:Crystal Jarrell and her kids, 8-year-old Isaiah and 5-year-old Haley, of Covington, arrive at the 74th Snapping Shoals EMC Annual Meeting at Georgia International Horse Park Thursday. In back, Edna Boyd, a Rockdale School System bus driver, picks up her yellow bucket full of goodies, a popular feature of the event, from SSEMC line crew worker Richie Clark. - Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS -- Current Snapping Shoals EMC Board of Directors members won a landslide victory over their opponents in the election held during the cooperative's annual meeting Thursday at Georgia International Horse Park.
A trio of co-op members opposed to Snapping Shoals' involvement in the proposed coal-fired Plant Washington launched campaigns against existing board members, saying the board is not being transparent about how the plant will impact the environment and electric rates.
But Snapping Shoals members didn't seem to get on board with that message. In the District 2 Rockdale post, a total of 2,400 ballots were cast, with Snapping Shoals Board of Directors Vice Chairman Anthony Norton beating opponent Ab Roesel by a vote of 2,157 to 224. Nineteen ballots were improperly marked and rendered void.
In the District 3 DeKalb County Post, the same total of votes were cast, with incumbent Walter Johnson garnering 2,099 votes to Cheryl Moore-Mathis' 280. Twenty-one votes were voided in that race.
In the District 4 Henry County race, 2,392 ballots were cast, with incumbent Gene Morris getting 2,082 votes to opponent Kay Shipley's 300, with 10 votes voided.
Newton County District 1 representative Pete Knox ran unopposed. The 11-member board of directors sets policies and oversees the finances and administration of Snapping Shoals and is elected by members to staggered, three-year terms.
Roesel, Moore-Mathis and Shipley issued a joint press release following the election results, pledging to continue calling for more answers about Plant Washington.
"This is a loss for consumers and sunshine," Roesel said. "Too long have SSEMC customers been left in the dark when it comes to this expensive coal plant investment. When an average member has questions the EMC makes you jump through hoops to get an answer, but perhaps we've shaken things up enough to finally get some answers."
The coal plant was a hot topic during members' comments section of the meeting. Members asked how the coal plant would affect their bills, what will happen to Snapping Shoals $11 million investment if the plant is not built and if the EMC is seeking other, more energy efficient fuel sources.
CEO and President Brad Thomas said diversity is key to keeping rates affordable and obtaining reliable power. He said the EMC is pursuing various forms of energy and, in addition to Plant Washington, is participating in Plant Vogtle's nuclear expansion project scheduled to come online in about five years, as well as a combined-cycle natural gas facility available in 2016.
He said the EMC continues to look for opportunities to utilize renewable resources like biomass and solar energy. Snapping Shoals offers blocks of green power for purchase by members through Green Power EMC, a partnership of 39 electric membership corporations. Thomas said Green Power EMC provides Snapping Shoals with about two-tenths of one percent of its energy supply. A biomass facility coming online this year will expand the EMC's green power portfolio.
Thomas said that Snapping Shoals will recoup its $11 million investment in Plant Washington through a partnership with Taylor Energy Fund LP, based in Denver, which became a partner in the project in April and will own and operate the plant. If the plant is not built, the EMC will be on the hook for that money, and costs would be spread out to mitigate impact to members, he said.
Thomas emphasized that there is no commitment to buy power from Plant Washington, but as a partner, Snapping Shoals will receive a preferred option to purchase power once the plant is operational and a return on capital invested.
Thomas said Snapping Shoals has the second lowest winter rates out of 42 Georgia EMCs and Georgia Power and the third lowest rates in the summer, according to a survey by the Public Service Commission. He said members save $300 per year compared to other Georgians and $498 per year compared to Georgia Power customers. He said Snapping Shoals returned $2.8 million in capital credits to members this year.
The sweltering heat did not impact attendance at the meeting, which had a record turnout of 1,720 registered members. That total doesn't include family members and guests of members who also attended. Total attendance was estimated at more than 3,000. The EMC gave away more than 50 prizes, including DVD players, flat screen TVs, blenders, fans and other appliances. The grand prize, a 2003 Ford-250 truck retired from the Snapping Shoals fleet, went to David Gatton of McDonough.
Snapping Shoals is a nonprofit, consumer-owned cooperative headquartered in Covington providing electric service to about 95,000 consumers in an eight-county area.