First Electric members re-elect Hudspeth to board
Position open for first-year apprentice lineman in Benton
Energy audits identify ways you can save money, energy
Save money with ENERGY STAR products
Phone scam reaching First Electric members
Program finances heat pump, other home improvements
Offices to be closed July 3 for Independence Day
GenerLink™ provides safe, easy way to connect generator
Five seniors selected to receive First Electric scholarships
Maintaining rights-of-way keeps people safe, prevents outages
Co-op crews follow system when restoring power
Use Co-op Connections Card to save money on prescriptions
Members now can pay bill using MoneyGram
Rider helps recover transmission costs
Member Basics: Joint vs. Single Membership
Help First Electric Cooperative battle copper crime
Protect home electronics from electrical surges
First Electric Cooperative held its annual membership meeting June 26 at the cooperative’s headquarters in Jacksonville. Members, voting by mail-in ballot, re-elected Tracy Hudspeth to serve a six-year term on the cooperative’s board of directors.
Hudspeth lives in Drasco and represents members in Cleburne, Independence, Stone and White counties.
The First Electric Board of Directors also includes: Chairman Robert Hill, Perryville; Vice Chairman Larry Wood, Lonoke; Secretary-Treasurer Robert Maertens, Benton; Jimmie Crockett, Rose Bud; Tom Hasty Jr., Almyra; Rick Love, Jacksonville; David Luebke, Scott; and Karissa Rushing, Benton.
First Electric members who returned their ballots were entered in a drawing for prizes. This year’s prizes included five $200 credits for electricity, five indoor grills and five waffle irons. Recipients are listed below.
$200 Electricity Credits:
- M.W. Sossamon
- Courtney Dunlap
- Beverly Whitlock
- Helen Edwards
- Delayne Keaton
- Steven Bass
- Preston Robinson
- Lisa Sharp
- George White
- Don McMillen
- Juanita Hathcock
- Bonnie Ottinger
- James Harper
- Geneva Dishongh
- Doyne Williams
The 2014 Annual Report also was discussed during the meeting. The cooperative ended 2014 with more than $475 million in total assets, and $4.4 million was returned to members in the form of capital credit checks. Click here to view the Annual Report.
First Electric Cooperative has a position opening for a first-year apprentice lineman in Benton. Anyone interested in this position should complete an application for employment at any First Electric office or online no later than July 10, 2015. Visit the Employment Opportunities webpage for position specifications.
The goal of First Electric Cooperative’s energy audit program is to help you save money by identifying areas where your home’s energy efficiency can be improved. We offer diagnostic and walk-through energy audits. Both are performed by First Electric marketing representatives who have been trained and certified through the Building Performance Institute.
Diagnostic energy audits
A blower door as well as a Duct Blaster and infrared camera are tools that can be used during a diagnostic energy audit. They allow a marketing representative to locate thermal deficiencies, air infiltration and leakage that can cause high energy consumption and an uncomfortable home.
You get a detailed report that includes the measured air tightness of your home, infrared camera results and recommendations for improvements that could reduce energy usage. They could range from no-cost tips, such as adjusting the thermostat’s temperature, to projects that could require an initial investment but could pay off in energy savings, such as adding insulation or having the HVAC system inspected. The diagnostic energy audit costs $100, but that fee is reimbursed if at least $100 of recommended repairs are made within six months.
Walk-through energy audits
Marketing representatives can conduct a free walk-through energy audit. They visually inspect your home and evaluate the energy efficiency of the building, household appliances, heating and cooling system and lighting. You get a list of recommendations showing steps that can be taken to reduce energy costs.
For more information on an energy audit or to schedule one, please call 800-489-7405 or click here to send us a message.
The next time you need a product for your home or business, look for an ENERGY STAR label. Products with the ENERGY STAR rating deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy and saving money. They are certified by a third-party based on testing in laboratories recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Visit the ENERGY STAR website to learn more about the ENERGY STAR program and see certified products, such as refrigerators, pool pumps, air-conditioning systems and televisions.
First Electric members have reported receiving a call from someone claiming to work for the co-op and demanding they pay their electric bill in 30 minutes or be disconnected. First Electric will not threaten members in this manner. Those who want to confirm they are speaking with a First Electric employee are encouraged to hang up and call the co-op’s toll-free number at 800-489-7405.
We strongly urge members to protect their credit card and checking account numbers, account user names, passwords and Social Security numbers.
Those who have been contacted by one of these scammers, or are victims of a scam, are encouraged to contact First Electric. Members always may check their account balance and pay their bill securely through SmartHub or 844-PAY-FECC. Both are available 24 hours a day.
With First Electric Cooperative’s Home Improvement Loan Program, you don’t have to put off upgrading the energy efficiency of your home any longer. The program will allow you to finance a heat pump and its installation at a competitive, fixed-interest rate. In addition, you can include other energy efficiency products and repairs, such as:
- Duct systems and duct sealing
- Thermal improvements — insulation, caulking and ventilation
- Windows and doors
- Marathon electric water heaters (available through First Electric)
- Borrow as little as $500 or as much as $15,000
- Terms from 12 to 60 months
- Fixed-interest rate for the life of the loan
- No pre-payment penalty
- Payments included on monthly electric bill
Please note that you must own and occupy the property and demonstrate adequate credit history. Loans between $500 and $2,500 are secured with an equipment lien, and loans more than $2,500 are secured with a property mortgage and equipment lien. A $20 filing fee applies for loans less than $2,500, and a $60 filing fee applies for loans more than $2,500.
For more information on the loan program, please visit the Home Improvement Loan Program webpage or call 800-489-7405. All necessary documents to apply for a loan are available for download on the webpage.
First Electric business offices will be closed Friday, July 3, in observance of Independence Day. Crews will be on hand in the event of an outage. Please report an outage by calling 888-827-3322 or using SmartHub.
Members wanting a safe, easy way to connect a generator during power outages can purchase a GenerLink™ from First Electric. The device is installed on your electric meter by a marketing representative. Once installed, you simply connect the generator to the GenerLink™ with the included cord. Then, use your household main circuit panel to select the circuits and appliances you want to operate based on the generator’s capacity.
For pricing, sizing and compatibility, call 800-489-7405 or click here. Qualifying members can pay $200 down and have the remaining balance included on their electric bill for the next 12 months.
First Electric Cooperative will award a $2,000 college scholarship to five high school seniors. Recipients are: Lauren Barnett of Casscoe, Jaden Daniels of Carlisle, Allison Edwards of Perryville, Bridget Muse of Heber Springs and Sally Owens of Mabelvale.
Scholarships are funded by the co-op’s Operation Round-Up program. First Electric members who participate in Operation Round-Up volunteer to have their monthly electric bill rounded up to the next even dollar amount. That money is held in a trust and given as scholarships to high school seniors and as donations to local nonprofit organizations. Members may enroll in Operation Round-Up here or by calling 800-489-7405.
Keeping trees and other vegetation away from First Electric Cooperative’s 10,000 miles of power lines is necessary to keep the community safe and to help minimize power outages.
“All lines are maintained on at least a five-year schedule,” said Tim Felty, right-of-way maintenance supervisor. “In more populated areas, First Electric employees and contractors maintain the 15-foot clearance on either side of the line on a four-year schedule.”
Trees and other vegetation touching lines conduct electricity and can cause power quality issues, such as blinking lights. Trees also cause outages when they fall and take down lines and damage equipment. Most importantly, trees touching lines pose a safety hazard to anyone who comes into contact with them. Members are asked to call First Electric at 800-489-7405 if they notice a tree or other vegetation in or close to lines. A right-of-way crew will evaluate the situation and determine if tree removal or branch trimming is necessary.
In 2015, right-of-way maintenance is scheduled in the following areas: Drasco, Tannebaum, Romance, Rosebud, Seaton, Cabot and Mountain Springs.
First Electric members can help the co-op maintain its rights-of-way in several ways. First, consider the mature height of a tree before planting. Second, contact Arkansas One-Call at 811 at least 48 hours before digging so that underground utilities may be marked. Third, avoid planting fast-growing trees near the right-of-way. Gum, sycamore, locust and pine are trees that Felty does not recommend be planted within 40 feet of lines. Lastly, consider clearances needed to perform maintenance on underground facilities before landscaping near pad-mounted transformers.
Right-of-way maintenance is a priority at First Electric and necessary to provide the best service possible. Members can assist the co-op by following planting guidelines and reporting potential problems to 800-489-7405. As always, we appreciate your cooperation when working in your area.
For more information, please visit the Vegetation Management page.
Restoring power during widespread outages involves much more than flipping a switch or removing a fallen tree off a line. At each stage of the restoration process, First Electric crews work to restore power safely to the greatest number of our members in the shortest time possible.
Remember to report an outage, even if you think a neighbor already has. This helps co-op employees isolate and repair the problem. Just call 888-827-3322 or use SmartHub.
Here are the steps we take when restoring power:
- High-voltage Transmission Lines: Transmission towers and cables that supply power to transmission substations (and thousands of members) rarely fail. When damaged, though, these facilities must be repaired before other parts of the system can operate.
- Distribution Substation: First Electric has 43 substations, each serving up to thousands of members. When a major outage occurs, line crews inspect the substation to determine if problems stem from transmission lines feeding into the substation or the substation itself or an issue down the line.
- Main Distribution Lines: If the problem cannot be isolated at a distribution substation, distribution lines are checked. These lines carry power to large groups of members in communities or housing developments. When power is restored at this stage, all members served by this supply line could see the lights come on, as long as there is no problem farther down the line.
- Tap Lines: If an outage persists, supply lines, also called tap lines, are inspected. These lines deliver power to transformers, either mounted on poles or placed on pads for underground service, outside businesses, schools and homes.
- Individual Homes: If a home remains without power, the service line between a transformer and the home may need to be repaired. This can explain why you have no power when your neighbor does. This illustrates why it is important for you always to report an outage.
Sometimes an outage is caused by a problem with the service installation on your home, business or other building. First Electric can’t fix anything beyond our equipment, so a licensed electrician is needed in those cases.
Individual households may receive special attention if loss of electricity affects life support systems or poses another immediate danger. If you or a family member depends on life support, please call 800-489-7405 before an emergency arises. When widespread outages occur, First Electric crews will fix the problem as soon as possible.
First Electric Cooperative members can use their free Co-op Connections Card to save from 10 percent to 85 percent on most prescriptions at participating independent pharmacies and national chains, such as Walmart and Walgreens.
In 2014, First Electric members used their cards to save $85,000 – or 44 percent – off the retail cost of their prescriptions.
To locate providers in your area, you can:
- Call 800-800-7616.
- Look on the back of your Co-op Connections Card, find the group and member numbers and use them to log in here. Next, enter your ZIP code to search for nearby pharmacies.
You can use the card as many times as needed. Please note that pharmacy discounts are not insurance and are not intended as a substitute for insurance.
The Co-op Connections Card also can help you save on chiropractic, dental and vision care as well as lab work and hearing aids. In addition, First Electric recruits local businesses – restaurants, auto shops, hair salons, fitness centers, florists and more – to offer discounts to our members.
Touchstone Energy, a national alliance of more than 600 electric cooperatives, has recruited more than 100 national chains, such as Sprint, Best Western and Shari’s Berries, to offer cooperative members national discounts.
Click here for participating businesses and their deals. Any local business that is interested in offering a discount to co-op members may call 800-489-7405 and ask to speak with the marketing department.
Need a new card? Stop by a First Electric office, or click here to print your own.
Here’s how to pay with MoneyGram:
1. Find a MoneyGram location that accepts bill payments, such as Walmart. Click here to search by city or postal code.
2. Bring the following:
- Enough cash for the electric bill plus the $1.50 MoneyGram fee
- First Electric account number
- Receive Code: 15148
3. Complete the MoneyGram ExpressPayment® blue form, use the red MoneyGram phone or use the MoneyGram kiosk to complete the transaction. (Payment processes may vary depending on the location. Ask an associate for help.)
First Electric tries to keep our members’ electric bills affordable. You might have noticed a line on your bill in the past few months that says “TO/RTO-Energy Cost Adj”. It is a rider being used to recover costs related to transmission service.
Money collected through the rider pays for transmission construction and expanded services provided through Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation’s participation in regional transmission organizations, which oversee the use of the nation’s electric grid. AECC is First Electric’s wholesale electricity supplier and uses the transmission systems constructed and owned by four other utilities. Those utilities are part of two RTOs, the Southwest Power Pool and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. Through integrated computer systems, the two RTOs automate the process of matching power needs with power supply in order to ensure that the most economically priced energy is delivered to its electric utilities. This efficient, real-time operation of the electric grid is intended to lower energy bills, including lowering fuel costs. Any fuel savings is passed on to First Electric’s members.
People who are served by First Electric Cooperative can have a joint or single membership.
A single membership lists one name on the account and bill. Only that person will be able to inquire about specific account information or make changes to his or her service. In addition, only the person listed may vote in the cooperative’s annual election, and any capital credit refunds will be issued in only that person’s name.
A joint membership has two names listed on the account and bill. This is most often a spouse. Both people may inquire about account information or makes changes to the service. Although only one vote is allowed per membership, either may cast the vote. Both are entitled to receive any capital credit refunds issued to the account.
Members who would like to add or remove a person from their account may call 800-489-7405 during regular business hours. A member service representative will be able to explain what form and document(s) are needed to make the change. Documents might include a valid photo ID, divorce decree or death certificate.
Copper thieves increasingly are targeting First Electric Cooperative’s system in Arkansas, Jefferson, Lonoke and Prairie counties.
We request your help to keep our equipment safe, prevent outages and save lives. If you see anyone other than First Electric personnel or contractors around substations, poles or other electric equipment, please immediately call First Electric at 800-489-7405 or the nearest law enforcement agency.
“To would-be thieves, stealing copper may seem like a quick way to make a buck,” said Jerry Driskill, First Electric’s vice president of operations. “But it’s illegal, it’s costly to our members, and it’s not worth gambling with their lives. Working with any metal and electricity is a dangerous combination, even for trained employees using proper equipment.”
Driskill said the key to getting this stopped is members of the public alerting the electric utility or authorities when they see suspicious activity.
Computers, refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, phones and heat pumps are only a few of the electronics and appliances that can be damaged by electrical surges, such as those caused by lightning strikes.
First Electric members can enroll in Surge HELP® for financial protection from surge damage for their homes’ electronics and appliances. The Surge HELP® (Home Electronics Loss Protection) plan is offered to members through Dominion Products and Services Inc.
Making a claim is hassle-free. The toll-free claims number may be called 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The plan also covers up to $125 in diagnostic/service fees for a valid claim. Other Surge HELP® benefits include:
- Protection for electronics and appliances starts for as little as $3.95 a month.
- The homeowner is reimbursed up to the program limit if damaged equipment can’t be repaired.
- No hidden fees.
- No equipment or installation required.
To enroll in Surge HELP® or get more information, please call 877-727-2938 or click here.