City Council Passes BWL Franchise Agreement, Honors Science Festival and Regulates Air Conditioners

Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 8:10 am
By: 
Jessy Gregg

Above: visitors enter MSU's Chemistry building during a previous Science Festival. Photo courtesy of MSU.

At last night’s meeting, East Lansing City Council passed a Special Resolution proclaiming April to be “Science Month” in the City, and honoring the MSU Science Festival for five years of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

Renee Leone, founder of the Science Festival spoke about her transformative experience attending a similar event, and how she wanted to bring that experience to East Lansing. According to Leone, the Festival attracts over 20,000 visitors annually, from 140 communities. Festival coordinators have worked with local business owners to move some of the Science Festival programing off the MSU campus and into local businesses such as cafés and breweries.

The Festival is free, open to the public and runs from April 7th through April 23rd, more information can be found on their website.

In addition to the Special Resolution there were three items on the agenda for Public Hearing. The first two items dealt with franchise agreements between utility companies and the City of East Lansing.

One hearing focused on a revision to Ordinance No. 1405 amending the existing franchise with Consumer’s Energy to define the service area in which it applies. The second item was the consideration of Ordinance No. 1406, granting Lansing Board of Water and Light franchise rights within a defined service area. These franchise agreements allow both utility companies the right to construct and maintain equipment such as poles and powerlines within their defined service areas, including the trimming of trees in the right of way. As we reported previously, the BWL agreement also includes a franchise fee which will add approximately 5% to the monthly bills of the utility’s East Lansing customers.

Both companies have already been serving customers in the area, and their service areas will not change because of the adoption of these ordinances. Mayor Meadows indicated that Council had received one communication in opposition to the franchise agreement, specifically in regards to the franchise fee associated with the BWL agreement, but there was no additional public comment on either item and both were unanimously approved by Council.

For the final Public Hearing item, Council considered an amendment to City noise provisions directed at loud air conditioners. This issue was discussed by Council in November of 2016, and again last February.

Before ratifying the new provision, which would prevent air conditioners from operating above 60 decibels in R1, R2, and R3 residential districts, Councilmember Erik Altman proposed an amendment which would create a quieter 55 decibel requirement after 10pm. He said he felt that this would offer owners who were financially unable to replace their noisy units the option of cooling during the day and then turning the units off at night.

Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier remarked that many of the ordinances they reviewed in other municipalities also had quieter dba ratings overnight. The resolution was unanimously adopted, including the amendment offered by Councilmember Altman. Following the vote, Meadows remarked that he was “concerned with the enforcement” of the ordinance and that he hoped the City would be mindful of the fact that people have been operating their air handling systems for a long time, and that they are expensive to replace.