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Members receive checks and reports at GWTC meeting

The 588 people registering for Golden West Telecommunications Cooperative’s Annual Membership Meeting in Wall on Saturday, September 25th got a reminder of what it means to belong to a cooperative when they walked away with their share of $1.186 million in patronage capital credit checks.

The checks, many ranging in size from $20 and up for individuals to several hundreds of dollars for some businesses, retired one-half the Cooperative’s margin or profit for 1988 along with a portion of the Company’s margins from 1988 through 2003. In all, nearly 18,000 checks were either handed out at the meeting or will be mailed to Co-op members in the coming days.

Golden West Board President Richard Baye began the meeting by recognizing the veterans in the audience as well as those currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq before dedicating the 2004 meeting to the memory of Richard “Dick” Kjerstad. Kjerstad, who had served on the Golden West Board since his election in 1991, passed away in June following a lengthy battle with cancer.

In his report to the membership, Baye talked about the “Hometown Formula” that has helped make Golden West the fifth largest telecommunications cooperative in the nation. That formula, according to Baye, includes 1. solid management, 2. a skilled and dedicated workforce, and 3. a supportive membership that defines the purpose of the Cooperative. “It’s your actions,” said Baye referring to the Cooperative’s membership, “that help shape the purpose and sharpen the focus of this cooperative.”

Golden West General Manager George Strandell continued the hometown theme, giving the membership credit for the $10.6 million margin the Cooperative achieved on total revenues of nearly $58 million. “Whether you subscribed to our telephone service, discovered the wonders of the Internet or were simply entertained by our cable television service, you helped make 2003 a resounding success and on behalf of the directors and employees, I want to thank you,” said Strandell.

Baye and Strandell also touched upon the growth the company experienced over the past year with the purchase of several telephone, Internet and cable TV properties stating that Golden West and its subsidiary companies now provide service to 48,000 access lines, 6,000 cable TV customers, 2,500 (and growing) high-speed Internet customers and 10,500 dial-up Internet customers. Those acquisitions have, according to the pair, allowed the Company to spread its operating costs over a larger customer base, protect and grow its existing lines of revenue, add additional talent to its statewide work force and to expand into high-growth areas in eastern South Dakota.

Balloting at this year’s meeting saw the membership approve changes in the Bylaws and Restated Articles of Incorporation to reduce the number of director positions on the Cooperative’s Board of Directors from 13 to 12. In the director elections that followed, incumbent directors Duane Wood of Faith and Robert Hansen of Howes ran unopposed and were elected to fill the two vacancies in District I. Incumbent directors in District II and District V were also elected to fill the one vacancy in each district with Richard Baye of Philip defeating Michael Gebes of Philip and Norman Geigle of Wall and Wayne Merrill of Hot Springs coming out on top of the election with challengers Jim Brost, Dr. Nancy McCluskey and George Toal, all from Hot Springs.

Following the business meeting, Cooperative members were entertained by the music, ventriloquism and humor of David Malmberg. Several lucky Cooperative members also went home with door prizes including Bob Viktora of Hot Springs, the winner of the $500 grand-prize drawing.