Superior Court moans cuts, but won’t cut a cent from building new $340 million court tower

The Republic ran a sob story about cuts at the Maricopa Superior Court Sunday. The legislature has ordered $11 million in cuts at the Superior Court this year, and next year’s cuts may be more severe. But nowhere in the article was the $340 million proposed new top of the line, state of the art Taj Majal court tower mentioned. For the past couple of years, when discussing how to deal with the budget and slow revenues, county government has frequently pondered cutting back on the scope of the tower, either by delaying it or decreasing the scope of the project.

So why all of a sudden, when the budget has really tanked, is the county tower suddenly off the table? The Superior Court would rather lay off 50-60 employee this spring than delay or shrink the size of the tower. We smell a rat. Is it because the construction companies awarded the job contributed to high-level county employees’ political campaigns? Maybe it’s because it would prevent them from forcing Sheriff Arpaio and other agencies like the Treasurer’s Office to make cuts, weakening them, if they admit they can cut millions – maybe even hundreds of millions – from this project. Frankly, we’re disappointed that the Republic article failed to cover the tower. The Superior Court can manage without a pricey new courthouse for awhile. The Sheriff can’t continue cutting back on prison guards.


Comments

  1. Not surprising in the least. Most of the supervisors on the board come from the real estate / developer industry, so their friends are all in the homebuilding and construction industry. It’s all about trading favors. Otherwise, how could Don Stapley afford riding around in his $70k black beamer on a $44k annual salary?

  2. James Davidson says

    Wasn’t this on the land for which the County was supposed to trade the Pappas school property to the City?

  3. Fannie Mae says

    Here is the website about the proposed court tower – http://www.maricopa.gov/courttower/
    The address says 101 W. Madison. I don’t think that’s the Pappas school property. That’s another scandal, the board wanted to sell the land off cheap to one of their cronies and attacked Sandra Dowling to get rid of her standing in the way.

    The website says the tower supposed to open in 2011. The list of consultants and contractors – http://www.maricopa.gov/courttower/bios.htm
    Wonder how many of them contributed to the campaigns of the county supervisors, who conveniently haven’t asked the court to trim its budget for the court tower.

    “The tower will be the county’s single largest project in history with a cost of about $340 million.”

  4. Conservative Gal says

    obviously the board is trying to put a stimulus into the economy, Mary Rose Wilcox bragged that that new court building will create 100 new jobs – which you guys said totaled $3.4 million per job

  5. This is just a payback from Stapley to the courts. He took millions that could have been used to build out the Superior Court in Mesa and add a bunch of courtrooms for a much lower cost. It would have also been convenient for his voters in the East Valley but he would rather have people fight traffic to serve jury duty downtown. He will also have police officers from Mesa and Gilbert earning overtime not protecting their communities. They also tore down a 5 story parking garage and so now then is much less parking and Phoenix has now made parking super expensive. So the county will be getting a few construction jobs but will be losing more employees to pay for the Taj Majal.

  6. Come on….give us something to determine the validity of the project beyond speculation of corruption or greed.

    From what budget is the new building being paid? Is it funds that could even be used for salaries at all? Is it bond dollars that have already been sold and must be spent? What does the calendar of the court look like to justify such expansion? Does the county have the operations budget to support the cost of the building after completion: employees, maintenance, utilities….? There are definite pros and cons to this project and it may very well be a boondoggle but shouting down something with speculation is not reality.

    Constantly grinding an ax does not make it sharp…just small and ineffective.

  7. The truth is that centralizing all criminal trials in County this size is a ridiculous waste of money. While this money did not come out of the general fund it did come from eliminating all other capital spending. This court house will make the County less efficient and add to traffic and pollution as hundreds of people will be forced to drive downtown. The idea that the County cares about air pollution has been sacrificed to build a monument to the current Presiding Judge.

  8. George McFarland says

    Ann, read the minutes from the board of supervisors meetings. Take this meeting from October 29, 2007, for example. http://maricopa.gov/Clk_Board/Minutes/2007/062007fb.pdf
    It records an extensive discussion of the court tower project amongst the supervisors and Judge Mundell. Sandi Wilson, the deputy budget manager, gave all kinds of options for reducing the project or putting it off because of the economy. So why aren’t those options being considered now?

    -Defer the project until a decision can be made as part of the FY 2008-2009 budget process
    -Use only cash presently available and proceed with the planning
    -Consider bonding for the non-case funded portion of the project
    -Consider reducing or downsizing the project scope
    -Reallocate cash from other projects
    -Consider less costly design options

  9. I don’t have a horse in this race. The post was without substance to the complaint. With the new comments, help me understand why centralizing services is a waste of money over spreading out and duplicating positions? Travel and pollution are weak reasons to say it is inefficient.

  10. It is inefficient to force police officer and victims to drive downtown not to mention jurors time. There is no duplication of services to offer trial in two court houses. A crime that occurs in the east valley can be more effienctly tried in the east valley. Having one criminal tower will result in no fewer judges or staff but rather will result in victims and police officer spending hours in traffic. Police officers will earn more overtime and spend more on gas an additional expense. Juror cost will rise because you are reimbursed based on how far you have to travel. To argue that travel cost are weak reasons is fine if you are not paying them. Perhaps you will be more concerned that east valley officers will be off the street instead of doing their jobs. At some point the east valley deserves the respect that Stapley and company currently reserve for downtown phoenix.

Trackbacks

  1. […] laid off 42 employees due to budget cuts. Meanwhile, they still refuse to cut a dime from their $347 million dollar brand new court tower that is being built. We’ve also found out that the building is being paid for with cash – not bonding as some […]

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