Building the Cooperative
On November 10, 1937, 21 men of Sedgwick County signed the Articles of Incorporation for a rural electric company.
On November 18, 1937 the Kansas Secretary of State signed the charter forming The Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative, Inc.
The first home of the corporation was in Goddard, Kansas. The board was made up of seven members: Albert D. Wise, Clearwater; Charles Hornecker, Wichita; Joe McQuillan, Clearwater; E.A. McCormick, Wichita; R.W. McClure, Colwich; D.W. Brown, Valley Center; and C.M. Sandusky, Wichita.
The first Project Superintendent, known today as the General Manager, was Lloyd V. Decker. Mr. Decker helped secure the cooperative's first loan from the R.E.A. (Rural Electrification Administration) of $222,000.00. This loan was to build 184 miles of line designated as "A" section.
One hundred thirty five stockholders were present at the first annual meeting at Goddard City Hall on January 18, 1939.
Energizing the Area
By August 1939, "A" section was complete and 240 customers had electricity. The average consumption rate during August was 41.8 kWh. In 1941, The Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative, Inc., had lines reaching into the four surrounding counties of Sumner, Reno, Harvey, and Kingman.
The scarcity of materials in 1941 and the National Defense Program prompted the board "to continue our present lines rather than to extend into new territory, and that applications for line extensions will be accepted only if they will not jeopardize service on existing lines and subject to conditions arising from the National Defense Program."
The board decided to move the headquarters in 1946, to Cheney, Kansas. Lack of available housing in Goddard was noted as the reason for the move. Line construction was also once again underway with sections "C" and "D".
In 1947, the stock of the company was retired and the cooperative concept as we know it today was put in place.
By April, 1949, with sections "F" and "G" completed and energized, the cooperative had 90% of all farms within its territory connected. There were almost 700 miles of line, serving more than 1,300 farms.
The first capital credit checks were mailed on November 28, 1955. There were 201 checks totaling $3,234.97.
In July of 1965, the board approved the purchase of land from Robert John Brown. The land was to be used for the co-op's first substation. Construction on the Cheney substation began in 1966.
Having been located in Kansas, there have been many storms in our past. A sleet storm in December 1944 knocked out 41 of our poles. Wind and lightning storms of July 1948 caused major flooding and serious damage to our lines. Lines were damaged by farm buildings and trees that were blown through our lines. When this particular storm was over and the lines all repaired, Mrs. Loren Elliott of Colwich wrote the following poem of appreciation:
For me there is only one kind of pin-up men. They can all have their Gables and Errol Flynn. It doesn't matter whether they are tall or thin. Just as long as they are R.E.A. linemen.
Other severe storms occurred in April 1951, July 1951 and November 1952. In 1957, severe floods had our linemen restringing line from boats.
In February 1955, a heavy ice storm caused so much damage that crews and trucks from Ninnescah Electric Cooperative in Pratt and Central Kansas Electric Cooperative in Great Bend had to be borrowed to repair all the damage.
A windstorm in March 1971 caused considerable damage in the Clearwater area. A tornado on Memorial Day weekend in 1973 wrecked homes along with lines and service wires.
On June 19, 1990, a storm with wind speeds as high as 118 miles per hour went across part of our area. Approximately 200 poles, four miles of transmission line, an estimated 80 miles of primary line and numerous transformers were lost or damaged. Crews totaling 13 men and 5 trucks from Midwest Electric worked for 8 days to reconstruct the four miles of transmission line south of Andale substation. Tiede Line Contractors worked 3 weeks replacing 50 distribution poles. These crews allowed our linemen to work on member services and building new service lines. Help was also given from DS&O Electric Cooperative from Solomon, PR&W Electric Cooperative from Wamego, Ninnescah Electric Cooperative from Pratt, and C&W Electric Cooperative from Clay Center. Tree crews from Asplund Tree Service and Ranger Tree Service helped to clean up the debris from trees.
On Friday, July 1, 1994, we were subjected to yet another windstorm with winds over 100 miles per hour. Over 3,000 houses were without electricity caused by damage to KG&E's transmission line that served three of our substations and two of our metering points. The cooperative lost approximately 75 poles and damaged lines and individual services. Most services were restored by Sunday evening. Once again, other cooperatives sent help -- Ninnescah Electric Cooperative out of Pratt and Alfalfa Electric Cooperative out of Cherokee, Oklahoma.
The Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. has grown quite a bit since those early days. We now have 19 employees, over 6,000 services, over 5,300 members, approximately 1,145 miles of energized lines, 7 substations, and over 95 million kWh sold yearly.
Compiled from a history of The Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative Association, Inc., written by Mae Shelley and Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative Association, Inc., Minutes of the Board of Directors and Kansas Country Living magazine.