Renovation of the old Phelps Dodge Building on G Ave. into the new Regional Government Center is nearing completion and officials said last week should be open and fully operational by mid-May.
The cost for the renovation currently stands at $5 million project in which $1.2 million came from the city; $3.8 million from the county.
The building is owned by the City of Douglas, with the option for the County to purchase in 10 years.
It will be maintained by both the City and Cochise County.
New plumbing was added throughout the entire building, along with it being rewired. The stairs will be refurnished and carpeted; an elevator has also been added for those unable to climb the stairs.
The third story, Ortega said, will be used for adult and juvenile probation as well as have a wired conference room. It will also contain a court room for Judge Alma Vildosola. Anyone entering that area will have to pass through a security desk and metal detectors.
The second floor has some “unassigned space”, Ortega said. It will also contain an office for Ann English of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors.
The first floor will contain a local museum, the Cochise County Health Department as well as the Douglas office for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Dept.
Both Ortega and Shook made it perfectly clear those taken into custody by the CCSO will be processed at this place but not kept there.
Shook added once the building is open and fully operational he estimates 200-300 people will be passing through the entrance each hour.
There are plans for the basement to possibly become a regional evidence storage facility.
Parking for those having business in the building will be in the large vacant lot in the back.
“I suspect we’re looking end of April, early May before I can say we’re done,” Ortega said. “We had a couple of last minute delays but nothing to be really concerned with. … We don’t want these guys (the contractors) to rush. We’d rather it be done correctly and safely.”
Construction crews are working six days a week trying to get the building ready for the newly targeted opening date.
Ortega feels that in the end this is something both the city and county can be proud of.
“I’m extremely pleased by what I’m seeing here,” he said. “I think it shows the tremendous partnership that the Cochise County Board of Supervisors working with the City of Douglas has not only been a good thing; we now have a great testament to that partnership.”
Ortega hinted there could be other joint projects between the city and county all as a result of the success of this project.
Shook said he too is pleased by what is happening with this major renovation project.
“Both the city and county get something very important out of this partnership,” he said. “This will end the same way it started as a very close relationship between the city and county that accomplishes something for both parties and saves money for both parties.”
Douglas’ newly elected Mayor Danny Ortega Jr. was also on hand for the tour.
“I’m very impressed; very happy for Douglas,” Ortega said. “I think this is going to help pick up the downtown a lot.”
Ortega added there is a possibility that sometime down the road the so called “empty space” the building has could be used for Cochise College, the University of Arizona or Arizona State University.
Shook said in 2008 there were discussions with the U of A to possibly build a campus in Douglas.
“Then money got tight and they had to pull back,” he said. “I’m hoping … that when things get back more towards normal that they’ll be interested of postsecondary education of locating inside the Government Center.”