The battle between Pima County and the city over who owes what for a waterline to the new downtown courthouse could end up in court.
On Monday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will hold a closed-door session to weigh its options, which include accepting the city’s offer of $40,000, moving ahead with litigation to collect the $188,000 the county contends the city owes it or continuing talks.
At issue are cost overrides related to the waterline the county installed for the new courthouse at North Stone and East Toole Avenues.
The county contends city miscues and extraneous change orders ballooned the price from $500,000 to nearly $1.3 million.
City officials said the county exaggerated the costs. They said most of the added expenses resulted from the county building in a part of downtown where the infrastructure wasn’t adequate to serve the demands of the new courthouse.
“The county should be held to exact same standards we ask of any other contractor,” Councilman Steve Kozachik said. “It’s not the city taxpayers’ responsibility to bail them out. … They broke ground without either a signed contract with the city that would have spelled out everybody’s obligations, nor did they know all of the construction and move-in costs at the time.
“Now that they’re seeing the full construction costs, they’re fighting us on what are normal design upgrades to be expected in an area of the city where everybody knows the infrastructure is in need of capacity and quality upgrade,” Kozachik said.
The two governments have been trying to hash out an agreement for the past six months, to no avail.
Mayor Jonathan Roths-
childsaid while it’s unfortunate the two sides haven’t worked it out yet, he stands behind the city’s offer of agreeing to pay for the additional pipelines that Tucson Water asked the county to replace.
“The city has thoroughly reviewed its position, and (we) are confident that we had the correct resolution,” Rothschild said in an email.
The county originally sought $811,000, but it decided to seek reimbursement for only nine connector pipes and the concrete patches the city required over the pipe, said Reid Spaulding, county facilities management director.
Spaulding said the concrete accounts for most of the cost.
City Manager Richard Miranda said in a letter to the county that the concrete patches are a standard Tucson Department of Transportation requirement for major streets and streets that carry storm water.
However, while it may be a city standard, Spaulding said it appears the city didn’t follow its own standard when installing the pipe on Congress Street (between Church and Granada) when it was finishing up streetcar construction.
Spaulding said he has photos proving the city failed install concrete patches on Congress and intends to present the evidence on Monday.
City officials say Congress is different because the entire street was rebuilt, while work for the courthouse required opening just portions of the street to access the pipe. The concrete is needed there to keep the old and new sections from settling differently, potentially damaging the pipes below.
In his letter, Miranda said the county had the chance to select various paving options that would have waived the concrete-patch requirement. He said TDOT wasn’t aware the county requested any of those options.
Even though an amiable solution hasn’t been reached, some supervisors believe further talks, and not litigation, might be the best course of action for now.
“These kind of things are incumbent upon our staff to work out,” Supervisor Richard Elías said. “Unless I find out something different in executive session, … this is something that we should be able to settle out of court.”
Supervisor Ray Carroll said he’s not inclined to jump into a lawsuit.
“I always push for a reasonable agreement. The last thing I want to do is to go to court over that,” Carroll said. “I completely understand Reid Spaulding’s contention about the waterline, but I also do realize this is one old infrastructure. That’s why it’s called the ‘Old Pueblo.’ A lot of things can go wrong under the old streets.”