Youth Development Center purchase in Lawrence Co. comes with controversy

Hira Educational Services -- a tax-exempt organization -- bought the Youth Development Center in Shenango Township for $400,000

New Castle Youth Development Center, Shenango Township

SHENANGO TWP., Pa. (WYTV) – Shenango Township is trying to get more information about the winning bidder for the New Castle Youth Development Center. But controversy came along with that sale.

The YDC on Frew Mill Road sits empty. The barbed wire remains razor-sharp from its roughly 40 years of holding the worst juvenile offenders.

Former aide Nelson Wallace remembers the impact.

“They had different programs for them to help them with their drug habits, mental health habits, different behaviors, stuff like that,” he said.

The facility also had school in five cottages that could hold 300 teens.

The YDC played a big role in Shenango Township.

“It drove how we built roads, and kept roads, and built everything in the township,” said Township Supervisor Al Burick III.

Now there’s new life coming to the property. Hira Educational Services — a tax-exempt organization — bought it for $400,000.

“The property is no longer going to be on the tax rolls. We wanted to see it go to a body or company that could be taxed,” Burick said.

Hira’s founder, Asif Kunwar, plans to reopen YDC as an intervention center, saying, “These youth will be trained in the field of science and technology, resulting in a workforce that attracts high-paying jobs.” Hira claims the model requires a higher level of family involvement, more community service activities, and one-on-one therapy.

Wallace thinks the property could be a good choice for Hira’s purposes.

“All the tools are here — the fence, the wire, the school. Everything is set up. You don’t have to add on to anything. Just move in or walk in,” he said.

The township isn’t convinced yet, though, having little contact with the new owner. It’s filed a claim, asking the state to look at possible collusion between bidders.

Shenango Township also wants an answer to why the state pushed through the sale even though 45 days remained to review it.

“There’s been several people that came to the township and said, ‘If we had known that it was up for sale, we would have put a bid in,'” Burick said.

That includes an energy company and a bidder from Butler County.

Kunwar believes his project will help the township’s economy by creating jobs.