Dec. 29 2013 12:00 AM

East Lansing senator says Board of Water and Light’s lack of responsiveness and accuracy is “unaddressed” public-safety issue


This story was updated on Monday, Dec. 30.

Sunday, Dec. 29 — It’s not just Lansing Board of Water and Light customers who are upset with their utility’s response to last weekend’s ice storm. The state Senate Minority Leader, who was also affected by power outages, blasted the public utility in a statement issued today.

“Like many, my home was without power following last weekend’s severe weather, but the fact that so many still remain without electricity or knowledge of when it will be restored more than a week later is totally unacceptable,” state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the hard work of the linemen and women working to restore power, but when the public cannot even reach someone to report a downed power line in their yard or receive accurate information about when they can expect their electricity restored, it isn’t simply poor customer service, it’s a significant public safety issue that remains unaddressed.”

Whitmer’s statement makes no reference to Consumers Energy, which also had thousands of customers lose power in Ingham and surrounding counties. Consumers Spokesman Dan Bishop said all of its customers had power restored by midnight on Saturday.

As of 8 a.m., BWL reported 3,292 customers still were without power, down from 4,500 outages Saturday night. It has 26 line crews making repairs today in the field, in addition to tree-trimmers and spotters.

The utility also announced today — a week after the storm caused 40 percent of its customers to lose power — that it’s opening three customer walk-in centers Monday in Lansing (1232 Haco Drive and 1201 S. Washington Ave.) and East Lansing (Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road). The centers will be staffed by BWL employees who will provide updates on restoration efforts and confirm whether outage areas are in line to be fixed. The centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The customer walk-in centers are in response to the difficulty that some customers are having in receiving timely information on their outage,” according to a BWL statement today.

Whitmer announced her office will be open Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “to take calls from those still unable to reach the Board of Water and Light.” That information will be relayed to the BWL customer centers. (You can reach her office at 373-1734.)

%u2028Whitmer also suggested possible long-term changes through new legislation to “better handle emergency situations like this in the future.”

“Legislation cannot stop emergencies from taking place, but it can ensure we have the regulations and the resources we need in place to minimize their impact,” she said. “I share the frustrations of far too many families throughout the region today and I’m going to do whatever I can to ensure these problems get fixed and this situation is not repeated the next time Mother Nature strikes.”