County moves forward on courtroom without city

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A week after the city held off on taking action on the proposed city-county courthouse, the county pushed forward on its own.

A 4 to 1 vote awarded a $48 million contract to Sundt to begin construction.

But it remains unclear if the city will ever agree to hand over more taxpayer money.

"We just couldn't afford to wait any longer," said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

It was now or never for Pima County.  And by acting now County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry claims to have saved taxpayers between 6 and 9 million dollars.

"It was the intent to save money," said Huckelberry.

A week earlier, Tucson's city council said it couldn't invest more money, at least not now, until big questions were answered.

"They need to answer why they spent $12 million out of that bond package on the superior court.  They need to answer why the design fees are four times what they promised the voters they were going to be.  And those are just for starters," said Councilman Steve Kozachik.

The list of questions the city wants answered is long, and the county says it's willing to answer them.

"We fully intend to extend our cooperation to answer each and every question city may have," Huckelberry said.

The county's hopeful those answers will allow the city to supplement more funds. In the meantime, courthouse construction on a plot of land in downtown Tucson will begin as early as this January.

"We asked the city to join in with us and pay their fair share and when they do, they'll obviously be welcomed in the facility," said Huckelberry.

Councilman Steve Kozachik says it's not a matter of being welcome or not because Tucson taxpayers have been footing the bill since 2004, "It will be a city-county courthouse."

But according to the county, not if the city doesn't reimburse the county.  The county says that would be the worst case scenario, but it's prepared to use the building on its own if absolutely necessary.

The project is expected to bring about 800 construction jobs to town.

When asked about comparisons between this project and Rio Nuevo, Huckleberry said such a comparison is, "disingenuous" and a "misrepresentation of the scope of this project."