United Power Masks Keep Crews Safe

In response to the CDC’s recommendation to wear masks while performing essential services in the community during the pandemic, a group of United Power employees (Operations Manager Brent Sydow; Safety Specialist Mike Robinson; Purchasing Director Curtis Subia; and Operations Superintendent Kurt Eisenbarth) had an innovative idea: repurposing fire-retardant work shirts into masks.

The Brighton-based electric cooperative had an extra supply of bright yellow FR (flame resistant) shirts on hand and gave those to a local seamstress to design and make the masks. The masks were provided to all United Power essential crews.

These special masks are important since lineworkers dress for the job and their clothing is designed to protect them in case of an electrical contact. These essential workers cannot simply use an off-the-shelf face mask and stay safe on the job. The FR face masks maintain that protection for these crews.

The cooperative is also providing the rest of its employees with non-FR masks repurposed from United Power T-shirts it had in stock. These will be used when the social distancing restrictions have been lifted and their staff is back in the office. Currently, the co-op is utilizing teleworking protocols and many of their 175 employees are working from home when it is feasible.

Poudre Valley REA Goes Virtual

Poudre Valley REA held another successful annual meeting on April 4. And it was all virtual. Due to statewide social distancing requirements, the electric co-op hired a professional marketing company to film the annual meeting in the co-op’s community room at its headquarters in Fort Collins. Linden Marketing also did all of the post-production for the co-op, overlaying the video with slides, titles and pop-up prompts. PVREA uploaded the video to YouTube and scheduled it to air on the original annual meeting date using the YouTube Premier feature.

“Over 700 consumer-members tuned in to the meeting on April 4 and we received great feedback,” PVREA Communications Specialist Jessica Johnson said. The election of directors proceeded as planned with an independent third-party performing mail-in ballot counting and ballots were even allowed to be cast onsite the day of the meeting. Any consumer-member who submitted a ballot was entered into the co-op’s prize drawings. The grand prize winner won a home package that consists of electric outdoor equipment as well as smart gadgets.

The innovative solution to making sure co-op consumer-members still had a chance to participate in the annual meeting and director elections will surely be replicated across Colorado and the nation as the need arises and social distancing measures are still in place.

Electric Co-ops Support COVID-19 Relief

Exemplifying the seventh cooperative principle, Concern for Community, Colorado’s electric cooperatives joined with the state’s co-op power supplier and one of its lenders to donate money to the Colorado Relief Fund in early April. The funds were sent as the first “stay-at-home” order was issued and co-op consumer-members found themselves out of work and businesses were forced to alter their operations or close.

CREA, the trade association for Colorado’s electric cooperatives, donated $5,000 to the Colorado Relief Fund. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which supplies electricity to 18 of the Colorado’s 22 electric cooperatives, donated money to relief funds in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming that totaled $200,000. Tri-State serves 46 electric co-ops in those four states.

CoBank, a cooperative bank serving electric co-ops and other agribusinesses and Farm Credit associations nationwide, donated $150,000 to the University of Colorado Foundation to support UCHealth’s response as the state’s leading provider of acute care for COVID-19 victims. The bank also increased funds in its dollar-for-dollar matching program that allows local co-ops to assist nonprofit organizations in rural communities.

Concern for Community is one of the guiding principles for not-for-profit cooperatives. Electric cooperatives, which were formed by local communities, have a long history of supporting their local areas in times of crisis. The co-op response to the COVID-19 crisis is another example of that.

“Cooperatives know well that we are all stronger when we combine our resources and work together to serve our communities,” said Rick Gordon, chairman of Tri-State and a director at Mountain View Electric Association in Limon.

“CREA is working throughout this crisis to support its member cooperatives as they support their local communities,” said CREA Executive Director Kent Singer. “Together we will get through this.”