Financial Health Team Suggests BWL Sale, Mayor Says 'No'

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It was a message heard loud and clear during Mayor Virg Bernero's State of the City address, Monday. Selling the Board of Water and Light is not an option to help balance the budget.

"I want to just be clear. That's not going to happen. Not on my watch," said the Mayor.

For the city's financial health team, led by former mayor David Hollister, it was a cue to look elsewhere for the money, both now and in the future. A disappointment for Hollister, who says the BWL is one of Lansing's best assets and that selling it would help Lansing overcome some major financial hurdles.

"It would generate millions of dollars. That would allow for the funding of the retirement system, the health care system," said Hollister.

Mayor Bernero agrees that the BWL is an asset and that's why, he says, he will never allow it to be sold.

"It helps keep rates reasonable," said Bernero. "Our rates are ten, 15 percent lower than anywhere else because it's a publicly owned utility."

City Council President Carol Wood says she agrees with the mayor.

"You are having a one-time flow of money coming. That might meet an immediate need, but over the long run, I think it could be detrimental to the city," said Wood.

Councilman Brian Jeffries also said he disagrees with selling the Board of Water and Light. In addition to low rates, he says Lansing gets five percent of the company's revenue, each year, and the city would lose that revenue, if the BWL were sold to a private utility company.

Still, Hollister says the funding model for cities is broken and even though no one on the team wants to sell the BWL, Lansing will have to make these tough decisions in the future.

"The issues aren't going to go away," said Hollister. "If the option is bankruptcy, it might come back even then."

Hollister estimates selling the Board of Water and Light would bring more than $100 million into the city.

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