Florence Town Council Okays Special Election on Purchase of Johnson Utilities
With almost no discussion, the Florence Town Council on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of putting a plan to purchase Johnson Utilities, the company that provides water and sewage services for much of the San Tan Valley and parts of Florence, to a May 20 vote of the Florence electorate.
However, that plan has neither been finalized nor made public. In fact, the town and Johnson Utilities' owner, wealthy water baron George Johnson, have yet to agree on a purchase price.
Mayor Tom Rankin, considered to be the driving force behind the proposed acquisition, was the only council member to comment, which he did after the vote was over.
"This resolution prepares the town council to ask the general public [for] permission to purchase the utility, once the evaluation is completed," Rankin said, apparently reading from a prepared statement.
Once the council makes a decision to move forward, Rankin explained, the information the council used to make that decision, "will be made available to the public."
He added: "In the long run, I believe that the acquisition will lay the groundwork for the town of Florence, and create a strong growth and economic future."
Prior to the vote, Florence spokesperson Jess Knudson confirmed via e-mail that the utility's price tag was still being hashed out.
"The purchase price for the utility company is still be negotiated at this time." wrote Knudson, who also stated that the town eventually would release all pertinent information to the public.
When Florence looked into buying Johnson Utilities in 2007, the local Florence Reminder & Blade-Tribune newspaper reported that the town council okayed a letter of intent to purchase with a tentative price "of $192 million over 30 years."
The sale never went through.