InterBel Annual Meeting

This year’s annual meeting for InerBel fell in April (as ever), but that may not be the case next year, due to changes in the bilaws.

It made for an interesting meeting- not just because the reports were interesting, but because members voted on proposed bylaw changes. Why was this interesting? In short, because members first voted to accept of all changes without amendment, which passed in an verbal vote. Then, there was a discussion about the changes, and then a paper vote over whether or not to repeal the results of the previous vote.

If this sounds a little backwards, it isn’t your imagination- it was. So- in order of events: Promotional Video, Various Reports, Election, Vote to accept bylaw changes, Debate over bylaw changes, Vote (failed) to rescind the vote that accepted the bylaw changes.

The changes (which were approved together as a single vote):

  • Customers that aren’t within the district boundaries are not members.
  • Annual Meeting takes place at a date/time appointed by the Board each year
  • Not having an annual meeting at that time does not dissolve the cooperative or “affect the validity of any corporate action”
  • Five Percent of all members or 50 members present whichever is fewer will constitute a quorum
  • No more term limits for the Board
  • Various board positions essentially have all other duties as assigned in their descriptions now
  • Voting by mail is okay

The commentary (from various members):

  • Substituting elections for term limits is comparing apples to oranges
  • The trend in rural cooperatives is to abolish term limits because finding board members is hard
  • Term limits are an important part of the democratic process
  • Term limits are a stupid reason to lose a good board member
  • 50 people is way too few to represent 4,000
  • It’s really hard to get a quorum- we barely made it today
  • The quorum definition is consistent with state law
  • Why didn’t we vote on these individually?
  • Why didn’t we get to discuss these first?
  • Who exactly doesn’t get to be a cooperative member? What was the reasoning?
  • Limiting the members keeps the southward expansion from adding a bunch of new people more concerned with their local issues than those of North Lincoln County

The election- which probably led into some of the concerns about term limits. As is rather typical, there were no more people running than vacancies. Both incumbents ran and were elected. I begin to wonder how often we actually have elections?

The LCHS robotics team came and spoke, presumably because InterBel has been providing them with funding- which evidently worked well, since they’re going to a Worldwide competition. They were pretty enthused- and I, at least, was pretty impressed.

InterBel has put fiber through all of the legacy territory, with about 500 homes left in Eureka and Rexford, which should hopefully be connected this year. There are 130 service requests on the south route. Capital credit checks went out at record rates, there’s been a 30% increase in broadband use, a significant increase in members, and an impressive amount of new construction requests this year.

In general, the cooperative has been experienced substantial and rapid growth. This is presenting some challenges- probably worsened by the inflation and supply chain problems. While the federal government has been providing some unexpected funding, it’s coming with regulatory strings that make it a mixed blessing. On the whole, management seems pretty optimistic about another good year- though they are having to anticipate material needs 6-8 months in advance in order to actually have supplies to work with.


Comparing Annual Meetings

InterBel Telephone Cooperative held its annual meeting on Saturday.

Registration- two lines

It was a bright, sunlit morning and a well attended meeting; 311 people were registered when the meeting began (Unlike Lincoln Electric’s Meeting with only 97 members registered).

Attendance: InterBel definitely had better attendance- but more about whether or not that’s a virtue for attendee’s later.

Registration: The lines were definitely longer for InterBel; Unlike Lincoln Electric, InterBel had a single registration point. Of course, they were handing out capital credits at that point, so the reason for the lengthy line was pretty self-explanatory.

The Radio: InterBel wins this one. Unlike the static of Lincoln Electric’s pre-meeting, when visitors sat in cold cars and wondered if they had the right station, InterBel provided a concert. By a local musician, no less!

Length: About equal, actually. And they felt equally long. InterBel’s had what felt like longer stretches with people talking, but the cold and nasty weather made the Lincoln Electric Meeting feel long as well.

Content: If you wanted to learn what was going on, InterBel held the better meeting. It was almost a shame to attend in person and miss the livestream, because there was a video and presentation.

The representative of the audit firm didn’t just state that they’d provided an unbiased opinion (which was the case for Lincoln Electric) but actually explained some of the features of the balance sheet. While seeing the graphs would have been helpful (printouts next-time?) it was a fairly clear, easy to follow, useful explanation.

In related news: InterBel is working on converting the Eureka business corridor to fiber optics, extending fiber to the West Kootenai, and expects to have fiber access to most of Eureka by the end of the year.

Trustees Election: When was the last time we had an election? And I don’t mean election by acclamation, I mean an actual election where people voted. Neither meeting had an actual election with voting. No, not even Lincoln Electric- there was literally no more candidates than vacancies, despite the mail-in ballot members received.

Prizes: Lincoln Electric definitely had more available. InterBel had 8 total (Including the grand prize). The odds were also better at the Lincoln Electric Meeting -far lower attendance! With only 97 people registered, and over ten prizes, the odds of winning something were at least 10% (and increased as each winner was removed from further drawings). The prizes for InterBel were a bit larger though.

My preference was for the InterBel meeting, which ran smoothly, included plenty of content, and for the most part seemed better planned. But folks interested in winning prizes (any prizes) would definitely have been better served by attending the Lincoln Electric Meetings. Not to mention the Luck of the Draw scholarships which Lincoln Electric provides.

One complaint: No bathrooms- this does limit the people who are able/willing to attend somewhat.