Join Pat Litowitz and Lisa Micco as they visit the former Elks buildings and audition state Rep. Chris Sainato for a movie role. Rated PG-13.

-- www.ncnewsonline.com

Quiet on the set.

"That Old Elks Building: The Musical."

Act one. Scene one.

Cue the lights. Actors, on your marks.

Orchestra, remember this a peppy little number.

In three, two, one. Action.


THE MAYOR: I have a building.

CITY COUNCIL CHORUS: A pretty little building.

MAYOR: It's made of brick.

CHORUS: He wants to sell it quick ...

MAYOR: Before it falls apart.

CHORUS: Part. Part. Part. Part.

MAYOR: Oh, it's a fixer-upper.

CHORUS: A real fixer-upper.

MAYOR: I'd like to let you in ...

CHORUS: But the roof's caved in.

MAYOR: Can't let you sue the city.

CHORUS: No. No. No. No.

MAYOR: For a dollar down.

CHORUS: Just a dollar down.

MAYOR: You'll own a piece of the city ...

CHORUS: That used to be pretty.

MAYOR: And that'll be great.

CHORUS: Great. Great. Great. Great.

(The big finish)

MAYOR AND CHORUS: We don't want to hassle, but will ya move to New Castle? And if you do ...

SOLICITOR: (in baritone voice) We ... promise ... not ... to ... sue.


What happened? Well, that's just embarrassing.

If you haven't heard by now, a California company wants to purchase the former Elks Club. Tri-Cinema Inc. wants to renovate the site and use it for its home studio. Stop laughing. It's true.

A once grand, old structure, the building is in disrepair. Dating back to the early 1900s, the building has switched ownership several times. There are those who would consider the condition of the building a disgrace.

Speaking of disgraces, let's introduce you to the New Castle News' Pat Litowitz and Lisa Micco. Join our shameful duo as they discuss "When the Walls Come Tumbling Down" or "Didn't They Sell This Property at the Affordable Housing Auction?"

LITOWITZ: Here's the problem -- the city has a number of great, old buildings. But it takes money to keep them up to par. Look at the cost involved in renovating the original Warner Bros. theater.

We're talking millions and millions of dollars.

Then there's the New Castle Area School District and the former Ben Franklin Junior High School. Great building but a financial burden on the taxpayers. The district is looking to unload it, but a few board members have other ideas.

Every day that building sits unoccupied you invite more problems.

Don't forget the brouhaha over the homes that were demolished to create the new junior-senior high school.

Antiques are great when you can afford them. But when you're strapped for cash, that's a difficult expense to justify.

I hope Tri-Cinema, which wants to purchase the former Elks building, delivers on its promises. But if it doesn't happen, then it's time to get rid of the building.

MICCO: You know, you're an expense to The News that's hard to justify. Can we get rid of you?

Here's the real problem -- everyone is always in a big hurry to tear down something historic in this town.

The Kurtz mansion. Gone. Made into a parking lot. Soon to be the downtown bus transfer station.

The former Lt. Gov. William M. Brown's monstrosity of a home near East Street. Destroyed. It's now a practice field.

The Phillips mansion. Fell into disrepair and demolished. A church now occupies its former site.

(I'm surprised the Scottish Rite Cathedral has lasted this long.)

So I was happy to see that a business outside the confines of Lawrence County is interested in the old Elks building. It's a grand structure, but what an eyesore. And it smells.

Will Tri-Cinema proceed with plans to refurbish the building or will it be used as the set for "Apocalypse Now, Part Deux"?

Did I mention the building smells?

LITOWITZ: Yes, but so do you.

Setting olfactory issues aside, I also do not like the thought of demolishing historical buildings.

But you failed to address the problem. How are you going to raise money to refurbish the structures?

There's no one coming in to save New Castle.

By the way, who's rushing to tear them down? They sit and sit and sit. Before you know it, someone sets them on fire. That's the New Castle way.

MICCO: Have "A Night at the Races" like everyone else does to raise money.

Besides, I'm not saying the city should fund the renovations. I'm talking about selling the old Elks building to Tri-Cinema -- or whomever else for that matter -- without creating a bureaucratic dog-and-pony show.

Why does the city have to complicate things? I mean, we politely asked to tour the former Elks building, and, after a meeting at Camp David, a dozen consultations with lawyers and a reading of tea leaves, the city says NO.

I don't like being told no. I was very put out.

LITOWITZ: Could it be that you are a spoiled child?

The building isn't the safest place to be. I respect the fact that city officials were looking out for our safety.

Or it could be that the mayor and Councilman Chet Orelli are still mad at you over the Cascade Lake tongue-lashing?

MICCO: Oh wait, I didn't recognize you there for a minute with your face not pressed up against a city official's buttocks. "Respect the fact ... Looking out for our safety ..." Puh-leeze.

If the mayor and Orelli are still mad at me, then they would've given me the key and let me fall to my death.

LITOWITZ: Would that be considered a civic improvement?

(He Said/She Said is written by New Castle News staffers Lisa Micco, design editor, and Pat Litowitz, investigative reporter. Remember, Christmas is 14 weeks away. Gift certificates may be sent to Pat and Lisa in care of "A He Said/She Said Christmas," P.O. Box 60, 27 N. Mercer St., New Castle, Pa. 16103. Gifts are not tax deductible.)

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