Co-op members asked to vote on sale of gas division

- Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCEC

PIMA — Graham County Utilities Inc. (GCU) announced a recommendation approved by the Board of Directors to transfer ownership and operation of their natural gas system to Southwest Gas Corporation (SWG).

Following extensive research and analysis, GCU cited that its recommendation to sell the system to Southwest Gas was prompted by challenges to meet federal and state regulations while remaining financially viable with limited resources. Graham County Utilities determined selling the system to Southwest Gas would allow for modernizing the system, increasing safety to meet regulatory standards while maintaining affordability for Graham County customers.

For the Board of Directors recommended ownership transfer to proceed, a two-thirds majority vote of cooperative members is required. The vote will be held Saturday, October 17, 2020, at the Graham County Utilities Annual Meeting. There will be a presentation on the possible sale of the GCU gas utility and a vote by the members in attendance. Cooperative members must be present to vote or have provided a GCU member with a valid proxy. All members are encouraged to attend and participate.

“We want to ensure that co-op members continue to enjoy safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service well into the future, which is why we believe that transferring ownership of this system to Southwest Gas is the most prudent course of action,” said Kirk Gray, CEO/general manager. “After evaluating the high cost of shouldering the required system investment on our own, we determined it makes better sense to bring in Southwest Gas who can address these obligations more affordably as part of its overall system. Throughout its history, Southwest Gas has demonstrated an excellent safety track record, and it has proven its good citizenship in other counties throughout Arizona. Upon approval from our members, Southwest Gas will begin collaborating with GCU to ensure a smooth transition. In the long run, members will benefit more from Southwest Gas’ ownership of the natural gas system, as opposed to GCU operating the system.”

“We were happy to be approached by GCU about the possibility of serving the people of Graham County and are honored to be recommended by the GCU Board. We take great pride in being good community partners and are excited about the prospect of the citizens of Graham County joining our growing customer base which now serves over 1 million customers throughout Arizona,” said John Hester, president and CEO of Southwest Gas. “Natural gas is consistently one of the lowest household bills for our customers, and we are committed to ensuring it stays that way while providing excellent service, safety and reliability.”

For nearly 90 years, Southwest Gas Corporation has been operating, working and living in communities throughout Arizona. The decision to vote on the transfer of ownership will take place at the Annual Membership Meeting of the Cooperative scheduled for Saturday, October 17, 2020, at the Thatcher High School Commons Area, 601 N. 3rd Ave., Thatcher, at 9 a.m.