Mesa Presiding Judge Matt Tafoya wants a prominently displayed city courthouse with a traditional look that would leave no doubt to its purpose and bring civic pride to the community.
But he believes the planned First Avenue location hampers that goal, and he’s now pushing to move the new courthouse to Main Street.
“Symbolically it appears to me the court will have its back to the community,” Tafoya said of the First Avenue site. “The community is Main Street and the court building should be the centerpiece of the community.”
Standing in the way at the southeast corner of Main Street and Hibbert is the former Tri-City building — which would have to be demolished — and the approval of the City Council, which must decide whether to sacrifice one of downtown’s premier commercial corners for another government building just east of the Mesa Arts Center and City Hall.
The council agreed Thursday to spend $10,000 to study the two city-owned sites separated by a parking garage. The council is expected to revisit the issue in about a month.
Councilman Mike Whalen was the one member Thursday ready to move the courthouse to Main Street.
“In my opinion, this facility is in the wrong place,” Whalen said of the First Avenue site.
Tom Verploegen, president of the Downtown Mesa Association, said his concern with building the courthouse on Main Street is losing a desirable office or retail site in exchange for the tougherto-market First Avenue location.
In the March 2004 bond election, Mesa voters approved spending $32.8 million to design and build a new courthouse. The current court building at 245 W. Second St. has nine courtrooms. The new one will have 12 courtrooms with the option to add two more in the future.
The $10,000 study authorized by the council will be incorporated into the bond amount, City Manager Chris Brady said, and not affect today’s $25 million general fund shortfall. However, Mesa relies on its general fund to pay back bonds.
The new courthouse is expected to open by late 2009, Tafoya said. The police department will take over the current building.
The Mesa Municipal Court handles criminal misdemeanor offenses such as driving under the influence, shoplifting and assault; civil traffic and vehicle parking offenses; and orders of protection. Tafoya said about 250,000 people visit the court each year.