Less than a decade after the Santa Cruz County government relocated several of its departments to a building in Rio Rico it paid nearly $600,000 to purchase and renovate, it’s moving them back to Nogales and considering leasing or selling their former home.
The county’s Community Development and Public Works departments, located since 2012 at the Gabilondo-Zehentner Centennial Service Complex at 275 Rio Rico Drive, began moving their offices this week to the County Complex on Congress Drive in Nogales. The County Flood Control District is expected to join them next week.
County Manager Jennifer St. John said there were no financial motivations for the moves. Instead, she said, the county wanted to improve customer service for residents working their way through different departments.
“We need to have everybody in one area so if somebody comes to get a building permit, they can do everything in one place instead of having to drive out to Rio Rico for building permits, then having to come back to Nogales,” St. John told the NI, adding that the move is scheduled to be completed by Friday, Feb. 14.
In 2011 the board of supervisors voted 2-1 to pay Rio Rico Properties $447,000 for the 40-year-old property known as the “VIT building,” with the idea that it would serve as the home for the Public Works Department.
Rudy Molera, who still serves on the board, voted against the purchase, while another holdover, Manuel Ruiz, voted in favor.
At the time, then-County Manager Carlos Rivera said the money to purchase the building came from the county’s share of state Highway User Revenue Funds, known as HURF. He said the reason for the purchase, which was first identified as a priority in a capital improvement plan done in 2002, was to remove vehicles from a low-lying area at the county’s public works depot on Hohokam Drive in Nogales.
After nine months of renovations to the 8,300-square-foot-property that cost another $135,000, the Public Works Department moved into the building, which was renamed in honor of former public works directors Victor Gabilondo and Ken Zehentner.
In January 2016, the Rio Rico Library moved to the building as well, after previously being located in the Rio Rico Shopping Center.
The library will still remain at its current location, St. John confirmed, adding that the county is studying alternatives for what it can do with the now-vacant space at the Rio Rico building, or the building as a whole.
“The two major options that we are exploring right now are either leasing it out or selling it,” she said. “We’re getting an appraisal right now and we should have the results in about a month.”