Letter to the Editor: Johnson Utilities is the only utility you allow us to subscribe to - SanTanValley.com

Letter to the Editor: Johnson Utilities is the only utility you allow us to subscribe to

Letter to the Editor: Johnson Utilities is the only utility you allow us to subscribe to

We do not have the authority to choose.

You have already chosen for us.

Johnson Utilities is the only utility you allow us to subscribe to for water service; that was your decision.

Since you prohibit us from subscribing to any competing companies, you, this commission, are our competitive surrogate, responsible for ensuring the company does not abuse the market power you have entrusted the company with. Ask yourself “If this were a competitive situation with 5 separate companies vying for business, how would a company interact with customers to retain market share?”

You have the legal authority and responsibility to ensure we are not abused. Thus far you have failed us and allowed the company to use the dominant position you sanctioned it with to abuse us and violate Arizona law with impunity. We have been discriminated against in violation of A.R.S. 40-334 – for example there was the attempt by the company to force our Johnson Ranch Golf course to pay several times more for irrigation water than George Johnson charges his own Oasis golf course just down the road – effectively using the CCN as a commercial weapon to gain market share in a totally unrelated business – I also refer you to a pending matter, that of Amy Simpson, who was, according to your Judge Hesla, discriminated against when the company illegally violated A.R.S. 40-334; a few other similarly situated customers – Ms. Simpson’s neighbors - have also been discriminated against according to Arizona law you are responsible for enforcing and Judge Hesla.

At times the company has filed lawsuits against parents who dared to complain because they are justifiably worried about the health of their children, the lawsuits were filed knowing full well the members of our community don’t have the resources to hire lawyers to fight court battles with deep pockets; these intimidation tactics have been effective at silencing our families – and you are one of the reasons this intimidation is effective because we don’t have a choice of water suppliers – you don’t allow us that option; the Arizona Dept of Environmental Quality has had to issue health alerts leaving parents to wonder if they are poisoning their infants because the company failed to notify us of high nitrate levels in the water; Company employees have berated customers when they ask the company to check meter accuracy; foul odors in various parts of the community are disgusting. You will probably hear more from our community today and tomorrow. I thank you for finally listening to the concerns of San Tan Valley. Follow the law. Use your authority as intended – to prevent abuse and serve the public comfort and convenience. It is long overdue.

You need to perform a complete investigation of the management structure of Johnson Utilities to determine why it is incapable of acting in the public interest. Ideally, it would be managed by an independent Board of Directors rather than an Oligarch. You are responsible for ensuring we have safe, reliable, and adequate service. In its current rate case filing the company is proposing rates that would allow an additional $30 Million investment in water facilities without raising rates beyond those proposed. If the investment is not made, the proposed rates are ridiculous. Force it to invest in our community on a non-discriminatory basis as the law requires. Or transfer the CCN to an entity that will. Since rate base is negative, the company assets can be transferred at zero cost to another entity. Do your job. “Well, its George so its OK” doesn’t cut it anymore. If you choose to not do your job and allow and encourage the company to continue violate Arizona law, illegally discriminate, intimidate the community and make decisions based on the company’s best interest rather than the public interest, you should resign and allow someone who wants to protect the public interest to do the job.

One last thing. Don’t call us “ratepayers”. The company considers us “ratepayers” – a term coined in England to refer to those who pay the rate, a local tax, because they have no alternative because government can use its considerable authority, including arrest and incarceration at gunpoint, to force behaviors. We want to be customers rather than simply a revenue sponge for Johnson Utilities’ owners. And we want the company to treat us like customers. And want the company to seek out ways it can expand and improve service for our community rather than sitting on its hands and waiting for “ratepayers” to come through the door to be intimidated. The utility needs to establish a marketing department and reach out to the community and provide a plan to provide service to every household and business in the CCN under reasonable, affordable terms. Don’t be intimidated by the company or its owner.

Thank you.