New Castle News

September 26, 2013

Council opposes space for law association

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Castle City Council has decided not to provide free space at city hall to the Neighborhood Legal Services Association.

Council will not be taking any action, but at Tuesday’s work session the majority voiced its opposition to providing the space.

After discussion by council, members questioned whether the issue would be considered at Thursday’s regular meeting. City solicitor Jason Medure said because no resolution has been drawn up entering into a lease agreement with Neighborhood Legal Services, there is no action for council to take.

The association is facing the closing of its office in the Temple Building and one in Butler because of funding cuts. If the law firm can’t find space in the county by the end of the year, the staff would be moved to Beaver County and would travel back to New Castle for hearings, according to Michelle DeBord, managing attorney.

The association, which provides free legal service to low-income residents, has expressed interest in the vacant space formerly occupied by the police department.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman William Panella said, “I don’t think the city should be in a position to give out free property.”

He said the association has been paying rent of $2,200 per month at its current site, and questioned why it couldn’t do the same at city hall.

Panella said the Lawrence County Bar Association has committed $8,500 to the association contingent on it staying in New Castle.

Matthew Staniszewski, city economic development director, said the legal services agency had planned to use the money for telephone and technological needs.

Councilman Richard Beshero said if the city provides free space to one entity “where does it end?”

Councilman Thomas Smith indicated support if the association paid “some type of rent.”

Council president MaryAnne Gavrile, who favors granting the space free of charge, suggested asking the association whether it is willing to pay the same rent as in the Temple Building.

Beshero said the space should be renovated and marketed to one company.