FLORENCE — Pinal County Supervisor Mike Goodman said county officials need more authority to respond to utility problems in his district and made a direct plea to Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson to relinquish control of his company.

Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, spoke directly to Johnson “because this county has been good to you, in your own words, I’m asking you to consider turning this particular utility company over to the people, over to the citizens. That’s what I’m asking you to do. Thank you.”

Johnson wasn’t present at the May 27 supervisors meeting. On the agenda was whether the board wished to send a letter to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality supporting its authority to determine the critical issues to be addressed, or send a letter supporting Johnson Utilities’ proposed improvements to the troubled Section 11 wastewater plant at Magic Ranch near Florence.

Goodman said he didn’t wish to send either letter, and his fellow supervisors agreed. Goodman said people are looking for support, and their pleas are “falling on deaf ears” at both the ADEQ and the Arizona Corporation Commission.

“We find ourselves here in the Pinal County area, in a pretty bad situation, and we have for some time,” Goodman said. “Just ask the citizens. Ask the developers. The growth of our area has been stifled a lot in the last several years. We’ve had problems with the sewer coming up in our neighborhoods. The water supply has not been sufficient. They haven’t been able to support water supplies in the summer in some of our locations.”

But since then, interim operator EPCOR has improved water quality, and Goodman said he’s confident no one will run out of water this summer. He said the town of Queen Creek has also offered ideas “that would ease some of the burden on this failing system.”

He said the people are looking to county officials for leadership. He said he and Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, have been working with county staff on proposed legislation “that allows this county to be in a better position to take hold of a situation like this and be able to move forward, especially when there’s a bad-faith player involved.”

“We need the state to give us more control here locally,” Goodman continued. “This is a plea to our state legislators to really take a look at this situation and come and help us. Give us the power, because I’m tired of us not being able to do anything in this particular situation, and we’re not alone in this. There are other communities that are having similar problems.”

Goodman asked Johnson to “quit fighting this, assume some responsibility here, and begin the mending process for our community, for you and your family, of doing the right thing for this community.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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