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Pennsylvania to Sell Two State Prisons

Pennsylvania could save a projected $5.2 million a year in maintenance costs with the proposed sale of 13 surplus properties. The Department of General Services will present its plan in the next few weeks to Gov. Tom Corbett to sell off surplus land and buildings.

The Senate State Government and House Government Committees held hearings last week on the department's annual disposition plan. In the past two years, the state has sold off 36 properties for $29 million.

Greensburg State Correctional Institution in Westmoreland County and Cresson State Correctional Institution in Cambria County are among the 13 properties up for sale this year. Combined, both soon to be closed prisons make up $3 million of the $5.2 million in projected savings.  

Many of the 2,400 inmates at Greensburg and Cresson are expected to be transferred into the new, 2,000-bed Benner State Prison near State College. Both prisons are to be vacated June 30.

Department spokesman Troy Thompson said the 13 facilities are a drain on the taxpayer’s pocket.

“An unused building doesn’t represent any use,” Thompson said. “It’s not productive, it’s just sitting there, we’re just paying for the upkeep of these buildings, and it’s costing the taxpayer’s money.”

Thompson acknowledges they are moving quickly especially with the two prisons.

“There’s a sense of wanting to get these properties off of the state inventory and back onto the public tax rolls as soon as possible, and that’s because of the size of the facilities and the costs that it would take to maintain these buildings once they’re unused,” Thompson said.

There has been federal interest in the correctional facilities, both of which could be used as private detention facilities, according to Thompson. He indicated the property could bring in about $6 million, but a formal appraisal won't be conducted until after the legislature approves the plan, which expected later this year.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."