Last updated: November 12. 2013 11:46PM - 2938 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com



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Luzerne County Councilman Stephen A. Urban questioned during Tuesday’s council meeting why the nonprofit CityVest is still receiving revenue from parking at the demolished Hotel Sterling site.


Urban said any parking receipts should go to the county because it is owed $6 million by CityVest or to Wilkes-Barre, which paid for demolition and traffic barriers after the former hotel was condemned. CityVest remains the owner of the property until the city gains control of the site through legal action.


The cleared lot at the corner of River and Market streets “seemed full” with parked vehicles in recent weeks, Urban said. He said CityVest has no justification to keep the parking revenue because the building was torn down at public expense, leaving no structure to insure.


A 2011 County Controller’s Office audit said CityVest had received about $54,400 in rental income from the parking lot the previous year, but more recent figures weren’t available.


CityVest has filed paperwork with the state to dissolve the nonprofit, and its legal counsel has not responded to requests for comment.


County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri said he will address the matter, though he said the city would be entitled to receipts before the county because the city obtained first lien position when it demolished the property.


County Community Development Director Andrew Reilly told Urban the county loan to CityVest is now in default status because the nonprofit has said it has no funds to repay it. CityVest used the loaned county funds primarily to make the parcel larger, pay a consultant and tear down an attached hotel structure.


If and when the property is sold to a private developer, the county will receive any proceeds left after the city lien of more than half a million dollars is satisfied, Pedri has said.


In other business Tuesday, council tabled a vote to continue leasing space from Kingston Township to house the office of District Judge James Tupper in an attempt to negotiate a better deal.


Pedri said the township agreed to lower its annual rental increases from an initial proposed 5 percent to 2 percent, but council members wanted to see if the township would accept less due to the county’s financial difficulties. With a 2-percent increase, the rent of 2,700 square feet would rise from $27,815 in the first year to $31,120 in the fifth year, Pedri said.


Council also:


• Directed the administration to prepare a draft request-for-proposals to seek companies interested in providing revenue to the county in exchange for timbering on county property, primarily at Moon Lake Park in Plymouth Township, along with a report on the pros and cons of timbering.


• Declared a vacancy on the county Redevelopment Authority due to the resignation of board member Al Cibello.


• Postponed discussion on recreating a diversity advisory board due to the absence of Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck, who was ill.


• Announced additional security measures will be implemented at future council meetings in response to safety concerns. Meeting attendees are not checked for weapons as they enter the courthouse for evening council meetings.


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