DEMING, N.M. (KRQE) – People in Deming have been shocked and outraged by skyrocketing utility bills. The problem has gotten so bad, the state auditor is now getting involved.

Even after the city of Deming told residents they made a one-year agreement with their gas supplier, a Deming resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, is still worried about utility bills. “The whole town, even the businesses are like, ‘what are we going to do,'” said one concerned Deming resident. “When the year’s up, they will have to go back and re-negotiate…we’ll see what happens then,” the resident said.

Symmetry Energy Solutions set a deal for a fixed rate of 61 cents per unit after customers saw prices more than six times that in January. Last month, the city also announced a more than $1 million relief program to help pay as many as two-thirds of their customers’ bills.

Additionally, the city of Deming announced in November they would audit their utility system after a whistleblower made allegations of overbilling. “However, fast forward to February 11 – we received a letter from the city basically suggesting that they do a lesser effort that falls short of a special audit,” said New Mexico State Auditor Joseph Maestas.

Maestas said he was waiting for a copy of the audit, but after more complaints from the public and pressure from lawmakers, he decided to investigate the bills himself. The state auditor opened a special audit on Feb. 15. Depending on what his office finds, the case could be referred to the attorney general, law enforcement, or the area’s district attorney.

Maestas added, “It’s not easy managing a city government. We want to work with the city of Deming to ensure that they’re operating – in this case, their public utilities – in an accountable and transparent matter. That way their citizens are comfortable.”

Maestas mentioned that his office is meeting with the mayor of Deming on Wednesday, Feb. 22 to talk about the city’s role in completing the audit. The audit will look into how the city bill for all of its utilities, not just natural gas.

The city of Demming sent a statement to KRQE saying, “The City of Deming received a letter from the office of the state auditor on February 15, 2023. In the letter it states, the OSA will contact the city within one week of this letter to set a meeting to further discuss the scope of the special audit. At this time, there is no other information to provide regarding the audit.”