Kermit Pearson receives 30-Year Service Award from East River Electric Power Cooperative

Kermit Pearson receives 30-Year Service Award from East River Electric Power Cooperative

East River Electric Board Director Kermit Pearson was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s 30-year service award during the organization’s 69th annual meeting Sept. 4, 2019, in Sioux Falls. The award was presented to Pearson in recognition of the 30 years that he has served on the cooperative’s board of directors.

As a member-owner of Lake Region Electric Association, Pearson serves as Lake Region’s representative on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Lake Region Electric board for 39 years. He also currently serves as Lake Region’s board president.

“We have the distinct pleasure of honoring Kermit, one of our longest serving board members, with this 30-year service award. During Kermit’s tenure on East River’s board, our cooperative family has experienced immense load growth, has developed innovative programs and has maintained our legacy of providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “East River offers its sincere thanks and appreciation for Kermit’s continued leadership within our cooperative family.”

Kermit is a graduate of Britton High School and attended South Dakota State University in Brookings. He serves as vice president on the Basin Electric board of directors, and as treasurer for the Dakota Gasification Company board. Kermit has also represented Basin Electric on the South Dakota Rural Electric Association board of directors since 2013. In September 2018, Kermit was inducted into the South Dakota Co-op Hall of Fame. Kermit and his wife Peggy have four children.

Electric Cooperatives and CoBank Donate $47,500 to State Veterans Cemetery

Electric Cooperatives and CoBank Donate $47,500 to State Veterans Cemetery

East River Electric Power Cooperative, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank are donating $47,500 to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the State Veterans Cemetery currently under construction in Sioux Falls. The donation was announced at a lunch ceremony during East River Electric’s annual meeting. Ken Teunissen, chair of the Endowment Committee and State Representative Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls, attended the luncheon to receive the check.

“We are pleased to be able to provide this donation for the State Veterans Cemetery,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “South Dakota’s veterans have given a lot for our state and our country and our state’s electric cooperatives want to do what we can to give back to them.”

In 2018, the South Dakota Legislature authorized the state to seek construction funding from the National Cemetery Administration. Of the 72,000 veterans in South Dakota, 50,000 of them live in the eastern part of the state. The nearest national veterans cemeteries are currently in Sturgis or Fort Snelling, Minn. The cemetery will be constructed on approximately 12.9 acres north of the Interstate 229 and Interstate 90 interchange off Slip Up Creek Road and 477th Avenue.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the cemetery on Monday, Sept. 9. More than 100 people attended the ceremony.

East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 69th Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 69th Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 69th annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Shaping a Stronger Tomorrow’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working together with its member systems on shaping a stronger tomorrow for the electric cooperative industry as well as to continue delivering on the cooperative network’s strong history of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

During the morning general session, speakers highlighted East River’s increasing efforts to support regional economic development. A new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership between Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund aims to address increasing concerns regarding a lack of adequate workforce housing across the region. The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation that is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives. REED partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities.

“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”

The cooperative’s leaders also updated attendees on East River’s aggressive 10-year transmission system upgrade plan that began at the start of this year. The plan will update aging infrastructure, maintain the cooperative system’s strong reliability and allow the co-op network to accommodate continued load growth.

“East River exists to enhance the value of its members and we are committed to focus on that mission every day,” said Boyko. “East River was formed by the determination and collective effort of our member systems. The great working relationships between East River and our member systems will enable us to shape an even stronger tomorrow.”

During the meeting’s lunch, East River’s leadership presented two individuals with the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. The award recipients were East River Electric’s Former Chief Operations Officer Jim Edwards as well as East River Electric’s Former Chief Financial Officer Greg Hollister. The lunch ceremony also included a check presentation to announce a donation of $47,500 from East River Electric, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the proposed State Veterans Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

The afternoon session began with an update from Basin Electric Power Cooperative. A business meeting followed the panel discussion where the director election was held and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.

Avera Health and Rural Electric Economic Development Fund Announce Workforce Housing Development Financing Partnership

Avera Health and Rural Electric Economic Development Fund Announce Workforce Housing Development Financing Partnership

Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund Tuesday announced a new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership. Avera has committed $2 million to the partnership and REED has committed an initial $4 million, with plans to grow the total fund to $10 million. The partnership was announced at a joint press conference on September 3.

“Avera is pleased to partner with the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund with this $2 million investment in workforce housing,” said Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton. “Avera is committed to our rural roots and the communities we serve. Workforce housing has become a growing concern in rural South Dakota over the past several years and we’re happy REED is addressing this issue”

The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation created and operated by electric cooperatives that partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Established in 1997, REED is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives and assists projects that promote community well-being and contribute to employment, business and wealth creation, as well as improve the infrastructure, services and economic base.

“REED’s member electric cooperatives are excited to launch this housing development partnership with Avera Health,” said REED Board President Ken Schlimgen. “We want to assist communities in developing housing that meets the needs of today’s workforce. A partnership with Avera will help this region begin to address the urgent need for quality workforce housing.”

Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities. Communities and developers can contact the REED Fund for more information on the application process.

“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”

Avera Health Chief Human Resources Officer Kim Jensen, agreed, saying, “Recruiting and maintaining talent throughout the Avera Health organization can be a challenge at times due to the rural nature of our footprint. When we start getting into smaller, rural communities it is imperative that there is quality housing that is affordable for prospective employees.”

Since it was established, REED has invested more than $100 million dollars in the region through more than 338 loans. The REED Fund and partner lenders have combined to distribute more than $858 million dollars in economic investment, 9,400 jobs have been impacted, and 2.3 million square feet of facilities have been constructed or renovated.

Photo: Central Electric General Manager Ken Schlimgen, Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton, and East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Held for Onida Substation

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Held for Onida Substation

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new Onida substation on Friday, August 23. The substation is owned by East River Electric Power Cooperative and serves the member-owners of Oahe Electric Cooperative, including the city of Onida and Ringneck Energy ethanol plant.

During the event, representatives from East River Electric, Oahe Electric, Ringneck Energy, the Onida Area Development Corporation and the Onida Chamber of Commerce discussed the benefits that the new substation brings to the area. The event concluded with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

“We are excited for the enhanced capabilities of this new facility in meeting the growing energy needs of Onida, Ringneck Energy and the surrounding area,” said East River Chief Operations Officer Mark Hoffman. “This new substation will have the ability to serve new growth in the area for years to come, just further enhancing the region’s economic development opportunities. East River and Oahe Electric are strong supporters of the ethanol industry and are pleased to work with Ringneck Energy to meet their power needs.”

The new substation replaces a substation that was built in the 1970s and brings increased capacity to reliably meet the area’s current and future energy needs. Construction began in September 2016 and was completed in fall 2018.

“We appreciate the great working relationships with East River Electric, Ringneck Energy and the city of Onida,” said Oahe Electric General Manager Rodney Haag. “This new substation has improved the reliability of Oahe Electric’s energy delivery system to our member-owners.”

In addition to the Onida substation, East River Electric is currently planning several other facilities in the area. These facilities include a new substation west of Blunt in Hughes County that is currently under construction, plans for a new substation north of Pierre and a rebuild of a current substation west of Onida. These projects will improve reliability and provide additional capacity for the region’s growing energy needs.

Photo: East River Electric Business Development Director Mike Jaspers (left), East River Electric Chief Member and Public Relations Officer Chris Studer, East River Electric Chief Operations Officer Mark Hoffman, Oahe Electric General Manager Rodney Haag, Onida Chamber of Commerce President Marileen Tilberg, Onida Area Development Corporation President Brian Ring, Onida Chamber of Commerce Member Leann Weischedel, Ringneck Energy CEO Walt Wendland and Oahe Electric Board President Ken Gillaspie

 

East River Employees Volunteer at Gathering Meal

East River Employees Volunteer at Gathering Meal

East River employees volunteered their time and talents to help serve 116 meals at the monthly Gathering Meal at the Madison United Methodist Church. East River employees baked desserts or assisted with preparing, serving and cleaning up after the meal. This is a great chance for our employees to give back and live out the 7th cooperative principle of commitment to community. Thank you to everyone who volunteered at this event!

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