Despite Flint, many water systems not open about lead pipes

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis has drawn international headlines, but some states and their water systems appear to be slow in learning the importance of keeping the public informed about similar risks. Most of the country’s 100 largest water systems have failed to follow an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendation to publicize where their lead service lines are, according to a new report by the U.S. General Accountability Office. The GAO is a nonpartisan investigatory arm of Congress. The EPA made that recommendation to all states in 2016 after “the crisis in Flint brought increased attention to the country’s challenge of addressing lead in drinking water infrastructure,” GAO said in its report to congressional committees. “Lead service lines present a significant risk of lead contamination in drinking water,” the report said.

Watch Focal Point: Student-made video games going big; what’s up with these new scooters around EL?

On this episode of Focal Point News, we find out who is behind charging those new scooters on campus. Also, say goodbye to the ‘$5 footlong.’ Plus, students get innovative with making their own video games that are catching the eyes of major corporations. A new MSU art lab has expanded to downtown, have you checked it out? In sports, a recap of the game against IU and a look forward to the one against CMU.

Solar power changes cause critics to sizzle

By CASEY HULL
Capital News Service
LANSING — A new order by the Public Service Commission (PSC) will reduce savings for homes deciding to generate electricity from solar energy, according to some lawmakers. And that means less savings and reduced incentives for anyone hoping to save money by adding solar panels to their home. The solar power community is upset by the change and some legislators are attempting to reverse the effect of the ruling. Under the order, utility companies will have to pay solar households only the wholesale cost for the energy they produce. Utilities must pay a household or small business for putting energy into their grid.

Electric cars fighting for fuel in Michigan

By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan’s automotive future is looking more electric. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, the state’s two largest utility companies, have announced pilot programs in the coming year that will study the number and efficiency of charging stations and consider improvements to promote the adoption of electric vehicles. The Public Service Commission has held two conferences  on “alternative fuel” vehicles to encourage public discussion of the state’s role in electric vehicle charging, said Nick Assendelft, the media relations and public information specialist for the commission. Participants raised questions about the regulatory framework, such as whether users would pay directly for charging stations or through utility companies, Assendelft said. Pilot programs discussed included initiatives by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to partner with automakers and charging station companies in places like Ann Arbor and Detroit, Assendelft said.

Plan to coordinate roadwork expected soon

By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service
LANSING — A pilot program looking for better ways to coordinate the repair, maintenance and replacement of Michigan’s roads and other infrastructure is finishing its recommendations this month. The recommendations will address ways to implement the program statewide, improving efficiency and saving money. Under the “integrated asset management” concept, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said the state expects all private and public entities involved in public infrastructure to work together to handle projects more efficiently. For example, Calley said, consider a hypothetical road being repaved in front of the Capitol. Under integrated asset management, all necessary improvements such as water, sewer, cable lines and sidewalks would be coordinated so road is torn up only once.

Pothole claims? Fuhgeddaboutit

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — State agencies rarely reimburse drivers for pothole damages, a fact that rings true for drivers seeking reimbursement from county governments as well. In Gladwin County, all damage requests are handled by a third party, Sedgwick Claims, according to Dave Pettersch, the managing director of the county’s road commission. Any claims paid go against the road commission’s insurance, although the county receives only about one request per year, he said. “Once they leave here, we usually don’t hear back on the results of them,” Pettersch said. “But very few of them are paid out.”
To be eligible for county payouts, the damage must have occurred on a county-maintained road.

Bike sharing finds a place in more Michigan cities

By CRYSTAL CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Some Michigan cities have joined a growing group of communities nationwide  turning to bike share programs.
In 2010 there were only four city-wide systems in the U.S. where residents could rent bicycles. That jumped to 55 systems with 42,000 bikes in 2016, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, an organization of 62 major cities and 10 transit agencies. Even though it is a home to the U.S. auto industry, Michigan is also keeping up with the tide. Detroit, Ann Arbor and Port Huron have launched bike sharing systems. Others are working to make the concept feasible. “Bike sharing is an interesting idea,” said Amy Sasamoto, the Holland Downtown Development Authority coordinator.

Discussion continues on rezoning near the Sanctuary in Okemos

On March 20, the township board discussed the possibility rezoning of the Okemos neighborhood, the Sanctuary, on March 20. Jim Giguere, the owner of the property and of Giguere Homes, would like to rezone the property so that it can handle more homes. Giguere’s goal is to provide more homes close to Okemos High School, while still preserving the wetlands. The wetlands off of Hulett Road is currently a R.R. or rural residential, and Giguere is requesting to change it to a R.A.A. or single family-low density. Currently, Giguere has the right to build seven houses on the land.

Are Michigan roads ready for self-driving cars?

By Gloria Nzeka
Capital News Service
LANSING – If you drive or travel on Michigan roads, you know that they’re not in the best of shape. As discussions about automated vehicles increasingly appear in the news, cars and tech enthusiasts may be wondering: If we can’t build roads without potholes, how do we build them for automated cars? Or: Are Michigan roads ready to accommodate self-driving cars? “On one level, yes, the roads are ready because those vehicles will have to work on the roads that we have,” said Richard Wallace, director of the Transportation Systems Analysis group within the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “The driver has to be capable,” Wallace said, referring to the computer system that will pilot automated cars through artificial intelligence, or AI.

Election season might delay any road-funding fixes

By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan’s crumbling roads — long the subject of jests, memes and most of all, pain — are now voters’ highest priority. And the future of the issue might depend on which candidates they choose in 2018. According to a Marketing Resource Group poll released March 27, 49 percent of voters said Michigan’s roads were one of up to two issues they’re most concerned about. Education beat out jobs and the economy for second place. The poll states this is the first time in more than a decade that the economy was not voters’ No.