Controversial Sale Of New Castle Youth Development Center Far From Over

SHENANGO TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Dozens of people packed a Shenango Township supervisors meeting to express opposition to a recent sale of land to a business with ties to the Muslim community.

Those opposed to the sale say it doesn’t have anything to do with religion, but rather how the deal went down.

Local officials didn’t know what to expect at the meeting Wednesday night, so security was tightened up, with hand held metal detectors, extra police on hand, and heavy equipment blocking the main entrance to the municipal building.

The reason for the concern was because despite protests from local state lawmakers, and political leaders, the state last week gave swift approval to the controversial sale of state property in Shenango – which used to house the Youth Development Center – to a New Jersey consulting company for Islamic Schools.

A firm called Hira Educational Services wants to turn 143-acre YDC site into an alternative reform center for troubled young people.

Shirley Sellman, a vocal critic of the sale, said, “[The sale] all happened in four days…think about it, four days, and it was all done; something is not right.”

Another resident, Barbara Thompson, told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti, “There’s too many red flags, and Harrisburg doesn’t want to look at them, and with every hook and crook, we’re going to fight this to the end.”

Supervisors have filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Board of Claims, seeking to invalidate the recently approved sale, arguing that the bidding on the property was mishandled.

They contend that the accepted bid on the piece of land was below the assessed property value, and the bid was not properly advertised.

And, perhaps, most importantly, they say the President of Hira Education Services submitted two bids on the property, not one, using different names.

Supervisors say that amounts to collusion.

Township Supervisor Al Burick III, said, “Our concern is that the process wasn’t done right, somehow, they [Hira Education Services] got around the state process, and may have pulled a fast one on the state of Pennsylvania.”

Now, the Lawrence County District Attorney, Joshua Lamancusa, says he, too is concerned about the YDC bidding process, describing it as “unorthodox.”

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