Gary board wants to make sure cheap land doesn’t come with big tax bill
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent April 21, 2013 10:44PM
GARY — The city may get several parcels of land for a pittance from a company apparently linked to a disgraced political operative and businessman, but the Board of Public Works and Safety Wednesday said they first want to make sure there’s no massive tax bill attached.
The board also voted to re-advertise for bids to renovate bathrooms on City Hall’s second and third floors and to close two roads for work.
Enterprise Properties LLC, whose registered agent, according to the Indiana Secretary of State website, is a Jewell Harris, agreed to quit claim its deed to parcels from 4712 Industrial Highway to 4749 Industrial Highway to Gary for $10.
The deed was signed last August by Jewell Harris, Jr., son of imprisoned Jewell Harris, once a key political figure in Gary. The elder Harris is serving a six-year sentence in a federal prison in Wisconsin and was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution for a fraud conviction.
Board of Works members initially balked at the company’s generosity because, according to county records, there is nearly $170,000 in taxes due and owing on the properties.
If the city agreed to the deed, it could be on the hook for the taxes. That prompted the board to take a brief recess in the morning meeting to determine if they should accept the deed.
The properties are scheduled for the county’s tax sale later this month.
“We need to know (the tax bill) is at zero so we won’t accept the liability,” said board member and city controller Celita Green.
The city of Gary’s Environmental Affairs department lists a nearby parcel, also owned by Enterprise Properties, as a legal dumping site.
The board also agreed to give potential contractors another shot at bidding on bathroom renovations in City Hall. Last December, the board opened bids for the project, but there were significant discrepancies in the bids, specs for the work and more, said Public Works Director Cloteal LaBroi.
Since then, the city hired Northwest Engineering, a frequent contractor with Gary, to redo the specs so bids can be resubmitted.
A contractor on a city project got approval to close Gerry Street, on Gary’s west side, at its 25th Avenue intersection for 12 weeks beginning April 29, and 25th Avenue will be reduced to one lane fro Burr Street to Calhoun Street Only local traffic will be allowed.
Also the intersection at 5th Avenue and Grant Street will be closed until April 19 for an Indiana Department of Transportation road work project.