The new logo features three blue lines in front of sun rays, and when the board presented the new logo, the phrase ‘It’s a new day’ was emblazoned under the company name.
“It’s on purpose that it looks like the Cobb Energy Center,” Crowell said, referring to the blue lines. “It really is a new day. It’s a good marker that you can notice things are changing.”
The board has also approved a plan to retire capital credits accumulated by members from 1956 through 1971.
There were 31,000 members during those years, and they are owed just over $7 million in total, said Robert Steele, the company’s chief financial officer. Details of exactly how those credits will be paid are still being worked out, and payments will likely take several months. Cobb EMC last retired capital credits in 1976.
About 15 members asked questions or made public comments during the friendly, two-hour meeting held in the community room of the utility’s Marietta headquarters. Most speakers lauded the new directors, all 10 of whom were present. Company executives and employees, including chief executive Chip Nelson, stood in the back of the room and let the directors lead the meeting.
Questions mostly focused on transparency, the rates members pay for power and some discussion of the best sources of power. There were some comments about saving money by doing away with consulting contracts and by seeking damages from past directors, and a question or two about the possibility of renaming the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center.
Nick Robinson, who is both a member and an employee of Cobb EMC, may have been speaking for many of his fellow 546 employees when he urged the board to “find a way to renew the sense in the community that what we did was honorable.”
“We did our job every day,” Robinson said, lamenting that his family has had to listen to negative news about the company during five litigious years. Robinson got loud applause when he finished, and Crowell then asked each director to share his or her experiences with Cobb EMC employees.
Malcolm Swanson, one of four directors elected in November, said: “The heart of the employees is in this company, and that does not go unnoticed.”
Member Wayne Holland asked whether Gas South, a natural-gas marketing company that is wholly owned by Cobb EMC, would be sold.
Director Tripper Sharp, who was just elected on Saturday, replied: “I’ve been looking at it for years. Gas South is extremely profitable for Cobb EMC. I think it’s a great arrangement that we should continue.”
Before taking questions, Crowell and the other directors went through a slide-show presentation of facts about the electric cooperative and transparency initiatives. As an example, Crowell said that they are working to have telephone voice-mail accounts set up so members can leave messages directly for a director by telephone.
Swanson, who chairs the board’s audit committee, talked briefly about the upcoming forensic audit.
“The firm will be hired by, and report to, the board,” Swanson said. “We’re going to pursue it to wherever it takes us, but I appreciate you being patient, because it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Added Crowell: “It may take up to a year to get it done, because we’re going to do it right.”
Other items the board has on its to-do list include rewriting bylaws, redrawing board members’ areas so they are more equal in number of members, and establishing mail-in and electronic voting.
Tuesday’s town hall followed the board’s monthly meeting, and it was the first meeting for six of the 10 directors.
As Crowell quipped at the start of the meeting, “We’ve just finished our first date.”
After the meeting, John Anderson, a 25-year member who lives in west Cobb, said he thought it was a good meeting.
“I’m encouraged by what they’re doing,” he said.
On Saturday, about 1,600 EMC members — less than 1 percent of all 170,000 members — cast ballots in the runoff elections for the last two seats on the board. Director terms are generally for three years, though some of those elected will serve four years to get back on the staggered-term schedule that was upended by three years of delayed elections.
The directors intend to conduct town hall meetings each quarter, with the next one in August.