New clash between county and Tucson over combined courthouse

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tensions are boiling over between the county and the City of Tucson.

The latest debate stems over a proposed new City/County courthouse building, that voters approved in 2004.

But to get off the ground the county needs more money and it needs it fast.

The latest letter from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry to the City of Tucson has the clock ticking on the future of a dirt lot.

If the city doesn't commit to financing, by December 15, the project will be delayed.

"The city's not under anybody's gun.  The county cant leverage us into making this decision right now," said Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik.

Tucson's city council will tackle the issue on Tuesday.  That then gives them just two days to make a multi-million dollar decision.

"It's not realistic and and the taxpayers deserve better than that," said Councilman Kozachik.

Huckelberry did not return calls for comment Friday, but has addressed the issue previously, "The money has been spent.  The money continues to be spent or reserved for the courthouse.  It's not as if it's being spent on anything else.  All the money allocated by the voters is being spent on this project."

Councilman Steve Kozachik disagrees and he says the proof is in the dirt.  After spending more than $60 million, there's still nothing to show for it.  He says it's all very Rio Nuevo-esque.

"You show us where it went, where it was spent and justify what happened when all we're staring at is an empty lot," said Kozachik.

Kozachik isn't the only one with questions, Councilwoman Karin Uhlich has concerns too.

Council members say the proposed courthouse would be a welcome addition, but they want to make sure it's done the right way.

"We owe it to the tapxyers to take a good look at this go back to bargaining table with the county," said Kozachik.

And voters will have to make their concerns known before they run out of time, in less than a week.

Tucson City Council members will talk about the courthouse project at their next study session, Tuesday, December 13.