Proposed courthouse creating rift between Tucson and county administrators

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- In 2004, voters approved funding for a new city/county courthouse building.  Fast forward seven years and that building still hasn't been built.

The county says it's finally time to get it done, but it needs more money from the city to make it happen.

Residents who drive down Stone past Toole can't miss the empty lot that sits barren, despite nearly $60 million spent.

"Not a shovel of dirt has been turned and now they're asking for more money," said Councilman Steve Kozachik.

In his weekly memo to constituents, Kozachik says he wants answers.

"I just wanna know where the money went," Kozachik said.  "This feels very Rio Neuvo esque."

Then there's the county memo from Administrator Chuck Huckleberry.  He says every penny's been spent wisely.

"It's not as if it's being used for anything else," said Huckleberry.  "All the money that was allocated for the courthouse is being spent on this project."

But a lot of funds were spent unexpectedly.

"We had to relocate 1,400 bodies, and we had to do it in a respectful way.  And that cost $18 million," Huckleberry said.

Drawings show what the courthouse is supposed to look like, if the city agrees to move forward. Huckleberry says stopping now would be a mistake.

"That's silly.  That's an even worse waste of taxpayer money," Huckleberry said.  "I think the best course of action is to proceed ahead."

Realistically, the city and the county could wait. Both the current city courthouse and county courthouse don't have urgent needs, but if the taxpayer wants any bang for their buck now is the time.

"It will not be cheaper in the future, it will cost more for taxpayers," Kozachik said.

But Kozachik says until he gets all the answers on funding, he can't vote yes on spending millions more.

"You cannot come to us and say we'll give you weeks to make a $31 million decision on top of a $76 million quesiton mark," said Kozachik.

And so the bigger question mark remains, will the empty lot ever resemble the proposed illustrations.

If the city agrees to move forward with the county's cooperation. Construction could kick off as early as February of 2012.  The court house would be open by February of 2014.  But if both parties wait, the project could be delayed five more years.