NEW CASTLE —
The New Castle Youth Development Center is closing.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced Tuesday the facility, in operation for approximately 45 years off Frew Mill Road in Shenango Township, will close Feb. 15.
Juveniles housed at the facility, reported to be 31 as of Jan. 1, are being moved to other youth development centers throughout Pennsylvania. Donna Morgan, public information specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, said Tuesday afternoon the juveniles were to be moved within the next 24 hours.
The closure will affect 223 employees at the YDC, according to the governor’s office.
Local legislators were caught by surprise at the announcement and are asking the administration to keep the facility for delinquent juveniles open.
A press release issued by the governor’s office said referrals to the YDC have “drastically decreased” over the last several years.
The 100-bed facility costs taxpayers more than $19.4 million annually, the release said. Closure of the facility will result in a savings to taxpayers of $73 million over five years.
A team from the state department of labor and industry will provide information and assistance to employees “to help the 223 affected individuals become re-employed quickly.”
Vacancies within the department of public welfare also will be temporarily frozen so dislocated employees from the YDC can be provided opportunities to move into other positions.
Morgan said employees will have the possibility to move to other youth development centers. She said the closest one to New Castle is the Cresson Secure Treatment Unit in Cambria County.
Union employees, estimated at 210, will have the ability to bump, she said. The department is “also reaching out” to other state agencies “to see if they have positions available.”
Corbett said the closing is part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, established last year to evaluate ways to enhance public safety through the most efficient and effective use of state resources. The plan will invest $10 million into strategies for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders.
“This is a reinvestment strategy that works for Pennsylvania,” he said. “But we’re also committed to minimizing impacts to the residents of Lawrence County through a strong re-employment and economic development plan that will continue to provide jobs for those in the surrounding region.”
“We really do realize how difficult this is for employees and we are working with them to get them another job as soon as possible, as we also explain to them why it’s so important to right-size the current juvenile justice system which they have played an important role,” Morgan said.
The statement from the governor’s office also says the departments of community and economic development and general services will work with local government, community and business organizations to examine and market the property for resale or redevelopment.