The 2020 Annual Meeting of Citizens Telephone Cooperative was held on Saturday, October 17th, at Citizens’ office on Webbs Mill Road. Members of the Cooperative were greeted and directed to park by Citizens employees who wore masks and kept a physical distance of 6ft. Members were asked to tune their car radios to 87.9 FM while the Board of Directors and CEO of Citizens conducted the meeting outside of the building.
President Wesley Goff opened the meeting, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and gave the President’s Report. Secretary Shelby Quesenberry read the minutes from the last meeting. Director Kevin Hubbard presented the re-election of Board members Joseph Italiano (Alum Ridge exchange), Jonathan Vest (Locust Grove exchange), and Shelby Quesenberry (Willis exchange).
CEO and General Manager Greg Sapp reported on the Cooperative’s progress during the COVID-19 pandemic and applauded Citizens employees for their readiness to handle the increase in demand and their willingness to assist customers working and schooling from home. During the pandemic, the company increased installs and performed in record time.
“We installed free WiFi hotspots at Check Elementary, Willis Elementary, and Floyd County High School to assist students, teachers, and staff meet their distance learning and teaching needs. We also put a free hotspot here in our front parking lot to assist our customers. We installed free WiFi hotspots at 3 Wythe County school locations as well,” stated Sapp. Citizens’ offers a $10 per month Student Connect broadband service to qualifying families with school-age children in the home. To assist qualifying families who may not meet the criteria for the Student Connect program, Citizens offered a 50% discount. Citizens also provided discounts and credits to several local businesses when they were closed or experiencing significant declines in business. “We have worked with many customers during this time to provide options for paying their bills with us. We understand that these are difficult times and that we all must work together,” continued Sapp.
Citizens has taken many precautions during the pandemic to keep members and employees safe. The company closed the lobby to the public on March 24th, and it has been closed ever since. Fortunately, the drive-thru window has allowed for customer service and support needs during this time.
Sapp mentioned measures the company has taken to support the health and safety of Citizens employees, “We have made arrangements for employees to work from home and other off-site locations. The employees working from home rotate with those in the office to provide everyone this option and to prevent all employees from getting sick should we have an outbreak at the office. We have been very fortunate that an outbreak has not happened.” He explained that all employees who enter the building have their temperatures checked each morning. If employees have to work close to each other, they have to rotate wearing masks. He continued by stating field technicians are taking precautions as well. “The technicians are taking their own temperatures if they are dispatching from home and are using an app to affirm that they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and are including a picture of their temperature reading. The technicians are wearing masks if they need to enter a customer’s home.” Citizens is also using a questionnaire to screen customers for COVID-19 symptoms before a technician enters the home.
Citizens is taking the pandemic very seriously since telecommunications businesses are considered essential. The company has not been closed a single day and continues to meet the needs of the community during the pandemic.
Sapp also shared the company’s status on the ACAM fiber deployment throughout Floyd County and explained that Citizens obtained partial funding through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), enabling residents in the Copper Hill area to connect to fiber. In just a few months Citizens has connected 49 out of 316 homes. “This type of grant had to be initiated by a locality, and I would like to give special thanks to Lydeana Martin for taking the lead with this grant,” stated Sapp.
The Cooperative will move into the final construction phase of the fiber project in 2021 and looks to launch a new streaming TV service. The streaming TV service will eliminate the cost of set-top boxes and will give the viewer more flexibility to watch programming on many types of devices including tablets, smartphones, and laptops.
Traditionally, the annual meeting ends with drawing the winners of door prizes and sitting down for a catered meal. To meet recommendations for gatherings during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Citizens opted not to give door prizes or serve a meal.
Sapp mentioned that the Cooperative will continue to hold Annual Meetings at the company’s office located at 220 Webbs Mill Road, Floyd. “We’ve made some enhancements that will allow us to hold the meetings here with ample room to accommodate our members,” stated Sapp.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
For more information about Citizens, visit www.citizens.coop or call 540.745.2111. Citizens is a member-owned Cooperative providing telephone, Internet, and TV to Floyd County and surrounding communities for over 100 years. Citizens also offers symmetrical business Ethernet, IT Solutions, Home Security Systems as well as Citizens Medical Alert and Web Services. Citizens is located at 220 Webbs Mill Road in Floyd. Lobby and drive-up hours are 8 am-6 pm Monday - Friday; 9 am - 1 pm on Saturday. DCJS #11-9804