businesses in Athens, Gallia, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Ross, Scioto, and Vinton counties.

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