The former Sonoita Courtroom will be divided into a community meeting room, workforce office, visitors center and kitchen, according to plans presented at a recent meeting on Sonoita. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Nine community members attended a meeting on March 10 at the County Building in Sonoita to view revised plans for the repurposing of the building, which houses the Sonoita Library and was the site of the former Justice of the Peace court. 

SCC Public Works Director Jesus Valdez displayed the proposed floor plan for the space which would enlarge the present Sonoita Library from 400 square feet to 1400 sq. feet, adding a conference room, office, a reception area, computer stations, and a reading room. The present Sheriff’s office would be relocated to the back of the building, with a separate entrance.

The space formerly occupied by the courtroom would be divided into a 600 sq. ft. community meeting room and a 400 sq. ft. visitor’s center with separate entrances on the front of the building, as well as a kitchen and office space for the Nogales-based AZ@Work Santa Cruz County, which received a federal grant to build a satellite office in Sonoita. AZ@Work provides workforce services, including job training, resume help and job postings.  

The AZ@Work office will be the first space to be renovated in the county building, Valdez said, because the funding is already in place for this project. The other renovations, which he estimated to cost $375,000 – $425,000, are dependent on County funding. This would have to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors during the next budget round, which takes place this summer. 

If the Supervisors approve this expenditure, Valdez hopes that the construction could begin next October and would take four to six months to complete. “I think the odds are good that that this will be approved. This is a project that we have been working on for a long time. My expectation is that staff will recommend it,” said Bruce Bracker, County Supervisor for District 3. 

Attendees at the meeting, which included County Manager Jennifer St. John, Sonoita Library Director Jennifer Riehl, Nogales Library Director Danitza Lopez, Maritza Cervantes, director of AZ@Work, and members of the Sonoita community, were asked to comment on the present  plans. The need for soundproofing between the library and meeting room was discussed, as was the proposed size of the meeting room. At 600 sq. ft, the meeting room might not accommodate more than 20 people, limiting its usefulness. One suggestion was to combine the visitors center with the meeting room to create a larger space. The visitors center would be manned by volunteers, according to Valdez, but it is still to be determined who would be running it. 

The meeting room would be available to community members, but could not be used for political meetings, according to Supervisor Bruce Bracker. The space could not be used for fundraisers or a farmers market, according to St. John. “That was an opinion from a former County civil attorney to the Board of Supervisors,” Bracker said when asked about this restriction in a follow up interview. “I believe there are enough examples of those kind of activities happening in public spaces across the state that we should reconsider this policy.”