Civic Center extras dropped

NEWPORT BEACH — The City Council on Tuesday jettisoned a $2-million footbridge and rooftop solar panels as add-ons planned for the Civic Center project but approved the remaining construction bids, bringing the total cost to between $125 million and $131 million.

The final price depends on designers and project managers saving time, the construction crews avoiding cost-overruns and contractors using less expensive materials and more efficient technology.

"We hope that we're going to be diligent and have disciplined action," said Public Works Director Steve Badum.

With the project's budget potentially increasing by $8 million since the council approved bonds in November, City Manager Dave Kiff said he reevaluated the city's 30-year Facilities Financing Plan and identified $46 million that the city might save on other projects.

"That increases the ability to fund this [Civic Center] project," he said.

Still, the higher costs irked Mayor Mike Henn.

"The numbers are not coming in certainly where I hoped," he said.

One of the largest increases in the budget came from design and engineering costs — in November, Kiff said that they would not exceed $12 million, but in the latest estimates they might reach $15 million.

To find savings, the council decided against the bridge over San Miguel Drive and solar panels atop the roof of City Hall.

Henn even called the bridge a "bridge to nowhere," referring to the Congressional earmark project in Alaska.

Solar panels would have cost $750,000 to install, but would have saved the city $460,000 over about 18 years.

However, while trimming those extra features from the Civic Center plans, the council left open the possibility that the city might reconsider adding on the bridge and solar panels sometime in the future.

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