A forum for the four candidates running for Position 2 on the OTEC Board of Directors drew an animated crowd to Baker High School this week.
Many of the questions focused on OTEC's future and its relationship to the four-county area it serves.
Incumbent Glen Bates is running against three candidates from the Baker County area, Jim Van Duyn, Tyler Brown and Michael Cook.
Ballots will be mailed soon. Three races are on the ballot, positions representing Baker, Union and Harney counties. Bates' position is the only one contested.
OTEC's purchase of electricity from a co-generating plant in Prairie City was referred to several times. Due to an old contract, OTEC is obligated to purchase electricity from the plant at 18 cents per kilowatt-hour while selling it to its ratepayers for 8 cents.
Bates, a graduate of Baker High School, has been a member of the board since 1990. He said he worked for CP National, the company that provided electricity to the area before OTEC's formation in 1988.
Bates thinks OTEC should "keep rates in reasonable order." He cited the co-generation agreement as a reason for being hesitant about buying energy locally. The current OTEC policy on line extension agreements, Bates said, was a contribution to the local economy.
Jim Van Duyn, owner of an architectural firm in Baker City, said OTEC should look toward the future and make sure it is not simply subject to outside forces. He sup-ported the exploration of OTEC's generation of electricity rather than simply dispersing it to ratepayers.
"I will be active," Van Duyn said, "You put people at risk by not planning for the future ... We're not using capital as effectively as we can."
Michael Cook comes from an area ranching family going back to 1894. He and his wife own a nursery in Keating.
Cook said he would "keep an open mind and look at all of the options."
Cook said that in agricultural practice, you have to adapt to changing circumstances, and the same is true of OTEC.
Tyler Brown has lived in the area for three years. His family owns two restaurants in Baker City and he noted how dependent those businesses are on the low electric rates now available.
Brown admitted he wasn't up to speed on some of the issues facing OTEC, but that he was interested in learning.
"How can we lower the price of electricity for our members?" is a key issue, Brown said.
Brown also supported a long-range look at how OTEC would provide electricity to the area.
"We all thought we had cheap gas," he joked.
Also on the OTEC ballot are Gary Potter, representing Union County for Position 1, and Robert Cargill, representing Harney County for Position 3. All three incumbent candidates were nominated by committees appointed by the OTEC board.