- Associated Press - Thursday, February 2, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A judge has revoked a multi-million-dollar contract between Pima County and a balloon spaceflight company, saying Thursday the deal violated state law.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods said Pima County was obligated to appraise the land and hold a public auction before agreeing to a $15 million incentives package for World View Enterprise last year.

Woods wrote the Legislature “intended to protect public resources from being used wastefully, or with fraud or favoritism.”

Goldwater Institute filed the lawsuit in April, months after the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved an incentives package for World View Enterprise that included building a 120,000-aquare-foot headquarters facility, 15,000-square-foot mezzanine and a launch pad.

World View would pay to lease the building and own it after 20 years of payments. The space exploration company develops high-altitude balloons for commercial, government and research purposes.

The county says the deal would create 400 jobs and result in $3.5 billion in economic impact over 20 years.

The Goldwater Institute said the deal put taxpayers at risk if World View leaves town without fully paying for the space.

It also alleges that the county illegally awarded contracts to the designer and builder of the space by bypassing traditional public bidding. That portion of the lawsuit has not been resolved.

The county argued in court that it wasn’t violating rules when it bypassed public bidding and that doing so was necessary to convince World View to locate in Tucson.

County spokesman Mark B. Evans said Thursday the administration is reviewing the ruling and will discuss it with the Board of Supervisors in executive session on Feb. 7. He said the county doesn’t have comment on the ruling.

Jim Manley, a senior attorney with Goldwater Institute, said the court’s decision protects taxpayers.

“The county is free to renegotiate the lease, but they still have to comply with the requirements of the statute,” Manley said.

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