Construction on part of the $79-million expansion of Beverly Hills' Civic Center has been delayed by the discovery of potentially dangerous levels of asbestos in the city library.
The asbestos was found in insulation surrounding ventilation ducts in the 22-year-old building.
The material, a cancer-causing agent, was not circulated in the air and never posed a threat to library patrons, but it could endanger workers renovating the facility, said Rick Putnam, Beverly Hills' director of public services.
The library is closed to the public during the renovation.
"There was no potential for hazard unless it (the asbestos) was disturbed," he said.
Officials eight weeks ago stopped all work on the library to give workers time to remove the asbestos, a "very delicate" job that could take until the end of November, Putnam said.
The discovery of asbestos came about the same time that construction of a new police station, also part of the expansion, was put on hold after workers found water beneath concrete footings used to anchor the building's foundation. Construction resumed last week after engineers redesigned the footings to withstand the watery soil.
"Work is under way again at the Civic Center, although we won't see 100% construction activity at the site" until November, Putnam said.
Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. said the delays on both projects have cost the city between $5,000 and $10,000 a day.
Putnam, however, estimated the loss at less than $5,000 per day.
"I think that (Stansbury's figure) is off the top of the head and is certainly not a figure we're looking at," he said.
Stansbury said officials overlooked the asbestos during a routine check two years ago before sending the contract for the project out for bids. Its removal would have cost considerably less had the job been included in the original contract, he said.
He said he was not surprised that workers ran into water beneath the police station, since the area is notorious among architects and engineers for its high water table.
"Certainly, dealing with Beverly Hills, you're going to find water," he said. "That's life."
The library renovation had barely begun when the asbestos was discovered, Putnam said. Plans call for a complete renovation of the building's interior as well as construction of a second story to house the library's growing book collection.
The library renovation and police station are the last of four projects involved in the civic center expansion. A new fire station was completed earlier this year and a new parking garage has been open since last year. The entire expansion is expected to be finished in two years.