Addressing issues at REMC may take time

Friday, July 28, 2017

The past few months this newspaper has been saturated with information about Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC. UDWI REMC members and cooperative leaders have helped make that possible.

We have to credit our readership with coming to us with information, stating something was not quite right with the local cooperative. It took some time, but we finally started to see the focus of the problem: Lack of transparency and communication.

Members are the owners of the cooperative, and they were not being kept in the loop about many decisions. Some were explained to us in a manner that made sense, but there were some big decisions made that should have been brought to those who own a part of the non-profit entity.

Several members decided it was time to take a stand. Three individuals opted for change by replacing long-running board members, and a slew of members turned out in April to vote for change. Their pleas were clearly heard, as three new members sit on the board today.

But, it appears change doesn’t happen as quickly as some would like, and despite movements in what appears to be the right direction, members are upset that in just a few short months the board hasn’t made a complete 180-degree turn.

Since the new members came on board, starting the day of the election on April 8, a lot seems to have been accomplished. Our staff has sat in on the monthly meetings and witnessed the number of interested members in attendance increase with each passing month.

With those accomplishments, it appears there has been some bumps in the road that has made the board take two steps back for each step forward.

Case-in-point: This week’s announcement about phase I of the audit not being released to its members after specifically announcing at least some sort of report would be available. On the one hand, we could understand why parts of the audit would not be made available. For example, it’s probably not in the cooperative’s best interest to potentially tarnish an individual’s name if there are suspicions of wrong-doing. They could potentially face lawsuits. Also, what about the “little guy” who may have been doing as he was told by a superior, and unknowingly (or unintentionally) thus becoming “collateral damage,” so to speak?

The decision does seem a bit suspicious, but it does not seem wise to go against the advice of their legal counsel. Even the new board members were a part of the unanimous decision.

There has to be a logical reason, especially amidst the work put in by the board to be more open and even changing their board policies to make it easier for members to be a part of the process.

This is not an “us vs. them” type of scenario. Everyone needs to be working together. The board’s goal and the members’ goal should be the same, and that is to lower rates.

Members and the board still have a lot to learn. The old adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day” seems to apply here. There are a lot of years of what seems to be poor decisions made by the board and leadership, and it may take time to get back on track.