• Arizona
  • Thursday , Feb 1 , 2018

Area Info

4 minutes reading time (834 words)

Florence: Vote NO on Johnson Utilities Sale

There have been reports of water leaks, wells failing, sewer problems, contaminated ponds, and lawsuits. And let’s not forget the substandard infrastructures that JU inherited from some developers and at no fault to JU. Also, representatives of JU reported that if the Florence Copper Project was successful in their application for in situ mining, they would definitely pollute the aquifers which could cost up to one million dollars per well for filtration for approximately 50 wells.

So, it appears that JU is trading all this liability for $120 million of tax free municipal bonds which will earn $201 million over 30 years per for a total cost of $322 million, per the April 10, 2014 Florence Reminder. Sounds pretty good to me, $10.7 million a year, tax free, no liability and no worries about the day to day operations. If the town should default on the bonds, JU would get the properties back. JU projects an income of $30 million in 2015. That being said, the new utility operations will have to make a 36 percent profit to pay the annual $10.7 million bond and interest payments. That is difficult to believe.

Why has Mayor Rankin not recused himself for all proceedings in this matter? According to an article in the Phoenix New Times, 12/05/13, “Johnson and members of his family gave more than $6,000 to Rankin’s 2012 campaign for mayor.” Also in the same article: “Court records also show that in 2003, Johnson loaned $5,000 to Rankin Sr.” This certainly appears to be conflict of interest at the least. You may read the complete article here.  Why was it such a good idea to give water rights away a year ago, only to now, buy them back? Doesn’t that make you wonder, what is going on?

Why does our little town of approximately 6,000 homes think that they can manage a utility company for 56,000 connections? The town recently decided to turn over garbage collection to a private company because the private company could do a better job at a lower price. If the town cannot manage three garbage trucks efficiently, how can they operate a $120 million utility company? This just does not make sense!

I agree with Vice Mayor Tom Smith’s statement that “if everything goes perfect. How often do you see everything go perfect?” How can anyone believe that there will not be problems with an aging water/sewer utility company with most problems being unknown and underground? One glitch and the town will have to pay to fix the problem(s). This is really buying a “pig in a poke”.

What about the golf course? Most municipal golf courses are money pits. JU says that some years the course breaks even? Who will subsidize the course in bad years? How many Florence citizens use this course? What are the liabilities there? What happens when Pinal County completes the current four lane project on Hunt Highway? How will the golf cart crossings be handled? Will the county require over/under passes for the golf carts? Who will pay for that? Again, Vice Mayor Smith pointed out the possible risk to the neighboring home owner, if the Town chooses to close the golf course. Pulte has subsidized the golf course in Anthem for years and continues to do so. Where is the money to come from for the town to subsidize a golf course? Only one place, our taxes. And all of this is currently outside of our town limits. Is the plan to annex all of San Tan Valley into Florence?

The town has so many other needs and issues that should be addressed, why are we wasting money and time on such a high risk venture? Why are we not spending our time and resources on ventures that will bring new jobs to Florence; new businesses, a business park, stores, restaurants, the north end project, etc.? The JU venture will not bring any new jobs or new wealth to Florence, just more risks and probable expenses to the town. This is just a change in ownership and a transfer of liability. We are seeing a professional publicity campaign to convince the citizens to vote for this deal. Just think about who is paying for this campaign and why they are doing so. There is no organization to fund a campaign against this deal. It is up to us citizens to make our neighbors aware of what is going on. Please be vocal on this issue and encourage your neighbors to vote against the town buying JU. And to our Town Council, please stop this boondoggle.

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