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Dumped mattresses were removed from the grounds of Edison after the press conference

City of Gary going after Gary schools corporation's vacant buildings

Contributed By:The 411 News

Gary Mayor Jerome Prince orders the demolition of 10 blighted Gary schools

Clean-up crews moved in quickly after Mayor Jerome Prince's press conference Friday at Thomas Edison School, one of the schools on his list for demolition. Unused for nearly 15 years, the school property has become a dumping ground and a haven for scavengers.

Doors stand open. Windows and frames have been removed – "something only professionals could have done" is the belief of 2nd District Councilman Cozey Weatherspoon. Edison is in his district. "Nobody with a screw driver looking for scrap metal did this," he has said about the missing windows and frames.

It was the scene for the new mayor's first press conference and his announcement of a goal that seems nearly unachievable, demolishing schools, some that have been vacant as long or longer than Edison. And he's asking another branch that governs the city, the Gary Community School Corporation to pay for it.

"When I ran for office I promised to lead the way on eliminating blight. Today we take our first step in doing just that. I asked our building commissioner to issue 9 citations of our Unsafe Building Ordinance. This is more than just blight but an issue of public safety," Mayor Prince said.

He noted in the last 5 years, the bodies of 4 women were found in vacant school buildings; the most recent in November 2019.

Building Commissioner Ken Willis said, “I have been tasked by the mayor with the responsibility of reviewing properties that fit our unsafe building’s ordinance. We are first looking at the Gary school corporation. The school corporation will be notified today of our claim that the buildings are blighted and must be demolished. There will be a hearing February 3 in the Gary Council chambers to present the evidence for evaluation."

Mayor Prince said he is aware of the school corporation's finances, but they are the property owners; that they must follow the law and address the complaint. "This is our attempt to begin engagement with these owners."

Ten schools – Norton, Emerson, Horace Mann, Lew Wallace, Edison, Ernie Pyle, Carver, Nobel, Spaulding and Brunswick – were initially identified by the administration as violating the city's unsafe building codes.

Ernie Pyle and Emerson were removed from that list, Prince said, after the Gary Housing Authority notified the city of its interest in redeveloping those properties. Aetna Elementary has since been added.

Gary schools emergency manager will hold its next monthly public forum on January 14. On the agenda are updates on the sales of buildings and property owned by the school corporation.

Story Posted:01/04/2020

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