May 8 2014 12:00 AM

Community Review Team emphasizes no personnel changes


THURSDAY, May 8 – Despite strong criticism of the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s performance during the December power outage, the Community Review Team is not recommending any personnel changes.

“I don’t know for sure if the public will be satisfied,” said Michael McDaniel, who led the review team. “I would hope that they understand it’s a matter of channeling anger positively.”

The review team held a final meeting this morning. It issued its recommendations Monday.
During the wrap-up, review team members echoed the sentiment of diffusing anger, not seeking vengeance.

“We had to cut through all the emotions, the frustration and the hurt,” team member Darnell Earley said. “At the end of the day, what really matters is how we react and how we make things right.”

The report outlined 54 recommendations to improve BWL emergency response. Recommendations spanned from hiring additional linemen to developing a list of vulnerable customers to prioritize restoration, but the majority of the report focused on improving communication and constructing a coordinated, wide-spanning emergency preparedness plan.

Team members recognized the public’s call for new leadership both in the meeting and in the report, but reiterated that creating better policies and emergency plans would serve BWL customers best.
“The work is not done. Actually, the work just begins,” Earley said, adding that he was encouraged by General Manager J. Peter Lark’s promise to create an action plan. “I intend to hold Mr. Lark accountable for following through on his commitment.”

McDaniel said after the meeting that BWL has been overall receptive to the report. Some of the recommendations have already taken place: BWL announced on Wednesday that it would hire an emergency manager and began improving social media outreach right after the storm, among other steps. McDaniel said he does not know what other recommendations BWL plans to undertake right away, but that the Board of Commissioners should be tasked with tracking which recommendations are completed and when.

Mayor Virg Bernero, who joined partway in the meeting, said he also appreciated the “independent and objective viewpoint” the report offered.

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said to the team.

Bernero said that Lark intends to provide a “line-by-line” response to the report within 30 days.