Feb. 16, 2005 - Moving can be a pain sometimes, but those making their way into the new Marana Municipal Complex say that's hardly the case in this instance.
Marana's municipal court staff is the first to get a taste of the new 110,000-square-foot facility this week, relocating Feb. 16 to its new address at 11555 W. Civic Center Drive.
But this move won't involve any lifting or carrying heavy furniture. The multimillion-dollar complex, designed by Durrant Architects of Tucson, comes fully furnished and equipped with the latest state-of-the-art technology, including several digital television screens and a high-tech fiber-optics network.
"Pretty much everything we need," said Court Administrator Joe Teta. "It's a considerable upgrade from what we have now."
The courtroom comfortably seats about 30 and includes large video screens as well as a separate courtroom for video arraignments.
Located nearby are attorney-client conference rooms and a jury deliberation room that would make serving jury duty seem not all that bad.
"It adds a lot when someone goes into this type of facility as opposed to the current facility," Teta said. "It adds credibility to the court and to the town."
Anyone aware of the history knows that Marana municipal court has a long past of being cramped, Teta said. With only a small cubicle, the court once started out as a part of town hall, with the town council chambers doubling as the court chambers.
The court later moved down the street to its current location inside a converted bar and restaurant on Sanders Road.
That never seemed to make sense given the way the town was developing, Teta said, but going to a state-of-the-art complex will make it all worth the wait.
"Based on the size of the building, it's going to be much more convenient to the various litigants that come in to utilize it," he said. "The litigant will have a newfound respect for the court, the town and the justice system as a whole."
A limited caseload purposely was scheduled for this week in anticipation of the move, with the court closing Feb. 15 to open for business the following day in the new facility.
The new municipal complex consolidates the governing functions of six offices currently spread throughout Marana, serving the town's administrative, law enforcement and judicial needs, said Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat. Those include the parks, police, courts, development services, water and town hall administration - all of which are expected to move into the facility by April.
The Marana Police Department is the next to move into the new facility Feb. 23. And like the court staff, police officers are looking forward to "the light at the end of the tunnel," said Police Chief Richard Vidaurri.
"Obviously, this has been a project going on a couple of years now and it's finally transpired into the building we now see," he said. "It's been a long time coming."
Vidaurri recalls the small, converted trailer on Sanders Road the department operated out of when he started in 1993. Eventually, the station was moved to a modular building now located next to town hall. But the next move is incomparable, he said.
"It will be nice to walk into a facility that not only displays a professional atmosphere, but where the floors won't creak under your feet everywhere you walk," he said.
Instead of having walls that shake every time someone shuts a door, Vidaurri said, the new facility will exemplify the high standards of the department.
The communications center will be so technologically advanced that an information technology official has been personally assigned to the department, Vidaurri said.
"We are very excited about it; our records people are excited; everyone's excited," he said. "It's definitely a step up. It's a lot of square-footage compared to where we're at right now."
Many employees of the department finally will have offices of their own. And many will busing desk spaces built for two, in anticipation of future growth - a commonality found throughout the complex.
The police records department, in particular, was built in anticipation of up to 20 years of growth, Reuwsaat said.
"That's exciting to know that we have the ability to accommodate additional personnel," Vidaurri said. "Both the town of Marana and police are headed toward major expansion."
Along with more spacious break rooms, the officers' briefing room will be large enough to accommodate officers with plenty of elbowroom to spare. The arms of chairs actually were removed as a special request from officers who carry large holsters, Reuwsaat said.
An ergonomic dispatch room has both comfort and security with a view of 26 security cameras.
Security will be tight in the new complex equipped with a security system that requires town employees to use card keys to pass between most doorways. Even Reuwsaat had difficulty accessing portions of the complex during a tour of the facility last week.
A slight delay in the crossover is anticipated when the department's communications center must shut down for a day, during which the Pima County sheriff's department will be handling dispatch calls.
"It's been a real collective effort - a real team effort - to make the transition as smooth as possible," Vidaurri said.
The idea has surfaced that the current police department facility might be leased to the Marana Health Center for administrative office space, Reuwsaat said. It still is uncertain what will become of the municipal court facility, which is being leased through the end of summer.
Reuwsaat said the old town hall will be used as a community center after the staff moves in April. The Development Services, Inspections, Parks and Recreation, and Water departments are expected to move sometime in April, he said.
The new site is designed to accommodate additional structures as the community grows to an estimated population of 100,000 by 2030.
A welcoming atmosphere greets visitors as they enter the new town hall. Cream-colored walls throughout, along with colorfully tiled bathroom walls, make the building seem less institutional and more "user friendly," Reuwsaat said.
Much work remains to be done, but the central lobby is expected to be lavishly decorated with a black slate floor and an Italian glass mosaic of the town seal.
It's a long way to the top of the third floor where the town manager's staff, mayor and council members will be located, but stainless-steel railings already line the balcony looking down on the central lobby.
Unlike current conditions, council members each will have their own private offices - including Mayor Bobby Sutton, who recently gave up his office to Assistant Town Manager Jaret Barr.
The council is expected to conduct its first meeting in the new council chambers May 3, during which there will be a ceremonial dedication followed by fireworks at 8:30 p.m., Reuwsaat said. The new council chambers will hold about 180 people.
The chamber walls already have been decorated in stone, and architectural "cloud" portions hang from the ceiling. Because of the large size of the room, sound panels line the walls for additional acoustics.
Along with video screens that extend from the ceiling, each council member will have individual video screens in front of them during meetings, Reuwsaat said.
Town employees will have access to a large dining room, a fitness area and a locker room in which town officials can change and shower after an early morning jog, Reuwsaat said.
Most agree on the underlying benefits of having most of the town's 300 employees under one roof. Barrier-free work areas were specifically designed to create a team atmosphere.
"We have grown so big that we've been so spread out, but I think we'll all get to know each other better, not just on a business level but on a personal level as well now," Vidaurri said.
Workers are getting ready to roof the council chambers, and much landscaping remains to be done around the complex, including planting trees, installing sidewalks, and landscaping at the traffic circle. Two public art monuments also will be installed, Reuwsaat said.
When completed, the facility will meet all of the community's needs for at least the next 10 to 20 years, Reuwsaat said, adding that it probably will be the town's largest building until a convention center comes along.