The large part of Pinal County served by Johnson Utilities, in San Tan Valley and parts of Queen Creek and Florence, has had some problems for years. The Arizona Corporation Commission two years ago chose EPCOR, a Canadian-based company with extensive holdings in the United States, to become interim operator of the company owned by the original developer of San Tan Valley. An announcement this month that EPCOR and Johnson Utilities had reached a sale agreement seems to be a big move forward.
Johnson had battled the commission and EPCOR strongly in court. The agreement now must be approved by the commission, and there may be a few twists and turns. Johnson had operated the water and wastewater provider with related companies, making the seizure, interim operation and no doubt the sale complicated. EPCOR by this time probably knows what it would be getting with the sale. The companies have asked for approval by the end of the year.
The utility has about 30,000 water and 40,000 wastewater customers. The state had alleged environmental violations and sued Johnson Utilities for $100 million, but the interim operation has brought improvements. Parts of the fix will take years, however.
Growth of the area has boomed in the 21st century, and it is obvious that utility infrastructure growth did not keep up. Sewer overflows and lack of ability to provide service led to a moratorium on construction in some areas. Throughout the battle, the commission, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, county staff, Florence and Queen Creek officials stood up and did what was right for the utility customers. Supervisor Mike Goodman, who represents San Tan Valley, made this effort a major part of his service to his constituents.
If the sale is approved and becomes final, the utility customers in that area will benefit. They can thank all the officials who acted on their behalf to make it happen and realize that the drawn-out drama actually could have gone on longer.