State Treasurer John Perdue presented the Harrison Rural Electrification Association a $61,308 unclaimed property check Wednesday at association headquarters on 600 Marketplace Ave.
“Electricity, it goes without saying, is nearly as essential as air,” Treasurer Perdue said. “We are more than happy to return funds to a business which serves the public in such a vital way. I support the association’s mission in extending electricity to rural areas.”
Chief executive officer and general manager Terry Stout did not know the check amount beforehand.
“Whatever the money is, it will be used to pay off long-term debt,” said Stout, 59, before the event. “I want to thank the Treasurer’s Office for this wonderful unclaimed property program which will come in handy as we reduce debt to benefit members.”
The CEO said he surmises the money represents funds lost in the shuffle when his business changed post office boxes. Fees paid by a phone company for use of the association’s power poles probably comprise the amount, he said.
Treasurer Perdue said he understand the challenges rural dwellers face. “With the pleasure of living in a beautiful environment also comes the challenge of securing services that urban dwellers come by more easily.”
Stout said lowering the association’s debt is a key component in being able to distribute more “retirements,” the rough equivalent of dividends in the electricity industry’s for-profit sector. An electrical co-operative typically buys power from large-scale producers such as American Electric Power and resells it at a reasonable markup to its customers.
The association has served residents of Harrison, Doddridge, Marion, Taylor, Barbour, Upshur and Lewis counties since 1937. As part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Rural Electrification Administration strove to extend electricity to places for whom little profit existed on part of the for-profit providers.
Even now, Stout said, “Across the whole United States co-ops serve more miles geographically than traditional utility companies.”
Electrical co-ops were originally financed by the federal government and the United States Department of Agriculture still extends loans to take care of long-term capital needs. The original 1930s Rural Electrification Association is now known as the Rural Utility Service, under the USDA.
Stout said he hopes to see more retirements issued in the near future but is hamstrung by paying a transmission fee -- above the base power cost -- to the “regional transmission organization” which serves his part of West Virginia. That fee amounts to about $90,000 a month.He is also supportive of the further development of renewable fuel sources such as sun and wind but says storing the energy generated remains problematic. Natural gas in particular has gained well-documented market share in power generation as the federal government attempts to move away from carbon-emitting coal, to the detriment of coal-producing counties.