The Spring Grove Communications Board of Directors includes, seated, Jana Crickman – director, Bruce Hegge – secretary/treasurer, Dave Morken – president, Fordyce Brevig – vice president; and standing are Alan Frydenlund – director, Craig Otterness – general manager, Mark Dokken and Leonard Myrah – directors.
The Spring Grove Communications Board of Directors includes, seated, Jana Crickman – director, Bruce Hegge – secretary/treasurer, Dave Morken – president, Fordyce Brevig – vice president; and standing are Alan Frydenlund – director, Craig Otterness – general manager, Mark Dokken and Leonard Myrah – directors.

"Our first goal is to run a profitable company, and it's important to have a balance of community and company," Dave Morken, president of Spring Grove Communications (SGC) Board of Directors, stated in opening remarks for the annual membership meeting of the company. "Our goal is to always keep that balance."

There were 263 patrons in attendance for the meeting held March 27 at the Fest Building in Spring Grove.

The meatball meal was catered by "Red" Longmire and crew of Red's Hometown Market with students of Spring Grove School Youth Development helping with serving.

Door prizes were drawn and given away throughout the meeting. New this year were prizes also provided by venders of SGC.

Financial report is 'healthy'

"Our company is healthy and we're in a good place," stated Craig Otterness, general manager of the company, adding, "Our expenses are going down."

In the consolidated statement, operating revenue in 2011 was $2,451,047 ($1,958,198 in 2010); expenses $2,292,783 ($2,152,170), for an operating gain of $158,263 (versus a loss of $193,972 in 2010).

After other income and expenses, the operating margin before depreciation and income taxes was $174,274 ($145,157).

For 2011, total assets for the company amounted to $22,812,772, compared to $23,494,740 the previous year.

SGC pays rent to the Oliver Project. It is an expense that is a benefit of income tax to the company.

Capital credits resuming in 2011

The 2012 Equity Distribution (Capital Credit) Plan was printed in the annual meeting folder instead of being mailed out this year. For 2012, the amount of $280,000 is the targeted distribution amount.

Since SGC is a cooperative, which means it is member-owned, the method for capital credits is to reward the patrons who have been with the telephone company.

Telephone patronage amounts are being retired first. After all of the normal patronage amounts are retired, then the one-time Midwest Wireless sale allocation will be retired.

The years 1999 and 2000 are now 100 percent retired, totaling $158,840 in payouts this year. Ten percent was retired from the years 2001-2006, totaling $54,065. Fifty percent was retired from the years 2007 and 2008 in the amount of $70,361. Total retired for the years combined is $283,266.

Regarding a patron's question about not receiving allocation notices for 2009 and 2010, Otterness reported there weren't any allocations. "We were putting it (the profits) into cable. We will be going back to allocations for 2011."

For unclaimed property funds, the dividend check not claimed from someone who moved away or from the estate of a deceased patron, as a cooperative it is obligated to donate the funds to local use or forfeit to the state.

The board decided to give those funds to the new technology program of the school.

The company's technology plan with the school was established to use technology as one tool among many to educate students.

Goals of the program are to provide opportunities to think and create, increase access to technology, and give students and family to access technology at home.

Superintendent thanks patrons

Rachel Udstuen, Spring Grove School Superintendent and curriculum director, was the guest speaker, and shared how these unclaimed property funds from SGC were being used to educate students in our school.

She also invited residents to visit the school to see first-hand what is happening in the realm of learning.

With the SGC funds, 30 iPads were purchased for students in kindergarten through third grade, and 150 MacBook Air laptops for 7-12 graders. And, with Google Docs to save data to, everything is online.

"We can access it anytime, anywhere in our building," she reported.

"This new technology was implemented last September and has been going surprisingly smooth," Udstuen stated. "We went from a stationary computer lab to a mobile environment."

And, she pointed out, "For some families, it's the first computer in their home."

SGC president Morken thanked the superintendent for sharing information about this exciting news, and added, "I feel like our funds are in good hands."

Recap of the year 2011

Otterness gave a review of some other happenings in 2011.

In 2011, SGC began discounting capital credits for estates. SGC pays 100 percent back on patronage and 25 percent of Midwest Wireless side.

Regarding investments of the company, Otterness stated that some may say it is insane to have cash in the bank and have a loan.

He reported that SGC has a $4.5 million loan and yet is paying .02% interest but has almost $9 million in the bank. "We are watching our investments grow and are paying down our debt. We have an $800,000 line of credit."

In honor of Chester "Bud" Hanson and together with his widow, Marie, a bench has been created, etched and placed outside the office at SGC.

"He was my mentor," Otterness stated of the former general manager of the company.

Looking ahead to 2012

"There are so many opportunities coming for the company in 2012. Our challenge is to keep telephone, TV and Internet services, and your electronics working," Otterness stated adding, "Lightning enjoys causing havoc with our TV and Internet."

"Our biggest challenge is the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). They are the gorilla in the room, and everybody is watching them."

"The FCC is passing rules and regulations that are going to cost you and I money," Otterness pointed out.

"If we don't meet with requirements, it will affect our support dollars. Our congressmen need to know these rules and how they affect us. We need many voices to let them know how we feel. Contact your congressmen," he urged.

"The FCC tells us what to do, so five-year projections for SGC are difficult to do."

The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. It is encouraging more partnerships.

The Internet route with Mabel Co-op Telephone Company, Harmony Telephone, ACE Communications Group and SGC is a partnership that forms a circle.

"If service gets cut, it will go the other way of the circuit," Otterness explained about the connection that should be completed in the next couple weeks. "Companies working together save us money."

He urged people to call Gopher State BEFORE they dig, as this saves SGC money and keeps services going, and ultimately it saves the homeowner money.

On April 1, SGC will roll out a new cable package with offerings in the middle of the current basic and expanded plans.

SGC wants to add more to its local station, Channel 4. "The sky's the limit. Tell us what you'd like on it," Otterness encouraged.

There are new things coming for the Spring Grove Cinema. Already, it has expanded its days open to every day of the week except Tuesday.

In response to people asking for a monthly membership for the Fitness Center, SGC will be introducing a new price change. Also, if you refer somebody, or if health insurance pays for membership, it lowers your cost.

Election of board members

Incumbents Dave Morken and Mark Dokken were re-elected to three-year terms on the board of directors. Brad Hernandez, who had filed, was also on the ballot.