Demolition of the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.
Tuesday night Luzerne County council members voted against spending any further county money on the project.
Last year the outgoing Luzerne County commissioners voted in favor of spending one million dollars in federal grant money to fund demolition of the old hotel.
Last night’s vote by Luzerne County council cancels out the commissioners’ vote from last year. That means for now, Luzerne County will not spend one dollar on any part of the Hotel Sterling.
Luzerne County council’s decision to not pay demolition costs on the blighted Hotel Sterling means it won’t be torn down anytime soon.
Luzerne County manager Robert Lawton recently toured the more than 100-year-old structure along River Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Lawton said the building should come down, but he added for now the county should not pay for the demolition.
“By not putting the county in the position of fronting the cash for a demolition plan without some other sources of funding there’s no point in us tearing it down if we don’t know what’s going to come next,” said Lawton.
He added the county wants to see definitive plans for the land before spending another dollar of county money.
Several years ago Luzerne County commissioners loaned City Vest, a non-profit organization, $6 million in a failed attempt to preserve the Sterling, but Lawton said City Vest spent all the money and never paid any of it back.
Engineers said last year’s flooding further damaged the Hotel Sterling, and the barricades at River and Market streets have been in place since last September.
“You know what I couldn’t decide which way to go. River Street is all torn up that way and so going over I can’t go this way, the Pierce Street Bridge. It’s bad,” said a driver near the Hotel Sterling.
“Chaos. It’s pretty bad especially when people are going into work or coming from work it’s taking 10 times longer to get here,” said Sue Hohal of Wilkes-Barre
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said the city only has about a quarter million dollars to spend on demolition of the Hotel Sterling. He said he’s disappointed by county council’s vote. He calls the Hotel Sterling not just a Wilkes-Barre problem but a county problem and said the county has the money to tear it down while the city does not.