Pima County got the green light to take legal action against the city for hundred of thousands of dollars of what it considers excessive construction costs for a waterline to the new county courthouse.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday file a claim against the city.

"It's a simple conflict we should be able to resolve via that claim," Supervisor Richard Elías said after Tuesday's board meeting.

The county hasn't decided yet how much money to request in the claim, said Martin Willett, chief deputy county administrator.

Previous county requests were for $811,881 in reimbursements, but Elías believes the claim will be for substantially less than the initial amount.

City Manager Richard Miranda said he was under the impression county and city officials were going to sit down and hash out a resolution.

"The fact a claim has been made is a surprise to me," Miranda said. "Because (County Administrator Chuck) Huckelberry has not communicated to me that this was forthcoming."

Voters approved a $76 million bond in 2004 to fund the entire complex, under construction at North Stone and East Toole avenues. But unanticipated expenses, such as moving 1,400 corpses, pushed the costs up and significantly delayed the project.

County officials say extraneous change orders and other Tucson Water missteps caused the original waterline relocation cost to soar. They asserted what was supposed to be an approximately $500,000 project spiked to nearly $1.3 million because of bureaucratic blunders.

City officials said the county was exaggerating. They said most of the change orders resulted from the county's building in a part of downtown where the infrastructure wasn't adequate to serve the demands of the new courthouse.

"They should look at it as a prudent investment and an example of something you'd anticipate when opening up streets in the oldest area of the city," said Councilman Steve Kozachik.

"Any contractor or consultant knows that plan reviews go back and forth, and that changes occur during design. For their consultant to be crying foul is phony. … This whole issue is a perfect example of how the county jumped the gun in starting construction before knowing where the funding was coming from, and having a firm handle on the real costs."

Willett said the county is filing the claim now to meet a legal deadline to retain its option to sue. A decision about a lawsuit would be made later by the Board of Supervisors, but he said he hopes the matter can be handled with a sit-down discussion before it comes to costly litigation.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com