Two county electric companies are relying on your vote to merge.
Hickman-Fulton Counties Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation wants to merge with Gibson electric out of Tennessee. Hickman-Fulton Counties RECC sent out ballots to its service areas, which consist of four Kentucky counties and some areas in Tennessee.
They can only merge if members cast a simple majority vote. The board believes the merge would benefit the whole area in the long run because of lower rates. Hickman-Fulton RECC says medium industries would see an average 41 percent cut in utilities. The average customer would see a $212 savings per year. It's this extra money they're hoping reinvigorates the area.
MeMaw of MeMaw's Café in Hickman has been a community staple for years. She disagrees with the merger.
"I don't think it ever worked, someone come here and take over, because we've had that company for years, and years, and years," MeMaw says.
She worries the merge will create a chain reaction, fearing for her friends and family's future at the company. So, she voted no.
Hickman-Fulton RECC says all votes have to be cast or postmarked by Friday, Oct. 9.
The company's board chairman, David Kimbell, knows change is uncertain, but it's all about cost for a rural electric company. "You just get too small to be able to spread those costs over too small of members," he says.
Especially when one of his strongest reminders, the 2009 ice storm, hangs on the wall. Kimbell says the company took years to recover from the storm and, above all, the merger will help the area grow and thrive economically.
"We can see the future enough to know that's not going to be economically feasible," Kimbell says.
The merger would mean cuts for schools —a few thousand dollars per year for an estimated seven districts. School superintendents tell me they still favor the merge. They say they see the overall benefits.
Kimbell says the Hickman offices and warehouses will stay. He says the buildings would act as a district office in Hickman.
We reached out to Gibson Electric about the merger. Their statement from Vice President of Human Resources and Communications Rita Alexander is as follows:
Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Hickman-Fulton Counties Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation have partnered on projects to better serve our members for several years. We’ve worked so well together that the subject of merging has naturally been discussed as we have looked for ways we can save our members money and improve service. When HFRECC’s President and CEO Greg Grissom left to take a position with another cooperative, their board approached us to see if we would be willing to investigate the feasibility of a merger. Our boards agreed that they would recommend a merger to their memberships if it would: (1) save money for members, (2) ensure that members and employees would not be hurt, and (3) give us a better utility.
Based on the information gained through an in-depth merger study, both the Hickman-Fulton and the Gibson EMC boards are convinced that a merger will benefit our memberships. For Hickman-Fulton members, the merger will save an estimated $12.6 million over the next ten years; that’s money that will stay in the local communities. Distribution rates for their members will decrease on January 1, 2016. Service reliability will also improve with increased personnel, more technical expertise and as equipment is added in the current Hickman-Fulton area. The employees will keep their jobs, the Hickman office will remain open, and there will continue to be local representation on the board.
For the Gibson EMC members, the benefits of the merger are cost savings from efficiencies we will gain through financial, operational and contractual economies of scale. The more members over which we can spread costs, the better for Gibson EMC and for Hickman-Fulton members.
The boards unanimously approved the merger agreement and now the decision is up to Hickman-Fulton’s members. We encourage everyone to vote on this critically important decision.
100 Television Lane
Paducah, KY 42003