Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Convention Center Authority counting on 3.2 million in state grants to keep pre-opening numbers in the black

The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority is finding itself in over its head.

Finance Committee Chair Laura Douglas said Monday that the Authority is $129,000 short in its construction budget alone and that change orders are averaging $200,000 a month.

With some ten months of construction remaining, they are facing at least a $2 million shortfall.

And these are pre-opening expenditures only.

It remains to be seen whether the facility will attract a sufficient number of conventioneers to make the investment viable much less profitable.

But Chairman and Acting Executive Director Art Morris is optimistic that help is on the way.

He said Monday that he continues to receive assurances from Senator Gib Armstrong that the county is earmarked for $3.2 million in state grants.

When will that money be available?

"The expectation is that this will be packaged as part of the budget in June," said Morris.

He went on to caution that sometimes the approval of the state budget is delayed for political reasons, as occured between Rendell and the Republican legislature in summer 2007.

He also noted that the actual receipt of the money would likely not occur until "months later."

Morris himself has been serving as the Authority's Executive Director without pay for the better part of a year.

With the recently-confirmed Kevin Molloy taking the helm in May, the paying out of his salary (and signing bonuses) will further reveal the Authority's real cost overruns.