Don’t keep us in the dark | Letter

I appreciate OPALCO’s role in easing the communication difficulties caused by CenturyLink’s cable break. The support for OPALCO to provide broadband services in the county is greater than ever. The board has thus decided on Nov 21, 2013 to accelerate and fund this effort through the use of OPALCO equity and electricity rates.

What was surprising to me about the board’s latest broadband decision was its financial significance, and the lack of information and opportunity for members to have a voice in decision-making.

OPALCO’s earlier plan of charging every electricity users $15/month to underwrite the $35 million investment had to be abandoned in May due to insufficient subscriptions by members to make the venture financially feasible. Having spent $1.26 million on broadband studies and PR efforts, the board has authorized another $12 million for the next three years, and likely more, though unclear how much more, beyond that. This time, we, owners-members of OPALCO, are asked to pay for the costs but have been given few details about the plan, let alone the opportunity to vote with our checkbook.

I trust that OPALCO carefully performed due diligence, weighed the financial risks and had the best interests of the entire membership in mind. But with two OPALCO board members resigning earlier this year because of discomfort around broadband and financial approaches taken by the board, I do not feel at ease about information being withheld from us.

If the board feels confident that the broadband plan is financially prudent and beneficial to its members, please share details and answer our questions, so we can fully understand and perhaps support the effort.

 

What is the cost-benefit ratio to the co-op? How will the plan be financed? What are the risks? What are the impacts on electricity rates to OPALCO members in the near and long term?

As a co-op, we are co-owners and would like to be treated as such, not just passive bill-payers with no voice in decision-making. OPALCO’s mission is to bring power and light to its members. Please don’t keep us in the dark. Thank you.

 

Chom Greacen

Lopez Island