Tucson managers want to extract staff from Rio Nuevo

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A significant change is coming to the relationship between the city and Rio Nuevo, the downtown development project.

Artists' conceptions of the convention center hotel serve as a reminder of what Rio Nuevo could be, but Tuesday's city council meeting served as a reality check.

Tucson City Manager Mike Letcher expresses a core problem, "This has been a drain on our staff."

At issue is the relationship between the city of Tucson and Rio Nuevo -- a separate government entity. Specifically, the amount of city resources used to assist Rio Nuevo during this time of huge budget cuts.

"We can't keep subsidizing them. they've got some decisions they have to make in terms of what staff they want to hire, who they're gonna hire them from, and how they're gonna pay them," says Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik.

Things weren't always that way. Previous city administration had decided that any services provided to the Rio Nuevo district board, such as staff time and materials, would be done free of charge and without any tracking.

"I can tell you that we have seven people who are dedicated probably full time to Rio Nuevo," says Tucson Deputy City Manager Richard Miranda.

But Tuesday the council voted to change that, effective June 30th.

"However, the reality of it is the Rio Nuevo district is limited in its capacity in terms of having the funds to hire a staff," Miranda continues.

With the hotel project still up in the air, both entities say some important decisions need to be made in the near future about how to work with one another in order to make the hotel a reality.

I think at this critical stage where they're at on the design, you'd never recover. you'd lose your momentum. you'd lose your staff. you'd lose your continuity," says Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup.

For now, the city and Rio Nuevo will work together as they await final reports on the hotel's guaranteed maximum price and overall financial viability.

"Once this is done, I'd really like to see our staff time extracted from the Rio Nuevo efforts," says Letcher.