Public Works

BWL Asserts Legal Right to Trim

Monday, October 6, 2014

Does BWL have the right to come onto privately-owned property and trim or remove trees without the owner’s permission in the absence of a written legal easement? The BWL Director of Communications is suggesting the answer is “yes,” but an MSU property rights legal expert says the details would be complicated.

I asked Steve Serkiain, BWL’s Director of Communications, to answer three questions, on the record:

Bailey Residents Concerned that Community Center on List for Sale

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In an effort to push development within city limits, City of East Lansing Planning staff have produced a recommended list of “redevelopment ready” properties. This is essentially a list meant to attract potential developers, and although Bailey neighborhood residents thought the Bailey Community Center had come off the redevelopment-ready list at their request, according to a recent disclosure by City Planning staff, the Bailey Community Center is back on the draft list.

New Yard Sign Campaign Questions BWL’s Right to Cut

Friday, September 26, 2014

East Lansing residents are seeing fewer tree trimming crews out working for Lansing’s Board of Water and Light (BWL), the major provider of electricity to East Lansing. But tensions remain very high between BWL and homeowners. Some homeowners who have already experienced damage to their properties from trimmer crews are being offered compensation by BWL. Others, worried about future damage, have joined a new yard sign campaign.

BWL Changes Approach to East Lansing

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Apparently in response to numerous complaints by East Lansing homeowners, the Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) has decided to change its approach to tree-cutting along its wires in East Lansing's Glencairn, Chesterfield Hills, and Oakwood neighborhoods. BWL is the electric utility provider to these neighborhoods.

East Lansing Voters to Decide whether to Allow City to Sell Land for Park District Redevelopment

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Map highliting the parking lots on the ballot initiative

On August 6, the City Council voted to put a question on the November 4 ballot asking the electorate to authorize the City to sell three parking lots needed for redevelopment of the west end of downtown leading down to Valley Court Park, an area being called “the Park District.”

This authorization will only pass if 60% of the voters vote for it; the City Charter requires that a super-majority of voters approve sale of public properties of this value. 



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The "Committee of the Whole" of the Board of Water and Light (BWL) met tonight and decided against conducting any discussion with old-growth East Lansing neighborhood associations about their concerns regarding the extent and type of cutting being done by Wright Tree Service, the contractor for BWL. As a consequence, trimming and removal of trees will resume first thing tomorrow morning.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014
BWL Tree Cutting in East Lansing

On Monday, August 18, representatives from the Board of Water and Light (BWL) met with members of East Lansing’s Oakwood and Glencairn neighborhoods at Hannah Community Center to discuss community concerns over BWL’s tree trimming and tree removal program in old-growth neighborhoods. At the meeting, Dennis Louney, First Ward Commissioner of BWL, assured those in attendance that BWL would not be doing further cutting until a better system has been established. Residents specifically asked for a compromise to save as many trees as possible.

Sunset Lane Traffic Study: A Work in Progress

Monday, November 26, 2012

Residents of Sunset Lane between Clarendon and Marshall streets have been working with Todd Sneathen, the City’s Director of Public Works, and his staff, to address neighborhood concerns about cut-through traffic, speeding, and safety. Concerns regarding Sunset Lane traffic were first expressed during the public comment period at a Transportation Commission meeting in Summer 2011 and further analyzed and discussed in subsequent meetings with Mr. Sneathen in 2011 and 2012.

One set of Sunset Lane traffic count and speed data has already been gathered, and additional traffic monitoring on Sunset Lane is expected to start soon. A comparative set of data will also be gathered for Northlawn Avenue between Abbot and Harrison roads. Results will be evaluated, in part, by applying the guidelines developed by the Transportation Commission titled “Action Plan for Addressing Neighborhood Speeding & Non-Resident Traffic Issues.” Once the data are analyzed, an update and announcement of a meeting date with City staff will be provided in the near future.

Holiday Light Recycling and LED Exchange

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The City of East Lansing is now offering residents opportunities to recycle holiday lights and also to exchange less efficient light sets for environmentally-friendly LED sets.

Retaining Wall Reconstruction Reveals: Engineering Department Negotiating Legal Agreements

Monday, October 22, 2012

PLEASE NOTE: This article was published when East Lansing Info was a non-incorporated web-based entity, without a board, witout voted-on standards, etc. As a consequence, the article may not reflect the standards adopted by ELi's board after we incorporated in 2014. We are leaving it accessible and in its original state for transparency purposes. To learn more about ELi's current standards, board, etc., click here.

ELi's questions about the Abbot Road retaining wall reconstruction seem to have revealed a surprising aspect of city management: according to the Director of Public Works, the Engineering Department is in the practice of negotiating legal agreements on behalf of the citizenry.

The project at issue involved reconstruction of a crumbling retaining wall running along Abbot Road from Fern Street south, almost to Oakhill Avenue. The project required granting of four easements from the private property owners along the stretch. Three of the agreements were signed by a fraternity. The last involved the northern most property, owned by a company called Woodland Pass Equity Company.

As previously reported in ELi, in presenting the easement agreements to City Council, City Attorney Tom Yeadon does not appear to have disclosed that he is part-owner of Woodland Pass Equity Company.

Now a careful comparison of the easement agreements has revealed that there are at least five differences between the agreements the frat signed and the agreement with Yeadon's company. This would seem to suggest that some legal negotiation occurred in this matter. Who, then, was the City's attorney in those negotiations, negotiations which, at least in the case of the frat, included an important indemnification clause (i.e., a clause that determines weighting of liability risk)?

MDOT Talks to EL Residents about Upcoming Construction

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

There is an informational meeting being held by MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) today at the Hannah Community Center from 4-7pm. This will be an open house format meeting where people can ask questions and get information regarding the construction on Michigan and Grand River next summer. (The construction will span from approximitely the 496 interchange to Park Lake and will include some substantial, albiet short-lived, closures on Grand River in front of campus). Everyone is invited to attend.

The university is planning some pretty substantial road work of its own next summer as well. On that see this website.

City Reports Plan for Addressng Sidewalk Construction Weeds

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A week ago, we reported that many East Lansing residents were upset with the weeds that had beset their parkways and lawn borders following sidewalk reconstruction by Sandborn Construction, the company with which the City had contracted. Today East Lansing residents received a letter from the City indicating that "the contractor has submitted a plan of action fo rthe areas that were disturbed".

Weedy Problem from Sidewalk Reconstruction

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The City’s summer sidewalk reconstruction program has left some residents with a bloom of unwanted weeds and a good deal of frustration. In many locales, sidewalk reconstruction necessitated replanting of lawn borders and parkways. The contractor, Sandborn Construction, appears to have used a seed mix or a topsoil that was high on weed seed. In some replanted areas, ragweed as tall as three feet high has emerged. There is also significant amounts of jumbo-sized crabgrass showing in many replanted areas.

In response to complaints, the City of East Lansing sent a letter in early July to affected residents indicating that the City has “contacted Sandborn Construction to review the restoration areas and give the City a plan of action to correct some of the areas.” (See the letter here.) The City told property owners that "Residents can ensure strong grass growth, while keeping weeds to a minimum, by periodically watering these areas to keep the ground moist. Although the contractor is responsible for the restored areas, we have found that those residents who supplement the contractor's efforts by watering every couple days experience much better grass growth with significantly fewer weeds."

ELi has since contacted the City for more information. Our questions, sent on August 24 to Lori Baetz, were answered on August 30 by Todd Sneathen, Director of Public Works (who has also previously provided useful information about parkways).