February 2, 2017 / Modified feb 2, 2017 7 p.m.

Court Stops Pima County Contract with World View Balloon Company

Judge found the lease didn't satisfy state law; county borrowed $15 million to build it.

World View launch hero A March 2015 launch of a NASA-funded World View balloon flight to carry experiments to a near-space environment. (PHOTO: World View via NASA)

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A Pima County Superior Court judge Thursday tossed out the county’s contract with a high-altitude balloon launch company, saying the county did not meet state law in funding it.

Construction on the $15 million facility is underway south of Tucson International Airport.

But Judge Catherine Woods ruled that the county failed to get the building appraised, hold a public auction and lease it to the highest bidder.

The contract offered a lease with the private space tourism company, which the county said met state economic development laws meant to encourage investment and attract business.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry got the Board of Supervisors to approve borrowing construction money, calling it an economic development move. Huckelberry said it would help start an aerospace development area near the airport.

The Goldwater Institute of Phoenix sued the county, saying it was violating the state Constitution’s gift clause.

A county spokesman said there would be no comment at this time, and the ruling will be discussed in closed session at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

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