BWL Shows Action In Ice Storm Response Meeting - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Public Outrage High At BWL Hearing

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) -- Dozens of angry Lansing Board of Water and Light customers who suffered without power during last month's ice storm expressed their outrage publicly at a special board meeting Tuesday night in REO Town.

"I don't think that anyone can understand the magnitude of being without power during this time unless you go through it," said Semone James Howe.

Howe was one of dozens who slammed the company for what they call poor communication during a time of crisis. Many others also criticized BWL CEO J. Peter Lark for his family trip to New York during the storm while thousands of his customers were left behind in the dark.

"That was a serious lack of judgment and a lack of leadership on his part to leave town," said Ryan Sebolt, BWL customer. "And I'm sorry, but there's no amount of apology coming from him that can make up for that lack of judgment because he is supposed to be the leader here, and he failed being the leader here."

After the board heard comments from the public, Lark responded to questions from the commissioners, and said the company is implementing changes to make to make sure there the company is better positioned to respond to catastrophes should they happen again in the future. "The BWL is not the same BWL today that it was two weeks ago," Lark said.

However, unsatisfied customers remained unconvinced, and the board of commissioners called for an independent, external review of the company's response to the storm.

Others who spoke at the meeting spoke very highly of Lark and his leadership. However, some who praised the company many acknowledged they were employees for BWL. It is unclear if those who said they were employees were asked to speak on behalf of BWL during the meeting designed for public comment.

At the meeting, the company also distributed information that revealed new operations changes that include plans to hire additional line workers as well as a social media manager. Tree-trimming crews have already been tripled, according to the company.

Additionally, BWL said it plans to have an online outage map within the next week, something communications representative Stephen Serkaian said was something they just did not do prior to the storm.

Issuing credits to customers during storms was something else the company did not offer prior to this storm, but those who were without power for five days, or 120 hours, will be given a $25 credit. Serkaian said on Tuesday it might be an offering they continue in the future.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with WLNS-TV. Like her on Facebook, Follow her on Twitter or email her at emorrow@wlns.com.

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