Thank you to all of our members for your patronage this year. I hope this finds you healthy. The past few months have been uncharted territory for all of us and we thank you for your patience during this time.
On March 24th, Hill County Electric (HCE) and its sister cooperative, Triangle Communications, closed our office to the public to protect our members and employees from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Like many other companies, some of our employees began working from home and those remaining in the office are practicing social distancing. Coordinating this was not an easy task, but our team worked together and accomplished what was best for everyone. Providing our members with excellent service and the safety of our employees will always be our top priorities.
Unfortunately, we will not be celebrating the HCE 75th Annual Meeting of Members. In the best interests of our member’s safety and health, the HCE Board decided to cancel the 75th Annual Meeting scheduled for May 16, 2020. This was not an easy decision. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and officials limiting large gatherings; it seemed like the right thing to do for everyone. When life returns to normal, the Board will decide if a special meeting will be called this year or wait until the next annual meeting to have the election of our trustees. The Bylaws allow for such provisions, and the Board will work through the issues of COVID-19 and make the best possible decision for the Cooperative.
The following is an excerpt from a letter given to us by Governor Bullock, who was gracious enough to work with the electric cooperatives to ensure that as an essential business we are able to limit our financial exposure; while maintaining our help to those that are financially impacted by the loss of a job or business due directly to COVID-19.
“As you know, on March 31st, I announced a series of consumer protections to lessen the economic impacts on Montanans during the COVID-19 statewide emergency by stopping evictions, foreclosures and preventing the disconnection of utility services including water, heating and internet service. Under the directive, no business or political subdivision of the State supplying electricity, gas, sewage disposal, water, telephone, or internet services for use in a dwelling unit or residence may terminate that service. In addition, no fee or charge for late or untimely payment that becomes due during the time the directive is in effect may be billed or collected.
In order to dispel any confusion regarding implementation of this directive, I want to offer a few additional points of clarification. First and foremost, nothing in my directive absolves individuals or families from their obligations to pay their utility bills whether arising prior to or during this crisis. My office will continue to encourage those experiencing hardships to communicate directly with their providers to explore payment plans or other flexibilities to avoid the prospect of interruptions to their service in the future. Second, my directive applies only to residential customers – I recognize many businesses and commercial customers may also experience hardships during this time and my office stands ready to work with those businesses to identify state and federal relief that may be used to address revenue shortfalls. Third, the order is prospective as of the date of its issuance and would not affect any disconnect occurring prior to March 31st.”
Again, I want to thank Governor Bullock for working with us and being flexible while trying to help all of Montana’s needs.
To mark HCE’s special anniversary, we were wondering who the first home or business was to be connected at the Cooperative. We could not find a specific name of one person or business in our records. If anyone has any information on this, we would love to hear from you. Share any memories of the early years of HCE on the HCE Facebook page, send us an email, or note. And remember, we can still celebrate 75 years of keeping the lights on! Seventy-five years is a long time to be in business and we owe that to you, our members.