Proposal surfaces to expand BWL board representation

By Andy Balaskovitz
East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett

East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett offers proposal to include East Lansing and Meridian and Delta township representation on BWL Board of Commissioners. Any changes subject to Lansing City Council, voter approval.

Wednesday, Feb. 12 — East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett has proposed a new structure for the Lansing Board of Water and Light Board of Commissioners that would include representatives from East Lansing and Meridian and Delta townships.

It is in response to public pressure to expand representation, both from BWL customers and elected officials, following the December ice storm.

“I feel strongly that regionalizing the governance of BWL is essential to restoring the utility’s credibility and to ensuring future accountability,” Triplett wrote in a two-page letter today to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Triplett proposes adding five additional commissioners to the eight-member board. Two would represent East Lansing, two would represent Delta Township and one would represent Meridian Township. Four members represent Lansing at-large, while four members represent each of the city’s wards. Members are appointed by the mayor and are subject to City Council approval. Terms are four years.

According to Triplett’s plan, the number of additional representatives is roughly proportionate to the percentage of customers the BWL serves outside the city of Lansing. For example, he points out that 14.6 percent of BWL customers, or 12,195, live in East Lansing. Therefore, two East Lansing representatives would make up about 15 percent of a 13-member board.

The mayor or township supervisor, with the consent of the governing bodies, would appoint members from the outlying jurisdictions. Like Lansing commissioners, terms would be for four years and staggered.

However, changes to BWL governance would require an amendment to Lansing’s City Charter, which would need City Council approval and also the go-ahead from city voters in an election.

In his State of the City address last month, Bernero said he was open to exploring a charter amendment. City Councilwoman Carol Wood has also said she’s open to discussing it, but has suggested setting up an advisory board in the interim.

Triplett says that he has the support of Delta Township Supervisor Ken Fletcher and Meridian Township Supervisor Elizabeth LeGoff.

“It is my hope that you will join me, and officials from across our region, in support of this framework and move expeditiously to bring the issue before the Lansing City Council for deliberation and action,” Triplett writes.