The work continues

By Andy Balaskovitz
City officials take questions and complaints from residents at a press conference today. BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark is pictured behind the lecturn. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

More crews and comprehensive review of ice-storm handling coming, officials announce today

Saturday, Dec. 28 — As 3,000 Lansing Board of Water and Light customers remain without power today, the utility is spreading out more crews to help restore normalcy on day six of the area’s historic ice storm.

BWL has 18 line crews working in the field today, up from 12, with 10 more on the way. That’s in addition to 12 tree-trimming, three electric service worker and nine spotter crews also in the field.

The six additional line crews are made up of the same linemen and linewomen, but just spread out in groups of two rather than three, BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark said today during a press conference with several city officials, including Mayor Virg Bernero.

BWL will bring in 10 additional crews that were freed up from around the state as more power is restored.

“We hope to have fewer than 1,000 (people) out (of power) by the end of” Sunday, Lark said.

Lark emphasized that 90 percent of the initial 40,000 BWL customers who lost power have had it restored.

Bernero and East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett addressed criticism that the cities have not declared a state of emergency.

Triplett called it “the wrong tool for the job. There is nothing to be gained” by declaring a state of emergency.

“It’s not called for and it would not help,” Bernero said, adding that Lansing’s police and fire chiefs told him that those departments were not overloaded. “It would not have brought us more help or one more lineman.”

But his response agitated some in the crowd at today’s press conference, one of whom shouted: “You’re adding insult to injury.” Officials were interrupted at various points by residents voicing complaints about the utility’s handling of the storm.

Lansing Fire Chief Randy Talifarro said he’s “been in continuous contact with the state emergency management” office.

Police Chief Mike Yankowski said his department’s received 1,100 calls for service — or about 184 a day — since the storm hit Sunday. That’s about 200 more in the same time period last year, he said. There have also been 29 home invasions, which is 11 fewer than this time last year.

Public Services Director Chad Gamble said city forestry crews have cleared 500 different locations across the city and 130 blocked streets. The city has set up a drop-off location for fallen limbs at Washington Park, 2700 S. Washington Ave.

Bernero said once things return to normal for the city and BWL, a comprehensive review of various emergency preparedness and communication abilities will be completed.