- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Republican lawmakers say the facilities operated by the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority are too often empty, managers there need to do more to control costs and their marketing plans aren’t attracting enough new business.

Republican members of the House formed a policy group to identify wasteful spending. The group issued its first report about the authority’s finances Wednesday.

The authority operates the Convention Center, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Veterans Memorial Auditorium and two parking garages.

The report says state taxpayers pay the authority’s debt obligations and operating and maintenance costs for the convention center. It says that with such favorable terms, the authority’s executives bear little to no repercussions for low revenues, missed profit targets or mismanagement.

The authority declined to comment until it has reviewed the report.

Deputy Minority Leader Patricia Morgan led the policy group. The Coventry Republican said the total cost to taxpayers for the authority will likely exceed $750 million. The General Assembly created the quasi-public agency nearly 30 years ago to build and manage the proposed new convention center.

“They really haven’t been focused on growing the business,” Morgan said. “It’s been kind of just a maintenance plan that they’ve been pursuing. The taxpayers, and our economy, need them to become full, all the time.”

The report is critical of employees at the facilities getting pay raises and perks, and of the high overhead, while the facilities run at a deficit and attendance falls. The buildings are vacant 60 percent of the year, it says.

The report also says the authority’s marketing plans don’t have clearly established performance targets and the analysis of the competition is poor, among other deficiencies.

The policy group wants the authority to reduce costs, develop a better marketing plan and set goals for employees that are tied to business growth. The members are asking for quarterly reports on the authority’s progress.

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