BWL Holds Final Forum, Promises to Follow Up on Suggestions

Public comment became heated Friday night when one woman in the crowd approached the speaker at the podium who was yelling at General Manager Peter Lark to tell him he was being rude.
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Friday night was the last of three forums for Board of Water and Light customers to speak their mind about the ice storm outages, and many didn't hold back.

"I'd like to know why I should believe you," questioned one customer.

"Why are you such liars," another quipped.

At times the meeting became downright heated as one customer, who was yelling and making comments directly aimed at General Manager Peter Lark, was interrupted by another customer in the audience who came to the podium to tell him he was being rude.

"I'm more than a customer, I'm an owner and most of these people here are owners," the man yelled before giving the middle finger to the BWL senior management team sitting at the front of the room.

The question now: were these forums no more than just glorified venting sessions for customers?

Board of Water and Light Commissioner Sandy Zerkle says "absolutely not."

"We did want to hear our customers and we understood a lot of them needed to vent," she said.

"But the employees here at the BWL and the commission also wanted to know if they had some suggestions that we could help implement."

Zerkle said every comment and suggestion brought up during the forums was recorded by a stenographer to make sure the utility would be able to include them word-for-word in the internal review currently be conducted.

The utility plans to send everyone who attended the community forums a copy of the final internal report either by mail or through email.

Though some customers aren't convinced the forums will make much of a difference.

"A lot of what they're doing seems to be designed protect their image," said Ryan Sebolt, a BWL customer.

"I kind of get the feeling they're hoping if they let everyone vent that everything will go away."

The internal report, which will also be included in the city's independent investigation into BWL's response to the outages, is expected to be completed by mid-November, according to Lark, who spoke briefly and apologized to the crowd before the public comment began.

There were similar community forums held in East Lansing and Delta Township earlier this week.

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