The Pima County Board of Supervisors put the brakes on purchasing a former south-side produce warehouse for $1.5 million on Tuesday.

Republican Supervisor Ally Miller argued the county did not need to buy a warehouse when there already are "thousands" of square feet not being used at the Pima Emergency Communications and Operations Center a few miles away at East 22nd Street and South Jones Ave.

The 21,000-square-foot warehouse is at 1680 E. Benson Highway, blocks from Pima County Sheriff's Department headquarters, which uses it to store supplies the county maintains in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. It would also be used by the county Health Department to store inoculations and disaster supplies.

Other agencies, Miller said, have decided not to use the county communications facility, leaving excess room in the renovated former Valley State Bank building.

"Multiple agencies have pulled out of this agreement and we are left with excess capacity," Miller said. "I just believe we need to save money any way we can."

Reid Spaulding, the county facilities management director, says the county already spends roughly $150,000 a year leasing two smaller storage facilities for storage.

While Miller said the communications building would be ideal for storing items related to law enforcement and bioterrorism, Democrat Richard Elías responded, "I don't think you know that particularly. I don't see how you can say that," while pointing out Miller was not an expert on terrorism.

Miller may have at least postponed that purchase, but she failed to persuade the board to hold any public forums to discuss the county's proposed $1.27 billion budget.

The board shot down her request for two study sessions - one this month and another in June - on County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's budget proposal.

Republican Ray Carroll was the only vote in favor of her request.

Miller was disappointed.

"I think it is outrageous that we are not doing these," she said. "I think the citizens deserve to be heard and deserve that transparency."

Carroll noted that the board has not had a budget study session since he took office in 1997.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346.