There has been no school in most districts in the El Paso/Las Cruces area the past three days.

The first might be called a snow day. After all, it did snow - maybe an inch in Santa Teresa .. a bit more in Las Cruces.

So maybe the school systems would have shut down. And maybe so would have the major educational institutions - UTEP, NMSU, EPCC and DACC.

But days two and three, frankly, were just due to El Paso Electric Company officials being ill-prepared at best or just plain stupid in the worse case.

The region has been held hostage to this utility company which said it couldn't meet demand. It was a time of the coldest temperatures in decades, you know, and well, we were all caught by surprise.

I guess the folks at EPE don't read the newspaper or pay attention to the television newscasts which predicted the mega-storm and cold temperature for more than a week ahead of its arrival.

But then the real story began to come out. El Paso Electric wasn't generating any electricity locally. The eight generators (four in Sunland Park, N.M.) were idle. EPE was using power from its partially-owned plant in Arizona and then had to purchase electricity on the spot market to try to keep up with all the folks who wanted to stay warm in this single digit temperatures.

So the electric company asked government offices and schools and universities to close down on Thursday and then Friday because they couldn't meet demand. They did twice a day rolling blackouts in two states to save power (and I suppose money).

And then the truth came out. El Paso Electric's local generators weren't working because they were frozen. A spokeswoman said on TV that when one was unfrozen, it refroze before a second generator could be unfrozen. But, no, TV couldn't come in a take pictures of the effort because they were "too busy" working on the problem.

What wasn't said is that EPE's generators are outdoors and it appears the utility doesn't always keep the generators working or on standby and warm just in case. I guess that saves money since they don't need to fire up the boilers and have a crew on hand. Good for the stockholders, I suppose, but in this case bad for the hundreds of thousands who depend upon the company to supply power for heat and light.

The latest from the spokesperson was that the company needs to spend millions of dollars to improve and expand its generating capability (not that they would keep it on standby even if they had it) because the area is growing so fast. If we were growing so fast, one would think the company would have to use the local capacity it already has to keep up with the demand. But remember all local generators were not in use and this storm "surprised" them.

In other words if the plants were operating, we probably wouldn't have had rolling blackouts and El Paso Electric would have met its customers' needs and stockholders might have even been happy since selling more electricity should mean profits for them.

Now the utility wants its customers to pay in advance for their need to expand. In most businesses, stockholders or owners have to invest their own money to grow their business. Not the utilities, however.

We'll all have to pay for the more expensive spot market purchases besides suffering otherwise.

The company won't be reimbursing customers for their lack of ability to supply service.Think what was lost - schools will have to make up days later in the year. Even when not in session, schools have expenses, especially when classes are called off at the last minute.

And will government workers who were told not to show up be paid? Nothing got done but government workers will probably be paid while companies that closed down might not pay their workers. Will the electric company reimburse them?

We expected BP to reimburse business losses for its Gulf oil spill. Why not El Paso Electric.

The local universities had to cancel some athletic contests. What is a basketball game at the college level worth? Will the games be rescheduled? Will the electric company pay for the visiting teams to come back to the area? Will EPE make up for the concession sales lost by the universities at the games? Will they pay for the lost revenue from the local businesses near the universities that depend upon game day sales to help them be profitable?

El Paso Electric will probably point out that other Texas and New Mexico utilities had problems. It seems many of them are now being blamed on problems in Texas with electricity-related problems. And should El Paso Electric get a pass because other companies were also stupid in preparing for a storm that knew, or should have known, was coming?

I think not.

Electricity rates in this area are already among the highest I have ever paid in the areas where I have lived.

Certainly one has a right to expect the electric company to perform professionally before its stockholders are rewarded.

Will someone at the state or local level hold El Paso Electric accountable for its inaction? I doubt it. Government are tied to utilities - they get franchise fees for allowing them to have monopolies. When rates go up, the government's take also goes up and governments need money these days.

And that means hidden tax increases( the fees) and subsidies for businesses (helping EPE expand) will probably continue.

Will the company be ill-prepared for the next emergency? Only time will tell. But the lack of accountability that I expect, leads me to believe the company just might continue its lackluster management style and be unprepared.