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City says ‘NO’ to dissolving BLP

Election results by Matt DeYoung, Grand Haven Tribune –

A proposed change to the Grand Haven City Charter that would have dissolved the Board of Light & Power was handily dismissed by voters Tuesday.

More than 70 percent of voters opposed the proposal, with the final tally at 2,796 no votes (70.3%) to 1,184 yes votes (29.7%).

The charter change was proposed by the Board of Light & Power Charter Change Coalition (BLPCCC), which announced its goals to Grand Haven’s City Council in mid-April. The charter amendment aimed to dissolve the BLP and create a new city department — to be called the Department of Energy Services – that would answer directly to the City Council through the city manager.

“We are grateful to the community for supporting and sustaining their elected Board of Light & Power to oversee the operation of our award-winning utility,” said Michael Westbrook, chairman of the BLP’s Board of Directors, in an email to the Tribune. “For over 60 years, our community has run the utility in this manner, and it has yielded a reliable, affordable, and sustainable operation backed with excellent service and a strong relationship with our customers.

“It’s unfortunate that the BLP was targeted as a scapegoat and politicized,” he added, “but the community clearly saw through it and voiced their support loudly (over 70%). Our customers have told us they want to keep politics out of their BLP and we couldn’t agree more. Now, we are eager and thankful to turn the BLP’s attention back to the issues that matter most. First is the continued operation of a reliable, trusted, and future-focused electrical utility. Second, is returning to the positive relationship with City Council that existed under Mayor (Bob) Monetza’s previous tenure.”

Monetza, who defeated Andrea Hendrick on Tuesday to become Grand Haven’s mayor, said he was appreciative voters turned down the proposal.

“Seventy percent (voted) no, which I thought was a good sign,” Monetza said Tuesday night. “I think people understand even with the flaws and problems that have gone on the last couple of years, the BLP is still a sound organization. Any problems, we can work through. That’ll be one of the first orders of business, to start repairing relationships.”

Field Reichardt, one of the driving forces behind the BLPCCC, said he was disappointed by the results, and somewhat surprised by the margin at which the proposal failed.

“We did the best we could with the money we had, but when you have a well-heeled campaign with a really competent PR firm, it’s pretty hard to counter that,” Reichardt said. “I think we were surprised at the result — the percentage — because we had so many people out working. Just this week, we had about 15 people out doing door-to-door stuff.

“Voters vote, you win and you lose, and in this particular case we came in a distant second,” he added. “That’s the voters speaking, and I respect that. I always have.”

BLP Board of Directors

Mike Welling and Kurt Knoth were elected to the BLP’s Board of Directors.

Welling, who retired from the BLP in 2020 after working at the utility for 36 years, was the leading vote-getter with 2,051 (31.9%).

Knoth was appointed to the BLP board in 2022 to finish out the final year of former board Chairperson Larry Kieft’s term. He was elected to continue serving on the board Tuesday, receiving 1,538 votes (23.9%).

John David Groothuis (1,490 votes, 23.1%) and John A. Kinch (1,359 votes, 21.1%) both came up just short.

Link to original Grand Haven Tribune Article posted on November 7, 2023


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