Two electric cooperatives in northwest Illinois have merged to serve a combined 21,372 electric members. Elizabeth, Ill.-based Jo-Carroll Energy and Geneseo, Ill.-based Farmers Mutual Electric—the state’s oldest electric cooperative—completed the merger on March 31. The integrated cooperative will operate as Jo-Carroll Energy.
The newly joined system held its first annual meeting on April 14, following some three years of cooperative work leading up to the merger. After initial discussions in May 2010, the two co-ops sought input from members, negotiated with a municipal utility adjacent to Farmers Mutual’s territory and worked to refinance debt for Farmers Mutual in order for the joined entity to remain a 100-percent National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. borrower. This means none of its debt is owed to the USDA Rural Utilities Service, the former Rural Electrification Administration (REA).
“This was a big win for both co-ops,” Jo-Carroll President and CEO Michael Hastings said. “We’ll be able to spread system costs over more sales, gain access to three power suppliers and roll out additional benefits to new members pretty quickly.”
Jo-Carroll is in its third year of a four-year rollout of automated metering infrastructure; the former Farmers Mutual system will be upgraded this spring and summer. Members also will benefit from an improved billing system and Jo-Carroll’s 25-year capital credits cycle.
“It says a lot that the Farmers’ board of directors made this move for the benefit of their members,” Hastings said. “Our respective boards of directors agreed to a revised makeup that will provide former Farmers Mutual members with wider representation over six years following the merger.”