City/County in landlord/tenant dispute - Tucson News Now

City/County in landlord/tenant dispute

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It appears the city will not be a tenant in the new courthouse in downtown Tucson even though there was an apparent agreement going back nearly a decade.

The county started construction on the $70 million project, which was approved by voters in a 2004 bond election, earlier this year.

The project is well over budget because of the unexpected cost to move a cemetery which was found on the grounds. 2300 graves, many of them 19th century soldiers, had to be moved at a cost of $25 million.

The project has been scaled back but it was thought the city would pay $17 million for tenant improvements inside the building.

The city says it can no longer afford the price tag.

"We owe it to our taxpayers and constituents to make a good deal," says Tucson's Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

The city says $12 million of that bond money should have been used as its share but it was moved around and spent elsewhere.

The city believes if it's required to come up with another $17 million, that's double taxation on the taxpayer.

"We offered the best deal to the county given our needs over the next three or four years in regards to police, in regards to fire, in regards to transit," says Rothschild. "We thought it was a fair deal."

But the county doesn't and is prepared to go it alone.

"We're going to scrape up some money," says District Five County Supervisor Richard Elias. "We're also not going to build out all the floors."

New construction plans are being forwarded right now.

"I have no animosity towards the city over this situation," says Elias. "I have no bad feelings whatsoever."

Still, Elias, as do many others, feel the city and county had a deal to move forward. But he adds, the county started construction without a legal, binding contract because the money needed "to be put out there to create jobs."

Elias says "I think we thought we had a good partnership that was going to work."

The county says it needs new courtroom space because the old courthouse which was built in 1972 has grown overcrowded.

The city wants to move out of its downtown courthouse, which is a converted parking garage with security issues and dilapidated conditions. It's also open air which means when the weather is bad outside, it's also bad inside.

If the county doesn't like the deal offered by the city "we'll fix the old courthouse," says Mayor Rothschild.

The two sides could eventually work out a deal but likely not before the city's budget picture looks better and that could be years.

"We feel like we can fill up the building," says Elias.

The county recently bought the old HUD building in downtown to house some of its courts but if the city doesn't move in to the new courthouse, there's some question whether that building is needed.

It was thought the city would occupy 54% of the new courthouse and the county 46%.




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