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FLORENCE — Pinal County is filing to take part, or “intervene,” in the Arizona Corporation Commission’s deliberations on whether to approve the sale of Johnson Utilities to EPCOR USA.

Deputy County Attorney Kevin Costello told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday there’s a tight time frame for the county to get involved. The final hearing before the ACC is set for Nov. 18. To learn the purchase price, the county will need to approve a non-disclosure agreement, he said.

Johnson Utilities customer John Dantico strongly urged the board to intervene, as the county is the closest government entity for more than 100,000 people whose quality of life will be affected for decades to come, he said.

He said one of the issues in the pending sale is that the price remains unknown. “That makes it nearly impossible to do a proper cost-benefit analysis.”

The agreement also includes waivers of other matters, including almost $70 million that was paid to Johnson affiliate Ultra Management.

“If this is waived, does the price reflect that waiver?” Dantico asked.

He continued that effluent has been discharged for the last two years without being properly treated and has affected the aquifer “for generations to come.” If state regulators waive that, “who’s going to pick the cost up? … We don’t know if that’s properly reflected in the price.”

Costello noted the county has intervened in previous actions involving Johnson Utilities, including when EPCOR was appointed interim manager and the pending rate case. Already, the Trilogy Encanterra community, the state Residential Utility Consumer Office and the town of Queen Creek have opted to intervene, he said.

The board’s action Wednesday authorizes the county attorney to file its intervention with the ACC and further gives the county manager authority “to execute any additional documents necessary,” such as a non-disclosure agreement.

In other action Wednesday, the board presented the 2020 Arizona Planning Association Distinguished Citizen Planner Award to Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Phillip “McD” Hartman, who has been a commissioner for more than 30 years.

Hartman recalled his early years on the commission when farms were subdividing and he and others worked for harmony between the farmers that remained and the new homeowners.

Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, commented that the award and the county’s thanks were not enough for Hartman’s service.

“We’re very honored to have a person like you looking after these issues in Pinal County,” he said.

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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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