The Southern Plains Co-op found a unique method to host its annual general meeting Monday night.
The event was held at Carlyle’s landmark Prairie Dog Drive-In. Thirty-two people signed the attendance registrar, but there were people in attendance who didn’t sign in.
“It worked out well,” said Southern Plains Co-op general manager Brian Enns. “Those in attendance could either listen through their vehicle radio or there was a speaker on the side of the building that you could also hear through.”
They didn’t have any hiccups during the evening. Members were asked to use text or email for their questions or for making motions. The co-op thought about showing the speeches on the drive-in’s big screen, but then the co-op would have had to wait for dusk to hold the meeting, and they thought that many in attendance might have to leave before dusk.
“Members were able to ask questions, they were able to hear all of the reports, and they (reports) were in the package, of course, and we were able to complete everything required under our bylaws for an annual meeting.”
Enns, members of the board and others spoke from one of the drive-in’s buildings.
As for highlights from the past year, the co-op added a liquor store to their grocery store in Estevan and their convenience store in Oxbow. They also did some exterior branding at the Estevan gas bar and convenience store.
They have purchased a retail liquor sales permit for Carlyle. The new store, which would be located at their convenience store at the junction of Highway 9 North and 13, is expected to be ready in 2021.
“We also purchased land in Carlyle for the new food store in the future,” said Enns.
Construction on the new food store isn’t expected to begin until 2022.
Sales for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2020, were at $79.4 million, down slightly from the $79.5 million the previous year. The co-op had a $67.9 million cost of goods sold, for a gross margin of $11.5 million. After operating and administration expenses of more than $13 million, the co-op had a loss from operations of $1.48 million.
The co-op received a patronage dividend of more than $5 million from Federated Co-operatives Ltd., and allowing for a deduction for income taxes payable, the co-op wound up with net savings of more than $3.5 million. And it paid $1,741,045 back to the members.
Also during the meeting, the co-op held its election of directors. Lynne Hewitt, Richard Ruetz and Linda Thauberger-Smith were acclaimed to another three-year term on the board. Michelle Deichert, who was also on the board, did not seek another term.
Under the co-op’s bylaws, they can operate with seven to 10 board members, so they are not seeking a replacement for Deichert at this time.
Scott Kienlen will be the chairperson for a second year. Thauberger-Smith will be the vice-chair and James Lainton will be the secretary. Other members of the board include Frances Boutin, David Murray, Rhonda Huish and Darcy Calder.
Enns noted that over the past five years, the co-op has invested $16 million in assets in their different communities: Carlyle, Alameda, Oxbow, Gainsborough and Estevan. And during that timeframe, they have returned more than $6 million back to its members through member patronage dividends.
“At Southern Plains Co-op, we continue to look for areas we can grow in, and we continue investing in the communities we serve,” said Enns.
This week's edition of the Observer will have more on this story.