County Controller to Audit Sterling Hotel Developer

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Now that it looks as though the old Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre will be demolished what happened to the $10 million of taxpayers money spent to develop the property?

There may soon be some answers on where all that money went.

Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith announced Wednesday he plans to audit the Sterling project. "These people need to be held accountable," said Griffith.

Six million of the $10 million spent on the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre came courtesy of Luzerne County taxpayers, for a building now seemingly destined for demolition.

"We have a lot of money on the line and the taxpayers are responsible and want accountability," said Griffith. He wants to know how the non-profit development company CityVest spent the county's money on the hotel it promised to fix.

"People that get money from the county taxpayers because we want to help them should not be allowed to thumb their nose at us and not fulfill their obligations," said Griffith.

"If the controller has the wherewithal to perform an audit, I certainly would welcome that," said Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla. She doesn't think Griffith's audit will turn up wrongdoing by CityVest, but she said questions need to be asked.

The county's $6 million investment paid for a building that deteriorates by the day.

"I hate to call it just a waste money, but we're only going to wind up with a vacant piece of land," said Petrilla.

Griffith called an audit of the Hotel Sterling project necessary.

CityVest's initial loan papers with Luzerne County promised to begin work on the hotel in February, 2007, finish the job by February, 2008 and create jobs for people of low and moderate income.

"Clearly they have not done that, and now they just want to walk away from their whole process, and say well because we can't find a developer we're just going to tear the building down and turn the land over to the county," said Griffith.

He plans to formally notify CityVest of his intention to do an audit by the end of the week, and said the process should take about a month.