FULL STORY: City Council Lays Blame for Power/Water Crisis
POSTED: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 6:14pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 1:21pm
EL PASO - The recent deep freeze put utilities on the hot seat at Tuesday's El Paso city council meeting.
With main utilities failing to provide services that El Pasoans pay for, city leaders say 'Shame on you.' They want to make sure the expense of buying power and gushing water doesn't fall on rate payers.
"Theres no doubt, Ms. Wilson, that weather is an act of god, decisions are not," said representative Steve Ortega after city manager Joyce Wilson told the council she does not know if El Paso Electric will be held liable for damages to the city because the freeze was "an act of God."
"I would ask that you refrain from using that statement because it could have been better prepared," said representative Eddie Holguin. He and several other council members called the utilities' performances unacceptable.
"We had probably greater communication difficulties initially with the water utility which is a city agency, and it took us kind of a long time to get in the queue," Wilson said of communication among the entities. She says there will be several investigations into how the crisis was handled, and not just at the city level. They will also see if the electric company was negligent, and if so she says the city will seek damages.
"At this point we've probably experienced 200-plus-thousand dollars worth of damage and repairs," she said.
Representative Ann Morgan Lilly called the El Paso Electric board of directors insensitive.
"But these people that are on the board of directors, don't even live here they didn't feel the pain," she said.
"We actually have been in constant contact with the board and I assure you they are concerned," said El Paso Electric CEO David Stevens. He said they understand all the anger and are evaluating their own performance.
"We're obviously going to be the party people point to initially because electricity does drive a lot of our society now," Stevens said.
But that's not enough for some people.
"There does have to be consequences to these types of companies," said Holguin.
Wilson says she'll give an update on the investigation within the month. Ortega, meanwhile, has proposed creating an independent body of citizens who would take an arms-length look at how the utilities and the city treated the crisis.