The Beverly Hills City Council will discuss ways to reduce the cost of the $79-million civic center project, using the savings to pay for removing potentially dangerous amounts of asbestos found in the city's library and redesigning the foundation for the police station.
Another alternative the council is considering is using a contingency fund set aside for emergencies.
The city estimates that it will cost nearly $2 million to remove the asbestos and redesign the foundation, which have caused months of delays that have cost $5,000 a day.
The city halted construction of the police station in May after workers hit water while working on the concrete footing used to anchor the police building.
Expansion of the library was halted in August when workers discovered cancer-causing asbestos in the ventilation ducts.
Rick Putnam, the director of recreation and parks, said the City Council will be presented a list of options at its Tuesday meeting, including proposed design changes aimed at putting construction back on schedule. The completion date is two years away.
"We will make all the alternatives and ramifications available to the council so they can discuss them fully and make a decision," Putnam said.
City Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum, who disagrees with the size and cost of the civic center, said any increase in cost "should come out of a scaled-down version of the project."
Tanenbaum and Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro are opponents of the civic center expansion, but their attempts to trim back the project have been voted down by council members Benjamin H. Stansbury, Maxwell H. Salter and Donna Ellman.
"I don't anticipate that any scaling back will have to occur," Stansbury said. "The contingency fund was designed to answer problems of the sort we have encountered and it should cover them."
Ellman agreed. "That asbestos would have to be removed from the library whether there was a civic center project or not," she said, adding that the city has always had a problem with underground water.
The library renovation and the new police station are the last of four projects in the civic center. The city has completed work on a new fire station and a parking garage.
Putnam said it will cost $1.7 million to remove the asbestos. The city has yet to determine the total cost of delays on the police station, where redesigned concrete footings will be used to anchor the building. Putnam said the city is ready to resume construction.
Spadaro said she will recommend that the cost of the project be reduced by eliminating the planned bridge that would connect the police station to City Hall.
But she said that she is reluctant to make cuts that would turn the facility into a community eyesore. "At this point it is kind a mess," she said. "We don't want to cheapen it or make cuts in areas that are not aesthetically pleasing. It is a tough problem." Ellman, Tanenbaum and Spadaro have questioned why the city did not take steps to assure that the project would not be delayed by such problems as asbestos and underground water.
Stansbury said the city had conducted earlier tests for asbestos but found only minor traces in the library.
As for the police station, Stansbury said the construction crew ran into underground water after the city elected to build a deeper structure than planned.
In the meantime, opinions still differ on the value of the city's new civic center.
"It will be spectacular, something that will last generations," Ellman said.
Tanenbaum, on the other hand, describes the center as "a major embarrassment for the city; it's too grandiose."
The city issued 20-year bonds to cover much of the cost of constructing the center. But critics argue that once interest and other payments are added in, the true cost of the project will be $151 million spread out over the 20 years. "It's just too much money for a city of 35,000," Tanenbaum said.