East Lansing Mayor Pushing to Expand BWL Board

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

Call it power generation without representation.

Board of Water and Light customers who don't live in Lansing, right now, don't have representation on the utility's board of commissioners.

But in light of last December's widespread ice storm outages, it could soon be changing.

Several local leaders and even a few state lawmakers are pushing to get every community in the BWL's coverage area representation on the board.

East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett sent a letter to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero Wednesday asking for his support to add five more commissioners to the existing eight-member board.

"I wanted to put a proposal on the table which would help regional leaders get down to talking about specifics," Triplett said.

His proposal calls for an additional two seats for East Lansing, two seats for Delta Township and one seat for Meridian Township, although subsequent conversations have suggested the final seat might be rotated between the remaining Lansing-area townships, according to Triplett.

"The response has been fairly positive," he said.

"I think there's obviously going to be some disagreements about specifics but by and large everyone seems to agree that regionalizing a regional utility like the Board of Water and Light makes sense."

Roughly 40 percent of BWL customers live outside the City of Lansing, with East Lansing and Delta Township sharing the largest of the suburban customers. The utility also serves Delhi, Lansing, Watertown, Windsor and Dewitt townships.

Several lawmakers have also supported the idea, including Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who's district includes Delta and will soon include Dewitt Township.

"I think with outside board members from the townships, and East Lansing that get this service, it'll be a better watchdog for the future," he said.

Jones said he met with Mayor Bernero Monday to discuss the idea in what he called a 'very cordial' meeting.

But the devil will be in the details with this plan, and one of the bigger sticking points will revolve around deciding just how many additional commissioners should be brought into the mix.

"Originally I had suggested six, [Mayor Bernero] had suggested two," Jones said.

BWL Commissioner Dennis Louney said the board is generally receptive to the idea of adding members but cautioned against having too many voices on the board.

"When you start to grow, you get to be too big and bureaucratic and you don't accomplish as much as you can," Louney said.

"But I do think this really is an issue that needs to be looked at closely."

With the proposal officially down on paper, the ball is now in the court of Lansing's city council which would have to create a ballot initiative to amend the city charter to be voted on by city residents.

Currently the city charter stipulates commissioners must reside within the city limits.

Mayor Triplett said he already has the support of Delta Township Supervisor Ken Fletcher and Meridian Township Supervisor Elizabeth LeGoff.

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