Small Town News


REA turns unclaimed credits into economic development

Greybull Standard of Greybull, Wyoming

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Camp Bethel is the most recent recipient of a grant from Big Horn REA. The donation will make it possible for Camp Bethel to expand and serve more people, thus increasing its income and infrastructure.

Where does REA get this money? Not by raising rates. Most monies that Big Horn REA provides to community groups and organizations are from unclaimed capital credits, according to general manager Jeff Umphlett.

"Every year, Big Horn allocates margins (revenues in excess of expenses) to its members based upon their purchase of electric energy during the year in which the margins are made," he said. When the board determines to refund capital credits, checks are written to those members who received service for the year(s) being refunded.

This year Big Horn REA wrote 2,645 checks for nearly $1,000,000 according to Umphlett. The state statute says any refund that has remained unclaimed for more than two years is considered unclaimed. Those unclaimed funds are to be used by the cooperative for the benefit of the general membership of the cooperative.

Board president Tom Delaney said Big Horn board policy follows the intent of the statue and unclaimed funds are used for such things as: assistance of buildings used for community gatherings; safety programs for schools; items for fire departments; community projects; and other general uses. "The monies given to such projects are not budget items and strictly come from the unclaimed funds and thus the donations do not affect the rates. This is a win-win for the entire membership of Big Horn REA."

Umphlett explained that the board of directors believes in the principles that make cooperatives like Big Horn different from other types of entities. "One of those principles is 'Concern for Community'. In practicing this principle, the board feels making the donations from unclaimed capital credits is a way in which they can give back to the communities they serve and where the members are residents."

Camp Bethel is one of the most recent benefactors. Board president Mark Fritz and camp executive director Tim Huff along with a board member presented a project to the Big Horn board. The project is to redo the dining hall at camp. It was built in 1958. Huff said, "As a camp that has been serving the greater Basin area and the entire state of Wyoming for the last 71 years, our dining hall has served approximately 740,000 meals over the years and is in need of repairs and renovation. As a non-profit 501(c)3 camp, we operate with the gracious gifts from individuals, churches and businesses."

Huff had high praise for Big Horn REA. "One of the businesses that has supported us over the years with excellent service is the Big Horn Rural Electric Company. The Big Horn Rural Electric Company not only has provided us electricity for many years with an amazing customer service, but has recently made a $10,000 donation with a $15,000 matching gift towards the renovation of our dining hall. With this gift, we can get the engineering process started as we raise funds toward this project and hopefully be able to start the renovation in April. Without this help from the Big Horn REA, the engineering would be on hold. Thank you Big Horn REA!"

Andrew J. Gast, executive director of Antelope Butte, also had high praise for REA and what the donation will do for the area. "Big Horn REA's donation to the Antelope Butte Foundation has paved the way for additional support, on both sides of the Big Horn Mountains. It allowed us to make the down payment to purchase the ski area, but also helped us to continue to develop the public's confidence about our project. Big Horn REA was one of our lead donors in our capital campaign and immediately allowed us to secure several matching gifts from other businesses and foundations. Their support was an integral part of our success thus far."

The board reviews request for donations at its regular board meeting. They place priority on requests that provide for economic development and sustainability; benefits the residents of the communities; provide safety and education of citizens; and that provide overall value to its members, said Umphlett.

In addition to donations to Camp Bethel and the Antelope Butte Foundation, Big Horn REA has given from the unclaimed capital credit fund to Ten Sleep Fire Department; Shell Community Hall, Big Horn County Fairgrounds-multipurpose building; Deaver/Frannie Fire Department; Ten Sleep Learning Center; Big Horn Senior Citizens, Inc., and scholarships for resident youth.

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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