Suffer Springs Electric Cooperative

EDITORIAL for September 15-17, 2016
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof.   About a month ago I got a frantic call from Chris who does our mid day program.   Seems that some employee of the Suffer Springs Electric Cooperative  had just dropped off a notice that they were about to shut off our power and if we didnít act immediately we  would be shut down.    I phoned the Suffer Springs Benson office and was told that we were two weeks late in our payments and if we didnít get $80 to their office by 2 p.m. we would be off the air.    Of the $80, $40 was their fee for sending their employee a distance of one block to deliver the notice  from their office.   I was further told that no checks would be accepted and payment had to be with either cash or a charge card.    I explained that weíve been in business for well over thirty years and I couldnít understand why we were considered so untrustworthy.   I also stressed that it would be terrible public relations for the cooperative to shut down a radio station with thousands of listeners.    That didnít impress the Suffer Springs employee one bit.   I solved the problem by giving her my charge card number and she withdrew the $80 from my bank account.

Much more recently I received a threatening notice from Suffer Springs that if I didnít pay their bills right away they were going to make me pay a deposit of two and a half times the highest monthly bill that had delinquencies.   Since we pay well over $600 a month for electricity that would be a deposit of $1,500 or they would shut us down.

On Tuesday afternoon, Suffer Springs carried out their threat and they shut us down.   And while they were at it they shut down the entire Benson area.  Nobody had power.  Not even Saint David.   I donít know how widespread the outage was but power outages are nothing out of the ordinary in this area.    Typically there are several of them each year, especially in the summer when all it takes is a bolt of lightning to plunge thousands of customers into darkness.

Keeping its customers in the dark is a hallmark of the way Suffer Springs operates.   Their service is expensive and unreliable but they spend a fortune on advertising and public relations intended to convince us that they are Godís gift to Southeast Arizona.

The front pages of our newspapers are plastered with propaganda about the school science fairs that they pay for and the lucky kids who got free trips to Washington D. C.    In Sierra Vista, Suffer Springs pays big bucks to Cherry Creek Radio so that the cooperative can sponsor their public service announcements.    You may also have noticed the expensive ads that Suffer Springs buys from television stations in Tucson where the cooperative has no customers.   Have you any idea who pays for all that advertising and public relations?   Truth be told there is only one source for all that money and it is you and me.   We pay for those TV , radio and newspaper advertisements  every time we pay our power bill. It looks like the electric cooperative is the generous party but the generosity is coming from us, whether we like it or not.

A few years ago I attended one of the cooperativeís annual meetings.   During a question and answer session I asked how much money the cooperative pays its highest ranking executives.
The answer to my question was that the information  was privileged and not for the public to know.   But that proved  to be a lie. It turns out that non-profit corporations are required to file a tax form called 990 and you can find it on at least one web site.
Every month or so Suffer Springs comes up with a newsletter and it always features a photo of its General Manger with a broad grin on his face.    Creden Huber has a good reason for smiling. According to the 2013 990 form Huberís base annual salary was $341,000 but thatís just the start.   He has a very generous benefit package that raises the total cost of employing Huber to $506,339 a year including his  base pay.    Then thereís another high ranking manager named Kirby Chapman who costs $320,000 a year.   An administrative officer named Anselmo Torres sets the cooperative back  $166,000 a year.  Chief of Member Services Jack Blair costs $218,490 a year.   Those were figures from 2013. Very likely they are all on even bigger bucks now.  Nine executives have base salaries of  over $100,000 a year.   Nice money if you can get it.

I can only wonder how much our electric bills would go down if the cooperative didnít pay top dollar to their executives and how much our power bills would plummet if they didnít spend such big bucks on advertising and public relations.  Better yet maybe they could take some of the savings and install reliable equipment so that entire communities wouldnít be plunged into darkness every time thereís a heavy rain storm.

Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone elseís.   If youíd like a copy of this editorial or youíd like to express your opinions go to the CAVE web site and click on Editorials.  Weíre at Thatís


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