Cobb EMC had an hour-long quarterly town hall meeting Thursday evening, where approximately 30 people, mostly older men and women, from the member-owned electric cooperative attended.
President and CEO Chip Nelson said when he does hear from members, the response about the new board of directors is mostly positive.
“It was a new day, when Cobb (EMC) was transformed,” he said.
Since customers of Cobb EMC are also owners and stakeholders, Nelson said they have a unique opportunity for input.
“We do listen and we do care what they say and try to be responsive to their concerns,” Nelson said.
Thirty-year member and former U.S. Congressman Fletcher Thompson of east Cobb was one of six people to address the board Thursday evening.
Fletcher, who admitted he is a “curmudgeon” who looks for “problems in the details,” did start his comments with praise that Cobb EMC’s financials are now available on the company’s website.
But before the meeting, Fletcher said the new board is made of novices who are following the leadership of Cobb EMC, with which he has many grievances.
“Everyone was so thrilled to have a new board of directors that they were able to pull the wool over the members’ eyes,” Fletcher said. “It is less transparent today than before these new bylaws went in.”
As a cooperative, the ownership of Cobb EMC falls to each member, but a small percentage is active in the company’s governance, Fletcher said.
“We are not going to get everybody to appear,” Fletcher said.
Most customers just want to turn on the light and pay the bill, he said. Fletcher said he was similarly disengaged until becoming more involved in 2008.
One man’s fight for all rights continues
At the 75th annual meeting for Cobb EMC in September, there was a record turnout of members at Jim Miller Park during the North Georgia State Fair.
In front of 600 people, Fletcher spoke about the need for a bill of rights for the more than 175,000 residential and commercial customers served by Cobb EMC.
After Thompson’s address in September, a board-supported draft of the “Cobb EMC Members’ Bill of Rights” was passed by 90 percent of member voters.
In the approved bill of rights, members have the right to vote by a secret ballot and without intimidation, to propose changes to the bylaws, call a special meeting and attend regularly scheduled board meetings.
Although some members felt the approved Bill of Rights contained many of Fletcher’s ideas and concepts, six months later, Fletcher is still adamant the new policy is weak.
“That is a false Bill of Rights,” Fletcher said before Thursday’s town hall meeting. “(The Bill of Rights) is designed to deny members true access and participation.”
Every right granted is subject to conflicting bylaws, Fletcher said. For example, according to the Bill of Rights, a member of Cobb EMC has access to company records, but only if approved by the company.
“You can mark it proprietary, a trade secret,” Fletcher told the board Thursday.
Chairman of the Board of Directors David Tennant responded that, as promised in September, a taskforce is being established to review Fletcher’s requests for further changes to Cobb EMC’s bylaws.
At the next Cobb EMC annual meeting in September, Fletcher said he will push for a better member’s Bill of Rights. Before that date, Fletcher wants the board to send out his draft to Cobb EMC members before a vote is taken.
“When you get to be 89 years old, people begin to think you don’t make much sense,” he said.
Rates go down, Braves stadium targeted
Formed as a nonprofit in 1938, Cobb EMC delivers electricity to more than 175,000 residential and commercial members in Cobb, Bartow, Cherokee, Fulton and Paulding counties.
Cobb EMC’s distribution system consists of 9,101 miles of line over 432 square miles.
Those power lines might soon run into the new Atlanta Braves stadium to be built in Cumberland.
Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications Cobb EMC Kevan Espy said in the next couple of days the company expects to receive a request to bid on the cost for supplying power to the new stadium.
Cobb EMC will be submitting a proposal for the Braves stadium, Espy said.
There have been three rate decreases in the last 14 months as part of a cost-cutting program, which has helped rank Cobb EMC as the seventh least expensive EMC out of 41 in Georgia, said COO David Johnson.
Espy also highlighted a new tool to allow members to navigate their daily and hourly electric usage by logging into an online account.
The month or 10-day view of the usage history allows customers to see a pattern, Espy said, including spikes by the hour.
Espy said this tool allows Cobb EMC members to investigate increases in their bills, especially during the summer peak months.
Customers can ask, “What did I do differently that day?” Espy said.