Singh Sends Letter to Lansing City Council Concerning Utility Board

Municipalities within BWL service area should be able to provide input
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LANSING – State Representative Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) delivered a letter Tuesday to the Lansing City Council and Mayor Virg Bernero’s office asking that they review the city’s charter with regards to the Board of Water and Light in an effort to expand representation on the utility’s governing board. The city’s charter currently only allows for members of its Board of Commissioners to come from the city of Lansing, despite the Lansing Board of Water and Light servicing thousands of households in surrounding communities such as Delta Township, the City of East Lansing and Meridian Township. In his letter he makes the following recommendations:

  1. Requests that the membership of the independent panel that will be reviewing the BWL’s response to the December ice storm include representation from all communities in the BWL service area.
  2. Requests that the Mayor and Lansing City Council review the City Charter and consider a charter amendment that would allow some membership to the BWL Board of Commissioners to be from communities outside of the city of Lansing but within the BWL service area.

“The Board of Water and Light is an important regional asset and by expanding membership to the Board it will strengthen the region’s confidence and trust with the utility,” said Rep. Singh.

Below is the letter Rep. Singh sent.

January 14, 2014

The Honorable Virgil Bernero, Mayor of Lansing

And Members of the Lansing City Council

Lansing City Hall

124 West Michigan Avenue

Lansing, MI 48933

Dear Mayor Bernero and Members of the City Council:

I write to you regarding the Board of Water and Light and their response to the December 22nd Ice Storm. As you may know, on December 31st I shared some of my thoughts regarding the storm and the BWL response. Included in my recommendations I requested that there be an independent review of the BWL and its handling of the storm response. I am pleased to see that a community group is being formed to review the BWL response along with an internal audit conducted by the BWL, and that both will be presented to the Public Service Commission for their feedback. I would encourage you to be inclusive and provide opportunity for all communities that are in the service area to be represented on the community panel. In addition, please do not shy away from soliciting the advice of some of the more vocal critics. Many of them will provide you with very concrete examples on how to move forward in a positive way. The panel is a good beginning step to start the process of regaining trust in our local utility, and implementing it in an inclusive way will benefit the region.

The crisis and lack of communication from BWL illustrated a strong disconnect between the utility and many of the local jurisdictions that it services. During my conversations with a few of the members of the Board of Water and Light Board, I have asked them to find a mechanism that would provide meaningful feedback for ongoing representation for communities like East Lansing, Delta Township and Meridian Township, all of which are a substantial part of the service area but not represented on the Board of Directors.

In addition, I respectfully request that the executive office, the Lansing City Council, and the BWL Board/Management review the charter that has created the utility and consider amending it to provide participation of members outside of the City of Lansing on the board. As the BWL has taken on a more regional approach, it makes sense to make the board more representative of the region. Many of our communities have been supportive to help regionalize the Potter Park Zoo and the 911 dispatch- finding a way to provide permanent representation on the BWL Board would be in that same spirit.

I look forward to talking with each of you about this proposal and hope that we can work together to strengthen our local utility. There are many benefits to having a municipal utility that supports the region and truly represents the region.

Sincerely,

Sam Singh

State Representative

69th District