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Peggy Hinckley (left) and Karen Freeman-Wilson

Neither increasing revenues nor reducing costs comes easy in Gary

Contributed By:The 411 News

Parents didn't like Bailly as choice for citywide middle school and win

A landfill for construction debris seemed a good idea to bring in revenue for a struggling city. But what Gary saw as economic development was thwarted by a suspicious public and community activists who say quality of life trumps all.

And another idea brought backlash from parents – the Gary school district emergency manager’s plan to reduce costs by shifting to a citywide middle school. Last month, Dr. Peggy Hinckley announced Bailly, a K-8 school would become home to the district’s 6th through 8th graders in the coming school year. Last week, she notified the public of a change in plans.

Thwarting the emergency manager’s plan for the middle school at Bailly was a letter writing campaign from parents. Their messages to Dr. Hinckley’s manager, Indiana’s Distressed Unit Appeal Board, was a thumbs down on Bailly.

At the March 8 meeting for parents and students at Banneker School, Hinckley announced Banneker’s kindergarten through grade 5 students will be moving to Marquette School and instead of Bailly, Banneker will become the new middle school.

It won’t be an easy fit at Marquette Elementary for the expected 600 students plus staffs of the two schools that will share the building.

But Dr. Hinckley has an even greater middle school student population number problem to handle. Nearly twelve-hundred of the district’s 5,200 students will be in grades 6 through 8 in the 2018-19 school year. Banneker doesn’t have the space to hold them.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson had proposed legislation to allow the city to create a landfill for the disposal of debris from its demolition projects. The legislation, House Bill 1318, aimed to eliminate the costs of transporting construction debris to dump sites outside the city and create savings to allow the demolition of more structures. Also, the site would accept construction debris from other communities, bringing revenue to the city.

The mayor said the city has 6,000 vacant and abandoned homes that need to be demolished.

HB 1318 had near unanimous approval in the House but couldn’t get out of the Environmental Affairs Committee on the Senate side. Residents were suspicious because a site for the landfill was unknown and the bill was seeking approval to change the state law requiring landfills to be at least a half-mile away from a residential area. HB 1318 sought to reduce the distance to 600 feet.

Also arguing against the bill was a coalition of community activists and environmentalists who have gained credibility with state officials because of their efforts combating soil contamination issues in East Chicago.

During a workshop the mayor hosted for high school students recently, she talked about HB 1318, saying she was reaching out to the community to have dialogue on the landfill.

Story Posted:03/11/2018

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