Welcome to Hertford County

Published 9:54 pm Friday, January 29, 2010

AHOSKIE – No matter from where Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s (REC) main office has called home since its founding in 1938, one thing has remained constant – when its membership flips the switch, their lights come on.

On Wednesday, REC formally ushered in a new era in its storied history by hosting a ribbon cutting and open house at the co-op’s new headquarters located on NC 561 west of Ahoskie.

Before the day ended, hundreds had filed through the 33,528 square-foot facility where REC employees, serving as tour guides, offered its guests behind-the-scene looks at the operational aspects of the new office. The entire complex sits on 20 acres and includes 19,704 square feet of office space and nearly 14,000 square feet of warehouse room.

“Your cooperative has seen a number of changes since establishing its charter on September 30, 1938,” said Curtis Wynn, REC’s Executive Vice President and CEO. “Though we were organized to provide light and power to farms, the cooperative has kept pace with the changing times and now provides central station electric service to a wide variety of residential, industrial, recreational, educational, community and other interests, in addition to the farms.”

When REC first energized its original 56 miles of line on May 29, 1939, that power was sent to the co-op’s original 317 members. Now, 71 years later, REC maintains over 2,000 miles of line serving more than 14,500 members in Bertie, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton, Gates, Perquimans and Chowan counties.

“The diversity and lifestyles of our members have changed and so have the demands placed upon your electric cooperative,” Wynn said.

One of the biggest challenges facing REC officials was finding a way to better serve its growing customer base and do so from an aging facility in Rich Square.

“We performed an extensive evaluation of the pros and cons of remaining in Rich Square at a 56-year-old facility,” Wynn explained, adding that it would prove to be a very costly remodeling project.

In 2005, REC launched a plan to re-locate its main office, initially concentrating those efforts to remain within Northampton County. The co-op also explored areas outside its traditional home base, including potential sites in Hertford County.

The latter effort landed REC near Ahoskie. Wynn thanked Stuart Pierce, who sold the property to the co-op for the new office, as well as Ahoskie and Hertford County officials for supporting the project.

In the spring of 2008, REC hired Oakley Collier Architects to assist with the design of the facility. Ground was broke in June of that year with A.R. Chesson of Williamston as the construction firm. Seventeen months later (November, 2009), REC moved into its new headquarters, officially opening there on Nov. 23 for its first day of business.

“I remember Curtis calling me about this project,” veteran Hertford County Commissioner DuPont Davis said during Wednesday’s formal ceremony. “I got our economic development director (Bill Early) to meet with me and Curtis and now here we are today.”

Davis continued, “I proud of many things we’ve done in Hertford County over the years. This is one of our proud moments, having Roanoke Electric here.”

Wednesday’s ceremony also brought remarks from Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn.

“We are delighted to have the Roanoke Electric folks as a part of our community,” she said. “We wish you all the best.”

While change is always inevitable, Wynn stressed that traditional needs of the REC customer base will continue to be met.

“Making sure that the lights stay on and someone answers the phone when it rings in our office and that there is a smiling cashier ready to take their payments when our members come in is something we always have and always will pride ourselves in,” he said.

Wynn did touch on some new ways REC goes about its business of conducting business. They included modern metering equipment capable of obtaining readings every 30 minutes; handling disconnects directly from the office; “pay-as-you-go” metering; and accepting credit card payments as well as operating a voice-activated phone system that allows co-op members to determine account balances.

REC has already hop aboard the wave of the future as it allows its members to sell their renewable energy, “green power” generated by solar panels, to the co-op.

Wynn said the $6.5 million investment made by REC in a modern, centrally located headquarters…“dramatically enhances our ability to efficiently and effectively serve our members for many years to come.”

“I know there was something quoted or misquoted in the news recently about this facility costing $100 million,” Wynn added. “It didn’t cost nearly that much, but this facility is worth at least that much to the employees who so proudly work for your cooperative.”

He closed by saying, “We appreciate your continued support as we strive to fulfill our mission, which is to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity while enhancing the quality of life on the diverse communities we serve.”

Also making remarks at Wednesday’s ceremony was Allen Speller, President of the REC Board of Directors.

“We need to give honor and glory to God for allowing for this historic day,” Speller noted. “We have prayed a lot and worked hard on this project. Without the vision of our board, this project would have perished.”

In addition to Speller, the REC Board is comprised of Robert Riddick (Vice President), Delores Amason (Secretary/Treasurer), Johnnie Garner (Assistant Secretary/Treasurer), Carolyn Bradley, Chester Deloatch, Kenneth Jernigan, Darnell Lee and Millard Lee.

While REC moved its main headquarters to Ahoskie, the co-op maintains a presence in Rich Square. There, REC’s wholly owned subsidiaries remain as does a payment collection office.