Merger shelved; board questioned

Plans to explore a merger between Durango Natural Foods and Albuquerque-based La Montañita co-ops were shelved last week, with local co-op members calling for the resignation of the DNF Board.

On Wednesday, an email petition was sent to members by DNF co-manager Kimberly Wiggins on behalf of the membership. “Recent and ongoing actions by the DNF Board of Directors has stirred a mobilization among members to reclaim the original Durango Natural Foods Co-op vision of local voice,” read the email. The email, while thanking the Board for its service, criticized it for its lack of transparency as well as plans to replace current management.

Members have until Sept. 7 to sign the recall petition.

The DNF Board of Directors released a statement earlier in teh week saying La Montañita had backed out last week after receiving negative feedback on the proposal.

“We received word from the GM of La Montañita, Terry Bowling, on August 19th that he is no longer interested in continuing the merger opportunity,” read the statement from the DNF Board. According to the letter, which was sent out to DNF staff and members, Bowling told the Board he had received comments that led him to believe DNF would not fit with La Montañita “culture” and DNF staff would not be happy being a part of the La Montañita Co-op.

The DNF Board held a meeting on Aug. 18, during which co-op members vociferously opposed the idea.

Bowling said he would like to continue supporting and assisting DNF in future needs, as has been done in the past.

Although the DNF Board expressed dismay over what it sees as a premature end to the discussion, it agrees it is in DNF’s best interest to proceed “on its own path” at this time.  “To say that the Board is disappointed with this turn of events is an understatement. Each of us has worked tirelessly around our family, work and personal commitments to devote even more time than usual to this exciting possibility,” read the statement. “We did not rush into this decision lightly.” The Board also clarified that a letter of intent signed earlier this month between the two co-ops was only meant for the “sole purpose of discussing a possible merger.”

A final decision on a merger would have been put to a vote of DNF’s 1,500 member-owners later this fall.

The Board touted the merger as a way to keep the local co-op, which is celebrating 40 years, viable into the future. Joining forced with La Montañita, which owns six co-ops in Gallup, Santa Fe and Albuquerque and counts 17,000 members, would have increased DNF’s bulk buying power as well as increases stability and competitive wages and benefits.

LPEA names Texan as new CEO

La Plata Electric Association is switching out more than old bulbs. The local energy co-op’s Board of Directors announced last week that Michael Dreyspring will take over as Chief Executive Officer starting Sept. 1. Dreyspring, a consultant from Dallas-Fort Worth, will replace outgoing CEO Greg Munro, who retired July 31.

 Dreyspring, who has extensive background in energy co-ops, was the unanimous choice of the Board. “Mike was our number one choice,” said Michael Rendon, LPEA board president. “We are very excited to welcome such a qualified individual as our new CEO. We believe he will be a tremendous asset to our cooperative and the community as a whole.”

Prior to starting his own consulting business, Dreyspring served as president/CEO of CoServe Electric, a 175,000-meter cooperative serving Dallas-Fort Worth. During that time, he also served as president of the co-op’s distribution affiliate, CoServe Gas, a natural gas company with 80,000 meters. Prior to this, Dreyspring was executive vice president/general manager of Lea County Electric Cooperative, in Lovington, N.M., and director of finance and administration for First Electric Cooperative Corp., in Jacksonville, Ark.

An avid fly-fisherman, Dreyspring said he looks forward to the next chapter in his career at the local co-op, which serves 31,000 members. “LPEA is an outstanding cooperative, with a very engaged board of directors, and a high performing group of employees,” he said. “I am really excited to get started working.”

Dreyspring has a wife, two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Coloradans sticking closer to home

When it comes to hitting the road this summer, more Coloradoans are preferring the staycation. According to numbers released last week by AAA, 563,000 Coloradans are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home this Labor Day Weekend. That’s nearly 10,000 fewer than in 2013.

This marks a continuation of the trend in the state, where summer holiday travel has been consistent with 2013 numbers. Colorado seems to be a bit of an anomaly, however. Triple A projects 34.7 million people will journey outside their 50-mile bubble this Labor Day, the highest Labor Day road volume since 2008 and a 1.3 percent increase over ’13.

Part of the reason for the Colorado discrepancy may have to do with gas prices. While the majority of the country is experiencing lower than average prices, Western states are paying premiums at the pump versus this time last year. Nevada reports the largest year-over-year increases in the price per gallon at 14 cents with Colorado a close second at 13 cents. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Colorado is currently $3.67.

– Missy Votel

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