WILKES-BARRE – A picture of five young people who appear to be standing on the roof of the condemned Sterling Hotel has caused the city to re-secure all points of entry and issue a warning to trespassers.
Drew McLaughlin, the city's administrative coordinator, said the city's property foreman has re-secured four points of entry and the city will routinely patrol the building and surrounding area.
"The building remains condemned and people of all ages need to respect the boundaries in place," McLaughlin said. "It is a highly dangerous building."
The picture, submitted to The Times Leader by Brian Shiner of Kingston, shows five unidentified young people atop a building smiling and posing for the camera. There is nothing in the image that identifies the building as the Sterling. The picture was found on at least one Facebook profile.
"The property was secured again today as best we can," McLaughlin said. "Any condemned property is susceptible to people breaking in. The only way to secure it 100 percent and eliminate any chance of entry is to complete the demolition."
McLaughlin said the city and Luzerne County are finalizing plans for the proposed demolition. He said the county requested some supplemental information from the lone responding developer to the request-for-proposals before presenting to county council a request to match the city's funding for the property demolition.
"The city and county are working towards getting that approved at the next county council meeting in September," he said. "All project partners are working towards that as fast as possible."
At the Luzerne County Council meeting Tuesday, Councilman Rick Williams pressed county Manager Robert Lawton for an update on the Sterling. The city and CityVest, the building's nonprofit owner, have asked the county to help fund demolition of the 114-year-old former landmark hotel because the developer wants a clean site.
The city is contributing $270,000 toward demolition. County council has agreed to Lawton's recommendation to cancel up to $1.5 million in funding for demolition, but the county contribution would be less now because recent bids for demolition came in as low as $486,000.
Lawton has been meeting with the unidentified developer and said he will make a demolition funding request to council if he believes the development project is credible and will create jobs.
McLaughlin said in the meantime people should not enter the building, which a city inspector recently said was "falling down from the inside out." McLaughlin said debris is falling inside the building daily.
"The fact that we are detouring traffic around the property is a pretty good indication that no one should approach that property, let alone enter it," he said. "Stepping foot inside, not to mention climbing to the top, is extraordinarily dangerous. The public should respect the orders of the city officials to steer clear of the condemned property."
Shiner, a consistent presence at county meetings, said he knows the building and it's not safe.
"The stairs are dangerous, the floors are dangerous and the roof is dangerous," he said. "My concern is to get something done; it's a dangerous situation."