The community review team investigating the Board of Water and Light met for the first time Thursday to discuss its action plan. The team has been tasked with reviewing BWL's December power outage, that for some customers lasted nearly two weeks.
At the meeting, Patricia Spitzley had the most challenging story of all the board members' outages. She said for three days sparks were flying in her back yard.
"We started calling and we could not get through," said Patricia Spitzley, a committee member. "We called and we called. I called for two days straight and I could not get through and so for me that was a safety concern."
The BWL recognizes some things were mismanaged.
"I think the biggest issue was that people couldn't communicate with us. They didn't know if we had lost them, or forgotten them or if they were in the system and they needed to know we cared-- and we did a poor job of that," said Dennis Louney, a BWL Commissioner who attended the committee meeting.
Some committee members didn't lose power or lost it only for a few hours. Others lost if for several days.
"I picked the individuals that I thought would give us geographic diversity across the Board of Water and Light consumer region," said Mike McDaniel, the committee review chair.
The review team pledged to objectively uncover the facts, speak with utility experts both inside and outside of BWL and then make its recommendations.
"We are looking for those solutions that will better this entire community," said McDaniel.
McDaniel said the committee will look at policies and practices. He does not anticipate recommending any management be fired or replaced.
"Our goal here is to make recommendations to the city. What they do with that information is up to them," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said about 85 people applied to be on the committee. He said he knew about half of the people prior to selecting them.
The committee says it isn't necessarily going to use Consumers Energy or DTE as the benchmark of performance. Instead the committee will use industry standards.
"We certainly need to look at the operational response of the utility to the storm and its effects, but then I also wanted to make sure that we take a look at the long term infrastructure design and maintenance because that ultimately drives how serious these situations become," said Douglas Jester, a committee member. "When you have a storm that breaks a lot of wires, causes other equipment to fail, some of that is just the force of nature but it could also be because the equipment is old or not in good condition for some reason."
The community review team will divide into three working groups to make recommendations for BWL's plan, response, and recovery from the outages. The review team hopes to make its final recommendations by March 31.
One committee member resigned because of time commitments with their employer. The committee now has nine members.
The team encourages people to attend three public hearings where residents can voice their concerns about BWL's response. The meetings are scheduled for:
February 4, at Pattengill Middle School in Lansing from 7-9 p.m.
February 5, at Hannah Community Center in East Lansing from 7-9 p.m.
February 6, somewhere in Delta Township from 7-9 p.m.
For those who can't make it to the evening meetings, but would like to voice their concern, thoughts or suggestions-- an email account is set up. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org
City of East Lansing:
City of Lansing: