Golden West presents checks, reports and service

The recent million dollar rain didn't keep at least 492 people from registering at the Golden West Telecommunications Cooperative's annual membership meeting in Wall on Saturday, September 23rd. Nearly all of those registering also received their portion of the nearly $2.1 million in patronage capital credit checks the Cooperative returned to its members.

The checks included $1,575,505 in margins or profits for the operating years 1988 through 1991, along with an additional $500,000 that was spread proportionally across the remaining margins through 2005. In all, nearly 18,000 checks were handed out at the meeting or have since been mailed to co-op members.

Golden West Board Chairman Rodney Renner focused his remarks on the "You're in Good Company" theme from the company's 2006 annual report. Renner pointed to the significant dollars the cooperative continues to invest in technology upgrades, the company's education program that makes $1,000 scholarships available each year at 44 high schools throughout the state, and the company's economic development program that annually invests $200,000 in local job creation projects as signs that "you are, indeed, in good company with Golden West."

Golden West General Manager/CEO George Strandell thanked the membership and employees for the excellent year the cooperative experienced before he touched upon some of the service improvements, growth and cost saving products that have been introduced since last year's meeting. Those accomplishments included an investment of $19 million in technology upgrades, the tripling of Internet speeds, the extension of the company's call center to Hot Springs and its further expansion in Rapid City and the introduction of SmartPAKS that enable people to save money by bundling together their phone, TV and Internet service. The SmartPAKS are currently available to approximately 70 percent of the Golden West customers and should be available throughout the Golden West service area by the end of the year.

Strandell also encouraged those attending the meeting to vote NO on Initiated Measure 8 that was introduced by the cell phone industry to remove the four percent Gross Receipts Tax from cell phone bills. "Golden West pays gross receipts taxes, in lieu of property taxes, to support our schools and communities and so should out-of-state corporations who do business here," said Strandell noting that Golden West recently paid more than $2.5 million in gross receipts taxes.

Director elections at this year's meeting saw two incumbents running unopposed for seats on the 12-member board. Those reelected were Kenneth "Sonny" Zickrick, Jr. of Long Valley and Dale Guptill of Interior in District III.

Following the business meeting, cooperative members were entertained by the music of From the Heart. Door prizes were won by several lucky cooperative members. One winner was Esther Murtha of Hot Springs, who won the $500 grand-prize drawing.