The Caney Valley Electric Cooperative Association was formed just prior to World War II, although it had to wait until after the war to obtain funds to build lines.
Caney Valley was organized during the summer of 1940 as a result of meetings of farmers in schoolhouses where the REA Act was discussed. Articles of Incorporation, signed by 20 farmers from Chautauqua County, were filed with the Secretary of State on August 21, 1940, authorizing 1,000 shares of Common Stock. The Articles were later amended in 1950, increasing the Common Stock to 6,000 shares at $5 par value. Nine directors were named in the articles to serve on the Board.
Almost immediately a membership drive was started; by July, 1941, the membership list reached 200, the 20 per cent required by law for the group to do business. The cooperative became a member of the state-wide association, the KEC, in November, 1941. This was the last major action of the board before the organization became inactive for the duration of the war.
The organization was reactivated in May, 1945. The first loan funds were granted from the Rural Electrification Administration in July, 1945, for $200,000 to build 198 miles of line to serve 356 consumers. These funds were obtained at 2% interest. Today the cooperative's long-term obligations are approximately $14,000,000 with a portion borrowed from RUS (Rural Utilities Service) at less than 3%, and the balance from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) and CoBank at variable rates, currently under 4%.
Carl A. Steward, Cedar Vale, was hired as superintendent in July, 1945, although he was still in the armed forces in Germany. In April, 1946, Mr. Steward was appointed Manager of the cooperative. Mr. Steward retired in October, 1974, and Robert L. Brown was promoted from Assistant Manager to fill the Manager's position. Following Mr. Brown's unexpected death in April, 1990, Gerald D. Magnus was appointed Acting Manager until a permanent replacement could be found. John M. Sheppard was hired by the Board in November, 1990, as General Manager. He served the cooperative until June 30, 1994, when he resigned to take a position in Oklahoma. David A. Vince was hired to replace him November 1, 1994. In May, 1999, Mr. Vince resigned to take a position in Indiana, and Bonnie Campbell was appointed Acting Manager until August, 1999, when the Board hired Allen Zadorozny as Manager.
In May, 1948, seven years after contractors began building distribution lines, 60 miles of the first section were energized.
The property of the Inland Utilities Company, a private firm in the Sedan, Kansas, area, became available for purchase in October, 1948. The Caney Valley Board seriously considered purchasing the Inland Company, including their generating plant, because of problems in providing service to cooperative applicants in that area. The purchase was made in July, 1949, and approximately 2,000 new members became part of the Caney Valley Cooperative.
By 1955, the Cooperative was serving 4,126 consumers, and today approximately 5,200. In 1955, the 4,126 consumers were using 11,000,000 kilowatt hours annually, with our own generation providing 64% of the requirements. This compares to the present 5,254 consumers who used 59,590,460 kWh in 2022.
Of course, average usage went up in a large part due to the use of air conditioning, washers, dryers, frost-free refrigerators, microwaves, computers, etc., which were not generally available when the Cooperative first began. Commercial consumers led by the oil and gas industry have added significantly to increased electric consumption.
The Cooperative operates in all of Chautauqua County and portions of Elk, Cowley, Butler and Montgomery Counties, with most of the facilities being in Chautauqua, Elk and Cowley Counties. We operate on a total of 1,707 miles of transmission and distribution line. Power is now purchased through the Kansas Electric Power Cooperative (KEPCo), who currently relies on electric power contracts of which a large portion is with Evergy (Westar Energy) to serve Caney Valley ECA. As service contracts end and power supply circumstances change, the source of wholesale power provided by KEPCo could be from other sources. Caney Valley ECA is a member-owner of KEPCo and has a Caney Valley ECA board member on the KEPCo board of trustees representing our interests in KEPCo’s operations.
The Cooperative still has 9 trustees on its Board, and currently has 17 full-time employees.
The trustees govern the cooperative’s operation, and members of the Cooperative can contact any of them at any time for information regarding Caney Valley Electric. They meet on the second Tuesday of every month at the Cooperative's office in Cedar Vale.
The picture below depicts the linemen in 1957.