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lansing board of water and light

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It's going to be another cold one

Wind chills could reach 26 below zero in West Michigan, 32 below in mid Michigan, and 40 below in Southeast Michigan today. Gov. Rick Snyder is asking people to stay home during the cold snap.

New report offers plans to fight Asian carp

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a report years in the making that offers eight plans for preventing Asian carp and other species from migrating between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi basin. Some options involve placing physical barriers in the waterways to separate the watersheds. Other potential steps include use of locks, electric barriers and water treatment to remove invasive species," the Associated Press reports.

Lansing utility scheduled to meet about ice storm that left thousands without power for days

The Lansing Board of Water and Light is scheduled to meet tonight regarding the ice storm that left 40% of its customers without power for more than a week. The utility's general manager,  J. Peter Lark,  has apologized for going to New York City on vacation when the power went out.

If you haven’t noticed that much of our state has been semi-paralyzed by the snowstorm, then I assume you are reading from Florida. That actually happened yesterday. Someone called while I was shoveling to ask if we had any snow. When I sputtered with amazement, it turned out my caller was in Naples, where it was 82 degrees.

He had once been in politics, and while my hands froze, we talked briefly about politics and the weather and a man few remember today, Michael Bilandic. He had been elected mayor of Chicago in 1977, after the legendary first Mayor Daley dropped dead.

He was at first very popular, and his political future seemed assured. But exactly 35 years ago this month, Chicago was hit by a record blizzard. Think what we’ve got is bad?

Chicago was hit with more than 20 inches in less than two days, and the city wasn’t up for the challenge. Snow wasn’t cleared, people couldn’t get to work, and the mayor couldn’t keep his promises to clear parking lots and keep the airports open. Unfortunately for him, he had to face an election that spring, and with the weather disaster as the main issue, he lost.

I thought of him because Gov. Rick Snyder also mishandled a weather situation last month, when hundreds of thousands of people lost power, light and heat. The governor was nowhere to be seen.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Heavy snow is blanketing parts of Michigan that just recovered from an ice storm two weeks ago.

Hundreds of thousands of utility customers spent days, in some cases nearly two weeks, without electricity.

“At this point we’re monitoring, and ready to respond, depending on what weather may come,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers Energy spokesman.

Statewide, utility officials are closely watching to see if weather conditions may threaten to undo the repair work done over the past few weeks.

There was a lot of attention yesterday to the fact that when tens of thousands of Lansing-area customers lost power for days at Christmas, the head of the capitol city’s utility got going.

To New York City, on vacation. Yesterday, J. Peter Lark, the president of the Lansing Board of Water and Light, finally apologized for leaving when his customers were freezing.

Lark, whose compensation is more than $300,000 a year, said “There are times when we are called upon as leaders to make personal sacrifices in the line of duty,“ and then admitted he didn’t do that. He said. “I humbly and sincerely apologize.” Did he offer to resign?  No, no, no.

Does he think his utility needs more oversight? Why, of course not!  However, he said he might have some “community forums” to get consumer input about this. And he added, “I am prepared to ask the commission for a rate increase,“ evidently so the suffering people can pay even more for lousy service. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of Lansing’s public utility says he won’t resign in the wake of a major ice storm that left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark over the holidays. J. Peter Lark, the general manager of Lansing Board of Water and Light issued this statement Thursday.

As has been reported by some media outlets, I with my wife, traveled to New York to visit my son last week.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing’s public utility says it has restored power to its entire service area. But on the utility’s facebook and twitter feeds, there are more than a dozen people claiming they still don’t have power.

A week and a half after a massive ice storm wiped out power to almost half Lansing’s customers, the public utility claims it has finally restored power to all but some single customers and possibly pockets of streets.

Consumer's Energy

About 150 thousand Michigan utility customers have spent another cold day waiting for their electricity to be restored.    

Sunday’s ice storm left almost a half million Michigan homes and businesses without electricity. 

As of midday, approximately 125,000 Consumer’s Energy customers were still without electricity.  About 20,000 DTE Energy customers and 7,000 Lansing Board of Water & Light customers were still in the dark as well.

Debra Dodd is a Consumer’s Energy spokeswoman.  She says linemen are doing the best job they can in very cold conditions.

Consumer's Energy

About 250,000 Michigan homes and businesses remain without power after a weekend ice storm that blacked out at least 482,000 homes and businesses and may have caused a Delta jetliner with 180 people on board to slide off a taxiway at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The wintry blast hit Saturday night. The utilities say it will be days before most power is restored because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

DTE Energy says 56,000 of its affected 150,000 customers were off line.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It will be Saturday at least before electricity is restored to all the Michigan homes and businesses that lost power in Sunday’s ice storm.

The storm knocked out power to almost a half million Michiganders.  About 300,000 are still waiting for their electricity to be turned back on. 

Brian Wheeler is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says about a third of the nearly 200,000 Consumers Energy customers without electricity are in Flint and Genesee County

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE 8:06pm

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula, knocking out electrical service to at least 382,000 homes and businesses and causing multiple crashes around the state.

The state's largest utilities say it will be days before most of those blacked out get their power back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s first new utility built power plant in 25 years was fired up today in Lansing.

The Reo Town power plant’s natural gas powered turbines whirled to life this morning.

The $182 million plant will generate electricity and steam for Lansing Board of Water and Light customers.   The plant will generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing and will completely replace BWL’s Moores Park Steam Plant.   It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

As expected, the Lansing city council last night failed to muster enough votes to override the mayor’s budget veto.

But Lansing’s budget drama is not over yet.

The Lansing city council needed six votes to reinstate the changes it made to the city budget last month.

But only five council members voted to override Mayor Virg Bernero’s veto.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council is expected to try to override the mayor’s budget vetoes tonight. But the council does not appear to have enough votes to do it.

The Lansing city council made many changes to Mayor Virg Bernero’s spending plan for next year when it passed the budget last month.    A few days later, the mayor vetoed all the council’s changes.    Now it’s the council's chance to respond.  

Six of the council's eight members would need to vote to override the vetoes.   That appears unlikely.   

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero today vetoed all the changes the city council made to his budget plan for next year.

The city council passed a budget on Monday that axed many of the mayor’s spending priorities in order to avoid new streetlight and fire hydrant fees.  The fees would have added up to about 46 dollars a year for the average Lansing Board of Water and Light residential customer. 

Money for road repairs, economic development, city IT services and personnel hiring were among the line items the city council axed from the budget. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing city leaders are weighing a couple of options that could increase the bills of city utility customers.

The mayor is proposing either a flat fee or a surcharge based on a customer’s water or electricity use to pay for Lansing’s fire hydrants and streetlights.  The money raised would help the city fill a projected $5 million hole in next year’s city budget.

In the past, the city paid the utility directly from its general fund for maintaining Lansing’s streetlights and fire hydrants.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor is proposing its municipal utility customers pay more to balance the city’s budget next year.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero outlined his budget plan to the city council last night.   Bernero says the city’s budget problems are not quite as serious as expected.    The mayor says better than expected property tax collections and lower than expected city employee health care costs had cut the project budget deficit in half.

Still, Bernero says the city needs to close about a five million dollar budget gap.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A special committee set up to study the city of Lansing’s financial problems heard from the public last night.

The committee’s preliminary report is due March 1st. The panel is looking at changes to Lansing’s retirement plan and other possible spending cuts.

Several dozen people showed up last night to share their ideas. UAW vice president Stan Shuck doesn’t want any more cuts to city employees and city services.  He wants to see ideas for raising revenue.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero’s State of the City address celebrated recent positive economic news for the capitol city.

But perhaps the biggest applause line in the speech last night involved the future of Lansing’s city-owned utility.

Last year, Mayor Virg Bernero appointed a committee to study ways of solving Lansing’s chronic budget problems.   One option the panel has been looking at is privatizing the Lansing Board of Water and Light.

But Bernero says he wants that idea off the table.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night,  a reluctant Lansing City Council approved a plan to eliminate a nearly two million dollar budget deficit.   Lansing's fiscal year concludes at the end of this week.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Mayor Virg Bernero today vetoed a portion of the city budget plan approved by the Lansing City Council Monday night. 

The city council now has two weeks to see if it can override the veto. 

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing City Council will vote this evening on the city’s budget plan for next year.

The vote may set up a veto fight with Lansing’s mayor.

Back in March, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero told the city council how he thought the city should try to deal with a projected $4.7 million budget deficit next year. 

Tonight, it’s the city council’s turn.

(BWL)

The Lansing Board of Water & Light has gotten a key state permit clearing the way for construction of a new $182 million cogeneration power plant

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment granted the permit.   

A Lansing BW&L spokesman says the utility will now move to issuing bonds to pay for the project. The utility hopes to begin operating the new power plant in 2013.

The power plant will rely on natural gas to produce electricity. Lansing utility officials say it will eventually replace an aging coal-fired power plant.

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