EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It was a lengthy and passionate discussion Tuesday at City Hall over the proposed municipalization of El Paso Electric by the City of El Paso.
Dozens of community members made their voices heard at Tuesday’s City Council meeting for more than two hours and demanded more research to be done when it comes to the City trying to take over a major utility.
“We heard from many young people interested in the environment and protecting it, I think we can all agree that those are common values the utility holds. Transparency, accountability, investing and growing our employees,” Eddie Gutierrez, Spokesperson for El Paso Electric said.
Many asked the City to conduct a feasibility study which is an in-depth analysis of the proposal.
Those in favor of the idea feel it would lead to more local control over how much El Paso Electric customers pay.
However, during the meeting, City Staff estimated a projection of a $169 million shortfall for the fiscal year 2020 if the City were to take over the utility. Staff said one way to pay for that would be to increase rates for customers.
One resident who works with an El Paso Electric Union said this is an example of why the City should leave things as they are, “El Paso Electric has a strong employer for the city. El Paso Electric and the electrical workers have been together for 75 or more years, and we have a voice,” Felipe Salazar, Lab Technician with IBEW said, “So believe me if I thought that it was good for the city to take us over, I would’ve been for it. Right now, it’s just not.”
Another community member said his biggest concern is why hasn’t the City already agreed on gathering more information and research to essentially serve to El Paso, “I’m wanting to know why the City of El Paso is not wanting to at least progress with a feasibility study when they can see the potential for the amount of revenue to be garnered at least towards complying towards services our community needs,” Nicholas Anthony Vasquez told KTSM.
As we’ve reported, El Paso Electric is currently in the process of being sold to an investment group tied to JP Morgan.
The majority of those who spoke at the meeting voiced concerns about that sale as well.
Council was in executive session for over two hours discussing the matter and approved to file a formal request to the Public Utility Commission for a 30-day extension to consider its application with the group tied to JP Morgan. The original deadline is February 9, 2020.