The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday supporting legislation pending in the New Mexico Legislature that would validate existing agreements with utilities such as El Paso Electric Company. A similar resolution is under consideration today by the Otero County Board of Commissioners.

Doña Ana County Commission Chairman Oscar Vásquez Butler said passage of the legislation is necessary to protect and preserve a significant revenue stream for the uninterrupted provision of services throughout Doña Ana County.

“We strongly support House Bill 269 and its identical companion, Senate Bill 256,” Butler said. “We are hopeful this legislation will move quickly to the desk of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for his signature. At risk is almost $1.2 million, the loss of which would adversely impact Doña Ana County’s budget, which already has been approved by the state’s Department of Finance and Administration. Without this funding, Doña Ana County will have to immediately scale back road maintenance and other vital services.”

The companion bills – sponsored by Rep. Joni Gutierrez and Sen. Steve Fischmann, respectively – will allow Doña Ana County to continue to collect fees from El Paso Electric Company for access to county rights of way. The utility routinely uses the rights of way to maintain its infrastructure, and Doña Ana County uses the resulting revenue to support service provision throughout the county’s unincorporated areas.

The long-standing agreements through which the fee revenue was collected and distributed were ruled invalid last week in a surprise move by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. The proposed legislation would revalidate those contracts. The legislation also would protect funds distributed annually to the City of Las Cruces, the City of Sunland Park, the Town of Mesilla and the Village of Hatch.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (575) 525-5801.