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School Officials Say New Belmont Plan Is Being Prepared

November 30, 2000|DOUG SMITH | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

Los Angeles school officials Wednesday sidestepped a potential showdown with a citizens oversight committee over its demand for further testing of the abandoned Belmont Learning Complex, promising that a resolution is in the works.

The district's environmental chief told the committee that he and Supt. Roy Romer were preparing a plan that would answer key questions about the environmentally plagued project: Can it be made safe, what would that cost, and how long would it take?

"What this committee wants in terms of movement on Belmont, we're going to be moving in that direction," said Angelo Bellomo, head of the district's environmental health and safety branch. "Those questions will be answered."

Bellomo offered no details of the plan, but said it would be presented to the board soon, possibly at its Dec. 12 meeting.

Later, Romer said he could not elaborate until he has briefed the board. "We have some ideas that may help resolve this issue," Romer said. "We're working on them."

The chairman of the citizens committee that oversees the district's $2.4-billion construction bond had said that it would consider withholding money from some new schools unless the Board of Education reviewed its decision to abandon the $200-million downtown high school project. As part of that decision in January, the board stopped state-supervised studies to determine how to protect students from explosive methane and toxic hydrogen sulfide on the site.

The committee, siding with a coalition of activists and political leaders, contends the board acted prematurely in killing the project without knowing the results of the study. It voted in June to demand resumption of environmental testing.

Committee Chairman Robert Garcia said he favored withholding funds from any project that has been proposed as an alternative to Belmont.

The committee never got to debate that proposal Wednesday, because district officials did not present a school construction budget as they had planned to do.

Garcia said the item was pulled because the district and the committee have started constructive talks on a number of disputes over the committee's budget authority. He said he was encouraged they could be worked out.

Garcia said the committee would return to the question of withholding funds unless Romer delivers on his new plan to advance the Belmont studies.

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