Gary School Board backs downtown move
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/648-3154 October 23, 2012 9:40PM
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:44AM
GARY — A divided School Board voted Tuesday to assume ownership of the 10-story iconic Gary State Bank building at 504 Broadway, where school officials plan to relocate the district’s central offices and rent out office space.
Two board members voted against accepting the building donation from the Napleton Co. because they worried about its aging maintenance needs and the diversion from their mission to educate students.
“It’s a bad deal. I must look this gift horse in the mouth,” said board member Marion Williams who said the boiler in the building’s basement needs $2.5 million worth of repairs. “The Gary Community School Corp. is facing a number of issues we must deal with. The financial issues today are insurmountable.” Williams, who heads the board’s building and grounds committee, said the business of renting space to businesses would take away from the focus on education.
“I’ve heard talk of payless paydays. I’m concerned people get paid and children have books. I don’t need to spend time running another business.”
Board member Nellie Moore agreed with Williams, but other board members backed the recommendation of Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.
The building, which opened in 1908, is mostly vacant. It does house a pharmacy. The board’s agenda listed its value at $2.2 million. The Napleton Co., which owns auto dealerships, has owned the building for about 10 years, attorney Robert Lewis said. The closing and transfer of ownership will take place Friday.
Plans call for the district’s central administration to move to the fourth floor of the building, which at one time housed an office for the governor. The service center at 620 E. 10th Place has been condemned because of problems with its air quality and ventilating system, said board member Barbara Leek. “Is it a risk? Yes, it is. I’ll vote yes,” she said.
“It’s time for the district to make some major moves,” board member Ken Stalling said. “It’s a step in the right direction. We’ll get a property management company to manage it. We have to look forward years down the road; it’s a worthwhile venture.”
Board members Rosie Washington, LaBrenda King-Smith and Darren Washington said the district should be part of the downtown’s revitalization.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson welcomed the move. “It will keep another building from being vacant. It’s a beautiful building. It has a lot of potential,” said Freeman-Wilson who maintained her law office there from 1988 to 1999.
“There’s a real opportunity to generate revenue.”