A group of concerned Lawrence County, Pennsylvania residents are furious to find out that an Islamic group has bought the local Youth Development Center and refuses to answer any questions as to its purpose.
There are more questions than answers about the future of the 143-acre, state-owned property that has been vacant for the past four years. People want to know what will be developed there and who the mysterious high bidder is.
The state just recently accepted the highest of three bids on the property from an Islamic company called HIRA Education Services. But there are questions about the company’s plans for the land.
The company is headquartered in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey. It employees one person and generates $41 million in annual revenue. That is plenty to raise a HUGE amount of questions!
On its website, HIRA say it’s a consulting firm with “a mission to promote the ongoing success of Islamic schools,” adding, “We offer our services to Islamic schools that are not getting aid from the government.”
Concerned citizens expressed their fears over the state’s acceptance of a $400,000 bid at a local council meeting. It was the highest of three bids submitted to the state for the 143 acre complex that has set vacant for the last four years.
Tensions were running so high that people were wanded with a metal detector before being allowed into the meeting of the Shenango Township supervisors.
In fact, so many people showed up that the fire department put a safety limit on how many people were allowed inside the building. The rest sat on chairs outside. Also, not knowing what to expect, heavy equipment was parked nearby for crowd control purposes.
“No one knew it was even back on the market and then we hear someone got the bid for $400,000. Now, we don’t know a thing about this group,” said Shenango Township resident Shirley Sallmen.
According to its website, Hira Educational Services of North America is a consulting firm based in New Jersey that provides services to Islamic schools.
“I would like to see an investigation done on what exactly are their plans to develop this property,” said Lawrence County resident Sheila Stiegler. “We don’t need to become like Pittsburgh and become a sanctuary city.”
Even though their hands are tied, Shenango Township supervisors are also concerned about the sale of the property. They outlined their concerns in a letter to the state.
“Maybe if the company actually returned our phone calls or answered our questions, we wouldn’t have as many questions,” said supervisor Al Burick.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, the sale is not a done deal. A spokesperson says Hira has 15 days to sign the sales agreement and return a deposit. After that’s received, Hira would then have 60 days to close on the property.
Why is this being done so secretly? Why did the right people not do due diligence in this sale? There are a dozen unanswered questions here and with good reason. Messages left by news organizations have yet to be returned by Hira Educational Services of North America. Shenango Township officials say they haven’t had any luck reaching the firm either, which concerns residents.
Someone best be answering some questions.
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