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Guest commentary: United Power cannot stick fellow Tri-State cooperative members with their bill

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Guest commentary: United Power cannot stick fellow Tri-State cooperative members with their bill

Upstanding consumer-members of electric cooperatives would be mortified if part of their monthly power bills were sent to their neighbors to be paid. In eastern Colorado’s farming and ranching communities, it’s not cliché to say that neighbors help neighbors, but it’s also safe to say we are proud to responsibly pay our own way.

That’s why consumers of electric cooperatives in eastern Colorado and across the West may be surprised to learn that their electricity bills could rise because of the actions of United Power. United Power and 41 other not-for-profit utility members of cooperative power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association voluntarily signed power supply contracts, agreeing to share the costs of delivering electricity into their distribution systems. We agreed to share Tri-State’s costs for building and maintaining the transmission system, power plants and everything else required to deliver us reliable power.

In 2007, we, along with United Power and all but two of our fellow members, elected, voluntarily, to extend our wholesale power contracts with Tri-State for an additional 10 years, all the way to 2050. Now United Power wants out of the contract it signed decades early, and it wants out at
the expense of other members.

In the past several years, United Power has been starting fights, in every venue it can find, to terminate its power supply contract with Tri-State at such a low cost that electric rates would rise for all the other utility members of Tri-State, including Morgan County Rural Electric Association. While United Power claims they want a strong Tri-State, it’s working to weaken Tri-State, and this affects our consumers.

Morgan County REA’s and United Power’s service territories share a border in eastern Colorado, and the consumers we each serve are neighbors. For example, United Power’s consumers in Keenesburg are just up the road from our co-op’s consumers in Roggen, and the farmers and ranchers of both cooperatives serve operate side-by-side. Some are consumers of both utilities.

If United Power were successful in terminating its power supply contract at such a low cost, this would harm other Tri-State members, whose consumers will see their power costs rise as they pay for the costs that United Power consumers will no longer pay.

We think that’s wrong, and I suspect many of our neighbors who are United Power’s consumers would agree.

Tri-State serves its members with reliable, affordable and responsible power, including reducing wholesale power rates and increasing clean energy, even as other utilities in the region raise rates. What is essential to know is that Tri-State’s members are working together to address United Power’s concerns by creating options to allow members to self-supply more power or even terminate their contracts early, if they make the remaining members whole.

This is an issue among Tri-State’s members, and not, as United Power would have you believe, an issue between them and Tri-State. As we all work together, we want to make sure that if a fellow member terminates the long-term contract it signed, that action doesn’t cause other members’ rates to increase. This is also an important issue for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tri-State’s rate regulator, to consider as it examines the importance of power supply contracts – the financial backbone allowing wholesale cooperative suppliers
like Tri-State to finance, build and operate their generation and transmission systems for their members.

United Power characterizes their concerns with a banal analogy to the Eagles’ Hotel California (United Power CEO Mark Gabriel referenced the song lyrics “where you can get in but never leave” in a recent Denver Post story) when their goal really is to check out of their hotel room early and stick the other guests with their bill.

Instead, the consumer-members of United Power should take a close look at their cooperative’s actions, and ask them to work with their fellow members to reach a solution to their needs that doesn’t raise the power costs of their neighbors.

David Frick is the general manager of the Morgan County Rural Electric Association

 

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Unsettled weekend weather with severe storms possible Sunday

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Unsettled weekend weather with severe storms possible Sunday

ST. LOUIS – Unsettled weekend weather with multiple rounds of rain and storms forecast to impact the area, including a threat for severe weather for St. Louis on Sunday.

Saturday morning into the afternoon expect scattered rain and a few rumbles of thunder mainly south of I-70 to continue spreading eastward. This activity gradually tapers off through the afternoon.

Later Saturday evening into tonight showers and storms develop across central and east central Missouri and lift north ahead of a warm front as we head into early Sunday morning. These storms could produce some hail along with heavy rain. The front stalls across northern Missouri and west central Illinois where heavy rain and storms will continue for much of the day on Sunday. Our far northern counties could be impacted by multiple waves of heavy rain through the day with amounts to around 2”.

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

ST. LOUIS – The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is back this year. The goal is not just to raise awareness about the disease but to also to raise funds for research.

The walk is happening at the Enterprise Center beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

So far, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised more than $800,000, not too far away from reaching its goal of $1.3 million.

This progressive disease affects millions of Americans. In fact, the CDC says in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease.

The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. That number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.

During the walk you’ll see people carrying flowers of different colors, each color representing the person’s connection to the disease.

A purple flower is for those who have lost a someone to the disease. A yellow flower represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.

Registration for the walk is at 7:30 a.m. There will be a ceremony at 9:15 and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m.

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

ST. LOUIS – Art historians are calling it the holy grail of a find, a rare work of art found in a St. Louis front yard. What looked like a lawn ornament is now headed to a museum in New York.   

It’s a sculpture of two sisters that sat in the front yard of a St. Louis home that’s been on quite a journey. First rediscovered in 2019 by a gentleman named John Foster, an art historian.     

For years the sculpture entitled “Martha and Mary” sat on a bench in the city of St. Louis before an art historian saw it while out on a stroll. 

“That didn’t look like the commonly seen concrete lawn ornament that we are used to seeing,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior curator American Folk Art Museum & Exhibition chair. 

Sally Bliss had inherited this Martha and Mary sculpture, and it sat outside her home in New York when she was a ballet dancer. Years later after her first husband died, she moved to St. Louis when she met her second husband, Jim Connette. 

“I had it and put it out in my garden in Long Island, which was our main house, and brought it with me and put it on the bench,” Bliss said.

“I knew it was valuable. But I knew that nobody would steal it because it looked like it was part of the bench and would be really difficult to pick up that bench and steal the whole thing.” 

This lawn sculpture was originally made by artist William Edmondson, the famed black sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee.

The ‘two sisters’ sculpture had been featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937 in New York and later Paris, France. 

Today, William Edmondson is considered a preeminent black sculptor, although he didn’t start sculpting until 1934 when he was 60 years old, and only made 300 sculptures over the course of 15 years. 

Using limestone from demolished buildings.  

“Like most museums, we have to have supporters to acquire such artwork,” Rousseau said. “Prices for Edmundson sculptures can be $350,000 to $800,000.”   

And after some conversations and a cleaning, Martha and Mary are headed back to New York. This time, the sculpture will be the centerpiece of the American Museum of Folk Art. Debuting this January on the celebration of the museum’s 60th year. 

Thanks to the generosity of a man named Brian Donnelly, this sculpture and its wild ride of a story will reside in the Big Apple.  

“I was sad,” Bliss said. “But I knew that this was the right place for it to go and especially to New York and so many people will see it and he will get his due and to me, that’s more important than me having to be sad because I’m losing that work of art.” 

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