June 4 2014 12:00 AM

Despite recommendations, BWL chairwoman says representing non-Lansing customers could hurt utility’s image

Lansing Board of Water and Light

WEDNESDAY, June 4 — Lansing Board of Water and Light Chairwoman Sandra Zerkle said today that extending representation to communities outside of Lansing wasn’t best for the utility’s image, and it would not have a significant impact on customers.

Stronger representation for non-Lansing residents serviced by BWL was recommended by the Community Review Team, the independent committee appointed by Mayor Virg Bernero to investigate the utility’s response to the December 2013 ice storm. The Michigan Public Service Commission echoed that recommendation in a report it released on the storm response.

Zerkle said she had no “objections to being responsive to all customers,” but that she did not think a liaison or committee for non-Lansing residents would have an impact on servicing customers. Zerkle spoke on the City Pulse radio show on 89 FM The Impact. The show airs at 7 p.m. tonight.

“My concern was if we authorize an ad hoc committee or liaison, that looks like we aren’t treating all of our customers equally,” Zerkle said. “My concern is that image.”

BWL’s electric utility services customers in Lansing, East Lansing and the townships of Bath, Delhi, Delta, DeWitt, Lansing, Meridian, Windsor and Watertown. The water utility has customers in Lansing and Dewitt, as well as the townships of Delhi, DeWitt, Lansing, Windsor, Bath and Watertown.

Zerkle maintained that Lansing is the central presence for BWL.

“My thought is that Lansing owns, operates and is responsible for everything that happens with the Board of Water and Light,” she said. “It is the city of Lansing’s utility.”

Zerkle did say, though, that BWL still is responsive to all customers. “We don’t look at any of our customers differently, whether they live in Dewitt or whether they live in Delhi. Wherever they may live, they’re all customers.”

As for opening a position on the BWL Board of Commissioners to non-Lansing residents, Zerkle said she wouldn’t comment until a proposal was in place. The City Charter states that only Lansing residents can fill BWL board positions, and Lansing voters would have to approve any change to the charter.

“It’s left up to the Mayor and City Council on how they want to operate the commission,” she said, adding that she would consider any proposal.