COUNTY COMMISSION ON RECORD TO PROTECT REGIONAL RATEPAYERS FROM LAS CRUCES ACTIONS

COUNTY COMMISSION ON RECORD TO PROTECT REGIONAL RATEPAYERS FROM LAS CRUCES ACTIONS

Citing concerns for the regions electric ratepayers, the Dona Ana County Commission today issued a statement opposing the efforts of the City of Las Cruces to condemn El Paso Electric Company's distribution system within the Las Cruces city limits for purpose of establishing a municipal utility.

District 1 Commissioner John Tony Schaefer spoke for the board of commissioners in praising a recent rate-settlement agreement with El Paso Electric that substantially lowers electric rates for all regional users, including Las Cruces residents.

The statement made clear the commissions fears that successful condemnation by the City of Las Cruces would open issues of impairment that are of real concern, including questions of reliability, service continuity and rates for users outside the city but within the
region.

It has been a long time, the statement read, since we have seen so much regional support and cooperation for such an effort in a rate settlement that benefits all citizens. It is critical that we do whatever is necessary to gain approval of this agreement so that the negotiated lower rates can go into effect Oct. 1, 1998. This settlement and the lower electric rates it carries represent a win-win situation, in which all residents of the region benefit, including residents of Las Cruces.

The commission warned that if the city persists in its condemnation actions, other residents outside the city may well be deprived of affordable rates and reliable service. Further, it warned that continued litigation by the city toward condemnation only runs up costs that the city=s ratepayers ultimately must absorb.

Further delay, the statement read, will only result in greater division of our community. And so we go on record, in the interests of all, to oppose the efforts of the City of Las Cruces to break from our regional community, severing service with El Paso Electric. We seek assurances regarding the potential negative impacts of condemnation on rates, reliability and service for residents throughout the region.

In reading the statement, Schaefer said he has received written and/or verbal support for the rate-settlement agreement from several regional entities and organizations, including the Town of Mesilla, the Otero County Commission, the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, the Colonias Development Council, the Las Cruces Homebuilders Association, Clinica de Familia and Ben Archer Health Clinic.