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Gary schools’ bank building deal ‘dead’

Washington

Washington

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Updated: December 9, 2012 7:37PM



GARY — The school district’s deal to accept the donation of a former downtown bank fell through when the district couldn’t do a thorough inspection of the building before a Nov. 2 closing date.

That was School Board President Darren Washington’s explanation of last week’s canceled press conference set to announce the acquisition of the 10-story former Gary State Bank building at 504 Broadway.

Edward Napleton, who owns car dealerships in three states, offered to donate the building to the Gary Community School Corp. last month.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s dead as long as I’m on the board,” Washington said Wednesday.

He said the board’s 5-2 approval of a resolution accepting the building donation on Oct. 23 was contingent on an inspection and a cost analysis. The district hoped to move its central office to the downtown location and possibly open a charter school.

“Everything was based on the inspection,” Washington said. “The district is struggling financially and it’s a beautiful building, but we needed to inspect it.”

Washington said the district learned that the utility bills were likely twice the amount originally quoted to the district.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the district wanted to do more research on the downtown building.

EFN Gary Property LLC, based in Westmont, Ill., which owns the building, hopes to donate it by the end of the year, Washington said. Other parties are interested in it, he said. EFN said the building was worth about $2 million, but that figure was later disputed by board members.

The acceptance of the donation stirred dissent on the board with board member Marion Williams criticizing it, saying the district needed to keep its focus on education, not renovating an 85-year-old building.



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