FLORENCE — Pinal County will sell $63 million in bonds to fund construction of new county facilities while looking for savings in its budget to pay for another $15 million in renovations to existing buildings in the next few years.
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors narrowly approved the funding Wednesday. Supervisor Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, made a motion to vote on a new $20 million County Attorney’s Office building separately, but the motion died for lack of a second. The $63 million in bonds were approved over the “no” votes of Rios and Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande. Rios predicted citizens won’t react well to seeing a multistory “Taj Mahal” being built for the county attorney.
“In my opinion, it’s not a Taj Mahal,” Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the supervisors. He said the five-story building would not be a “behemoth” but a fraction of the size of the nearby courthouse. He said the 10,000-square-foot building would improve his office’s operational efficiency by putting all the prosecutors and victim services in the same building. The office is currently spread out in three places in Florence, with nowhere large enough for the whole office to meet, Volkmer said.
Financial consultant Mark Reader told the supervisors the bond market is very favorable now and “probably at 20-year lows.” With the county’s AA-minus credit rating, it could probably borrow the money at an interest rate between 2.9 and 3.1 percent. Over a term of 30 years, future taxpayers will share in the cost, Reader said.
Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, responded, “Let’s take advantage of it, go forward now in the interest of saving money for the taxpayer.”
Besides the new county attorney building next to the courthouse, the bonds will pay for a two-story Development Services building and a separate Emergency Operations Center in Florence for $16 million; a county complex in San Tan Valley, also for $16 million; and a county complex in Maricopa’s original Heritage District for $11 million.
The supervisors could have voted to issue as much as $78 million in bonds to also pay for remodeling of a portion of the county’s Long-term Care building for the Public Defender’s Office at a cost of $5 million. The county’s “Building A” and “Building D” in Florence would also be renovated at a cost of $5 million each.
The county will now try to afford those renovations out of its existing budget, perhaps one per year. County Manager Greg Stanley told the supervisors he didn’t believe any of these renovations would qualify to be paid for out of the county’s development impact fees.
Board Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, also noted the need in his district for a library and a senior center. Stanley said it would be expensive to revise the building designs at this stage, but the supervisors should hold a work session to discuss libraries in the near future.