EDITORIAL FOR February 9-12
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. In mid January I received a phone message from Joaquin who informed me that someone from Suffer Springs Electric Cooperative had just dropped off a disconnect notice. It said that we were delinquent in our payment and we had two hours to pay up or get shut down. I checked my records and found out that we were indeed a week late in making the payment. This can happen when you consider that electricity is one of the biggest expenses in operating the most powerful radio station in Cochise County. I phoned the cooperative’s Benson office and was told that the $660 bill was due immediately and I had until noon to pay up. Not even a one day extension would be granted. I mentioned that we’ve been paying our bills to Suffer Springs for nearly 36 years and that shutting down the radio station would be terrible public relations for the cooperative. The clerk told me that it didn’t matter how long we’ve been in business or if the area had local radio service or not. Pay up now or else! Fortunately I had enough money on my charge card to pay the $660 which included an exorbitant $60 fee for delivering the shutoff notice to the radio station.
Anyone who has been a regular listener to CAVE-FM knows that Suffer Springs and I have been at odds for many years. Their nasty business practices leave a lot to be desired and so do their high prices, not to mention the regular power failures that often plunge entire cities into darkness especially in the summertime. Sometimes the power failures can last for hours at a time.
Years ago when I first started delving into the business affairs of Suffer Springs I learned that some of their top executives are on incredible salaries. We’ve all seen photos of the cooperative’s general manager, Creden Huber. Huber always has a broad grin on his face and there’s a reason for that. According to federal tax data, in 2015 Huber received a base salary of $361,000 a year but with benefits it was $685,762 a year. I think that almost anyone with such a pay scale would be grinning. Chief Financial Officer Kirby Chapman cost the cooperative $314,000 a year including benefits. And there are four other employees who were on over $200,000 a year in 2015. A man named Richard Ellis was described as a journeyman lineman. Including benefits Ellis got $179,633 according to the cooperative’s I.R.S. filing.
But wildly high executive salaries are only the tip of the iceberg. The cooperative spends a fortune on advertising and public relations. They are one of the best advertising accounts for Cherry Creek Radio in Sierra Vista and they spend tens of thousands on television advertising in Tucson even though the cooperative doesn’t serve Tucson. How might all this advertising benefit us, the members who pay for it? And make no mistake about it; All that advertising is paid for by you and me when we pay our electric bills. The real purpose behind all that advertising and expensive public relations is to erect a giant smokescreen so that the public won’t look at the cooperative’s unsavory business practices.
As members of the cooperative is there anything that we can do about all this wasteful spending that translates into high electric bills and poor service? The answer is yes. We can replace the board of directors which is little more than a rubberstamping operation for the cooperative’s management. This year there are three available seats on the board of directors and the three incumbents want to keep those three seats. They will keep them if nobody is willing to run against them. One seat is for the Benson area and two others are for the Sierra Vista area. These are paid positions rather than unpaid volunteer jobs. If you know someone in the Benson area or you know someone in the Sierra Vista area who would like to see some changes at Suffer Springs, now is the time for that person to run for a director seat. The deadline to become nominated is Friday, February 15th which is fast approaching. So there’s not much time to waste. The easiest way to get nominated is to make a call to the clerk of the board of directors. Her name is Char Bennett and she works at the Suffer Springs Willcox headquarters.
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions you’ve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone else’s. If you’d like a copy of this editorial or you’d like to express your opinions go to the CAVE web site and select editorials. Not only will you find the transcript of this editorial but you’ll also find a list of the highest paid employees of Suffer Springs and how much each one is paid. Our web site is at CAVEFM.com. That’s CAVEFM.com
To view a chart of Suffer Springs' executive pay scales click here