Mayor Calls For Review of BWL

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Public Meetings Set for Next Week: 7:00 p.m. Wednesday -- Delta Township 7:00 p.m. Thursday -- East Lansing TBD Friday -- Lansing Locations are still being decided.

You know the Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero wants answers when he creates a special panel to review the Board of Water and Light's performance during last month's ice storm.

The community review team will be led by Brigadier General Michael McDaniel. He has a law degree and has worked at the defense department, and the Michigan National Guard.

The mayor also wants the Michigan Public Service Commission to conduct an internal review of BWL's internal review, something that is sure to please the public. Given the lack of confidence some have expressed in public meetings over the last couple of weeks, the mayor said he's not wasting any time taking action, because you never know when another storm will hit.

"We want to dig in, we want to find out what went wrong, and we want to make sure it never happens again," Bernero said.

Though he's bringing in muscle to investigate the BWL, the mayor made it clear he still stands behind Peter Lark, even if he feels the special board meeting Tuesday night could have been handled differently.

"Had I been running the meeting, I would have asked employees politely to please wait and allow the regular non-employee customers of the board to go first," Bernero said. "Was it bad form? I think so."

It was bad enough that BWL First Ward Commissioner Dennis Louney spoke up at the meeting and is speaking out now about the number of employees who testified, at least 30 of the more than 60 people.

"We have to build back our credibility and show customers that we're reliable and we're doing what they want us to do, and by having that many people testify, it sent out another bad perception, and another hit on our credibility," Louney said. "We can't improve it if that continues."

Many people left angrier than ever, despite the BWL announcing its hiring more line workers and dispatchers immediately, plus a social media manager and a public relations firm to handle crisis communication. Lansing City Council member Jody Washington said those are steps in the right direction, but it's not enough.

"I had people calling me crying and people are angry, and they just want to be recognized and be assured that they are heard, and that it will be taken care of," Washington said.

The board says they've already begun taking care of it, and this was definitely a learning experience.

"The job we did during the crisis was deplorable in regards to communication," Louney said. "It is going to be 100 percent better."

A lot of people are wondering how the BWL is going to pay for these improvements, whether customers should expect a rate increase.

Louney said his recommendation to the board will be for no hike any time soon -- not until people can trust them again.

There are three public meetings set for next week. On Wednesday there will be a forum in Delta Township at 7:00, on Thursday in East Lansing at 7:00, and in Lansing on Friday. The locations are still being decided.

The mayor is also asking the police chief and deputy fire chief to set up an internal review team to investigate the city's response to the ice storm. Members of that team and the CRT will be announced at a later date.


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