Bids for the final stage of construction at Beverly Hills' expanded Civic Center have come in at least $10 million below previous estimates, city officials said this week.
Vice Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. hailed the bids as "great news indeed," but Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum denounced the project as a waste of money no matter what the cost. Instead, he urged that the money go to support the city's widely respected but financially troubled school system.
The issue is expected to be the topic of heated debate at the City Council in coming weeks and Tanenbaum said that if he is outvoted he will urge the public to take the matter into its own hands through the initiative process.
The low bid for building a new police station, expanding the library and doing other work to complete the Civic Center was submitted by J. A. Jones International of Charlotte, N. C., at $43.6 million, Deputy City Manager Robert C. Walsh said.
The two other bids received last Thursday were $43.9 million from the Tutor Saliba construction firm of San Fernando and $45.6 million from the British-based Taylor Woodrow Group.
By comparison, the lowest bid submitted in September of last year, when the project still included a proposed performing arts center, was for $55.9 million.
That bid came from Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Greeley, Colo., which did not enter the competition for the Beverly Hills project this year.
The other three firms that submitted qualified bids last year also dropped out, Walsh said.
Stansbury said initial projections for the stripped-down project ranged from $51 million to $52 million, "so to say that we're pleased with the results is quite an understatement.
"They (the bids) are excellent. It means that, as far as I'm concerned, the Civic Center is back on the track," Stansbury said.
But Tanenbaum said the real cost is $170 million or more because of the interest required to finance it.
Tanenbaum predicted that the Civic Center and a proposal to set the Greystone mansion aside for use as an art museum would prove monuments to folly.
"Parents will take their children to the Civic Center (and) to the Greystone Museum, and say, 'This is the reason there are no math or science teachers to teach you to read and write because we thought it was more important to have a Taj Mahal or this Tower of Babel,' " he said.
Tanenbaum said work on the project should stop and the issue be put to the voters in a referendum. He said he will make that recommendation at a town hall meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11.
Work on the Civic Center project began with ground-breaking ceremonies in 1983. A parking structure is already in use and a new fire station is scheduled for completion in January.
Walsh said city staff and an advisory committee of Beverly Hills residents will review the latest bids and report on them to the City Council in the next few weeks.