New Castle News

May 14, 2013

State puts YDC, other properties up for sale

John Finnerty
CNHI

HARRISBURG — This is a listing a Realtor would relish: Talk about a motivated ‘cell-er.’

Two state prisons that will close next month are among 13 surplus properties the state hopes to sell to shed $5 million in annual maintenance costs.

Also on the block will be the former New Castle Youth Development Center in Lawrence County and buildings on the grounds of the Danville State Hospital, including one most recently used as a juvenile detention facility.

The Pennsylvania Department of General Services estimates the properties could command more than $6 million, but a formal appraisal of their worth cannot take place until the Legislature approves their sale.

“The 13 properties in this year’s plan make up the largest list since 1993,” said Sheri Phillips, department of general services secretary.

Since Gov. Tom Corbett took office in 2011, 36 surplus properties have been sold, bringing in nearly $29 million in non-tax revenue, Phillips said. Two more conveyances will occur between now and June 30, representing an additional $2.2 million.

Equally important, the sales represent more than $5 million in avoided expenses to maintain empty, unnecessary facilities and surrounding land.

The state prison at Cresson is projected to bring in $500,000 for the 40-building complex spread across 450 acres in Cambria County. The state prison in Greensburg — 32 buildings spread across 120 acres in Westmoreland County — is expected to bring closer to $1.5 million, state documents show. Both prisons will close at the end of June as the state merges their operations into the new State Correction Institution Benner in Centre County, which opened earlier this year.

The New Castle Youth Development Center, which closed in January, also is expected to sell for about $1.5 million, state records show. The center east of the city in Shenango Township includes 16 buildings on nearly 200 acres.

The last time Pennsylvania sold a state prison was in 2005 when the former Waynesburg state prison brought $990,000, said Troy Thompson, a spokesman in the department of general services. The Waynesburg prison was purchased by a boarding school for youth with drug and behavioral problems, but the facility closed after operating for just four years.

The prisons and detentions facilities would likewise most easily be transferred to a law enforcement or corrections type use, Thompson said. There are 18 privately run secure detention facilities in Pennsylvania, already, said Anne Bale, a spokeswoman in the department of public welfare.

Some of the other properties involved in the planned sale could offer more flexibility for buyers, such as the Danville State Hospital.

Montour County Housing Authority officials were among those examining the properties, particularly residential buildings along Market Street. The housing authority would like to use federal dollars to acquire some of those properties with an aim toward using the homes for a first-time homebuyers’ program.

The Market Street buildings include properties used to house nurses and doctors at the facility, according to a state department of public welfare spokeswoman.

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)