The Hotel Sterling's nonprofit owner must sign off on an agreement with Luzerne County and Wilkes-Barre before the county releases money needed to demolish the downtown city structure.
County Manager Robert Lawton said the county and city have reached an understanding on the key points of the three-party agreement.
The county does not view the city as being an obstacle to moving forward, Lawton said Thursday.
It's unclear why the owner, CityVest, has not accepted the agreement, which guarantees the county has no liability until the site is cleared and conveyed to the county.
A representative of the nonprofit could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Lawton touched on the reason for the delay during the Oct. 23 county council meeting, saying the administration wants to ensure the county isn't on the hook if environmental issues or other unknown problems surface after the county assumes ownership.
The liability must extend throughout the chain of ownership, Lawton told council.
That has been the sticking point, and we are standing firm on that, he said. As far as the county's legal standing with respect to ownership, I won't yield on that point. I will not let us be stuck as the last owner holding the bag.
CityVest sought government intervention because it is out of funds and the property was condemned by the city.
The nonprofit spent most of a $6 million county community development loan to expand the parcel at the corner of River and Market streets, tear down an attached high-rise and remove hazardous material from the original hotel.
County officials agreed to provide $232,729 toward the $492,729 teardown and site clearance. The city is providing $260,000 in state gaming funds.
The county also wanted more information from an interested unnamed site developer before releasing the funding. County Chief Engineer Joe Gibbons is reviewing additional data submitted by the developer.
Once the site is cleared, the county will obtain the property title from CityVest and oversee development, officials said. The 4-acre parcel fronts the River Common recreation area along the Susquehanna River and is visible entering the city over the Market Street Bridge.
Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith told council Thursday he has completed an audit of the county's Diversity Commission covering transactions from June 2006 through this August.
The audit says the commission of volunteer board members did not produce evidence showing 13 transactions totaling $9,000 were publicly approved as required. The commission also failed to properly authorize a $10,000 disbursement to the Northeast Pennsylvania Diversity Education Consortium, the audit said.
Council members are discussing the status of the commission because it has been inactive under the new home rule government.
Griffith said his audit will be posted on the audit section of the controller's page on the county website, www.luzernecounty.org.