Tucson and county at odds over paying for shared courthouse

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Bickering between the City of Tucson and Pima County over who pays what for a proposed courthouse is not over.

The building would be shared between the city and the county, but Tuesday the city council decided it's not ready to hand over a penny to the county.

"I think what they've laid in front of us is wholly unacceptable and it certainly needs more study," said Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik.

The Tucson city council has been crunching the numbers.

"It could potentially damage the general fund," said Ward 2 Councilwoman Regina Romero.

The county says it's time for the city to pay its part of the proposed courthouse that will be built in an empty lot near Stone and Toole. The city owes more than $17 million according to Pima County. The city says its share is only $7 million.

"The county's only 42% of the building, so we only occupy 42%, so we're only obligated to pay 42% of the excess cost," said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry.

Huckelberry says the city will use more of the building, so the city must pay more money.  But the city's CFO has a different idea.

"We disagree with that number and we believe that instead of $17.4 million the fair share for the city for phase one is $7 million," said City of Tucson CFO Kelly Gottschalk.

The reasoning behind the city's stance is that some bond money approved for the proposed courthouse was instead used in the superior court building, benefitting the county.

"Court rooms are court rooms.  Superior court rooms are the same as a justice court or city court rooms," Huckleberry said.

Huckelberry says the City of Tucson sat on the committee that allowed funds to be moved to superior court, so he can't understand why the city has a problem now.

"I would like to move that we instruct the city manager and any and all necessary personnel to go back to the county administrator to clarify outstanding issues," said Ward 4 Councilwoman Shirley Scott.

The council voted to continue debating their share of the deal.  The city will discuss the tab with the county over the next 60 to 90 days.

The county wanted to get going on this project by the end of the week, but now with this delay, both parties face the possibility of construction costs going up with the typical rise and fall of materials and labor prices.