BWL Customers Unsatisfied with CRT Report

Lansing Board of Water & Light's General Manager J. Peter Lark looks on Monday night during public comment at city council's special meeting.
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Members of the community review team tasked with examining the Lansing Board of Water and Light's response to a December ice storm called their 144-page report critical of the local utility.

BWL customers agreed it was a good start, but didn't fully punish the utility, whose allegedly slow, ill-prepared response left some customers without power for nearly two weeks.

"It was a little bit of vindication because I think that BWL has sort of candy-coated the aftermath of this," said Derek Polischuk, who lives in the heavily-affected Glencairn neighborhood in East Lansing. "Perhaps they're taking some steps but I think the report shows it was incredibly poorly handled situation from the top down."

The review -- which described the utility's preparation as "disjointed" and its lack of record keeping as "mindboggling" -- pointed out many important shortfalls, Polischuk said, including poor communication with customers and local governments.

The problem, Polischuk said, is the failure to hold General Manager J. Peter Lark more responsible for what he calls a failure in leadership.

"I don't think an effective leader can let down an entire community. I don't think an effective leader can be less than truthful about what was actually happening during those moments," he said. "I would say that someone who is paid at his level needs to deliver and needs to be functional.

"We all have jobs to do," he said, "and if I were to be that incompetent at my job, I wouldn't be working tomorrow."

Marsha Leek, who lives in another hard-hit area, Churchill Downs on the city's west side, was also looking for harsher consequences for Lark.

"It's hard to hear that he wasn't reprimanded," Leek said, looking at branches on her block that serve as a reminder of the ice storm, nearly five months later. "It's hard to hear."

In the nearby Coachlight neighborhood, Paula Nims, was a little more understanding toward Lark.

"I don't know if I'd want to take someone's job over it," she said, "but I think they need to look at what happened and make better decisions."

Lark said in a statement that BWL has already made many of the changes suggested by the CRT.

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