In 1939, forward-thinking citizens in the region celebrated years of research, planning and consultation with the official incorporation of the electric cooperative, La Plata Electric Association.
The first meeting of the incorporating directors was held in downtown Durango, where citizens had been enjoying the benefits of electricity since 1892 when Durango Light and Power Company, (and later the Western Colorado Power Company, which was eventually merged into LPEA) embraced the fledgling technology of alternating current (AC). Few urban residents believed that the rural parts of Southwest Colorado would ever be illuminated, due to the tremendous cost of extending lines and service to isolated farms and ranches.
Rural cooperatives across the country have a history of inventiveness and determination, working together to sustain communities and enhance the lives of the hard-working souls who were tough enough to “make it” outside of an urban hub. LPEA’s founding fathers (and mothers) were no less determined, and when spurred by the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA), established in 1936 to provide loans explicitly to “shine the light” in rural areas, they came together to make La Plata Electric happen.
The first meeting of the cooperative was held August 22, 1939, and called to order at 8 p.m. at 854 Main Ave. in Durango. The original certificate of incorporation had been filed with the Secretary of State on August 16, 1939. On hand that fateful night were W.E. Tyner, the incorporating director selected as chairman, and incorporating directors J. Fred Hill, Frank Gray, Edna M. Coppuck, J.H. Durry, James F. Gore, George Morgan, E.E. Hively, Betty Stock and Mildred Laurie.
According to the detailed minutes of the meeting, preserved in LPEA’s archives, these rural citizens began the long process of establishing the basis for running the electric cooperative. This involved the details of membership, which initially was a $5 base charge to all members, although if a member requested more than one service connection, additional fees could be assessed. Agreeing to join the cooperative required that members purchase all their electricity from LPEA.
In later months, the incorporating directors deliberated on a site for the first headquarters – primarily a centralized construction office – and eventually selected Ignacio. LPEA entered into an Installation Loan Contract with the REA to fund construction of the system on August 10, 1940, and by the following February, the lines were energized and life was changed forever for rural families.
Back in the day, it hadn’t taken long for what had been envisioned as a way to improve the lives of rural residents to become a vital area enterprise – which LPEA remains today. As it always has, the cooperative continues to evolve, and indeed, many challenges lie ahead in the energy industry. The LPEA board and staff are prepared to meet these head-on, while maintaining the mission to provide members with safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost, while being environmentally responsible.