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After 21 years in the propane business, Three Rivers Propane LLC has sold its assets and business operations to Lock's Mill Propane Inc. of Loose Creek.

According to a news release, the sale will become effective Dec. 1 with Three Rivers Propane customer accounts turned over to Lock's Mill Propane on Nov. 30. Three Rivers and Lock's Mill will work together to make the transition as smooth as possible, said Roger Kloeppel, Three Rivers Electric Cooperative chief executive officer.

Three Rivers Propane was formed in the spring of 2000 when Knoerr Propane was purchased by Three Rivers Electric Cooperative. Knoerr Propane was established in 1944 by Linn businessman J.R. Knoerr, who managed the company until 1988 when Eric Thompson took over ownership and management of the company. Thompson sold the company to TREC in 2000 and continued to manage the company until he retired in 2017, at which time local business owner Gary Norment took over as Three Rivers Propane manager.

Under their leadership at Three Rivers Propane, the business grew from 800 tanks to more than 2,000 tanks, with a second bulk plant and a third delivery driver/technician added, offering service to customers in Osage, Gasconade, Miller and Cole counties.

At the time Three Rivers Propane was formed, company officials said offering propane was a trend in the energy industry due to the emergence and threat of large energy suppliers during deregulation in the late 1990s. Electric cooperatives were encouraged to diversify their energy portfolio and to provide energy offerings in addition to electricity. Three Rivers Electric Cooperative was the last electric cooperative in Missouri to still own interest in a propane subsidiary.

"Three Rivers Electric Cooperative has given consideration to selling the propane subsidiary several times over the course of the past 10 years," Kloeppel said. "However, the timing never seemed right. With the challenges brought on by the polar vortex of February and the recent retirement of Propane Manager Gary Norment, we decided to gauge the interest of local propane companies, and Lock's Mill emerged as a very interested buyer."

Lock's Mill Propane was established in 2000 by Warren Haslag, and the company has a footprint in a territory similar to Three Rivers Propane.

"This decision was not entered into lightly and was made with the purpose of continuing the valued service our customers have received over the past 21 years," said Tom Stegeman, Three Rivers Electric board of directors. "We believe Lock's Mill Propane is the perfect fit for our loyal customers and is well positioned to meet our customers' needs, not only in the upcoming heating season, but for the next 20 years and beyond."

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