“Diamond Jubilee” was the theme of the 60th Annual Meeting of Members for Tri-County Telephone Association, Inc. (TCT). The meeting was held Tuesday, March 28th, 2023, at the Herington Community Building.  Two Hundred and twenty people attended the event. A meal, catered by The Pick-Up Line, was served to members prior to the meeting. Board President Shawn Tiffany gave the invocation.

Following the meal Vice-President Chad Tischhauser introduced the 2023 TCT Board Scholarship winners. Scholarships are given to graduating high school seniors, who maintain a 2.5 GPA and have a parent or legal guardian who are members of the cooperative. A $1,000 scholarship is awarded for each of TCT’s voting districts in addition to one “District At Large” scholarship. Scholarship winners were, District #1 –Parker Stilwell, son of Kimberly and Monty Stilwell. Parker will be attending Manhattan Area Tech College. District #2 – Lillian Tompkins, daughter of Rachel and Clay Tompkins. Lillian will be attending Kansas State University. District #4 – Bryan Chapman son of Lawrence Chapman. Bryan will be attending Fort Hays State University. District #5 – Allison Hower, daughter of Julie and John Hower. Allison will be attending Kansas State University. The At Large winner was Gavin Mills, son of Jackie and Jeff Mills. Gavin will be attending Butler Community College.

Following the presentation of scholarships President Tiffany opened the business meeting. TCT Board Attorney, Joe Knopp, affirmed that a quorum was present, in accordance with the by-laws, with 155 members in attendance. President Tiffany introduced special guest, John Mugler, District Director for Senator Roger Marshall. He then introduced TCT Controller, Jason Pettit, who gave the financial report. Mr. Pettit reported that the financials of the Cooperative are healthy, according to the recent audit. He then went over in detail the assets, liabilities and equity, income statement and cash flow of the company. Mr. Pettit asked for questions from the membership, there were no questions. President Tiffany then asked for a motion to approve the financial report, the motion was approved.

President Tiffany gave the President’s report, which focused on the shift in the labor market. President Tiffany stated that low labor participation rates, the increasing need for skilled labor and the looming retirement of Baby Boomers are all concerns for businesses. He noted that many service based businesses, like fast food and discount retail stores are turning to automation for a solution to the decrease in the availability of employees. President Tiffany sited geopolitics expert, Peter Zeihan, who has observed that the change in demographics and decline in population have resulted in a need for technology-based solutions.  He remarked that TCT’s investment in fiber, and other technologies have put our communities in a good position to take advantage of future digital solutions for employment needs. In closing President Tiffany expressed his confidence in TCT’s leadership and employees and their ability to keep the Cooperative on a positive path.

Following the President’s report C.E.O., Dale Jones, addressed the membership. In his presentation Mr. Jones updated members on the reduction of support from the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the Budget Control Mechanism (BCM), both of which are overseen by the Federal Communications Corporation (FCC). He presented examples of how changes in the USF and the implementation of the BCM, could result in an estimated net reduction of $6,683,830.00. Mr. Jones noted that these reductions mean the Cooperative must look for growth opportunities. One such opportunity are grants to build fiber in Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) areas. Rural areas in Abilene/Dickinson County, Alta Vista/Wabaunsee County, and Hillsboro/Marion County are being considered. The SPARKE grant and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant are two of these opportunities. Both programs will be overseen by the State of Kansas, under the Department of Commerce’s Broadband Development Office.

Mr. Jones continued his presentation by informing members on the progress being made in the Cooperative’s CLEC areas. He explained how each project is part of the company’s overall strategic goal. He noted the recent fiber build to Golden Belt Heights in Abilene and explained why partnerships, such as the one with the City of Hillsboro, are essential to future projects. Mr. Jones then apprised members on acquisitions of the Cooperative.  He reviewed TCT’s history with, and investment in NexTech Wireless (NTW). He updated members on recent purchases NTW has made to diversify investments and strengthen the company’s portfolio. These purchases include Rocky Mountain Construction and various retail properties in Salina and Hays. Next Mr. Jones went over the purchase of Hayden Tower Company, by TCT’s subsidiary, TC Wireless. He explained the process and timeline of the purchase and explained how the purchase will strengthen the Cooperative’s financial stability.

In closing, Mr. Jones announced the retirement of Leslie Cunningham, TCT’s Human Resources Director of ten years. He then echoed the comments of President Tiffany by stating that sixteen percent of TCT’s current employees can retire in the next two to three years. Mr. Jones then thanked members for coming and for their support. He agreed with President Tiffany, that the Cooperative will continue to take positive strides and is in a strong strategic position.

President Tiffany resumed the meeting by announcing the incumbent Board members in Districts 4, 5 and At Large East received no challenging applications or petitions. Therefore, per TCT by-laws, they were reappointed. This meant no ballots were sent to the membership. Carrie Shippy remains on the Board for District #4; Dusty Manson will remain on the Board for District #5 and Chad Tischhauser will remain on the Board for the East at Large District. President Tiffany then called for unfinished business from the floor. There was none. He then called for new business from the floor. There was none.

President Tiffany then introduced TCT Marketing Director, Scott Bankes, who announced the winners of the prize drawings. Cash prizes totaling over $1,000 were awarded. The $20 cash prize winners were: Leonard Bina, Gary Rowley, Gloria Martin, Myron Klein, Larry Johnson, Phillip Randy Williams, Lilly Walker, LaVade Holub, and Paulette Holub.  The $50 cash prize winners were: Dean Miller, Jennifer Wilson, Ed Klenda, LeAnna Kreger, Dawn Wendt, Julie Brandt, Robbie Riedy, Rick Schwerdtfeger, Larry Schlesener, Karen Cooley, and Marty White. The $100 cash prize winners were: Harold Mohr and Judy Sanford. The $200 cash winners were Dean and Janice Holdsworth. Dale G. Wingerd won the big screen Fire-TV.

President Tiffany thanked everyone for coming and asked for a motion to adjourn. The motion was approved.