Auditor General DePasquale questions Yorktowne Hotel project cost
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday said he's considering auditing the $40 million Yorktowne Hotel project upon its completion.
DePasquale's Thursday, Oct, 31, comments came a week after Gov. Tom Wolf's administration committed another $1 million in grant funding to the hotel renovation project. There has been $15 million total in public contributions.
"(Auditing the project) is something we've contemplated before, and we're still contemplating if the whole program should be audited," DePasquale said, adding he intends to soon send questions about the project's costs to the York County Industrial Development Authority.
The Yorktowne Hotel project has drawn scrutiny for its growing costs that officials say stem from hidden structural issues. Its estimated price tag has doubled from $20 million to $40 million since the YCIDA pitched its first Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant application in 2015.
The final cost could be even higher, but that will be unknown until the final rounds of bids come in, said Kevin Schreiber, president of the York County Economic Alliance.
Most projects that receive RACP grants are subject to audits from the state, Schreiber said. But the auditor general getting involved is far less common.
And the audit could be difficult, DePasquale said, as the project has received funding from more than one type of grant.
The grant awarded Oct. 23 was an Industrial Sites Reuse Program grant. In September, the state awarded the YCIDA a $2 million RACP grant.
DePasquale's office would have to wait until the project is completed, which is now expected in late 2020 or early 2021. That could coincide with DePasquale's bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township.
DePasquale's tenure as auditor general is set to expire at the end of 2020 because of term limits.
But the congressional election or term limit would not dictate his office's plans, Depasquale said, adding that it would be difficult for his successor to "stop it midstream."
State lawmakers alsohave taken notice of the project's excessive costs.
Rep. Seth Grove, a Dover Township Republican who sits on the House Finance Committee, said Wednesday that the Wolf administration should think twice before pumping more cash into the project.
"Maybe moving forward, we have to have a conversation about when we do these economic development projects, we do this so that it stays on budget," Grove said. "Obviously projects going over budget is problematic. I don't think we're going to put any more money into (the Yorktowne) going forward."
Proponents such as Schreiber have asserted the high costs are worth the return on investment and preservation of the historical building. He also said he isn't worried about a potential audit by the auditor general.
"(I'm not worried) at all," he said. "We're all anxiously awaiting the next wave of construction to bring the project to fruition.
The Yorktowne Hotel is expected to debut as a part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.