CASA GRANDE — Pinal County Supervisor Steve Miller still wants to help the Casa Grande and Pinal County community.
“I really get a lot of gratification out of helping people,” he said. “The door to this office is always open.”
Miller spoke with PinalCast earlier this month. He served as a Casa Grande City Council member for 10.5 years and as the representative for District 3 to the Pinal County Board of Supervisors for the last seven years. He’s running unopposed for another four years on the board, although there is a Democratic write-in candidate. He hopes voters allow him to finish some of the projects that he’s been working on for the last few years.
One main project Miller has been working on for several years, but more intensely in the last year, is the issue surrounding the use and sourcing of water in the county. He is chair of the Pinal AMA Stakeholders Group. The group was formed after an investigation into the groundwater supply in Pinal County by an ad-hoc Arizona House of Representatives subcommittee called by Rep. David Cook.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources recently updated its groundwater model for the Pinal Active Management Area and believes that there may not be enough groundwater left to meet the needs of future development. Miller recently was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to the Pinal AMA’s Groundwater Users Advisory Council.
The Pinal AMA covers only a portion of the county but governs how and how much groundwater can be used within its boundaries.
Miller said the Stakeholders Group is working on a number of solutions, one of which was a bill that was proposed in the Arizona House during the last legislative session that made it to the Arizona Senate but died after the Legislature abruptly adjourned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill would have allowed developers who already have a certificate of assured water supply to make adjustments to the project that the certificate is attached to, as long as the amount of water used by the project remained the same or uses less water than the originally planned project.
Miller believes the bill would have been passed by the Senate and signed by the governor if the Legislature hadn’t had to shut down early. However, the idea behind the bill isn’t dead. Miller said the Stakeholders Group is working with ADWR to change the department’s rules to incorporate the ideas behind the bill. The rule change process will take longer than getting a bill approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, but Miller is confident that the changes will happen because ADWR is onboard with the idea.
Miller believes it will be a long-term process with many parts to fix the water situation in Pinal County.
“It’s going to take a number of initiatives to fix the water problem. It’s not going to be fixed with any one item,” he said.
He believes one of those solutions may require the county to find a way to bring more water into the area.
Miller also said he’d like to see the county’s first community facilities district completed. Community facilities districts are frequently used in the West Valley, he said. The city of Casa Grande has several of them; the Villago development is an example, he said.
The districts allow a developer, with approval of the local government, to overlay a property taxing district on a new project, Miller said. When a developer installs the infrastructure for the new development, it is repaid by the city or county. The city or county issues bonds to bring in the revenue to reimburse the developer. The local government uses the revenue from the taxing district over the development to repay the bonds.
Miller is also excited about the prospect of new economic development projects, like Lucid and Nikola, that are starting to build in the county. Those projects will bring in additional businesses that will supply parts and other needed items to manufacture the cars and trucks that Lucid and Nikola plan to build and contribute to the diversity of the economy in the county, he said.
That diversity allows cities like Casa Grande to continue to thrive and grow, Miller said. And protects the community from job losses, if one industry should close.
“I can relate to the guy at the kitchen table trying to pay the bills,” he said. “I’m all about trying to keep them working and keeping an environment that they can raise their family in.”