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FLORENCE — Pinal County is asking state utility regulators to immediately provide interim solutions that will allow development to proceed around the Pecan and Section 11 facilities, which are both Johnson Utilities wastewater plants in San Tan Valley.

The county’s letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission says that without ACC action, construction activity in an area served by the Pecan plant in northern San Tan Valley could be forced to shut down. The letter suggests a connection with the Queen Creek sewer system could be one short-term answer.

The Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to send the letter, which asks the ACC to take action at its Sept. 22 open meeting.

The letter further notes that development has been stalled around the troubled Section 11 plant in southern San Tan Valley “for the last several years.” The letter supports eventually replacing Section 11 with a new plant in Copper Basin but also asks for “immediate viable interim solutions.”

Attorney Court Rich commented to the board that if development remains on hold surrounding Section 11 for another 18 months, the county would be missing out on $200 million in economic opportunity, according to an analysis by Elliott Pollack economists.

If the delay persists for years, the county could miss $1 billion in economic opportunity, Rich said. He said he supported the plan to replace the Section 11 plant with a new Copper Basin plant, but that is at least three to five years away. Rich urged the board to push for an interim solution that will allow development to proceed in southern San Tan Valley. “We can’t keep this area in the penalty box,” he said.

Stacy Brimhall with Langley Properties spoke in support of Rich’s comments.

Auggie Gomez with the McRae Group agreed that a future Copper Basin plant is not a viable solution for the area’s immediate needs. He told the board the county can’t promote a strong labor force without housing, and companies won’t relocate to Pinal without a labor force and housing.

Johnson Utilities customer John Dantico said the Section 11 plant needs to close but argued that “a short-term Band-Aid solution is not what the county needs.” He said an interim measure will cost ratepayers $20 million and won’t be ready in 18 months as supporters claim. Dantico also disputed the conclusions of the Pollack study about how much money the county is losing.

Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, said he wished county officials had the same ability as a city to act on such issues.

In other action Wednesday, the board:

  • Heard a presentation from Greg Watson from the University of Arizona on a planning study for the “Arizona Innovation and Technology Corridor” in Pinal County. Watson said he hopes to finish the study next spring, and it will be a useful guide for Pinal County for the next 20 to 25 years.
  • Approved a contract between Pinal County Animal Care and Control and the city of Eloy, in which the county will take over the city’s animal control services. Pinal County Animal Control Director Audra Michael said the county will use the city’s facility and a city vehicle, and the city will pay the county. Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, said there would be no cost to the county.

Michael said the county has more resources and can provide better service and plans to begin in Eloy on Oct. 1.

  • Voted to suspend the effective date of an updated personnel policy on political activity in Pinal County workplaces. The board asked for a corrected copy to be presented for its consideration.

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