The controversial sale of the former Youth Development Center in New Castle has led local government officials and many community members to publicly express their concerns.
Shenango Township residents Shirley Sallmen and Barbara Thompson called for a public meeting regarding the sale. The meeting was hosted Friday evening by Jubilee Ministries International at the Kingdom Broadcasting Ministries with nearly 250 locals in attendance.
Several elected officials were present at the meeting, including State Rep. Aaron Bernstine, who publicly presented the known and unknown facts regarding the company.
“I want to be clear that this region is accepting of people from every religious background and race,” Bernstine said during the meeting. “But the vale of secrecy Hira Educational group is operated under has caused confusion and concern.”
State Rep. Bernstine and Sainato said they have shared several concerns with state officials including possible collusion in the bid; Hira’s loss of nonprofit status for failing to file paperwork in New Jersey; Hira’s reported income of $40,000 and one employee; the possibility Hira would start a nonprofit business and not have to pay local property taxes; and the fact that the high bid of $400,000 is a fraction of the more than $3 million assessed value of the property, the New Castle News reports.
Due to Hira’s lack of response, Bernstine claims that without clear understanding of the companies plans for the former YDC property, residents in the area will continue to be confused and concerned.
Some residents are now speculating that because Hira qualifies as a human-service organization, they may be planning on utilizing the facility to house refugees.
Although the local state legislators are doing everything they can to encourage a more in-depth review of the sale, the fate of the former YDC will be decided by the executive branch of Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.
The full live-stream of the meeting was posted on Bernstine’s Facebook page.