By, Constance Halonen-Wilson, Public Information Officer, The Town of Queen Creek
The Town of Queen Creek has been working with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) and the interim manager for Johnson Utilities, EPCOR, to offer assistance for a potential water shortage this summer in the Johnson Utilities service area in San Tan Valley. Over the past several months, the Town has worked with EPCOR on an interconnect solution after EPCOR identified deficiencies within the system.
On Jan. 23, 2019, EPCOR stated the Johnson water supply system located a capacity deficit in densely populated portions of the service area near Queen Creek. EPCOR identified solutions that will bring in additional water supply capacity, including active conversations with the Town of Queen Creek to possibly construct an interconnection between the Johnson and Queen Creek water systems. The interconnection offers an immediate, inexpensive solution to a regional issue, providing improved water quality, capacity and pressure.
Providing the interconnect would not transfer any customers to the Town’s services, but would supplement the water in the Johnson Utilities system on an interim basis until EPCOR is able to make the extensive repairs necessary to the system. Johnson Utilities customers would remain Johnson Utility customers.
The Town of Queen Creek has an interest in the situation taking place with Johnson Utilities because not only is the issue one of regional concern, but thousands of Queen Creek residents receive sewer services from Johnson Utilities, and thousands of San Tan Valley residents receive water service from the Town. As the local representation for Queen Creek residents, it is the Town’s responsibility to ensure their welfare and safety.
The Town had been in discussions with Johnson Utilities regarding a possible acquisition after being approached by Johnson in 2017. The Town stopped discussions after it determined Johnson Utilities infrastructure did not meet the Town’s standards. Subsequently, in April 2018, Johnson Utilities filed a lawsuit against the Town of Queen Creek to prevent the release of documents including engineering, financial and operational information about Johnson Utilities requested by the ACC. The Town argued the documents should be released under Arizona Public Records law.
A trial court and the Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with the Town, ruling that all the documents are public records and should be produced. The Court of Appeals also awarded the Town and the ACC their costs and attorneys’ fees because they were the prevailing parties against Johnson Utilities. A temporary restraining order that prevents the Town from releasing the documents remains in place until all appeals by Johnson Utilities have been exhausted.
As part of this regional effort to provide safe and reliable water and wastewater services, there have been rumors regarding the Town of Queen Creek’s interest in annexing San Tan Valley. To be clear, the Town has a process in place for considering annexations, and has no intention of annexing San Tan Valley. Two areas within San Tan Valley approached the Town and completed applications for annexation. In April 2018, two square miles including the Ironwood Crossing community was annexed after a majority of property owners signed petitions in favor of the annexation. Additionally, in June, an application for annexation was received from a resident in Encanterra. The applicant is currently collecting signatures. If enough signatures are collected, the Town Council will consider adopting the annexation ordinance at a future Town Council meeting.
For more information about the Town’s efforts to provide a regional solution, visit QueenCreek.org/RegionalSolution. For more information about the Town’s annexation process, visit QueenCreek.org/Annexation. To stay updated on news and events, follow the Town on Facebook.com/QueenCreek or Twitter.com/TOQC_Official.