More than 800 were in attendance for Coastal Electric Cooperative’s 77th annual Meeting of the Members, held June 8 at Midway Middle School, where Riceboro native and WTOC anchor Dawn Baker served as emcee.
The crowd erupted in applause several times as CEO Whit Hollowell praised Coastal employees’ response post-Hurricane Matthew.
“Everybody did their jobs, from answering the phones to delivering meals and supplies to rebuilding the system,” Hollowell said. “That Saturday morning, over 96 percent of our system was without power. Crews hit the ground running, and by Wednesday night, we had the last outage restored.”
Member satisfaction seemed to be a theme during the meeting. Coastal Electric achieved one of the highest American Customer Satisfaction Index scores in the nation this quarter, with an 84 out of a 100, competing with national brands, the likes of Chick-fil-A and FedEx.
Co-ops, on average, scored a 79, and investor-owned utilities scored a 74. Southern Company scored a 77. The ACSI, produced by ACSI LLC based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an economic indicator that measures the satisfaction of consumers across the U.S. economy.
“I am very proud of my staff, that they gave you — as an owner of this company — the customer service you deserve,” Hollowell said to members in attendance. “We beat airlines, hotel chains, full-service restaurants — all the places customer service is important. We tied with Anheuser-Busch — go figure.”
Hollowell also briefed members on current issues the cooperative is facing – namely, the decision to continue its partnership to build new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, or to pull out and build other power plants to supply the area’s energy needs.
“When we began with Plant Vogtle, the state was growing rapidly and we were exploring ways to continue to provide reliable, inexpensive power,” Hollowell said. “Nuclear seemed the way to go. Now, our area is still growing — even faster than before, but the costs for traditional fuels like natural gas and crude oil are dramatically lower.
“We have more choices today than at that time,” he continued. “The recent financial struggles of Westinghouse and Toshiba, the developers of Plant Vogtle, have given us the opportunity to rethink our position in these plants. Whatever the decision, you can be sure that it will be the best one to provide you with reliable electric power for the future.”
During the business meeting portion, three incumbent directors were unanimously re-elected — Laura McGee of Bryan County, John T. Woods III of Liberty County and Reagan M. Odom of McIntosh County.
In addition, members unanimously approved two bylaw amendments. The amendments provide for early voting at multiple locations throughout the co-op service territory and for the creation of a credentials and elections committee. One amendment also redefined the boundaries of a director district.
Coastal Electric gave away various door prizes, and one lucky member, Andy Shaul of Townsend, went home with an extra $1,000 in his pocket. Love’s Seafood catered shrimp lunches for the event.