Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our offices are currently drive-through only.
Please contact us by phone, SmartHub, website or social media if possible. Our 2020 Annual Meeting has also been canceled due to COVID-19.

Claiborne Electric offers payment arrangements for delinquent accounts


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Louisiana Public Service Commission issued an order to suspend disconnection of electric services due to non-pay. As that order expires, Claiborne Electric General Manager & CEO Mark Brown wants Co-op members to know they have payment options to clear delinquent debt.

“We understand that this pandemic has caused financial hardship for some of our members, and we want to help them clear that debt so that it doesn’t grow to an unmanageable amount,” Brown said.

Electricity used during the order will still have to be paid for. Members who feel they will be unable to pay balances should contact the Co-op for possible payment arrangements. Brown said members have multiple options to clear debt over time instead of paying an entire accrued balance at once.

12-month payment plan:

For members who want to pay debt on a traditional monthly billing cycle, the Co-op offers a 12-month payment plan. With this plan, all debt owed by the member to the Cooperative is divided by 12. The member pays one portion of the debt each month by the due date, along with their current monthly bill, until all debt is paid in full.

This plan allows members to bring their current balance out of a negative state and pay a small portion of the debt each month for 12 months, at which point the debt is cleared.

EZPay:

Members with an outstanding debt may opt to use Claiborne Electric’s EZPay program. EZPay allows members to pay for electricity in advance instead of receiving a traditional bill. The program allows members to purchase electricity before it is used, giving them the flexibility to add credit to their electric account as their budget allows. It also eliminates deposits, due dates, late fees, and fees associated with disconnection or re-connection.

EZPay also has a mechanism that helps members pay off accumulated debt. When a member who owes debt to the cooperative makes an EZPay payment, 80% of the payment purchases electricity for future use and 20% of the payment is applied to outstanding debt. This allows a member to pay the debt over time without facing disconnection. This would be a good option for members who have accumulated debt during the pandemic that they are unable to pay in full. If a member is on traditional billing and would prefer changing to EZPay, we can also apply the account’s deposit to help lower the debt.

“The people we serve are our friends and neighbors, and we want to help them during this difficult time,” Brown said. “I would ask members not to wait until they owe an amount that makes them overwhelmed. Call us. We will be glad to help find the payment option that fits their needs.”

To discuss payment options, please call our Farmerville office at 368-3011 or our Homer office at 927-3504.

Members urged to encourage veto of SB 406


On May 25, Claiborne Electric’s General Manager & CEO Mark Brown issued an urgent call for Co-op members to contact their area legislators concerning Senate Bill 406.

The bill was originally an effort to grant legislative authority for electric cooperatives to provide broadband internet service. Almost immediately, however, SB 406 was targeted by large telecom companies, and amendments were added to restrict cooperatives so severely that it would be nearly impossible for an electric cooperative to offer internet service in a financially feasible manner.

Although Claiborne Electric’s members stepped up immediately and answered Brown’s call with an outpouring of messages to state legislators, the bill ultimately passed (34-0) with the restrictive amendments included.

“This is a disheartening result,” Brown said. “We had such high hopes for this bill, but the amendments put into place drastically changed the original intent of the bill. What started out as a great thing for our rural friends and neighbors turned into a bill that does more harm than good to the Co-op and its members.”

Electric cooperatives typically serve rural areas where options for true broadband internet service are nonexistent or severely lacking. More than three years ago, Claiborne Electric began the process of trying to join about 150 electric cooperatives across the country filling the rural broadband void with fiber-to-the-home internet projects. These co-ops are providing the fastest, most reliable internet available with no data caps, all at extremely competitive rates. The geographic areas where electric cooperatives are building these projects have largely been ignored by for-profit internet companies.

The current internet situation is eerily similar to electricity in the 1930s. At that time, for-profit electric companies refused to build lines to rural areas because they weren’t profitable, so farmers and ranchers created electric cooperatives to bring electricity to the countryside. To date, the large for-profit internet service providers have ignored rural America, and cooperatives have once again stepped up to provide a critical service to their members. With the amendments added to SB 406, these companies acted to obstruct genuine efforts to bring broadband internet services to rural Louisiana.

The bill, as passed, will severely limit the number of internet customers for electric cooperatives. It prohibits them from offering internet service to a significant portion of their electric members. The bill will eliminate competition and customer choice, even if the co-op could offer better service at a more affordable rate with no data caps. This bill’s amendments also require electric cooperatives to allow large telecom companies to use the cooperative’s infrastructure (physical materials owned by the co-op’s members) to deliver internet service using the cooperative’s poles and other physical plant.

If signed into law, SB 406 makes Louisiana the most restricted state in the nation where cooperative-provided broadband is concerned. This bill is anti-competitive, anti-free market, and will essentially eliminate any chance of cooperatives providing affordable, reliable, true broadband internet service to rural Louisiana.

Although the bill is a set-back for electric cooperatives wanting to provide this critical service, Brown said he still has hope for the future of cooperatives and rural broadband.

“This bill has essentially derailed our efforts to bring a Fiber-to-the-Home solution to our members,” Brown said. “However, we want our members to know we are still fighting this outcome. We hope to convince the governor to veto the bill in its present form.”

Brown said he believes SB 406 bill may violate certain state and federal laws related to the restraint of trade by preventing the Cooperative from delivering the service to all its members. He said it also likely violates the provisions of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 – a bill that was designed to enhance competition for telecommunications services across the nation.

 

Please follow this link to show your support in encouraging Governor Edwards to veto this bill: https://www.alec.coop/legislation-regulatory/legislative-updates/

 

Cooperative calls on members to help with Senate Bill 406


Claiborne Electric’s General Manager & CEO Mark Brown issued an urgent call today for the help of the Co-op’s 17,000 members in contacting their area legislators concerning Senate Bill 406, which is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Wednesday, May 27.

The bill, authored by Senator Beth Mizell, was originally an effort to grant legislative authority for electric cooperatives to provide broadband internet service. Electric cooperatives typically serve rural areas where options for true broadband internet service are nonexistent or severely lacking. About 150 electric cooperatives in dozens of states are now filling that void with fiber-to-the-home internet services. These co-ops are providing the fastest, most reliable internet available to areas that have largely been ignored by for-profit internet companies.

Almost immediately, SB 406 was targeted by large internet providers in the state and amendments were added to restrict the ability of electric co-ops to offer this service. The amendments have made the bill so restrictive that it almost completely eliminates the possibility of an electric cooperative offering internet service in a financially feasible manner.

Provisions in the current amendments include allowing cooperatives to only provide service to “unserved” areas of their service territory. There are several issues with this provision. This would not allow the electric cooperative to compete with other broadband providers in an area where service is available. Even if the co-op can offer better service at a more affordable rate with no data caps, they would not be allowed to provide customers that choice. This provision would mean that Claiborne Electric would not even be permitted to provide an internet option to most of the members they already provide electric service to. Also, the term “unserved” applies by census blocks, and if one single resident in that census block has available broadband service, the entire block is deemed “served.” Finally, many current providers will likely argue that broadband internet is available nearly everywhere, although customers reliant on satellite or cell-based service know the problems with cost, unreliable service, speeds which don’t line up with what is advertised, data caps, and speed throttling on “unlimited” plans.

Another provision that has been added to the bill would require electric cooperatives to allow large telecom companies to use the cooperative’s infrastructure – the physical materials that are owned by the co-op’s members – to deliver internet service using the cooperative’s poles and other physical plant. The co-op would be restricted to an extremely limited number of internet customers, but would be forced to allow the big for-profit companies to use co-op infrastructure in delivering internet service.

These amendments are anti-competitive, anti-free market provisions that will keep our local communities from having a choice for affordable, reliable, true broadband internet service. The amendments would make Louisiana the most restricted state in the nation where cooperative-provided broadband is concerned.

In discussing the bill with legislators across the state, misinformation has come to light about the origin of electric cooperatives. Many members of the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives are being told that electric cooperatives are government-created, taxpayer funded organizations, and these provisions would only be fair. This is simply untrue. Electric Cooperatives are private electric utilities owned by the members they serve. These co-ops were not created by government. The government created a loan program to electrify rural America more than 80 years ago. The government offered that program to the investor-owned utilities, but they rejected the offer to serve these unprofitable areas. Farmers and ranchers then joined together to form rural electric cooperatives to meet their need for electrification in those areas. They signed up for the loans, built their infrastructure, and have re-paid those loans with interest. That program has never been a taxpayer burden.

The situation today is eerily similar. The for-profit internet service providers have ignored rural America. The cooperatives have once again stepped up to the challenge of providing this critical service to their members. For-profit companies that have ignored our market for decades are now coming forward to act as obstructionists with clearly anti-competitive amendments to a bill that promises to help bring broadband internet services to rural Louisiana.

Claiborne Electric appreciates Senator Mizell’s efforts, and agrees with her that broadband is essential to healthcare, business, and education. Electric cooperatives have always been committed to rural America. The bill, with its current amendments, will essentially eliminate any chance of cooperatives entering the internet business.

Please reach out to your area members of the Louisiana House of Representatives (https://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_ByParish) and ask them to support this bill only if electric cooperatives are allowed to offer this service across their entire membership. Customers deserve a choice in their internet service provider. Help us stop these anti-competitive, protectionist, for-profit companies from stifling progress in your communities.

Co-op’s response to COVID-19


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Claiborne Electric wants its members to understand how we are taking care of our employees, our members, and our Cooperative during this difficult time.

As COVID-19 started to spread across Louisiana, our management team developed a work plan specific to this crisis. That plan was immediately put into action to decrease the chance of contracting or spreading a virus.

During the pandemic, our offices are closed to the public. Employees are still serving our membership full-time, but lobby areas are closed for the safety of employees and members. We are pleased to serve members in the drive-through, Kiosks, by telephone, online, and through our SmartHub app.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission has issued an order to utilities during this time to suspend disconnections due to non-pay. As with all LSPC orders, Claiborne Electric will gladly comply. We will not disconnect members who do not pay their bills while the order is in effect. However, there has been confusion about this matter, and we want our members to fully understand this issue. The order does not grant free electricity. All electricity being used will have to be paid for. If it is possible for members to pay bills during this time to keep accounts current, members are urged to do so. Claiborne Electric General Manager and CEO Mark Brown said keeping accounts current, if possible, will avoid hardship down the road.

“We don’t want our members to have an unmanageable amount owed when this mandate lifts,” Brown said. “If members are facing a financial hardship due to COVID-19, they can contact us about possible payment arrangements.”

Brown also said that members should be mindful of additional electric usage while being home more during the pandemic. The Co-op’s free SmartHub app has many convenient features, including the ability to help members monitor and manage electric usage. SmartHub can be downloaded on any Apple or Android device.

If any member has questions or concerns about their account, Member Service Representatives are available in Farmerville at 318-368-3011 or in Homer at 318-927-3504.

Claiborne Electric postpones 2020 Annual Meeting


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Claiborne Electric Cooperative’s management team and Board of Directors have decided to postpone the 2020 Annual Membership Meeting, which was set for April 25 in Ruston.

“The safety of our employees and our members is the most important thing, and we believe the safest thing to do now is postpone our meeting,” said Claiborne Electric General Manager and CEO Mark Brown.

Brown said the Co-op has a tentative plan to reschedule the meeting in late July.

Bylaw changes proposed to members at 2020 Annual Meeting


The following 10 proposed Bylaw amendments will be put before Claiborne Electric’s membership for a vote during the 2020 Annual Meeting.

Proposed change 1 – To replace the first sentence of Article I, Section 1 to read as follows:

“Any person, firm, association, corporation or body politic or subdivision thereof may become a member of record in Claiborne Electric Cooperative, Inc., (hereinafter called the “Cooperative”) by:”

This change adds the term “of record” to the sentence to form the term “member of record.” This change strengthens the term, making clear that “member” refers to a bona fide, current member of the Cooperative.

____________________

Proposed change 2 – To replace the first sentence of Article I, Section 3 to read as follows:

“Any two adults living in the same residence may apply for and sign a joint membership application and, subject to their compliance with the requirements set forth in Section 1 of this Article, may be accepted for such membership.”

This change adds the terms “and sign” and “application” to the sentence, clarifying the process of applying for joint membership.

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Proposed change 3 – To replace Article III, Section 1 to read as follows:

“The annual meeting of the membership shall be held at such place and time as approved by the Board of Directors and designated in the notice of meeting for the purpose of passing on reports for the previous fiscal year, conducting Director elections, if needed, and transacting such other business as may come before the meeting. Failure to hold the annual meeting at the designated time shall not work a forfeiture or dissolution of the Cooperative.”

This change adds the term “, conducting Director elections, if needed,” to the language of the paragraph. This would allow for Director elections at the Annual Meeting.

____________________

Proposed change 4 – To replace Article III, Section 4 to read as follows:

“Except for Director elections, three per centum of the Cooperative’s total membership, present in person at a meeting, shall constitute a quorum for purposes of conducting a special meeting of the membership or the regularly-scheduled annual meeting of the membership. If less than a quorum is present at any meeting, a majority of those present in person may adjourn the meeting from time to time without further notice, provided, that the Secretary shall notify any absent members of the time and place of such adjourned meeting.”

This change adds the term “Except for Director elections,” to open the paragraph. This language makes clear that a quorum applies to members in attendance at membership meetings, not for Director elections.

____________________

Proposed change 5 – To replace Article III, Section 5 to read as follows:

“Each member of record shall be entitled to only one vote. All questions shall be decided by a vote of a majority of the members voting thereon in person, except as otherwise provided by law, the articles of incorporation or these bylaws.”

This change adds the term “of record” to the sentence to form the term “member of record.” This change strengthens the term, making clear that a vote may only be cast by a bona fide, current member of the Cooperative.

____________________

Proposed change 6 – To replace Article III, Section 7 to read as follows:

“The order of business at the annual meeting of the members and, so far as possible, at all other meetings of the members, shall be essentially as follows:

  1. Report as to the number of members present in person in order to determine the existence of a quorum.
  2. Reading of the notice of the meeting and proof of the due publication or mailing thereof, or the waiver or waivers of notice of the meeting, as the case may be.
  3. Reading of unapproved minutes of previous meetings of the members and the taking of necessary action thereon.
  4. Presentation and consideration of reports of officers, Directors and committees, if any.
  5. Report on Director elections, if conducted
  6. Unfinished business.
  7. Such new business as shall have been published in the agenda incorporated into the official notice of the meeting.
  8. Adjournment.”

This change adds a report on any conducted Director elections to the Order of Business at the Annual Meeting. It also re-numbers the Order of Business following such report.

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Proposed change 7 – To replace Article IV, Section 2 to read as follows:

“No person shall be eligible to become or remain a director or to hold any position of trust who:
(a) Is not a member and bona fide resident in the area served by the Cooperative and who does not reside within the Board District the director represents or,
(b) Is in any way employed by or financially interested in a competing enterprise or a business selling electric energy or electric materials and supplies to the Cooperative;
(c) Is the incumbent of or candidate for an elected public office;
(d) Has been in any manner employed by the Cooperative during the previous ten (10) years;

Upon establishing the fact that a director is holding office in violation of any of the foregoing provisions, it shall immediately become incumbent upon the Board of Directors to remove such director from office. Nothing contained in this section shall affect in any manner whatsoever the validity of any action taken at any meeting of the Board of Directors.”

This change has two parts. First, it removes language from line (a) which read “(this provision shall not be applied retroactively and shall not affect any elections of directors held prior to the approval date of these changes of bylaws)”. This removed language is unnecessary. Second, this change removes language from line (c) which read “in connection with which a salary or compensation in excess of $1,000.00 per annum is paid”. This removed language eliminates any provision for an incumbent or candidate for an elected public office to hold a position on Claiborne Electric’s Board of Directors.

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Proposed change 8 – To replace the last paragraph of Article IV, Section 3 to read as follows:

“The Board of Directors shall provide for elections as the term of office of the director from that district expires. Director elections shall be held at the annual meeting of the general membership. Such elections shall be held on a staggered basis, three district elections per year, and Directors, once elected, shall serve for a term of three years. Such terms shall begin at the meeting of the Board of Directors held at its next regularly scheduled meeting following the annual meeting of the members. For purposes of Director elections, no quorum is required. Directors shall be elected by majority vote of all registered members casting ballots at that annual meeting. Should balloting result in a tie vote, the winner shall be determined by drawing lots, conducted by the current Board President or his designee. If no nominees are submitted, the vacancy shall be filled in accordance with Article IV, Section 6 of these by-laws.”

This change moves Director elections from District Meetings to the Annual Meeting. This move allows Directors to be elected by the members in attendance at the Annual Meeting. This change also eliminates a quorum for the purpose of Director elections.

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Proposed change 9 – To replace Article IV, Section 4 to read as follows:

“Any three (3) members of record living within a district and acting together, may make a nomination for the Director from that district in writing during the month of January. Nominations will be due by close of business on the last business day of January. The secretary shall post such nominations at the principal office of the Cooperative in both Union and Claiborne Parishes. If only one nomination is submitted, the Board of Directors will declare the nominated candidate as the winner and shall not hold an election for that district. If no nominations are submitted, the seat will be considered a vacancy and will be handled according to Article IV, Section 6 of these bylaws.”

This change removes language concerning the nomination period for the Board of Directors that could be confusing, changing the nomination period to the month of January each year. This change simplifies the nomination process and allows plenty of time for notification of Director elections in the Cooperative’s publication. This change also dismisses the election process in the case that only one candidate is nominated. Also, this change adds the term “of record” in the same manner as proposed changes 1 and 5.

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Proposed change 10 – To replace Article IV, Section 5 to read as follows:

“Any member may bring charges against a director by filing such charges in writing with the Secretary, together with a petition signed by at least ten per centum of the members residing in the district from which the director was elected. The director against whom such charges are brought shall be informed in writing thereof at least thirty days prior to the meeting at which the charges are to be considered and shall have opportunity at the special meeting to be heard in person or by counsel and to present evidence in respect of the charges; and the person or persons bringing the charges against him shall be given the same opportunity. The question of the removal of such director shall be considered and voted upon at the special meeting of the members from that district. Any vacancy created by such removal shall be filled in accordance with Article IV, Section 6 of these Bylaws.”

This change increases the consistency of the Bylaws, making sure a vacancy on the Board of Directors is handled in the same manner under varying circumstances.

____________________

We believe the proposed changes presented to the members simplify language and processes. We think these changes also increase member involvement and transparency. We ask that our members make themselves familiar with the proposed changes. As we believe these changes are in the best interest of the Co-op and its membership, we urge members to approve these changes at the 2020 Annual Meeting.

Two students to win free trip to Washington, D.C.


Claiborne Electric Cooperative is holding a contest to select two high school juniors as the winners of an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in June 2020.

The winners will join a delegation of other high school students from Louisiana in traveling to the nation’s capital next summer for the Rural Electric Youth Tour. During the week, the students will learn how the nation’s rural electric cooperatives work. They will be treated to a comprehensive tour of many of Washington’s most famous sites. Students will also experience fun events with students from across the nation, as well as visits on Capitol Hill with the Louisiana congressional delegation.

Any high school junior who lives with a parent or guardian in a home served by Claiborne Electric is eligible to enter the contest. Also eligible are current high school juniors from any of the five high schools served by Claiborne Electric. These include Union Parish High School, Union Christian Academy, D’Arbonne Woods Charter School, Claiborne Academy and Lakeside High School.

To enter, each contestant must write an essay in the form of a letter to an elected official. Essays may discuss any topic that is important to the student, and should be addressed to the appropriate official. Essays should be at least 300 words in length. Students may state facts and statistics to support their essay, but writing with clear purpose will be equally as important.

Essays will be coded for anonymity, so the name of the writer will not be known during the judging process. A panel of judges will review the essays and finalists will be determined. The winners of the trip will be selected from the group of finalists, based on the quality of the essay and other academic achievements and extracurricular activities.

Essays submitted become property of Claiborne Electric Co-op and may be published at the co-op’s discretion. All essays must be accompanied by a personal information form, which is available to be picked up at either of Claiborne Electric’s offices, or at www.our.coop. The forms will also be included in information packets that are mailed to each high school in the six-parish area served by Claiborne Electric.

All entries must be delivered electronically to youthtour@our.coop by the end of the business day on Friday, January 31, 2020. Essays will be scanned for plagiarism detection.

Win a $200 bill credit!


Would you like to win a $200 bill credit? We are building a database for electronic communication with our members. When we have important news or information, we would like to reach our members quickly through e-mail. We promise not to fill your inbox!

For your chance to win, e-mail the following to Win200@our.coop:

  • Name
  • Account number
  • E-mail address

We will draw a monthly winner to receive a $200 bill credit. All members with an e-mail address on file will be entered in each drawing. Each monthly winner will be contacted by e-mail with instructions to claim the credit. If the credit is not claimed within 10 days, we will draw again.

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