A budget surplus in the City-County Building restoration project, now nearly 80 percent complete, is permitting city officials to throw in a few extras, including 22 hand-carved sandstone gargoyles.

Workers have finished most of the structural work on the project and have turned their attention to some of the finer details of the restoration, said project coordinator Phil Erickson.Pointing at the grimacing face of one creature carved by Salt Lake artisan Wes Hansen, a fourth generation stone carver, Erickson said the gargoyles are an historically and architecturally valuable addition to the restoration project.

"If anything, this project has proven that there are craftsmen today who are every bit as useful as the ancient craftsmen we were taught to admire," he said.

While the cement that holds the gargoyles in place dries, other workers continue working on the rest of the building, scheduled to open for public business on May 1, 1989 - two months ahead of schedule, Erickson said.

Workers have finished shoring up the building's foundation, which was crumbling, making the entire structure unsound.

Soon, the building will be cut from its foundation so that it rests on high-tech base isolators, the giant "shock absorbers" that will permit the building to absorb shock waves from earthquakes in the valley.

Inside, workers are just finishing most of the woodwork and a second plastering job that cut into the renovation's contingency budget to the tune of $500,000.

False ceilings have been removed to expose ornately decorated vaulted ceilings. Red and green paint - historically true colors - are starting to appear on office walls.

In city council chambers, council members have finally settled differences over a long-running squabble over private office space. Council members agreed last week to stick closely to original restoration plans, forsaking private offices, which may have cost upwards of $60,000, for cheaper and less private work stations, Erickson said.

Council chambers are also being restored to match the original 1894 floor plan.

And down the hall, not far from the mayor's office, Erickson showed off the the City-County Building's new press facility - a former washroom.

Although the building's interior is shaping up, its exterior seems to be verging on chaos, with dead grass, mounds of earth and a labyrinth of lumber piles and fencing cluttering the area.

Landscapers intentionally poisoned the grass, which triggered irate phone calls from citizens. But the brown lawn will be replaced with a more resilient, shade-resistant variety soon, Erickson said.

"I don't think anything has raised the public's attention as much as killing the grass,' Erickson said. "But it will look good by fall."

Five floors above the Washington Square grounds, scaffolding climbs the south wall of the building where workers are finishing restoration of two gables. The Statue of Justice, a hammered copper replica of an earlier piece, was installed there last week.

Not only is the project ahead of schedule, it is also $200,000 to $500,000 under budget, said Larry Migliaccio, project manager.

Last year, Migliaccio estimated a $600,000 to $1.6 million surplus. But that has been consumed by some of the project's "preferential items," such as gargoyles, an additional water fountain in surrounding Washington Square and more lighting, Migliaccio said.

The city council must determine what to do with the surplus, said council Executive Director Linda Hamilton. The money will be either used in the project or to pay of the $30 million bond approved to finance the project.