The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 22, 2001 · Page 29
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 29

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, April 22, 2001
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Page 29
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SUNDAY AFfrtlU22,20'01 THE SALfOT JOURNAL PERMITS / E2 CONSUMER / E4 RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES Consolidation 'just a sign of tlie times' Customers in Mankato, Belleville and Ellsworth co-ops must OK merger By TIM UNRUH The Salina Journal BELLEVILLE — More proof to the accuracy of bleak U.S. Census numbers has slapped the faces of rural electric consumers in north- central Kansas. If schools scaling back and counties sharing services aren't enough, three rural electric cooperatives are touting consolidation as a way to save customers $2.1 million over 10 years. Jewell-Mitchell Co-op Electric, Mankato; North-Central Kansas Electric, Belleville; and Smoky Hill Electric, Ellsworth, have proposed consolidation to their estimated 8,000 members. "This is just another sign of the times," said Gary Frieling, Athol, president of the Jewell-Mitchell Coop board of directors. "We want to keep service out here. That's the main concern." Two-thirds of each cooperative's customers must favor the move in mail-ballot votes later this year. A committee will decide next month when the votes will be taken, said Doug Jackson, manager of NCK Electric, but he speculated it would be in August or early September "I think the time has come," he said. If customers vote in favor, Jackson will manage the combined Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative. "We were looking for ways to retain quality service in rural areas and stabilize costs. This is one way of doing it." Although the customer base hasn't changed all that di'amati- cally, he said, the farm economy has taken a toll. "Farms have gotten larger, and there're fewer rural residential customers," Jackson said. "Some of the older farmsteads have been torn down and plowed up into more (crop) acres." While electric service might continue at a given site on the rural line, he said, some have gone from serving a family to powering a stock-water well. 'There might be the same number of meters, but the electric cooperative is selling less electricity "Around Belleville, the kids don't come back to the community," Jackson said. "They move on to bigger communities where there are better jobs. Farm kids don't come back to farm, because it's not profitable." How savings are figured NCK and Smoky Hill each have 3,000 meters, and Jewell-Mitchell serves about 4,500. Consolidating to 10,500 meters and 6,400 miles of distribution line would make Rolling Hills the state's third-largest electric cooperative. The bulk of savings would come from having one general manager instead of three; same with the computer system, one attorney, one auditor and for projects, one engineer Jackson said the managers of the other co-ops, Jim Gouldie of Jewell- Mitchell and Don Minard of Smoky Hill, are nearing retirement age. They will remain working as consultants for a year The combined 50 employees would keep their jobs, and offices will stay in each of the three communities. Mankato would become headquarters for Rolling Hills. See MERGER, Page E3 Co-oii consoUdation • WHAT: Proposed merger of Jeweli- Mltchell Co-op Electric, North-Central Kansas Electric and Smoky Hill Electric. • WHAT'S NEXT: Voters will decide later this year whether to OK the merger, which must be approved by two-thirds of the voters in each cooperative. If passed, the new entity would become Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative. • WHO'S AFFECTED: Currently, the cooperatives provide service to 8,000 members in Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, Republic and Smith counties, along with portions of Barton; Clay, Ottawa, Phillips, Rooks, Russell, Saline and Washington counties. CREDIT CARD APPLICATIONS Unlimited College students are targets of solicitors By SHARON MONTAGUE The Salina journal Twelve years ago, recently divorced and the mother of two small children, Kim Klucas struggled to find a company that would issue her credit. "I finally got a store card and bought things and paid them off just to establish credit," she said. "I always kept a zero balance." These days, the Salina woman is inundated by offers. Rarely do^s a day go by that she doesn't find an envelope in her mailbox from a company wanting to extend her more credit. She has saved the 500 or more solicitations sent during the past year and has a plastic bag full — solicitations from Chase, Citibank, First USA Bank, Kmart, CapitolOne, Peoples National Bank, Quicken, Wal-Mart, American Express, Farm Bureau, Amoco and others. "You name it, I've gotten it," Klucas said. Rodney Denholm of Salina's Consumer Credit Counseling Service said Klucas isn't the only one getting what some refer to as junk mail. In 1998, he said, more than 3 billion credit card solicitations were sent through the U.S. Postal Service — many to college stu­ dents and recent graduates eager to spend more than they earn. students targeted Representatives of local colleges said their students receive plenty of mail from credit card companies. Bethany College, Lindsborg, doesn't allow companies to solicit on campus, said Greg Hergott, dean of students. Kansas State University- Salina has a similar policy, said Matt Melvin, dean of student affairs. And the colleges don't sell their student lists to solicitors. "We try to be protective of the directory," said Janice Harty, office manager for the student life center at Bethany But Harty, who sorts mail for campus residence halls, said credit card companies are getting student names anyway, and they're sending solicitations by the bag. "It seems to come in waves, maybe twice a month," she said. "I'm sure every student gets solicitations from probably five or six different companies during the yean" The problem is many people accept the cards and charge merchandise they can't afford. See CARDS, Page E2 JUSTIN HAYWORTH / The Salina Journal Kim Klucas has received more than 500 solicitations for credit cards during the past year. • PARTNERS IN PROGRESS Program helps keep farmers afloat North Dakota has lost one-fourth of its farms during past 20 years By SHARON COHEN The Associated Press ENDERLIN, N.D. - He sat at the kitchen table and read slowly down a long list of numbers. He saw a river of debt — and a drowning farmer He barely knew the woman at his side. But he soon knew every detail about her finances. She owed the vet. And the seed salesman. Even worse, Lynn Cavett faced foreclosure on her farm. Cavett had invited the man over, hoping he could help her and her son Tim keep their farm. Some months, there wasn't money for the phone or electricity But she refused to give up. "Maybe I'm stupid or stubborn," she says, "but I was de­ termined to find a way to fix things or find somebody to help me fix them." That somebody was Levon Nelson, the man at her table now. He had a reassuring voice, a mind for math and a reputation for digging farmers out of trouble. He ate some waffles, crunched some numbers and asked Lynn Cavett some questions. How about selling land? Or the grain elevator? Then the big one: "Do you really want to hang on?" Yes, she did. Her seven children — all of them grown — hauled grain, mended fences and fed cattle on this windswept prairie. The Associated Press Financial consultant Levon Nelson (right) and retired Insurance agent Bill Lamb are the driving force behind a program that helps ball out needy farmers. "This is our home," replied the woman with the long silver hair "I want to make this work." So Nelson went to work, making calls. Incredibly fast — within three weeks — he raised tens of thousands of dollars. Even more incredible: Much of it came from people the Cavetts had never met. Neighbors and generous strangers are at the heart of a small, but extraordinary program that recruits local folks to lend farmers money to help them stay on the land. It's called Partners in Progress. Partners' loans have ranged from hundreds of dollars to nearly a half million. The program recently raised nearly $168,000 to pay off some of the Cavetts' loans. For Lynn Cavett, it seemed a miracle. But now that she mulls it over, it reminds her of something far more mundane: potluck. Not with three-bean casseroles or rhubarb pies but cash. "Everybody pitches in and does whatever they can, they bring it to the table, and you have a banquet. It saves your farm," she says. "And it saves your life." Numerous obstacles Farming is a risky business, especially in North Dakota. Snow comes as late as April, frost as early as September With 60-below wind chills and 100-degree heat, seed weevils and army worms, floods and droughts, low crop prices and high blood pressure — it's enough to push farmers over the edge. And it has. One-fourth of North Dakota's farms have disappeared in the past 20 years. About 30,300 remain. See PARTNERS, Page E3 T STOCK MARKET Are bulls back in control? Optimistic investors buy stocks despite struggling economy By LISA SINGHANIA The Associated Press NEW YORK — The Federal Reserve's unexpected interest- rate cut Wednesday gave Wall Street a triple-digit rally and one of its strongest performances this year But the real news may be the bulls are reemerging, optimists say. The gains of the past few weeks have a growing number of analysts believing the worst may be over for the markets. "While we may see some pullback, I do think the trend is upward from here," said Matt Brown, head of equity management at Wilmington Trust. "There's a strong correlation between aggressive Fed action and improved stock market performance." Investors sent the Dow Jones industrials up Wednesday nearly 400 points, while the Nasdaq composite index — which remains in a bear market — rose 156 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 46. The optimism comes despite expectations that corporate earnings will continue to be weak for months and a Fed statement Wednesday indicating it is quite concerned about the economy Confidence improves Analysts say stocks will definitely slide again, but what's changed is their confidence. They're more convinced than ever the stock market — and the economy albeit at a slower pace — are starting to improve. "As far as the kind of devastation we saw in 2000, the worst is over We might test our lows again, but as far as the free-fall we saw, that has come to an end," said Charles Pradilla, chief investment strategist at SG Cowen Securities. "This is not the end of the market's problems but the beginning of its healing process." "The stock market's recovery usually occurs before the economy's," said Jeff Hirsch, publisher of the Stock Trader's Almanac. He said that since 1949, the average gain realized from between the time the Dow bottomed to an end of a recession was about 24.5 percent. But what's got most analysts in a better mood are other indications that a recovery is beginning. Stocks had been steadily advancing on their own for the past two weeks, even though a Fed rate cut wasn't expected until May Ultimately though, the best indicator of market sentiment may rest with individual investors such as Mauricio Salazar, who has started buying stocks after a six-month hiatus because of the market volatility "You still have to be cautious, but I think the market has bottomed out," said the 63-year-old retired executive from Houston. "The Dow's rally is very encouraging." t T SUGGESTIONS? CZL BRAD CATT, MONEY EDITOR, AT 823-6363 OR l 'ie00 -827-6363 OR E-IVIAIL AT sjbcatt@saljournal.com

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