(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents landowners and homebuilders working with the ACC to find a utility solution in the Johnson Utilities service area.)
By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa | Florence Reminder Blade Tribune
PHOENIX — An Arizona Corporation Commission administrative law judge will issue her recommendation on the sale of Johnson Utilities to EPCOR on Dec. 2.
Representatives from EPCOR, Johnson Utilities, one attorney for a couple of developers and ACC staff are recommending that the sale go through, including a controversial debt deferment agreement that would allow EPCOR to have up to $45 million in debt for the next 15 years at a rate of 6% and recoup the cost through future rate cases.
Johnson Utilities serves a large area of Pinal County including parts of San Tan Valley, Florence, Queen Creek and other areas. The utility has been in financial trouble for several years and allegations of the misuse of funds and mismanagement of the company have been made against the family that has owned and operated the utility for many years. Canada-based EPCOR was named as an interim manager for the business about two years ago.
[Court Rich], an attorney for the developer that owns the Magma Ranch Vistas and Skyline Village master planned communities, argued that the deal should be approved as quickly as possible. He pointed out that his clients have been waiting for more than two years to start construction on projects but have been unable to do so because of a moratorium on new connections in the area.
“They’ve essentially had their land taken away from them,” he said. In his opinion the approval process was not moving fast enough. “Look at all of the damage done by Johnson Utilities over the years,” Rich said. “Is it better to get revenge on Johnson or is it better to move on?”