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Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative Timeline

Celebrating 80 Years of ServicePolk-Burnett Electric Cooperative Timeline

President Franklin Roosevelt signs Executive Order 7037 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).

Interest in forming a rural electric cooperative in Polk and Burnett counties develops.  The next year and a half is spent documenting interest on the part of local residents and collecting $5 membership fees.

300 people attend the first Rural Electrification Act informational meeting at Balsam Lake.

On June 4, the Articles of Incorporation for Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative are signed and filed with the Secretary of State.

On June 8, Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative is officially formed.

On June 9, 45 area residents attend the first membership meeting of the co-op.

During the month of June, Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative is organized at the County Agent’s office in Balsam Lake.

The townships to be served by the first major construction project included: Eureka, Milltown, Georgetown, Johnston, Beaver, Apple River, Balsam Lake, St. Croix Falls, Osceola, Garfield, Lincoln, Black Brook and Alden.

In September, the first loan requests are made to the REA for $196,000 to build 176 miles of line.

September 23, the co-op board moves to establish an office in the old jail building in Balsam Lake.

On October 3, co-op directors hire the first full-time employee, Edith Moline, of West Sweden Township, to do stenographic work.

By the October meeting, the board received word from the REA that an allotment of $196,000 had been made to Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative – construction could now begin.

On July 27, Ole and Minnie Stoen are the first members energized.  461 other members are connected that year.  Members are charged 10 cents per kWh, with each member using an average of 55 kWh per month.  The average monthly bill is $4.08.

An Energization Celebration is held on September 13 at the Balsam Lake Park.  The celebration draws a crowd of about 1,500 people from all parts of the two-county area.  Local schools are reportedly closed so children could attend.

On January 2, the office headquarters was moved to the Wells Building in Centuria, where there was more adequate office and garage space, and easy access to the railroad facilities.  There are now six employees.

On September 14, William Holt of Laketown is connected – the 1,000th member to receive service.

A third construction contract brings another 202 miles of line further northeast.  When it is completed on October 3, it brings the total mileage built under contract to 682, serving 1,750 members.  At the same time, World War II brought any large extension projects to a halt.

The cooperative has grown to 2,300 members and 750 miles of line.

The offices of the co-op are moved to the Erickson residence in Centuria, which the cooperative purchased on January 10.  A garage and large warehouse are built behind the house a few years later.

By the end of 1946, there are 2,460 connected services; 2,050 are farms and residences.

The United States Air Force Station is built and is easily the largest user of electric energy connected to the co-op system thus far.

At the end of 1950 the average number of kWh consumed per month has risen to 175 and 4,240 members are being served.

By December, there are 5,000 members on 1,532 miles of line.  The average member consumption is 283 kWh and the average monthly bill is $9.17 per month.  Employees number 25.

A combination garage, warehouse and small office building is constructed in the Siren area to serve the northern part of the system.

In June, the first capital credit checks, totaling $55,361, are returned to the members for their patronage from 1938-1950.

In October, groundbreaking ceremonies are held for the present headquarters facilities in Centuria – completion comes a year later.

In December, Polk-Burnett now has 8,960 members and 1,871 miles of line.  Employees number 33.

In December, the first two REA mortgages are paid in full.

In February, the office building in Siren is completed and staffed on a full-time basis.

Off-peak programs are initiated to lower the cost of energy by reducing energy use during periods of high demand.

The co-op has grown to 13,495 connected services and 2,368 miles of line.  The co-op is staffed by 45 full-time employees.  There are 8,020 farm and residential members.

The co-op now owns many pieces of equipment for building and maintaining lines.  This equipment includes: four pole-setting trucks, four basket trucks, three one-ton service trucks, one ½-ton four-wheel-drive truck, five ½-ton pickup trucks, two ¾-ton vans, one 2-ton flatbed truck and three trenching machines for underground line construction.

The Cooperative Citizen-Scholar Awards Program is initiated.  Today, the program is called Polk-Burnett Community Service Scholarships, and it has awarded more than $400,000 to the sons and daughters of co-op members who make a difference in the lives of others.

Polk-Burnett begins security business to protect rural homes, cabins and businesses. PBSS grew to 3,000 accounts and was sold in 2008.

Polk-Burnett joins Cooperative Response Center (CRC), 24-hour telephone answering service for outages and emergencies that occur on weekends, nights and holidays.  Before CRC, co-op members called line supervisors at home to report outages. CRC is considered the greatest advance in cooperative service by many current and retired co-op employees.

For a brief period, Polk-Burnett Electric Co-op offers cellular phone service at reduced rates.

Polk-Burnett begins propane business. Today, it is self-sustaining and serves 4,000 local customers.

Total capital credits returned to members since 1964: $7.9 million.

The Board approves Operation Round-Up to donate money to local organizations without impacting rates. Operation Round-Up is funded by member-owners of Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative who volunteer to round up their monthly electricity bill to the next even dollar amount.  As of 2013, the program has awarded more than $500,000 to nonprofit organizations that improve our local quality of life.

Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative brings more than 400 jobs to local community, and the tax base increases by $6.6 million through economic development activities.

In June, the Siren Tornado destroys power lines across Burnett County, leaving thousands of co-op members in the dark and causing about $750,000 in damages to the electric system.

Polk-Burnett holds its first-annual holiday gift drive to make the holiday season bright for local children. Gifts collected in Centuria benefit Polk County Operation Christmas. Gifts collected at the Siren office benefit Burnett County Interfaith Caregivers Christmas for Kids.

Polk-Burnett Security Services (PBSS) is sold to Trans-Alarm, Inc., of Burnsville, Minn.

Polk-Burnett hosts its first-annual Recycle Day for Earth Day in April, helping members keep old electronics, computers and TVs off the grid and out of the landfill. 

The Burnett County Mega Storm caused widespread damage to co-op facilities and member properties over the Fourth of July weekend. Linemen replaced 215 broken poles and 45 transformers, restoring power to 12,000 members in six days. Right-of-way clearing continued for months to minimize future outages and safety hazards. Polk-Burnett’s storm recovery costs totaled  $1.5 million.

Polk-Burnett launches PrePay Your Way program, where members can choose to pay for electricity before they use it. No deposits! No late fees! Members choose when and how much to pay. Also this year, the Summer Shift campaign asks members to conserve energy when costs and demand is highest: weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in June, July and August. By 2014, program awareness is 43% and voluntary participation is 33%.

Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative celebrates 75 years of providing reliable electricity. The co-op has grown to 20,646 active services and maintains 3,356 miles of power line, with $80 million in assets. Employees number 52. Polk-Burnett Propane employs seven.

The co-op launched a Facebook page with this timeline and a new anniversary logo that puts "electric cooperative" back into our name and reinforces the co-op mission of delivering reliable electicity.

The year 2013 stands out as a strong year for giving back. Polk-Burnett implemented Rate Relief and lowered the kWh energy charge from June through December, reducing member bills a total of $1,839,516! Rate Relief was possible because of strong electricity sales and a strong commitment to work efficiently and hold down expenses. Polk-Burnett also returned $804,000 in Capital Credits to members, provided a $360,000 no-interest loan to the Grantsburg Fire Station for economic development, awarded $55,300 in Operation  Round-Up grants to worthy causes and awarded $20,000 in scholarships to the sons and daughters of members.

Polk-Burnett purchased a Chevy Volt e-vehicle. It was displayed for members at the annual meeting in June and will help the co-op answer questions about this new technology, while experiencing its benefits and limitations.

Also this year, Polk-Burnett introduced a communtiy solar program; however, it was canceled due to lack of subscriptions.

The kWh energy charge was lowered in January 2015 and there has been no rate increase for members since 2010.  Money beyond expenses is alway returned to members as Capital Credits. This year, $800,000 was returned to co-op members in September. If you purchased electricity in 1993 and/or 2011, you got money back.

Rate restructuring lowered the kWh energy rate and increased the basic charge from $34 to $36 in January 2016. The change follows rate policy set by the board to allocate costs fairly recover the basic cost of delivering electricity in the basic charge. Rate restructuring did not raise revenue for the co-op; in fact, revenue was reduced by $150,000 this year.

SunTuria Solar opened in Centuria. Polk-Burnett and its power supplier, Dairyland Power Cooperative, developed the area's first utility-scale solar on a 10-acre site behind our Centuria office. The array was built, and is owned and operated by Chicago solar developer, SoCore Energy. The array will generate 1.25 MW of solar energy, enough to power 200 homes. Dairyland will purchase 1 MW of solar output and Polk-Burnett will purchase the additional .25 MW. Solar output will feed into Polk-Burnett's distribution system to benefit all members. "The project will provide clean, renewable energy at a fixed rate, replacing electricity from fossil fuel sources and providing long-term, stable energy prices," said General Manager Steve Stroshane. 

Polk-Burnett celebrates 80 years of service with 80 acts of kindness. 

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