FLORENCE — The Pinal County Board of Supervisors stopped short of recommending that the towns of Florence and Queen Creek be appointed to manage Johnson Utilities and opted instead for a resolution in support of the Arizona Corporation Commission assigning a third-party manager.
The resolution passed in a special meeting Monday morning over the “no” votes of Supervisors Mike Goodman and Anthony Smith, who commented that the board had already taken this action.
“So we’re just basically supporting the work of the ACC,” Smith said.
Goodman agreed, saying “this does nothing more than what we’ve already done.”
Supervisors Chairman Todd House said the original resolution on Monday’s agenda “puts the cart before the horse” by advocating Florence and Queen Creek to be the managers before the ACC has even determined there should be a third-party manager.
After much discussion, testimony from the public and a break for legal advice behind closed doors, Goodman made a motion to recommend a third-party manager for the utility without specifically recommending Florence and Queen Creek fill that role. Supervisors Steve Miller and Pete Rios asked for further amendments that clarified the resolution applied only if the ACC determined a third-party manager should be appointed.
Although most of Florence is served by Florence town utilities, residents who live in Anthem at Merrill Ranch have Johnson Utilities. Benjamin Bitter, assistant to the Florence town manager, told the supervisors Monday that Florence hears complaints about Johnson Utilities and pleas for help from both residents and nonresidents, and the town wants to be “a positive influence” toward solving the problem.
“We’re certainly willing to participate in the process, whatever that may look like,” Bitter told the supervisors.
Smith asked Bitter if the Florence Town Council had formally directed town staff in this matter. Bitter replied the council had passed a resolution to intervene before the ACC, and there had been further executive session discussions but no other formal action.
Smith commented he was surprised there had been no council action “to approve such a significant role.” Smith asked if a Queen Creek representative was also present but received no response.