The first stage of the Civic Hall restoration works cost almost $800,000 more than expected, The Courier has learned.
According to council documents, there was a variation of 17.18 per cent - or $791,729 - on the original contract for the restoration of the landmark Ballarat building. The "Stage One" restoration works were due to cost $4.6 million, but ultimately cost $5.39 million.
The council's director of development and planning Angelique Lush said that the plans needed to be adapted after the contract went to tender.
These (contract variations) were due to the new requirements of the co-location with GovHub, ... and the unknown conditions within a heritage buildingAngelique Lush, director of development and planning
Following the state government announcement in autumn 2017 of a $47.8 million investment into GovHub on the same site, the scope of the work increased she said.
In an emailed statement, Ms Lush wrote: "These were due to the new requirements of the co-location with GovHub, which had not been announced when the original Civic Hall tenders were advertised, and the unknown conditions within a heritage building, which only become apparent once works start."
As tenders were already advertised, she said, the extra work needed to be highlighted as variations in the contract. The council's Contracts Approval Special Committee approved variations of $623,485 in December last year and $168,243 this May.
Ms Lush also said that while the initial restoration works were more expensive than expected, the overall project remained within budget.
The original funding for the Civic Hall redevelopment was fixed at $6.78m in the 2016/17 budget.
This was changed to $7.2 million in a subsequent budget in 2017 once the scale of the extra work became apparent, The Courier was told.
The Courier has requested direction to any public council documents that detail the change in budget. It is not clear whether the increase in budget was ever discussed in open council.
The first stage of the Civic Hall project, which was fully funded by the council, included internal demolition, restoration of the main auditorium, along with painting, repairs, lighting, electrical and mechanical services.
There was also new heating, cooling and ventilation installed, as well as insulation, works to enhance the acoustics and window restoration. There was a complete makeover of other parts of the interior, from tiling, carpeting in the upstairs area, and landscaping, including new palm trees planted outside.
The building also needed to be made DDA compliant and fit modern building standards.
Due to the GovHub project, works on the eastern side needed an overhaul with fire and separation walls put in and a lift relocated, a council spokesperson said.
Council committed in 2016 to regenerate the Civic Hall after it had lain unused since 2002. Baumgart Clark Architects were appointed to design the interior of Civic Hall, while local builders SJ Weir won the contract to carry out the Stage One restorations.
In this year's budget, $2 million was set aside to carry out Stage Two works, which will include a commercial kitchen. The Courier requested details on forward bookings for the Civic Hall and revenue.
In a prior statement Angelique Lush said council aimed for the Civic Hall "to generate maximum revenue".
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