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Friday, June 24, 2011

Groundhog Day in W-B: Urban blames Leighton

As you may know, this is an election year wherein we either elect a new mayor, or we reelect the current two-term mayor.

And in laughably predictable fashion, our former minority county commissioner gone political turncoat is taking shots at the mayor of the county seat. So, what else is new?

From today’s Citizens’ Voice: Urban: Diverting state money doomed Hotel Sterling

The hard-to-read excerpt: Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton's decision to divert $3 million of state funding intended to rehabilitate the Hotel Sterling "brought the wrecking ball closer" to the 114-year-old city landmark, Luzerne County Commissioner Stephen A. Urban charged Thursday.

"It helped seal the fate of the Sterling," Urban said of Leighton's decision to transfer a state grant from the Hotel Sterling project to the construction of the Intermodal Transportation Center, the $28 million downtown bus terminal and parking garage.

CityVest, the nonprofit organization that owns the Hotel Sterling, said this week a private developer interested in the hotel abandoned the project early last year, citing the reallocation of the state funds as a "significant deterrent."

Give me a second to take this abject absurdity in.

Okay, the Sterling has been vacant since 1998. CityVest took control of the property and spend $6 million (allocated to it by none other than our county commissioners) and basically worked to make the property larger.

Despite burning through that aforementioned $6 million, the hotel was never properly mothballed so as to give it more time as the search for a developer dragged on and on and on during a prolonged period of economic uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the City of Wilkes-Barre was completing high-profile project after high-profile project, with yet another pivotal one suffering some serious cost overruns. Hence the, in retrospect, timely and necessary funding transfer.

According to CityVest and Urban, an unnamed developer was willing to devote perhaps as much as $33 million to restoring the hulking hotel, but would not go as high as $36 million? Is anybody signing that threadbare bill of lading?

So when it’s all supposedly said and done, CityVest never did find that long-illusive developer of choice, it never did completely secure the original hotel building, our county commissioners basically wasted another $6 million they never really had in the first place (half a billion in debt) and Steve Urban says Mayor Tom Leighton is the Hotel Sterling bogey man?!?

If I bothered to attach labels to my posts, which I do not, this one would have to be filed under ‘comic relief.’

Be it the once much-ballyhooed new prison, the bond-financed construction of a new juvenile detention facility, the Valley Crest albatross or the cash-infused Hotel Sterling project, I would ask of our oft-accusatory county commissioner which of those projects the county brain trust got right?

The county has gone half a billion in debt during his 'see-no-evil' tenure, and all that our soon-to-be deposed county commissioner has got is “Leighton did it?”

What’s next? Leighton somehow sealed the fate of Moon Lake Park?


Consider the source.


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