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City Hall at what cost?

The amount of money that has been spent on studying whether to remodel or raze it is already piling up.

August 03, 2007|By Alicia Robinson

Before a spadeful of earth has been moved or a brick has been laid, a new City Hall already has cost Newport Beach $856,847.

Since commissioning a study of city workers' space needs in 2003, several successive City Councils have asked for information, debated and ultimately punted a decision on where to put a new City Hall.

But they've also spent money, starting with the 2003 study. The bulk of the nearly $857,000 spent on city hall issues was in 2005, for several designs for new city facilities on the current Balboa Peninsula site. It also includes $54,000 for analysis of two places in Newport Center that are the latest candidates.

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"The bottom line is it's a complicated project, it's a difficult project because we've decided to change locations," said Mayor Steve Rosansky, one of three incumbents who were on the council in 2005.

"At the time, I was not in favor of looking at other sites, really for the reason that we're in today — because I knew politically it was going to be difficult to move City Hall from where it is today."

But the political winds shifted toward Newport Center, and the city was left with about $627,000 in designs that may never be used. Council members most recently voted to try to make a deal with the Orange County Transportation Authority and the Irvine Co. for parcels on Avocado Avenue, but a group of residents hopes to preempt that with a ballot measure to build on city-owned property less than a mile away that is earmarked for a park.

"I would simply say it's time now for us to make a decision. We've spent enough money on studies and analysis," said Councilman Keith Curry, who wants to acquire and use the transportation authority's property. "More delay is going to mean more costs."

Arguably, it already may have cost more to delay. By this fall, the city will have spent $313,000 on trailers that house city workers who don't fit in the existing buildings anymore.

The first of the trailers, for the building department, was brought in while the council was talking about whether a new City Hall was needed, a second arrived in recent weeks, and a third will be installed by the end of the year.

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