FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
The locally-owned utility company recommends appointing Varnum as its legal counsel
GRAND HAVEN, MICH., Aug. 3, 2022 – The Grand Haven Board of Light & Power (BLP) Board of Directors met on Aug. 3 to adopt a resolution that supports a proactive and cohesive plan with the Grand Haven City Council to deliver quality service for all BLP customers, while working to finalize solutions for the environmental clean-up efforts at the former Sims Power Plant site on Harbor Island.
During the meeting, the BLP Board approved 4-1 the reinstatement of Varnum as “special legal counsel” to serve as the utility’s attorney. The resolution also includes developing a written agreement between the BLP Board and City Council regarding the former Sims Power Plant site remediation and redevelopment effort and developing an agreement between the two boards to address the allowable use of electric revenue bond proceeds and reserve funds.
“In order for the BLP and City Council to effectively act in good faith and be stewards in our community, it is imperative that both sides come together to communicate and work in unity,” said Board Chairman Larry Kieft. “Our BLP Board and executive team are committed to working with City Council to ensure due diligence among the Tri-Cities residents and businesses we serve.”
Varnum previously served as BLP’s special legal counsel for over 25 years until earlier this year when Grand Haven City Council imposed the sole use of its city attorney for all BLP legal issues.
“The Board does not believe the City Attorney representing both parties in the development of such an agreement regarding the future of the Sims site will be effective in mediating and facilitating this discussion,” said Mike Westbrook, Board Vice Chairman. “It is important that the Board of Light & Power have special legal representation, as we have in the past, for the electric utility issues we face. Varnum is no doubt a trusted leader in environmental and energy law practices and has an expert legal team of attorneys with demonstrated specialized skills that have and will continue to not only benefit the City and BLP but also act in the best interest of BLP customers and the Tri-Cities community as a whole. The Board is confident that having the City Attorney work closely with our utility attorneys will serve the community well as it has for many years.”
Board members agreed there needs to be a unified understanding of the city charter and that the Board and City Council should develop clarification of the roles, responsibilities, and obligations of the BLP Board and City Council relating to the Sims Power Plant site remediation and redevelopment efforts.
“It is important that we get the remediation and redevelopment of the Sims Power Plant site done right,” said Board Member Gerald Witherell. “The Board of Light & Power and City Council need to come together and create a joint obligation and collaboration to maintain a best practices approach for municipal electric utility management.”
The final item of the resolution included working with the City Council to jointly determine the allowable use of electric revenue bonds and electric utility reserve funds. Board members agreed that an outline creating principles that determine how funds are dispersed among BLP portions of the project, and how the BLP will provide the needed spending approval once the funding is allocated between the BLP Board and City Council is necessary.
“These electric utility funds are the sole responsibility of the BLP Board and must be maintained in a bank account separate from other city funds,” said Board Member Todd Crum. “Limited dedicated and allocated existing funds are set aside for defined electric utility purposes.”
“Our 14,700 customers entrust us to provide leading utility services for the area through the most effective and efficient municipal government practices,” said Kieft. “By adopting this resolution, we are heading in the right direction to promote and facilitate productive dialog between the Board and City Council to reach a mutual agreement regarding a reasonable allocation of funds for the necessary environmental remediation of the former Sims power plant site.”