BLOOMFIELD, Ind. (March 26, 2018) -- The Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC held its March Board meeting where Chief Executive Officer Doug Childs presented the first “State of UDWI” address to the Directors and attendees.
The presentation included the progress made during the past several months by management and the Board of Directors as well as the challenges that lie ahead for the cooperative. UDWI plans to make the presentation an annual pre-election event to inform members on the current state of the cooperative and will make the information available on its website.
Under Childs’ leadership, along with support from the Board, an in-depth and ongoing review of all expenditures has resulted in $1 million in budget savings for the cooperative during his first 100 days as CEO.
In addition, UDWI has dismantled the existing health care plan, reduced staff numbers and job redundancies and established controls on employee use of UDWI equipment, property and vehicles. Management is also enforcing prudent “management rights” by disciplining poorly performing or negligent employees, mandating employee training and has upgraded UDWI property and cyber security systems.
Among those challenges presented, is the cooperative’s acknowledgement of member frustrations related to transparency and operations of UDWI. To meet those challenges the Board has created a transparency policy, established an audit committee and budget committee, has stopped charitable giving and supported drastically cutting the operating budget to bring focus back to the cooperative’s primary mission—to provide reliable electric service at the lowest possible price.
Childs also shared statistics on the current infrastructure in the UDWI system, which includes aging poles, transformers and equipment. Nearly half of UDWI poles are more than 50 years old and more than 1,000 miles of the 2,160 miles system are in need of repair or replacement.
“We have significant infrastructure challenges ahead and must address our aging system,” said Childs. “We’ve saved $1 million in this year’s budget and that equates to 10 miles of line we can rebuild. It is the start of a new focus of saving and allocating our money to where it is needed the most every year. We know that our members do not want rates to go up, so we are looking at ways we can run the co-op and make the critical capital improvements needed without increasing costs for our members at this time.”
The presentation showed how incoming member payments are used to operate the cooperative with about 51 percent of every dollar being used to purchase power and the rest being allocated for capital improvements, vegetation control, personnel, and all other operation & maintenance expenses.
Childs closed with UDWI’s commitment to continue to explore every area of operation for cost-cutting and to use member funds in the most economical and efficient way possible. This efficiency will be checked each year with a third-party audit of the cooperative’s finances, the first of which was completed this month and showed no discrepancies for the year.
The cooperative will also focus on increasing open and honest communications with its members to build a stronger relationship with the communities it serves.
“We know that our members have a vested interest in the way the cooperative operates and want to be able to trust the leadership, so we will do our best to keep them informed and address their concerns,” said Childs. “Our members have already made a big statement by setting a record for voting ahead of this year’s annual meeting through online and mail-in ballots with 2,276 votes already cast for the Director elections. We encourage everyone to continue to let the cooperative know what is important to you.”