Feathered Bastard

Florence "Evaluating" Purchase of Johnson Utilities, while AZ CorpCom Treats It Like a Done Deal

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Back in 2007, Rankin was the loudest voice in favor of the town's purchasing Johnson Utilities.

He told the Casa Grande Dispatch that the purchase "would benefit Florence for generations to come," and he hailed Johnson as "a great partner with the town of Florence."

Six years later, history seems to be repeating itself.

My source tells me that Rankin and the town manager have told people at Town Hall that Florence will "make a lot of money," from the deal.

The deal is coming "like a railroad train," the source said, with few people asking tough questions.

One of those questions being: Can the town afford it?

Town documents report that Florence's budget for fiscal year 2014 is more than $47 million.

These same documents state that the "total financial resources available" for 2014 equals more than $78 million.

Financing for the purchase of utilities can come from different sources. Queen Creek's purchase of H2O was financed in part by the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona, which provides low-interest loans to cities and towns for such purposes.

WIFA spokesperson Susan Craig told me that Florence has not contacted her agency concerning the possible purchase of Johnson Utilities.

Craig's colleague, Trish Incognito, WIFA's Chief Financial Officer, explained that alternatives to WIFA financing for a municipality considering such a purchase can include "funding it themselves," going to a bank, or going to the bond market.

Another consideration regarding the town's finances: the town is engaged in a legal struggle with the company Curis Resources over a proposed copper-mining project within the town's limits.

Florence is attempting to condemn land owned by Curis via a claim of eminent domain. Recently, Curis upped the ante, submitting a notice of claim to Florence for what it says the value of that land is: $403 million.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons