Street Light Audit Begins on Tuesday in Fort Stockton

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

FORT STOCKTON- The street lights in Fort Stockton may turn into a windfall of sorts for the city, after TriStem Ltd., a firm hired by the city to find billing irregularities claimed to have found data showing how the Texas New Mexico Power Company (TMNP) overcharged the city for years. An auditor with the Texas New Mexico Power company will begin a voluntary audit of Fort Stockton's street lights on Tuesday.

Cathy Garber, spokesperson for PNM Resources said the company was not aware of the billing concerns until April 2009 at a city council meeting. Garber says the audit is expected to last for ten days.

"We don't want to accuse anybody of anything but we just know that some of our invoices have been over billed," City Manager Rafael Castillo, Jr., said.

According to the April 29th city council minutes, Joe Seeber with TriStem Ltd. presented the over billing issues to the council. Mayor Ruben Falcon says the company will be paid a percentage of the money paid back by TNMP.

"We didn't win free money, it was ours to start with, but it was being spent where it shouldn't have been." Mayor Falcon said the street lights are not metered and the city trusts the company to charge the proper amount.

City officials say they did not catch the issues because they don't have anyone on staff dedicated to reviewing bills.

"There is plenty of data and I would say we have a little Gold mine." Castillo said the city has records going back a little more than a decade, but they plan to look back even further. "I am sure if they have in typographical or clerical errors, I am sure they will address them."