The Mesa City Court’s lobby was about half-full Wednesday afternoon. But the 14 service windows hid a bee hive of cubicles which jam dozens of support staff along narrow passages.
"Imagine a submarine built for 10 people, and there’s 60 in it," said presiding City Magistrate Matt Tafoya.
The court shares the basement of the building at 245 W. Second St. with the Mesa Police Department’s evidence lab — where administrative staff work next to a tiny firing range and technicians process evidence at stations a couple feet away from the desks where they write their reports.
Supervisory criminalist Pat Chavez said such close quarters are not recommended by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.
"They’ve let it slide, but they won’t let it slide forever," Chavez said. Losing the society’s accreditation would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money, he said.
Mesa is facing lean budget years, but is pushing ahead with the $61.6 million process of building new court and police technical services buildings, funded mostly from a bond issue approved by voters last year.
The City Council could give city staff approval this morning to proceed with the process of picking a contractor early to help design, then build the project.
The council will examine numerous possible budget cuts today during the same study session, but members have said police and fire department expenses
take top priority.
"I think the program is to build it sooner rather than later, because it is public-safety related," Mayor Keno Hawker said in a Monday study session.
Plans call for both buildings to be built on city-owned land. The court building, which Tafoya said will be about 120,000 square feet, is to go on the northwest corner of First Avenue and Pomeroy.
It’s projected to cost $32.9 million to build and furnish, and is expected to open in the fiscal year that begins July 2009.
Initial plans put the police technical services building north of the police department headquarters at 130 N. Robson, with the courthouse possibly going on Country Club Drive. Councilman Kyle Jones said neighborhood concerns
about traffic and the council’s reluctance to try to acquire additional land led to
the change in plans.
The new police technical services building is now slated for land south of the current court building, on Morris north of First Street. This building will cost $23.8 million, and will open during the 2010-11 fiscal year. Remodeling the old court building for police department office space will cost another $5 million.
Mesa financial services director Bryan Raines said the city has $54.5 million of approved public safety bonding authority for the projects.