On the "Come Up" with Karen                
2015 Reports on matters pertaining to Gary, Indiana and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's running of the "Steel City"

           Economics create a battle between the haves and the have-nots, and between the takers
           and the taken.

                      - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 2013

     "Gary, a city that is designed to provide the best government that tax dollars can buy."
                  - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 16 Jan 2014 [On selection of Gary as a Strong Cities, Strong Communities participant]

Gary, a community that seems to know its problems but can't figure out a way to solve them.
The shabbiness of the city, and the casualness with which it residents wield guns for self-protection, is shocking.
        - Urban Decay in a City of Steel (CNN Photo Blogs) 

Gary is confident that its worst days are over and the best are yet to come.  "You have to look at Gary with the correct idea-that Gary is an easel on which is to be painted one of the great success stories of the 20th Century."
         - Don Sullivan, Gary Business Development Commission 17 Apr 1988

"Gary is in continual decline.  I've been waiting for it to hit bottom for 50 years.  I haven't heard that thud yet."
 - Greg Reising, 2014

If a building can be abandoned a school, a church, an office complex, a hotel, a grocery store, an apartment building, a gas station it has been abandoned in Gary.
- Josh Noel, 2014 Tribune Travels

*** The July 2015 unemployment rate in Gary is 40%! ***
- Gary Crusader

  Go To:  ARCHIVES PORTAL for access to all past Gary news reports (2008 to current)
  Go To:  
JACKO JABBER (Reports on matters relating to the demise of Michael Jackson)

Well, here we go with the 2015 report on the running of the City of the Century - Gary, IN - by its elected officials.  This is the fourth year without Rudy at the helm, as well as the fourth year a female has occupied the Gary Chief Executive office.  There can be little doubt but Karen Freeeman-Wilson does indeed still have her work cut out for her!


Will Gary set another record for murders (55 in 2014 by GDYNets count)?
Will Gary Int'l. become a viable airport?
How many of the 10,000 vacant/abandoned Gary homes will KF-W get tore down?
Will the now closed Lew Wallace H.S. be sold for pennies on the dollar, or will it be allowed to crumble away?

Remember, you may access the earlier reports from the links appearing above, or at the bottom of, this page. 

Missing Gary Woman's Death Ruled Homicide
#42* and Counting

Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn
[30 Sep 2015]

A woman found dead Tuesday evening outside an abandoned home in Gary has been identified as a missing Gary woman.

A news release from the Lake County coroner's office on Wednesday said the body found in a yard in the 4000 block of Broadway was Carolyn Rimpson, 61, of the 4000 block of Connecticut St in the city's Glen Park section.  Her death was ruled a homicide, the release said.

Police officers investigating a foul smell coming from an abandoned house in the 4000 block of Broadway around 7 p.m. Tuesday found her remains, Lt. Tom Pawlak said.

Rimpson was reported missing to police Sept. 23.  A Silver Alert was issued Monday for Rimpson.  Rimpson was dropped off at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at her home, Gary Police Lt. Dawn Westerfield said Monday.  She was reported missing by her brother, Nathan Rimpson.  The Indiana State Police in its alert said Carolyn Rimpson was last seen at 8 a.m. Sept. 24 in the area of 40th Av and Connecticut St.

She'd never been reported missing before, Westerfield said.  When his sister didn't show up for work, her brother, Nathan Rimpson, knew something was wrong.

"She worked at Strack's for 17 years, and everyone was crazy about her," Nathan Rimpson said Wednesday afternoon.  "That's why I don't understand how someone could do this.  "There were so many good things about her."

Jay Wesley, a family friend, said Carolyn Rimpson was a good bowler.  "She had her good and bad games, but she could surprise you," he said.  "Nathan is like a brother to me, and Carolyn was my 'little sister' even though she was older than us."

Nathan Rimpson said he and Carolyn buried their mother a month ago.  He said he wanted to thank everyone who helped put up fliers looking for his sister.  He remains the sole survivor of the family.  "I thank everyone from my heart," he said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Gary Police Department at 219-881-1260 or 911.


Gary Gets $3M From Feds for Buffington Harbor
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[30 Sep 2015]

GARY | The city of Gary has been awarded $3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration to extend Buffington Harbor Drive to serve a new industrial park and development near Lake Michigan.

"The EDA investments announced today will connect industry to crucial transportation channels allowing businesses to grow and create jobs for the Gary and Pioneer communities," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in announcing the Gary grant and one other.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has already approved a $7.45 million matching grant for the project.  The city of Gary will add $3.5 million and the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce agency, $2.3 million.  [GDY- At $16.25 Million total, this is going to be on heck of a road?]

The city and a Terre Haute-based construction company have formed a partnership to transform an 84-acre tract near Buffington Harbor into a modern industrial park.  Garmong Construction Services earlier this year announced it is seeking to build an industrial shell building of up to 500,000 square feet at the site.

Carmeuse transferred ownership of the property to Gary last year to create the industrial park.  The company will take down its silos and do other work on the site before beginning development.


Female Body Found in Yard of Abandoned Gary House
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[29 Sep 2015]

GARY | Police found a female body outside an abandoned home Tuesday night in Gary's Glen Park section, officials said.

Police were investigating a foul smell coming from the residence in the 4000 block of Broadway about 7 p.m. when they found the remains in tall grass and trees in front of the house, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.

The body was in the early stages of decomposition, Pawlak said.  Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey on Wednesday said the body is that of an African-American female.  No other descriptions of the woman were released.  The female has not yet been identified.

The case was being handled as a death investigation pending the results of an autopsy. The Lake County coroner's office and Lake County Sheriff's Department Crime Scene Unit responded to the scene.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Cpl. James Nielsen, of the Regional Homicide Task Force, at (219) 755-3852.


Gary Library Closings Put on Hold
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[29 Sep 2015]

After a scolding from Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, the cash-strapped Gary Library Board tabled plans to close Brunswick and Du Bois branch libraries.

Some board members backed the closings to reopen the shuttered main library that's been closed since 2011. The action could leave the reopening in peril.

Board member Robert Buggs, who's led the campaign to reopen the main library, said during Monday's meeting the board has spent $2.2 million to renovate it after earlier gutting it to transform it into a cultural center.  He said the library is nearly ready to reopen.  "The board has approved $2 million to get it open and now we're going to let it sit," said Buggs who lost to Freeman-Wilson in the May Democratic mayoral primary.

In a rare show of unity, both Freeman-Wilson and administration critic Jim Nowacki criticized the board for the possible closings of Brunswick and Du Bois.

"I've heard about your surveys and estimates and I'm not sure who took them," said Freeman-Wilson.  "I wish this conversation had been shared with the city council prior to their making a decision," she said in reference to a July council vote that allowed the library board to use $1.85 million in its reserve funds.  "It seems a little disingenuous."  The divided council agreed to allow the library board use the funding to cover the main library's costs and for repairs at four other branches.

Several council members questioned the move saying the reopening of the main library at 220 W 5th Av would undoubtedly mean closings of satellite branches.  Like the city, the cash-strapped library board is struggling to operate four branch libraries and has been crippled by dwindling property tax collections and crushing tax caps that wiped out about 40% of its budget.

Library director Diana Morrow said the only way the board can staff the main library is to staff it with employees from closed branches.  "If we keep everything open, we won't have staff for the main library," she said.

More than $1 million was targeted for the main library rehab, while the remaining $800,000 would go for painting, new carpeting and furniture at the four branch library buildings.  Those branches are Brunswick, 4030 W 5th Av; Du Bois, 1835 Broadway; Kennedy, 3953 Broadway, and Woodson, 501 S Lake St.  Brunswick is the library's newest branch but Buggs said its parking lot needs $500,000 in repairs.

Nowacki flashed his library card and said he uses it regularly.  "I wish the library board could appreciate how important libraries are in our community.  I was in attendance when we closed the main branch because it was important to the board at that time to cover the city with branches.  "I think you're going in the wrong direction here.  The entire west side is not covered," he said.

Library board member Paula Nalls, who chairs its finance committee, said she'll schedule more public meetings.  In hindsight, Nalls said the plan to convert the main library into a cultural center was a blunder.  "It was a big mistake and a cash cow.  I don't want to imply that individuals did things underhanded, but we had to pay out big money.  Nobody guts a place to reopen it," she said.

Four years ago, former library board president Tony Walker backed a plan to close the main library, but transform it into a less expensive museum and cultural center so the downtown wouldn't be left with another shuttered eyesore.  The library board approved the $2.9 million plan and workers gutted the library, installing a new colorful facade declaring it the South Shore Museum and Cultural Center.

Meanwhile, opposition to library closing grew among senior citizens.  The activists convinced the county council to dump its board appointee and they filed a lawsuit.  Meanwhile, the school board appointed Buggs to the board and he sought to have the plan overturned and the library reopened.

The Gary School Board appoints three of the seven library board members, while the Gary City Council and mayor each have one appointment and the Lake County Board of Commissioners and Lake County Council each have one appointment.


Dir. of Redevelopment:  Gary Would Rather Have Your Property Than Your Tax Money
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[28 Sep 2015]

The Gazette has obtained copies of documents which may go a long way in explaining the low tax collection rate for the City of Gary.  In recent published reports, a collection rate of just 42% has been quoted several times (the Gazette disputes this number).

In documents the Gazette has obtained through a public records request, City of Gary Department of Redevelopment Director Joe Van Dyk strongly implies that the City is pursuing properties, not taxes.  Certainly, that is the case as it relates to the Fuller Center for Housing of Gary and the Jackson St of Dreams properties ( 65 parcels) addressed in the thread obtained.  "If this goes public, there is a greater likelihood that people will redeem their properties."-EMail from Joe Van Dyk, Director of Redevelopment, City of Gary

As you can see above, Van Dyk seems to be warning that, if word gets out that the City is trying to obtain title to the Fuller Center for Housing of Gary Jackson St of Dreams properties, the owners may redeem.  Redemption is a process whereby an owner pays the delinquent taxes and keeps his or her property.  This should be the favored outcome for any tax delinquent property.

Not so in the city of Gary!  In fact, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in her reply regarding Van Dyk's email provides more evidence that the City actually has a policy of discouraging outside investors when she refers to "speculators" as "bottom feeders."

Perhaps most troubling is that each of the houses acquired had been grossly overassessed.  So property owners were taxed at two to three times what they should have been, failed to pay, and then the City swooped in and took them before the "bottomfeeders" could purchase them and rehab them.  While Van Dyk bemoans the number of vacant homes owned by LLCs, he makes no mention of the number of crumbling buildings under his control.


Two Men Charged in Burglary of Closed Gary School
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[24 Sep 2015]

A Merrillville and a Hobart man face burglary and resisting arrest charges in connection with a brazen mid-day break-in Tuesday at the shuttered Lew Wallace High School in Gary.

It marked the second time this month that police have captured suspects allegedly stealing items from the Glen Park school at 415 W. 45th Av after an alert neighbor called police.  The school closed last year.

Detective Sgt. Mario Gonzalez secured charges Thursday against Howard Geib Jr., 44, of Merrillville, and Jason Wolf, 32, of Hobart.  The charges stem from a neighbor's call about 12:40 p.m.

Officers Jamaal Joseph, Jamal Milton and Silas Simpson observed a vehicle matching the description of the suspect's vehicle pulling away from the rear of the school and driving through the grass.  Police saw several metal objects protruding from the trunk of the car, a police report said.  When Joseph activated his emergency lights and siren to stop the vehicle, its driver fled, but was stopped shortly afterward, the report stated.  Both men in the vehicle were arrested.

Police spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Westerfield said police try to keep an eye on the dozens of closed schools in the city.  "We don't want them to become dilapidated," she said.

On Sept. 7, a neighbor told police two men were breaking into Lew Wallace and police caught Leon Robinson, 21, and DeAndre Lacy, 20, both of Gary, according to a police press release.


Gary Mayor Hoping to Combine Some Police and Fire Duties
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[24 Sep 2015]

GARY | The city is expected to follow the lead of other cities like Benton Harbor, Mich., in cross-training police and firefighters.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who spoke about the proposal at Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting, said the idea could help hold down costs while providing more of a police presence on the streets.

Freeman-Wilson said training could be done both internally and externally.  The incentive for public safety officers to acquire such skills would be an increase in pay as well as a chance to increase their marketability, she said.

The city's proposed budget for next year already calls for a $5,000 increase in pay for police and firefighters.  This follows an earlier $2,500 increase approved for the current year.  Freeman-Wilson also is proposing another $2,500 increase for 2017.

With the proposed raise for next year, a patrol officers would see their pay increase from $41,804 to $46,804.  As a public safety officer trained in both police and firefighting skills, Freeman-Wilson said a person would be paid more than $50,000.  Cost savings, she said, would come from needing fewer people overall in the two departments.

Freeman-Wilson thought it might be next year before the city would see its first public safety officers and indicated there would always be those who want to do one job or the other and not both.

Councilman Ron Brewer asked Freeman-Wilson about the possibility of some other city luring the public safety officers away once they complete their training in Gary.  Freeman-Wilson said that at one time the city required officers to have to pay back the cost of their training if they did not serve three years with the city and the administration is looking into the possibility of re-instituting such a policy in the city.

Freeman-Wilson's other proposal would involve merging departments in areas such as general services, maintenance, vehicle maintenance, recycling, and other areas in both the city and sanitary district to better deal with calls for service, such as potholes, tree trimming and code enforcement issues.  Freeman-Wilson said some of the same duties being performed by workers with the sanitary district were being performed by city workers.

In addition to combining forces with the sanitary district, Freeman-Wilson said workers will be cross-trained.  She said there are no plans to lay off workers under this plan, but by combining forces the calls for service from citizens through the 3-1-1 line can be handled more efficiently.  Freeman-Wilson said there are currently about 1,500 such calls currently pending in the city.  She also said the cross-training would be good for employees by giving them more skills.


Mayoral Hopeful Tarver Says City Won't Document What Became of Cars
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[24 Sep 2015]

A candidate for Gary mayor in the city's November municipal elections said Thursday he is having trouble finding out what became of 120 automobiles the city purchased back in 2009 with money received from a federal grant.

The grant in question was $3.2 million from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, and is meant to encourage greater use of fuel efficient vehicles that release less emissions into the atmosphere.

Unicratic candidate Eddie Tarver used a press conference at his Gary campaign offices to show documentation that the city bought 96 Crown Victoria automobiles for use by the police department, along with 12 Ford F-250s and 12 Ford Escape hybrids.  The Ford vehicles were purchased from Lake Shore Ford-Mercury in Chesterton for about $653,000, while the Crown Victorias were purchased from Paul Heuring Ford in Hobart for $2.04 million.

Under the requirements for the grant, the city is required to maintain reports about how the vehicles were being used and any maintenance work done on the vehicles.  It also restricts the city's ability to sell off the vehicles during the time period of the grant which runs through Oct. 1.

Tarver said he has tried in recent weeks to get information about these vehicles by using the Freedom of Information Act but says the city has refused to provide him with relevant documents.  "We don't know for sure what has become of these vehicles.  We need help to find out what is going on," said Tarver, who also displayed photographs he said were taken on Wednesday at city-owned lots on 11th Av and on Madison St.

He said the issue is serious because Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson earlier this year talked of the need to buy new automobiles for use by the Police Department.  "Why do we need to buy new cars if we still have these other vehicles and can tap into grant money to maintain them," he said.

The mayor called Tarver's allegations "outlandish," saying it makes no sense that the city has 120 automobiles tucked away somewhere when one considers the current condition of the city Police Department's squad cars.  "If we really had those vehicles somewhere, we'd use them," she said. "Those may be older cars, but they're still likely usable."

Freeman-Wilson also pointed out that the purchases were made back during the mayoral term of Rudy Clay, although Tarver said he is not impressed.  "Every mayor blames a previous mayor for their problems," he said. "But this mayor inherited a $3.2 million grant."


Local Steel Output Rebounds to 621,000T

Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[24 Sep 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose 621,000T last week, rebounding after a three-week slide.

Great Lakes steel production increased by 11,000T, or 1.77%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, rose to 586,000T last week, up from 573,000T the week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.7 million tons, up from 1.694 million tons a week earlier. Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.4% last week, up from 70.9% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 78.1% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output has been 64.3 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  It had been 69.9 million tons at the same point in 2014.


With Fewer Cops, Gary Preacher Conducts Own Nighttime Patrols
Compiled From a wbez.org Report byMichael Puente
[23 Sep 2015]

Apostle Marvin East, a Gary preacher, conducts his own nighttime patrols because he says the citys police department is understaffed.

Its been a challenging year for Gary, Indiana.  Crime is a constant problem and its police force is undermanned because of budget constraints. Thats left some some neighborhoods feeling vulnerable.

But one local preacher is doing whatever it takes to protect his neighbors even if it means staying up all night.

Apostle Marvin East lives in Garys Marshalltown Terrace.  The truck driver-turned-preacher says there arent enough cops to patrol the neighborhood overnight.  So he does it himself.

"What community can operate without police presence?" Apostle East asks.  "I would love to be in bed [at night] but once this community goes backward youll never get it back."

More than 20 police officers have left the Gary Police department this year, many for better paying jobs elsewhere.  A Department spokeswoman says the city is trying to boost pay and hire new recruits to beef up patrols.

In the meantime, Apostle East says its up to him to protect those who still call Marshalltown Terrace home, including his own mother.


Gary Council Tackles 2016 Budget with Adjustments, Cuts
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[23 Sep 2015]

The executive director of Gary's Redevelopment Commission will receive a roughly $7,000 pay hike under the proposed city budget for 2016, although officials said that is because he's being expected to do more work than he did in previous years.

The Common Council's finance committee reviewed a half-dozen ordinances Tuesday related to the 2016 city budget, including measures providing for the salaries and operating expenses of the Gary Redevelopment Commission.

The one significant change is a $7,000 addition to the $80,067 annual salary the commission's executive director currently receives.  As part of a trend by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson to merge duties of several city agencies in hopes of being more efficient, Redevelopment Director Joe Van Dyk will now be asked to handle responsibilities that previously fell under the city's Planning and Zoning departments.  "I remember (Van Dyk) told us he was going to take on additional duties," said committee Chairwoman Mary Brown, in explaining her support for the pay raise.

Also on Tuesday, the Finance Committee reviewed the budget for the Gary/Chicago International Airport.  At $2.95 million, the airport budget is $556,892 less than was earmarked in the 2015 budget.  There will be cuts in money spent by the city on security services, repair and maintenance and marketing, said financial adviser Virgil Moore.  He said AvPorts, the company contracted to run the airport, will assume those expenses.  The city, however, will pay the salaries of the airport's director and an administrative assistant, Moore said.

The Fire Department also will have some changes.  Chief Paul Bradley said he is doing away with one battalion chief's position at a salary of $57,111 to cover the costs of five new firefighters/emergency medical technicians who are paid more than regular firefighters at $46,804.  Bradley said the move is because of five existing firefighters who have qualified to handle EMT duties and can now receive the higher $48,750 salary called for in the 2016 budget proposal.


Troubled Gary Schools Fail to Pay Sewage Bills
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[22 Sep 2015]

The Gary Sanitary District has refiled liens against the Gary Community School Corp because the district has failed to pay its monthly sewage bills.

Last year, the struggling school district reached an agreement with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson to settle its debt with half of the $800,000 being forgiven.

GSD attorney Jewell Harris Jr. said Monday the school district did make two payments of $200,000 each in November and December 2014. But Harris said the agreement also called for the district to keep current on its monthly bills.  He said the district has not done so and that voids the agreement and cost the district the $400,000 credit granted previously.

"There were provisions under the agreement, and it's my understanding it hasn't been paid," said Freeman-Wilson.  "We need to get paid, it was more than a fair agreement."  Last year, the mayor expressed reluctance at the filing of liens against another governmental entity and she met with school officials to work out a settlement agreement.

With the continued non-payment of bills, she changed her stance.  "I also know you can't get blood out of a turnip but it allows us to stand in a prominent place in line. Obviously, the federal and state governments come first."

Harris filed liens of more than $107,000 on Sept. 2 in the Lake County Recorder's office.

Last year, the school board approved the issuance of $1.2 million in bonds to cover some of its debts that also included more than $6.8 million in unpaid payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, which also filed liens against the district.  The IRS filed another lien against the district of $153,085 for payroll taxes in the tax period ending March 31, 2014.

Like the city and the Gary Public Library, Freeman-Wilson said the school district has been hit hard by the property tax caps that cost the school district about $13 million in 2013, more than any other district in Indiana.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, who couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, has said the district lost about $100 million in revenue since 2009. Besides the tax caps, shrinking enrollment and the rise of charter schools has hit the district hard.

At a Sept. 8 meeting, school board member Marion Williams said enrollment taken the first week of showed a decline to about 5,000 students.  Board president Antuwan Clemons disputed Williams' numbers, saying they weren't accurate.  The district hasn't responded to requests for enrollment data.

On Sept. 11, the State Board of Accounts released an audit that questioned whether the district could continue as a "going concern."  The audit criticized the district for failing to maintain adequate records to account for cash and investment balances and payroll disbursements.  State auditors said they had trouble reconciling the district's books because of omissions and errors.

Freeman-Wilson said she hasn't read the audit, but was aware of its findings.  "The school board has said they'll do what they need to do to correct items.  It is consistent with the challenges they've talked about."

Because of the district's financial struggles, State Sen. Earline Rogers convinced her colleagues to approve an addition to the state budget that provides a state-paid financial specialist for the school district.  The school board selected Martin, Arrington, Desai & Meyers, of Bingham, MI.  The state Distressed Unit Appeals Board approved a $650,000 contract with the company that's already begun work.


Gary Man Threatens to Blow Up Restaurant and Kill Everyone -- On Job Interview
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Amy Lavally
[22 Sep 2015]

A Gary man who showed up at a local restaurant for a job interview was arrested on a felony intimidation charge after he refused to leave when he was suspected of taking another applicant's cell phone and threatened to kill everyone and blow the place up, according to a police report.

At 2:25 p.m. Monday, Portage police were called to Carlisle Restaurants, 1877 Center St, because Raymond Freeman, 19, of the 4000 block of Buchanan St, refused to leave and was threatening to kill people in the business office, the police report said.

An office employee, who police said was visibly shaken by the incident, told police Lewis was filling out pre-employment paperwork when another applicant doing the same left her cell phone behind, the report said.  When she called back to see if her phone was in the lobby, another employee asked Freeman if he'd seen it and he took it out of his pants pocket, the report said.

The office employee decided Freeman couldn't go through the rest of the employment process because she felt he was dishonest and would not be trustworthy handling money, the report said.  When the employee told Freeman, he refused to leave, the report said.

The employee let Freeman use a phone to call for a ride and heard him make three or four calls, cursing and using profane language.  She asked several times for him to leave and, according to police, he became angrier the longer he remained at the office and at one point threatened to blow up the building.  The employee asked him another time to leave and he refused and said he wanted to "come back there and kill everybody here," the police report said.

Freeman told police he put the cell phone in his pocket with the intention of giving it back later.  He denied making verbal threats and said he left the business lobby as soon as he was requested to do so, the report said.

Freeman faces a felony charge of intimidation and a misdemeanor theft charge.  He also received a warning for trespassing.

Police transported Freeman to Porter County Jail.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Gee, is there not some federally funded job skills training program in which we can enroll Mr. Freeman?


Firm Receiving $650,000 to Lend Fiscal Oversight to Gary Schools
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[21 Sep 2015]

The Michigan firm hired to sort out the Gary Community School Corp.'s shaky financial status will receive $650,000 over a one-year period.

The contract with Martin, Arrington, Desai & Meyers of Bingham, Mich., wasn't finalized until last week, although a representative from the firm has been working in the district since last month, according to school officials.  The contract's start date is listed as Aug. 11 and it expires Aug. 10, 2016.  The state, not the Gary schools, is paying for the services of the firm following an insertion into the state's two-year budget by State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary.

Hired in July by the state Distressed Unit Appeals Board, the company, headed by Jack Martin, is expected to provide an initial assessment of the financial status of the district and to develop an operating plan to ensure fiscal accountability and essential educational services.  The firm has also worked with financially distressed Detroit Public Schools.

An audit, released last week by the State Board of Accounts, found the district's financial books in shambles.  The audit criticized the district for failing to maintain adequate records to account for cash and investment balances.  State auditors found the district also didn't maintain records to account for payroll disbursements.  It questioned whether the district's ability "to continue as a going concern."

Sen. Rogers said she was disappointed, but not surprised at the audit findings.  "That's why I was so glad they are going with the specialist," she said of Martin.  "I'm not surprised there were concerns in the way they're keeping the books.  The main thing is to correct the manner in which they were operating in the past."

The Gary School Board fired its interim chief financial officer, Michael Washington, in April and appointed accounts payable supervisor Mary Comer as the district's treasurer.  Washington had held the job since 2013.


Cal Twp Assessor Employee Indicted for Extortion
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[18 Sep 2015]

HAMMOND | An employee of the Calumet Township assessor faces federal charges for shaking down five businesses in exchange for reducing their tax assessments, the U.S. attorney announced Friday.

Pamela Griffin Frizzelle, 52, of Merrillville, faces seven counts of extortion in U.S. District Court, Hammond, U.S. Attorney David Capp's office said in a statement.  Court documents allege Frizzelle, who is listed in township records as a Level II assessor earning $31,042 per year, allegedly solicited at least $4,000 in 2014 from the business owners and then used her office to reduce or attempt to reduce the business' tax assessments.

Though none of the businesses are named in the indictment, it alleges Frizzelle extorted money:

* on March 2013 from "Business Owner 1" for $1,000
* on Feb. 2014 from "Business Owner 2" for $200
* on Feb. 2014 from Business Owner 3 for $600
* on Oct. 14, 2014, from "Business Owner 2" for $400
* on Oct. 23, 2014, from "Business Owner 2" for $200 on behalf of "Business Owner 4"
* on Oct. 24, 2014, from "Business Owner 4" for $600
* on Jan. 25, 2015, from "Business Owner 5" for $1,000

Lake County government records show Frizzelle's employment was terminated July 10.  "When we became aware of the investigation, Ms. Frizzelle was terminated. ...  We are shocked at the whole thing because we don't understand how this could have happened," Collins said.

Calumet Township Assessor Jacquelyn Collins said Friday Frizzelle's alleged actions were an isolated incident.  Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince said Friday the indictment shouldn't reflect on the work of his office or the five elected township assessors in the county.

The General Assembly eliminated all but a handful of township assessors seven years ago under a reform act to shift the job of linking tax assessments with private market valuations from elected amateurs to better trained specialists.

Lake County's six elected assessors are independently responsible for setting values on real estate annually to determine what share each of the county's 252,000 property owners must pay to support county, township, school and municipal government.

The Calumet Township assessor's office, under former assessor Booker Blumenberg, came under criticism five years ago by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for the poor quality of its work.


Deputy Assessor Previously Charged with Stealing $106K from Church
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[19 Sep 2015]

According to an article in the Northwest Indiana Times (see below), Pamela D. Frizzelle was charged with stealing $106,000 from a local church in March, 2007.  The Gazette could not confirm the charges as the Lake County Online Docket lists no prior criminal charges for Pamela Frizzelle or Pamela Griffin.

According to the article, police said Frizzelle was a secretary at the church and cashed 94 business checks in her own name.  Frizzelle, who was 44 at the time, was charged with forgery, fraud on a financial institution and theft according to The Times.  Frizzelle is presumed innocent of the charges as there is no indication she was ever convicted.

Pamela Griffin Frizzelle, 52 of Merrillville, Indiana was charged with six counts of violating the Hobbs Act.  According to the indictment, Frizzelle accepted cash in exchange for reducing personal property tax assessments for 5 Gary, Indiana businesses.

The office of Calumet Township Assessor Jacquelyn Collins came under fire earlier in the year when a former employee was charged with murder after posing as a child welfare worker in order to gain access to the home of 23 year old Samantha Fleming.  Geraldine R. Jones is charged with the murder and the kidnapping of then 17 day old Serenity, daughter of Samantha.  The family has questioned on social media whether there was a link between Jones work at the office of Calumet Township Assessor and the selection of Samantha Fleming and Serenity as victims.

Former Church Secretary Charged
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[20 Mar 2007]

CROWN POINT | Prosecutors have charged a former church secretary with stealing more than $106,000 from the Israel Metropolitan CME church in Gary.

Pamela Frizzelle, 44, of Gary, is charged with forgery, fraud on a financial institution and theft.

Court records allege that from Oct. 2, 2003, to Aug. 22, 2005, Frizzelle stole 94 church business checks and wrote them to herself on the church's two bank accounts.

Part of Frizzelle's duties included paying church bills, so she had access to the checkbook, court records say.


Local Steel Output Falls Again to 610,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[16 Sep 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region fell dramatically to 610,000T last week, the third straight week it's fallen.

Great Lakes steel production fell by 8,000T, or 1.29%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output fell by about 2.69% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, fell to 573,000T last week, down 4.02% from 597,000T the week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.694 million tons, down from 1.74 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70.9% last week, down from 72.8% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 78.1% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output has been 62.6 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  It had been 68.1 million tons at the same point in 2014.


State Critical of Gary Schools Financial Records
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
and a nwiTimes Report by Dan Carden
[16 Sep 2015]

The Indiana State Board of Accounts was unable to determine how sound the Gary school system's finances are, claiming the district's financial records are poorly maintained.

State auditors released a report this week for the Gary Community School Corp. for July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2014, that was to determine if any problems existed with the school system's finances.  But the state could not reach definitive conclusions either positive or negative, according to a report.

"The school corporation did not maintain adequate records to properly account for cash and investment balances," the auditor's report reads.  "We were unable to obtain sufficient competent evidential matter because we were unable to reconcile the school corporation's record balances with the bank depository balances."  The auditor's report also said the Gary schools' records will not allow for use of other auditing procedures to determine if cash and investment balances are accurate.

"The school corporation did not maintain adequate records to properly account for payroll disbursements," the auditor's report reads.  Officials said the school corporation did not provide documentation of pay rates, and also did not provide time and attendance records to back up payroll disbursements.  Specifically, the auditor's report said district bank account records for operating expenses had not been reconciled since June 2013, and that payroll bank account records have not matched up since July 2012.  The report also notes the accounts still had not been reconciled as of July 2, 2015, despite the district's being notified of the discrepancy in early spring.

Other issues identified in the audit report include the school corporation's co-mingling of federal grant awards with other district funds preventing review of how grant money was spent and the submission of inaccurate financial data to the Indiana Department of Education.  In addition, Gary schools paid $334,160 in undocumented charges to its food service provider, while hourly food service workers were paid for nine snow days they didn't work and possibly paid again for working seven snow make-up days, auditors said.  Auditors also determined that one-third of the school equipment purchased with some $4 million in federal funds was not listed on school property records, and data on withdrawn students was recorded improperly leading to miscalculation of the graduation rate.

Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt was unavailable Wednesday to comment on the matter, although the AP reported that she said she will cooperate with state and federal officials with regards to the district's finances.

Gary officials have been aware of their financial problems, leading them during the summer to hire the Martin, Arrington, Desai and Meyers consulting firm of Bingham Farms, MI to advise them.  That firm will have Jack Martin work with Gary.  He previously has been an emergency manager for the public schools in Detroit and also has worked with the schools in the District of Columbia.  The district hired the consulting firm on the recommendation of the Indiana Distressed Unit Control Board.

Martin has determined that the Gary schools have a $23.7 million operating deficit and a long-term debt of nearly $92 million.

The district currently owes the following to vendors and others:

* $7.1 million in taxes and interest to the federal government,
* $4.15 million to NIPSCO,
* $730,000 to AT&T, and
* $440,000 to the Gary Sanitary District.

Gary officials have said their financial problems are due to tax caps that severely restrict their ability to raise revenue, combined with declining enrollment. Officials earlier this summer said the district has a $27 million deficit.


Freeman-Wilson Campaign Gives $11,650.00 to Regina Cossey
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[16 Sep 2015]

While over $300,000 of Karen Freeman-Wilson campaing spending is completely unaccounted for, there are also problems with those expenditures for which the committee does attempt to provide explanation.

Prior to the 2011 election, Freeman-Wilson confidant Regina Cossey took a card out of the familiar GUEA playbook and created two corporations with nearly identical names.  One of the corporations was the Gary New Day Foundation, a for-profit corporation.  The other was a not-for-profit corporation with a similar name, the Gary, Indiana New Day Foundation.  Both were incorporated on the same day by Cossey.

On February 10, 2015 and March 9, 2015, Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson a/k/a Karen About Gary donated $6,150.00 and $5,500.00 to the for profit Gary New Day Foundation.  Both donations indicate that they are charitable donations.  In addition to the fact that Gary New Day Foundation is not a charitable organization, both corporations were administratively dissolved on February 24, 2015 according to Indiana Secretary of State records.  Since the corporation was dissolved, there was no entity to receive the contributions and they went directly to Regina Cossey.

I am sure the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration will see no problem with this either.


Gary Council Picks Up Baggy Pants Issue; Considers Ban
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[15 Sep 2015]

Gary municipal officials, with help from a newly created youth council of the city's teens, will spend the next few months trying to craft a law that would prohibit teenagers from wearing their pants in a way that they sag and leave their underwear exposed.

Common Council V.P. Ronald Brewer said Tuesday he'd like to see Gary adopt something to both discourage young people from wearing their pants in a way that has become associated with urban, black youths and also hold their parents legally accountable.  Saying he believes the style borders on "indecent exposure," Brewer said, "We have an issue, a problem with young people being unable to pull up their pants. [GDY-  And it starts with P, and that stands for PANTS!]  I think it's a bad reflection on themselves (and) a lack of respect for others."

But Brewer and the Common Council don't exactly know how to address the issue.  He said the council will give the issue to its newly created Youth Council a group of 11 teenagers who debate issues of public concern.  The Youth Council will begin discussing the issue when they meet Thursday at City Hall, 401 Broadway.

That Youth Council is currently in the process of creating a Teen Court meant to handle minor offenses by teenagers, and Brewer said it was possible that young people caught literally with their pants down could be dealt with in that court.  Although Brewer said there may also be cases where teenagers, or their parents, could face fines, although he could not say on Tuesday how much those fines would be.

The Youth Council does not have the authority to impose its own ordinance on the city.  Brewer said the young people would be asked for their views, which would then be incorporated into any ordinance the city might pass with Brewer saying he'd like something given final approval by December.

Youth Council members who were present as spectators for Tuesday's council meeting all said they support the idea, with Youth Council at-large member Johnny Rucker saying he expects the entire Youth Council to support the concept.

Angel Standiford, who represents the 3rd District in the Youth Council, said she has been trying to discourage her peers from wearing pants in such a manner, but said she thinks it probably would take some move by the council for anyone to listen.  "I try to tell people in school how bad this looks, but some people don't want to listen," she said.

While Tyra Vivian, the Youth Council's financial officer, said she'd like to see action as soon as possible because she thinks this issue particularly reflects bad on the majority African-American population of Gary.  "Some people want to believe the worst about young black men," she said.

Although Merrillville town officials considered the issue back in 2012, Brewer said he believes Gary is one of the first Northwest Indiana communities to consider the "baggy pants" issue.  Although there are several Illinois communities including both Lynwood and Sauk Village located on the Illinois/Indiana border near Dyer that have passed such ordinances.

Lynwood village President Gene Williams said the ordinance his Village Board approved in 2011 has been successful, even though he claims his police department does not issue that many citations.  Fines in Lynwood range from $25 to $250, he said.

"What this has really done is emboldened other residents who feel the same way we do to confront those young people and tell them to 'pull up their pants,'" Williams said.  "It also has created an atmosphere where our young people know our police will point this out, so they pull up their own pants."  Williams said he also thinks the ordinance creates an atmosphere that makes some businesses more willing to consider locating in his south suburban community.  "We don't have to use this ordinance to attack young people for it to have a positive effect," he said.

Brewer said Gary will look to Illinois communities with their own "baggy pants" ordinances as they craft their own.  "This is an issue that has reached its time in Gary," he said.


Gary Airport Board Could Face Federal Lawsuit
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by LuAnn Franklin
[15 Sep 2015]

GARY | The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority is facing a potential lawsuit in federal court brought by Gary Jet Centers owner after board members unanimously approved imposing new minimum standards, rates and fees for airport tenants at Mondays board meeting.

A major concern of AvPorts, the airport's private operator, is raising money to cover deficits in the airports budget, according to Tom Barlett, AvPorts executive vice president and chief operating officer.  Bartlett presented AvPortss recommendation for imposing an additional fee of 1.5% on the gross sales of airport tenants including Gary Jet Center, B. Coleman Aviation and East Lake Management and Development.

Wil Davis, Gary Jet Center owner, said he will sue Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority in federal court, because the boards move overrides his current lease.  The cost of doing business at Gary/Chicago International Airport for his company will increase, affected by the additional 1.5% hike in fees, Davis said.

AvPorts's Bartlett said, "The Gary/Chicago International Airport needs to be a modern airport to accommodate future demands, and that means we need to be more aligned with market-based pricing."  He said the Gary airport "needs to be in line with other airports" and that he met with tenants and the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 2007, Gary Jet Center spent $5 million to build its new 40,000-square-foot hangar.  The lease agreement reached that year between Gary Jet Center and Gary/Chicago International Airport was based on the square-footage of that hangar.

Four years later, Gary Jet Center spent another $5 million to expand.  Davis said he and the airport authority drew up an addendum to the 2007 lease agreement.  The current lease agreement provides that Gary Jet Center annually pay 10% of all airport charges the company collects for the airport.  "If I collect $300,000 in flowage fees, Ill write an additional check each year for $30,000," Davis said.

"The only time AvPorts reached out to the tenants (about the rates and fee changes) was this past Wednesday," prior to the board's vote, Davis said, in accordance with a 2014 settlement.  Given the same opportunity to speak prior to the vote, spokespersons for East Lake and B. Coleman Aviation declined to comment.

Following the meeting, Davis told the Times the 5-0 vote "was a predetermined vote.  We have to pay more money to do business."  This, at a time when use of the Gary airport has dropped 30%, Davis said, citing a report published Sept. 12 in a Chicago business journal.

"What they are saying is, We have the right to override any agreement, including my lease.'  By violating my lease, the board is sending a message to the aviation industry nationally and especially in Chicago area that Gary lies," Davis said.  "Ive never been more disappointed as a tenant here in 25 years."


Freeman-Wilson Continues Undocumented Spending Spree
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[13 Sep 2015]

According to the most recent campaign finance report filed by Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson AKA Karen About Gary, the committee spent about $1,250 per day between January 1, 2015 and April 10, 2015.  Of the $124,160.99 in expenditures, approximately 33% ($41,340.94) was unitemized.  This again amounts to $410 every day, seven days per week, being spent at different vendors.  Campaign finance rules require that expenditures which total over $100 be itemized.

Despite the incredible unlikelihood of actually spending that amount day after day without ever reaching the $100.00 threshold, the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration has continually thwarted any effort to require documentation as to where the money is being spent.  In fact, the Board has ruled that neither the candidate nor the campaign treasurer can even be required to appear and answer questions.

Since 2011, when Karen Freeman-Wilson was elected Mayor, the committee has racked up $303,444.48 in unitemized expenses and $115,703.64 in unitemized contributions.  The total raised, according to the campaign finance reports, was $743,853.64 from January 1, 2011 to April 10, 2015.

You can view the complete reports at the League of Women Voters Calumet Area website.


Postal Employee Riles Gary Apartment Complex Residents
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Dan Zar
[12 Sep 2015]

Some residents in Gary's Boardwalk apartments are complaining they are having trouble receiving packages since a new postal service employee started just a few months ago and complaints aren't helping.

"It's just outright laziness," said 64-year-old Silas Sconiers, who is disabled and retired and spends the majority of his time at home.  Sconiers, who has lived in Gary his entire life, said if a package won't fit in his mailbox, he doesn't get it.

Sconiers, who said this has become a problem over the last two months, has been waiting on two packages that were ordered in August that still have not been delivered.  In fact, he said he's received multiple "we missed you" cards in his mailbox for the packages, despite rarely leaving the house he shares with his wife, Virginia, 57.

"We pay for shipping, so why can't she bring it to the door?" Sconiers said of the postal employee.  He said he has become an Amazon prime customer, which ships through the United States Postal Service, and said he shops for everything online now.  "Nearly everything you see (in my home) is from online," Sconiers said.

He's reached out to U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky's office to assist him.  Visclosky sent a letter on behalf of Sconiers on Aug. 24 to an Indianapolis-based district manager of the USPS after Sconiers submitted a video recording of the postal carrier leaving a non-deliverable slip while he was home but never attempting the delivery.

"All deliveries are to be attempted," said a spokesman for the USPS consumer affairs department, which has not returned any phone calls for further comment.  Several calls to the inspector generals and the consumer affairs department were not returned for further comment.  A supervisor at the post office at 15th Av and Broadway said Friday that he could not comment and that only the district office or postal master could speak to media.

"So I get a 'we missed you slip' even though I'm home.  Then I go across the street (to the post office) and they tell me the package isn't there.  That's a double insult," Sconiers said.

"I already told Amazon, I am not going to the post office to search for my package."  Sconiers said that Amazon is re-sending his packages for the second time with special note to the carrier that the packages should be delivered to his door.

A neighbor of Sconiers, Sandra Hill, said she also been having problems with her medicine being delivered to her home.  A few months ago, Sconiers said he got Hill's prescription in his mailbox.  Another resident of the apartments, Leonard Neal, 49, is also disabled and is home for the majority of the day.  Neal said he recently received a "we missed you" slip but was at home the whole time and now he said he knows, "she is not going to deliver stuff."


Police Search for Person Who Shot Gary Man in Back
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[11 Sep 2015]

Gary police searched Friday for a person responsible for shooting a man in the back earlier in the day.

The victim was treated at Methodist Hospital Northlake, where officials said his wound was not life-threatening.  "He was sitting up and talking at the hospital," said Gary police spokeswoman Dawn Westerfield.  "He's expected to make a full recovery."

The incident occurred sometime Friday morning near 4th Av and Grant St, according to a police news release.  Police said they received a call at 10:46 a.m. from a man who said he had been shot once in his back.  A police unit and paramedic were sent to the scene, but the man had managed to get the attention of an officer with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District police before Gary police arrived at the scene.  The NICTD officer transported the man to Methodist Hospital Northlake, where he was still receiving treatment as of Friday afternoon.  Police declined to identify the victim.

Westerfield said police have no idea who shot the man, or why, or whether he was the intended target of the gunfire.  Police want people who might know anything about the Friday morning incident to contact the violent crimes division at 219-881-1210 or the Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP.  "We really don't know anything right now, but this is one of those incidents where someone is bound to know something and call in," Westerfield said.


Local Steel Uutput Plunges to 618,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Sep 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region fell dramatically to 618,000T last week, the second week in a row it's dropped significantly.  Great Lakes steel production fell by 25,000T, or 3.88%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, rose to 597,000T last week, up from 570,000T the week before.

Overall U.S. steel output rose by about 2.2% over the same period.  Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.74 million tons, up from 1.7 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.8% last week, up from 71.2% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 78.6% at the same time a year earlier, but some industry analysts say it wouldn't be healthy unless it were over 90%.

Year-to-date steel output has been 60.9 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.6%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  It had been 66.2 million tons at the same point in 2014.


Pair Arrested in Lew Wallace Break-in
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[10 Sep 2015]

An alert Gary citizen is credited with notifying police of suspicious activity at the shuttered Lew Wallace High School Monday morning.

County Sheriff's Department police officers captured two Gary men after police saw them exit the school and flee the scene about 7:49 a.m., according to a police release.

Officers caught the two suspects, identified as Leon Robinson, 21, and DeAndre Lacy, 20.  They were arrested and taken to the Lake County Jail.  Officials said they face charges of trespassing, resisting arrest and fleeing the scene.

The Gary School Board voted to close Lew Wallace, at 415 W 45th Av in 2014.  Since then, a local church tried to buy the school but couldn't reach an agreement with school board.  Like other closed Gary schools, Lew Wallace has fallen prey to scrappers and vandals.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  And one is -NOT- surprised by this, why?


Gary Police Panel Discuss Resignations
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[4 Sep 2015]

Every Gary Police Civil Service Commission meeting begins with President Oliver Gilliam reading a standard disclaimer regarding the executive sessions that precede each public session.  "No final decisions were made during the executive session," the statement concludes.

And then the six-member board routinely races through its agenda, which rarely takes as much time as the just-concluded, hour-long closed-door session.

While commissioners made no comments when it acknowledged resignations from three officers, Sgt. Jeff Tatum posed a question to the board at the conclusion of its official business.  Tatum asked if there was a requirement that could be imposed to keep new officers on the force for a minimum number of years.  He said he signed a contract when he was hired that would impose a financial penalty if he left in his first three years.

Gilliam said the matter is being discussed, and added he's not surprised that Gary officers are in demand, noting the amount of training and experience gained in Gary is a valuable asset.  "We are not an incubator," Gilliam said.  Despite the city's financial challenges, "Hopefully we can become more attractive."


Gary to Experiment with Deconstruction of a Dozen Homes
Compiled Froma a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[3 Sep 2015]

The Delta Institute, a Chicago-based organization supports the idea of deconstruction of buildings rather than demolition with the raw materials that are salvaged from the old buildings being used as part of future development projects.

Institute officials on Wednesday appeared before the Gary Redevelopment Commission, talking of the pilot project they plan to run this autumn in the city.  Beginning in October and running through the end of 2015, 12 homes will be cleared away through deconstruction.  Under such action, emphasis is placed on keeping the building materials intact.

This would be a first for Northwest Indiana, but Delta officials said they have done similar projects in Detroit and Chicago suburbs such as Park Forest and Joliet, along with structures within the Cook County and South Suburban land banks with some 1,000 houses in total being deconstructed.

Martin Brown, a technical associate with Delta, said 100 structures the city wants demolished were reviewed by the institute with the dozen picked because their building materials looked to be in the best condition.  "These homes were selected for the pilot program because they looked the best, they had four walls and a roof, which means they were less decayed."  Brown added that in a deconstructed building, some 25% of building materials are reused, while 70% are recycled. The remaining 15% is the amount of materials that wind up unusable, he said. [Duh?  When I was taught math at Lew Wallace a long time ago 20 + 75 + 15 = 110.  If they are recovering/recycling 110% of the building materials, they a doing one heck of a job!]

The institute's director of strategic priorities, Eve Pytel, said the group has provided training to five Gary-area contractors in the ways of deconstruction to ensure that building materials are not inadvertently demolished during the process.  Those contractors will be submitting bids to the Redevelopment Commission to see who gets the contracts to deconstruct the 12 homes in question.

Commission Executive Director Joseph Van Dyk said Gary is curious to see how practical deconstruction is, and thinks there could be some benefit to future construction projects in the city being able to claim they were made in part with old materials.  "This could be an opportunity to preserve our history," Van Dyk said.  "This could make us think of our city differently."

The commission was not asked to take any action on the concept, although board member Marion Johnson said he is concerned that the limited number of contractors who can handle deconstruction would not hire Gary residents to do the actual work.  While commission Secretary Namon Flournoy said he wonders if deconstruction would cost so much more than outright demolition as to be financially impractical.  But commission President Kenya Jones said she likes the potential for bolstering Gary history, saying, "I'm glad to see this project.  I want to see down the road how it works out."
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Somehow, I do not think using the bricks from, say, Memorial Auditorium to build a structure on the now vacant Sheraton Hotel lot is what is meant by the term "historical preservation?"


Local Steel Output Falls Sharply to 643,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[2 Sep 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region dropped off dramatically to 643,000T after rising to its highest point since February a week earlier.

Great Lakes steel production fell by 17,000T, or 2.57%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output declined by 2.2% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, dipped to 570,000T last week, down from 573,000T the week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.7 million tons, down from 1.742 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.2% last week, down from 72.9% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 80.2% at the same time a year earlier, but some industry analysts say it wouldn't be healthy unless it were over 90%.

Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 8%. Year-to-date steel output has been 59.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.6%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  It had been 64.3 million tons at the same point in 2014.


Gary Budget Proposal Provides Pay Hikes for Cops, Firefighters
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[2 Sep 2015]

The Gary Common Council began the process of putting together a municipal budget for 2016 that provides for significant pay increases for the city's police officers and firefighters.

Various ordinances that when put together will comprise the budget for 2016 were introduced Tuesday, and those ordinances were assigned to the council's Finance Committee.   That committee will hold hearings Sept. 8-9 at City Hall, at which point officials from each individual city government agency will have to appear before councilmembers to justify how much money they will receive for the fiscal year that begins Jan. 1.  Finance Chairwoman Mary Brown, D-3rd, said agency heads were notified this week as to when they were expected to appear before the committee.

The budget, as currently crafted, calls for most agencies to receive the exact same amount of money as they received during 2015, although changes are likely to be made between now and when the Common Council takes a final vote on a budget proposal later this year.

The proposal provides for roughly $5,000 increases in pay for individual police officers and firefighters.  Police patrol officers and firefighters both would have their pay go from $41,804 to $46,804.  Higher ranking officers will have their salaries go up by $5,000, although the salaries of the police and fire chiefs would remain at $104,738.

The police budget calls for 238 employees on the police payroll, with 200 on the payroll for the Fire Department.


Gary Firefighter Indicted in Union Funds Fraud
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[30 Aug 2015]

HAMMOND | A Gary firefighter has been indicted on charges that he used union money for personal use, including paying for his child's tuition to a private school in Hammond.

A federal grand jury indicated John T. Springer, who was secretary-treasurer of Gary Professional Firefighters Association Local 359 from January 2007 through December 2012, on three counts of wire fraud for allegedly using about $30,316 in union funds for personal use.

The indictment was filed August 20, but just unsealed Friday.

Springer could not be immediately reached for comment.  Mark Jones, chief of operations for the Fire Department, said Saturday that Springer was still a firefighter with the department.  Jones said he was unaware of the indictment.

According to the indictment, from about Jan. 10, 2008, to about Sept. 25, 2012, Springer spent union money for personal goods and services.

He allegedly used about $12,741 to pay for his child's tuition to the private school.  He also allegedly used $9,075 to pay for legal fees associated with his divorce.  Other alleged expenditures, according to the indictment, included money for automotive-related expenses, Greyhound bus tickets for a friend, a home mortgage payment and medical-related expenses.

Springer admitted to the unauthorized use the union funds for personal expenses when questioned by members of the executive board of the local union, according to the indictment.


Homicides Up, Overall Crime Down in Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[29 Aug 2015]

For more than a week, unrelenting violence gripped Gary.  By Aug. 11, a total of 10 people had lost their lives in 11 days in a surge of gun violence.

The crimes pushed the number of homicides in Gary so far this year to 38*, a 58% increase from the 24 recorded at this time last year.

But overall crime in Gary is down.  Way down.  "The problem is murder is so permanent," Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.  "It causes us to sound an alarm."

Violent crime which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault for the first half of 2015 is down 20% compared with the same time period last year.  The only category that saw an increase was murder.

Police have estimated about 58% of this year's homicides have been drug- or gang-related.  The city's homicide rate in 2014 was about 5.9 per 10,000 people.

By comparison, East Chicago saw a decrease in homicides in the first half of this year.  The city didn't log any homicides between January and June, compared with three last year.

Hammond, like Gary, has seen a rise in homicides, though the increase is smaller.

Cities across the nation including Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis have seen an increase in homicides in the first half of this year.  The reason, in part, stems from a lack of respect on the part of both residents and law enforcement, Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley said during a recent summit.  "That is why we're going back to community policing," he said.  "We have to get back to that personal touch."

Property crime has continued to trend downward in all three north Lake County communities so far this year.  In Gary, property crime fell by 10% in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same time period last year.

With the exception of arson, all other categories of property crime burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft were down.  Freeman-Wilson attributed the rise in arson to a person of interest who was questioned by police last month after he was found with gas cans and rags in his car near a fire scene.

Overall, crime in Gary during the first half of 2015 was down 14% compared with the first six months of 2014.  Overall crime was down more than 22% in 2014 compared with 2013.

Gary police also have adopted a new strategy of targeting the people wreaking the most havoc in the city, Freeman-Wilson said.  "We have changed the rules of the game," she said.  She estimated the number of people being targeted at fewer than 500.  More than 79,900 people lived in Gary in 2014, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

Offenders have two options, she said.  "The first is get on the straight and narrow," she said.  If they want to get a job or an education, "well send you to the front of the line," she said.

The second option, for those who choose to continue engaging in illegal activities, is to be held accountable, she said.


Gary Teen Put Gun to Undercover Cop's Head, Arrested
Compiled Froma Post-Trib Staff Report
[28 Aug 2015]

Two teens are in custody after they allegedly placed a gun to the head of a Gary undercover detective and robbed him Thursday night, police said Friday.

The teens, ages 17 and 18, are both in custody facing numerous felony charges.  Police recovered handguns from both suspects, who had arranged to meet the detective to sell a iPhone through the "Offer Up" app, police spokesman Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.

Suspects have been allegedly using the OfferUp smartphone application to lure people wanting to purchase iPhones.  OfferUp advertises itself as "The simpler & safer way to buy and sell locally."  Police have reports of several robberies stemming from these "sales."  Violent Crimes Unit detectives, along with Gary officers assigned to various federal and county task forces, decided to arrange a deal in an effort to catch the suspects in the act, police said.

The sale was planned for a site on busy Grant St in the city's Glen Park section, but the sellers told the detective to meet them a few blocks to the east, at 35th Av and Buchanan St, police said.  There, Detective Lorenzo Davis shook hands with the young men moments before one of them put a gun to his head and told him to lie down on the ground, police said

Investigations Cmdr. Del Stout and Lt. Jack Hamady were monitoring the sale from an unmarked car and saw the two men take the marked money Davis brought, as well as his cell phone and car keys.  They were getting into Davis' squad car when police surrounded the car.  Both teens ran from the scene.  Stout and Hamady captured one suspect almost immediately as he ran into the street, police said.

The other teen ran north into a marshy field between Buchanan and Grant streets.  Police K-9 units from both Gary and Lake County police conducted a search.  About 40 minutes later, the second suspect was in custody, police said.

Westerfield cautioned residents to choose a safe place to meet when transacting business with a stranger.  "Never meet an unknown party at their home, at an intersection or allow them to come to your residence.  Meet in a safe, well lit public place or the lobby of a police department," Westerfield said.  "Anyone who will not meet you in a safe place is likely someone you don't want to make a transaction with.  We acknowledge there are many upstanding citizens who may also use these types of apps or social networks to sell items; however it is doubtful that they would protest meeting in a safe location."


Gary Man Accused of Shooting Man in Head
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[28 Aug 2015]

GARY | A man previously convicted of voluntary manslaughter is accused of shooting a man in the head who had witnessed his past crime, according to court records.

Michael D. Jordan, 31, of Gary, was charged Thursday with attempted murder, aggravated battery, battery by means of a deadly weapon and battery resulting in serious bodily injury.  He had his initial hearing Friday in the Lake County Jail where he requested a public defender.

A man told police that on Aug. 16 he was driving east on Fifth Av near Grant St when he pulled up next to a gray Pontiac.  According to the affidavit, the driver of the Pontiac lowered the windows and began shooting at him.

Gary officers found the man in his brown Jeep after they were flagged down by the man and others in the area.  According to the affidavit, the man was shot in the head, neck, chest and shoulder.  He survived the shooting.

He told police he recognized the driver as Jordan who was the person charged in his brother's homicide.  According to court records, the man saw Jordan shooting at his brother, Mark James Leon, on Feb. 24, 2005, near Fifth Av and McKinley St in Gary.  In 2007, Jordan pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Leon's death and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

According to the Indiana Department of Correction, he was convicted in 2013 of possession of cocaine.  He was supposed to be on parole until July 2016.


Murder Suspect Back in Custody after Removing Electronic Monitor
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[28 Aug 2015]

GARY | A murder suspect who removed his ankle monitor earlier this month is back in police custody, according to court records.

Terrance Kevin Strong, 25, of Gary, was arrested Aug. 22 and was charged Thursday with possession of cocaine or a narcotic drug and refusal to identify self. He remained Friday in the Lake County Jail.

An Indiana University-Northwest campus officer stopped Strong and two others about midnight Aug. 22 outside a garage near 34th Av and Broadway on suspicion of trespassing on private property, according to the affidavit.  During a pat down, officers found about 6 grams of heroin in a bag inside Strong's pants pocket, according to court records.  An officer with the Lake County gang unit stopped to assist the officer after hearing on the police radio that one of the suspects' names was not coming up on a computer search.

Strong originally identified himself as Jamal Wite, according to the affidavit.  However, the officer with the gang unit told Strong he recognized him and told him to identify himself.  As he was being taken to jail, Strong told the officer, "You know who the (expletive) I am.  You said it out there and I'm not worried about that rock, you know they changed the laws, that ain't (expletive) now," according to the affidavit.

Strong allegedly went on to tell the officer he had the best defense attorney who has already gotten him off of one murder charge.  He was acquitted in April of a murder charge stemming from the July 14, 2010, shooting death of Jose Melendez, 54, of East Chicago.

Strong is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 5 on a second murder charge after jurors in April were unable to reach a verdict on that charge.  He is accused of shooting to death Cordell Allen about 40 minutes after Melendez died.  Both homicides happened in East Chicago.

He had been on electronic monitoring until Aug. 1, when he took off the ankle monitor and ran from officers in Gary, according to court records.

A hearing in front of Lake County Criminal Judge Diane Boswell is scheduled for Sept. 9 after Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Judith Massa filed a motion to revoke or deny Strong bond.


Former Gary Police Chief Enters Mayor Race
Compiled From a Gary Crusader Report by Carmen M. Woodson-Wray
[27 Aug 2015]

Twenty-one years ago, Douglas Wright was named chief of police for the City of Gary under former Mayor Thomas Barnes.  Wright, who was endorsed by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, was appointed after a nationwide search to fill the position.  But Wrights tenure only lasted for a year-and-a-half after Barnes fired him for marrying his selection for Deputy Chief of Police, Lucy Richardsona move that violated the citys nepotism policy.

Now, Wright is seeking to be the next Mayor of Gary, a high-profile position that he feels he can handle despite all of the problems that are plaguing the city.

Wright has a five-year plan to rebuild Gary, which he has titled, "Rethink Gary."  His plan includes improving housing, public transportation and schools within a timeline.  "This is not just a list of promises," he said.  "This is a program that says how we are going to do it, what we are going to do it [sic] and when we are going to do it."

This is not Wrights first attempt to run for a political office in Gary.  He ran for Lake County Sheriff in 2006.  An independent candidate, Wright says he waited to file after observing how the race would shape up.

"At that point, I was not concerned about being the mayor.  My interest was in helping public safety," he said.  "I talked to Rudy (former Mayor Clay) about being the Director of Public Safety and fixing the police department just like I did when I came in 1994, but Rudy wanted me to be the police chief, but he wasnt going to give me the autonomy that I needed to run the police department.  I turned it down."

"This is not the first time people have talked to me about running for mayor," he said.  During the time Clay and Freeman-Wilson were announcing their candidacies for mayor, Wright said several people had come to him and suggested that he run too.  "But during that time, I was always interested in fixing the police department and public safety because I knew it could be better than what we have now.  They just dont have the experience.  Thats not an indictment of them, its just that they dont have my experience."

Wright also said during the time Clay and Freeman-Wilson were announcing their candidacies, he was a Republican and had been one for 30 years.  He said, "I knew I couldnt win that seat as a Republican.  A Republican cant win as dog catcher around here."

He said when people found out that he was a Republican in 2006 they questioned how he became the police chief.  "It was based on my experience and ability to run a police department, not my political persuasive [sic]," he said.

To run as an independent candidate for mayor, Wright was required to obtain 289 signatures.

According to the Lake County Election Board, Wright joins two candidates who are running as independents in the mayoral race.  They are Syron (Sy) Smith and Robert L. Campbell.  Another candidate, Eddie Tarver Jr., is running under the Unicratic Party.

Wright believes that once people learn about his platform, his chances of winning are very good.  "They already know me, they know my integrity, they know my work ethic, and they know Im honest," he said.  "They just havent seen my plan, but once they see that, then they will be able to put the two together and then see we will be alright."


2 Arrests as New Multiagency Gang Unit Targets Gary Violence
Compiled from a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[27 aug 2015]

GARY | A new multiagency gang unit led by the Gary Police Department has designated the Glen Park Affiliates street gang as the city's most violent group and intensified efforts to bring fugitives in violent crimes to justice, officials said.

Arnell Davis, 20, of Hobart, and Dentrell Lewis, 19, of Gary alleged members of the GPA gang were taken into custody Wednesday during a traffic stop on the northwest side of Indianapolis, Gary police Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.  They're among several people taken into custody as part of the new Gary Violence Reduction Initiative, she said.

Davis was wanted on a felony attempted murder charge stemming from a February 2014 shooting at 25th Av and Madison St in Gary, Lake Criminal Court records indicated.  Lewis was wanted on a charge of robbery resulting in serious bodily injury.  Details surrounding the crime were not available Thursday.

Gary has logged 38* homicides so far this year, including 12 by gunfire between July 19 and Aug. 11.  The number of homicides is up 58% from this time last year, when 24 had been recorded.

Gary police partnered with several local, state and federal agencies to form the multiagency gang unit, dubbed MAG, in an effort to curb violence, Westerfield said.  One of the city's partners is the Lake County Sheriff's Department, which also has been assisting Gary with extra patrols and jointly staffs the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit.

Sheriff John Buncich said authorities are targeting a total of 10 people for arrest as part of the new initiative.  In addition to Davis and Lewis, a third man on the list was arrested last week on Gary's West Side, he said.  "That's three main players that we got out of the way in the last 10 days," he said.

Investigators received information Davis and Lewis were hiding out in an Indianapolis apartment, Gary Detective Sgt. Sam Abegg said in a statement.  The MAG unit and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department detectives worked together to execute a felony traffic stop and take the pair into custody, police said.

"Let it be known that there are no jurisdictional boundaries when acts of violence are being committed in our city and we will do everything necessary in our power to bring these criminals to justice," Abegg said.

Davis had been wanted since May, when a warrant was issued after he failed to appear for a Lake Criminal Court hearing.  He was taken into custody shortly after the February 2014 shooting in which he's charged, but was released after posting bond July 14, 2014, court records show.  Davis had twice been listed as the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force's Fugitive of the Week.

Authorities will continue to intensify their efforts to identify violent groups and their members, officials said.  Officers are carefully detailing every aspect of recent crimes, Buncich said.  "We're test firing any weapons that we seize right away," he said.  The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping to expedite ballistics testing, he said.  "The bottom line is it's faster.  We can determine if that weapon was used in another homicide or crime because of the shell casings," Buncich said.  "Overall, it's just a better coordinated effort and more intense."

Anyone with information about gangs or their members is asked to call the Gary Police Department's anonymous tip line at (866) 274-6347.  The sheriff's anonymous tip line is (800) 750-2746.


Police Investigate Death of Hobart Woman Found in Gary
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[26 Aug 2015]

According to a release from Lt. Dawn Westerfield of the Gary Police Department, the Gary Police Department is investigating the death of a woman found dead near 45th and Pierce St  early this morning. Gary Police were called to the scene at 6:52 a.m. in reference a "female down." No additional details were released by the Gary Police Department.

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey says coroner investigators arrived on the scene at 8:20 a.m.  42 year old Christine Ketchum of the 4100 block of Maple St in Hobart was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:00 a.m.  No specific injuries were noted and the manner of death is pending.  The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force participated in the investigation along with the Gary Police Department according to the Coroner report.


Body Discovered in Gary Alley
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[26 Aug 2015]

GARY | Gary police discovered a body in an alley there early Wednesday.

Lt. Dawn Westerfield, spokeswoman for the Gary Police Department, said officers were called at 6:52 a.m. for a report of a woman down in an alley near 45th Av and Pierce St. The woman was found dead there.

Westerfield described the woman only as a white female.  Her identity is not yet known.


Airport GM resigns in Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus
[26 Aug 2015]

Gary/Chicago International Airport manager Delbert Brown will resign his post at the end of August a little more than a year after he took the job.

Brown plans to return to his home in Detroit to spend more time with his family.  He previously served as the director of Detroit City Airport from 2002 to 2010.

AvPORTS president Ozzie Moore said Brown helped position the airport for growth.  "I thank Delbert for his work this past year through the transition of the public-private partnership, and laying the foundation for continued growth at Gary/Chicago International Airport," Moore said.  "I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Assistant airport manager Hank Mook will continue in his current post.  Mook will assist AvPORTS Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Bartlett, who will lead the team on the ground while candidates to replace Brown are screened.  Airport director Dan Vicari will continue to manage the public-private partnership agreement and report progress directly to the board of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority.

AvPORTS, which entered into a public-private partnership with the airport in January 2014, will advertise the position in a number of local, regional and industry/management forums, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), officials said.

Brown became airport manager in July 2014. During his tenure as airport manager, Brown presided over a 33% increase in operations at the airport, officials said.

Throughout the past year, Brown represented the airport at a number of community and city events, and he implemented a reporting structure to help assess existing assets, track anticipated needs, and provide real-time information on operations at the airport.


Local Steel Output Hits Highest Point in Months
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[25 Aug 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 660,000T last week, the highest point it has reached since February.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year because of a surfeit of imports that now account for a record-shattering 31% of the total market share.

Great Lakes steel production increased by 13,000T, or 2%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output declined by 1.47% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, slipped to 593,000T last week, down from 597,000T the week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.742 million tons, down from 1.768 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.9% last week, down from 73.9% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 80.2% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 57.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.6%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.8%.


Police Allow Squatter to Remain in Abandoned Gary Home
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[24 Aug 2015]

GARY | A Gary man admitted to police he's been living in a Glen Park home without utilities since his girlfriend's father died and she moved out, but officers could not make him leave, officials said.

The incident about 2:30 p.m. Friday provides another glimpse of the challenges Gary officials face in dealing with thousands of abandoned properties.

Police were dispatched to the home in the 4900 block of Pennsylvania St for a report of a man possibly squatting there, according to a report.  The complainant told police she doesn't own the property but thinks the man should not be living there.  Police told the woman that unless the property owner reports the man, officers cannot charge him with trespassing.

Officers then knocked on the home's front door, and the man answered, the police report said.  The man said he's been living at the home for several years.  After his girlfriend's father died and she moved out, he stayed there, the report said.  The man had keys to the property, but could not produce documentation proving residency and admitted the power and water were shut off, police said.

Police told the man they would be contacting either Gary or Lake County officials to determine if the property is livable and possibly condemn it.  If the property is condemned, the man would be forced to leave, police said.  He was advised to try to make arrangements to live elsewhere, police said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  There ought to be a law?  Actually, the problem is that there are too damn many laws! 


Electronic Monitor Gone, Arrest Warrant Issued for Dontae Blount
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Ruth Ann Krause
[21 Aug 2015]

An online docket entry for July 31 in felony case filed against Dontae Blount shows that the ICU Court Monitoring program had submitted a violation report, followed on Aug. 4 by a more detailed report.  The monitoring device has been cut off again, defense attorney Thomas Mullins said.

On July 20, Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez agreed to release Dontae Blount to electronic monitoring, despite Blount having removed the device in January.  Blount is a key witness in the death penalty case filed against his half-brother, Carl Le'Ellis Blount, 27, in Westerfield's death last summer.

At that hearing, trial supervisor David Urbanski said Dontae Blount's mother, who was facing surgery, had agreed to allow Dontae to stay with her in Indianapolis.  At the time, Dontae Blount was being considered for blood donation prior to the surgery and was to assist in her care afterward.

Vasquez strongly cautioned Dontae Blount at the hearing that if he tampered with the device, he would never be given that privilege again.

It was the second time Dontae Blount had been given a break in his criminal case.  In a joint motion by the prosecution and defense, Dontae Blount's sentence for resisting law enforcement was stayed three months after Westerfield was killed.

Early on July 7, 2014, Westerfield was following up on a domestic disturbance involving Carl Blount and was on 26th Av near Van Buren Pl when he asked another officer for a description of Carl Blount, court records state.

Court records indicate that Dontae Blount was on the phone with Carl Blount when Carl Blount said he had to hang up the call because he saw a police officer with his spotlight activated, records state.  Moments after the call ended, Carl Blount told police he heard gunfire and stepped outside the residence at 2659 Jackson St, with a handgun, court records state.  He told police he saw Carl Blount running at full speed toward the Jackson St house.  Records state that Carl Blount, had a gun with him and appeared intoxicated.  Court records indicate that in an emotional outburst, Carl Blount told his half-brother that he had shot a police officer, Dontae Blount told police.

Vasquez has issued a warrant for Dontae Blount's arrest.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  If a cop killer conviction is dependent on the testimony of this yahoo, the prosecution is in serious trouble and neither the Westerfield family, the Gary Police Department, nor the residents of Gary will ever see justice in this matter!


Police Promise to Enforce Curfew in Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[21 Aug 2015]

For kids going back to school, it's the ABCs.  And for parents, it's AAC attendance, address and curfew.

Gary police spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Westerfield reminded parents that officers will be enforcing both city ordinances and state laws that pertain to educating students.  Penalties range from a court fine to a jail term, she said.  "Attendance is especially important because when children aren't in school regularly, they can get behind in their work and it becomes hard for them to make it up," Westerfield said.

While both school and police officials recognize that some students have health problems that keep them from their studies, those absences are excused.  It's when a student has 10 unexcused absences, they are considered truant.  Continued truancy can result in failing that grade for the year, Westerfield said.

Parents of students who have missed five days without a medical reason will receive a citation and court date.  They may choose to pay a fine or join the truancy court program, which includes tutoring for students and support groups for parents.  No date has been set for the first Project Rebuild court, Westerfield said.

Failure to cooperate after the ticket is issued could lead to a misdemeanor charge of failure to educate, Westerfield added.  "If that's what it takes, we will enforce it.  A better education makes a better community," she said.

Gary Community School Corp. spokeswoman Charmella Greer said Friday, "We've taken measures to improve communication and relationship with our students, staff and parents by hiring school resource and school safety officers.  We have an awesome group of students.  Part of the superintendent's vision is to make sure that they get 'to' and 'through' college not 'to' high school and 'through' a criminal justice system," adding, "It's a better investment to educate our children for about $10,000 per year rather than take care of prisoners for almost $40,000 per year."

The address component of enforcement is simple, Westerfield said.  Students must live at the address provided to school officials, city ordinance states.  "It's to make sure they are in the proper school system, the proper school and that the school can reach a parent or guardian in an emergency," she said.  Again, if the school does not have accurate contact information, the parent could be cited for violating the law, Westerfield noted.

The curfew law in Gary states that anyone 17 years old or younger cannot be on any street or alley, loitering, or in a car without an adult from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, Westerfield said.

If juveniles are caught in violation of the curfew, parents will be called and could be cited, she said.  "It's for the safety of the children so they can be properly rested for school," Westerfield notes.

Gary schools start classes Monday.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Curfew enforcement so kids are "properly rested for school?"  How about enforcing this law for the safety of law abiding citizens using the streets legitimately!


Gary Awards $1.2 Million for 161 Demolition Projects
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[20 Aug 2015]

Gary's Redevelopment Commission awarded has awarded contracts to six companies totaling more than $1.2 million to handle the demolition of structures on 161 properties scattered across the city.

All of the properties were acquired by the city in July through the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program.  Property owners turned over the land to the city, and the Redevelopment Commission assumed the legal and financial responsibility of demolishing the existing structures to clear the plots of land for potential future development.

In recent weeks, bids were sought from area construction companies, several of whom made bids to handle certain groups of properties.

On Wednesday, the commission said that Gary Material Supply LLC will receive $320,200 to handle demolition work on 35 plots, while C. Lee Construction Services Inc. will handle demolition on 36 plots for $261,420.  ACTIN Contracting LLC will be paid $161,890 for demolition work at 18 locations, while JM Industrial Services Inc. will be paid $177,464 for work at 19 locations.  Aavatar Enterprises Inc. will handle demolition at 40 sites for $280,420, while Spirit Wrecking & Excavation Inc. will be paid $101,079.10 for demolition work at 13 sites.

Municipal officials have said the intent of such mass demolition is to create larger plots of land that could inspire future developers to come to Gary and create new structures, replacing the often decrepit structures that were left abandoned.

Commission President Kenya Jones said she was pleased to see the contracts awarded so that demolition work could begin in coming weeks.  "I'm glad to see us moving on," she said.  "I think this is a very productive move."

Such mass demolition is going to continue in Gary, as the redevelopment commission also opened bids Wednesday for demolition of more structures around the city, and also for post-demolition landscaping work.  Seven bids were received for the demolition, with two bids being received for the landscaping.  The commission voted 3-0 to refer those bids to their staff for further review, with contracts possibly to be awarded at one of the commission's meetings in September.


Gary Looking to Beautify Demo Sites
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[19 Aug 2015]

GARY | Beautification efforts are expected to take place later this year at about 200 sites that have been slated for demolition around the city.

Gary's Redevelopment Department has budgeted an average of about $7,000 per property to make sure the properties are properly landscaped and maintained.  Money the city received through the state's Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program will be used to pay for the work, which can include grass and other landscaping as needed along with maintenance for three years.

Redevelopment Director Joseph Van Dyk said the green space is needed for both stormwater retention as well as beautification and noted that many of the properties probably still will be vacant after three years.

Bids were opened at Wednesday's Redevelopment Commission meeting from Gary Material Supply, LLC., and Caretakers Landscaping and Lawn, LLC.  Each company submitted bids on more than a dozen groups of different properties.  Van Dyk will review the bids and come back with a recommendation.  He indicated a lot of the money being requested was for fill for sites.

$6.6 million in blight elimination funds the city has received from the state will pay for the demolition work.  Initially, it was thought the city would be able to demolish 379 properties with the money, but bids have been coming in lower than anticipated and Van Dyk thinks the city may actually be able to tear down between 600 and 700 structures with the money.

The city also received bids to raze a former school building in the 600 block of Massachusetts St, just south of the post office.  The bids will be reviewed by Van Dyk, who will return to the commission with a recommendation on an award at a coming meeting.  Bids ranged from $38,599 to $94,960 for the work.


More Steelmaking Work for Gary?
Compiled From a Crain's Chicago Business Report By Micah Maidenberg
[19 Aug 2015]

U.S. Steel's factories in Gary and in downstate Illinois may get busier as the company moves to close an Alabama facility.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel said yesterday it would shut its Fairfield Works plant outside Birmingham, Ala., in mid-November.  The closure will "improve the overall efficiency and cost structure of our flat-rolled segment," CEO Mario Longhi said in a statement.

At least in theory, Alabama's pain is good news for the company's sprawling Gary Works factory about 30 miles from downtown Chicago and its facility in Granite City, just east of St. Louis.  Around 5,100 people work at the Gary facility; the number of U.S. Steel employees in Granite City couldn't immediately be determined.

Both plants may be able to pick up work as the company reshuffles production, said Charles Bradford, a New York-based steel analyst.  "Potentially, it could mean more business" in Gary and Granite City, he said.

Courtney Boone, a spokeswoman for the steelmaker, declined to discuss where the firm will make up the production it will lose from the Alabama facility.  U.S. Steel also has flat-roll operations in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Canada, according to its annual report.


Resignations Fund $2,500 Pay Hikes for Gary Cops/Fire
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[18 Aug 2015]

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson recently outlined a plan to get the city's police and fire personnel raises.  The Common Council on Tuesday begin delivering when it approved $2,500 average raises for them.

The pay raises would be the first part of a pledge that Freeman-Wilson made earlier this month to bolster pay by $10,000 during the next three years.  The ordinance provides that all officers and firefighters, except the Chiefs, are to receive the $2,500.00 increase effective immediately.

Providing increased salaries are meant to help Gary maintain qualified police officers and firefighters many of whom have been leaving the city to work for higher-paying law enforcement agencies in surrounding communities.  Gary's police are the lowest paid in the county.

Yet the mayor called it a "tragic irony" that all those officers leaving created the cost savings that will make it possible for Gary city government to afford the pay raises for this year. "It is the reason we are able to afford the raises," Freeman-Wilson said, adding later, "There are certain cost-savings we gained from having those officers leave."

Council President Kyle Allen said the police department currently is budgeted for 205 officers, compared to 235 officers last year, while Councilman Ronier Scott, D-6th, said he was pleased this year's pay raises were provided without cutting other agencies or programs.  "This doesn't change our bottom line," he said.

City Controller Celita Green, in a brief presentation concerning the pay raises, said the $2,500 increase is an average with some police officers and firefighters getting slightly more than that amount and others getting a little less.  She said the actual size of a person's raise will be determined by their rank within the departments, with city officials required to provide equal salaries to police and fire officials of comparable positions.

The annual pay for the lowest-ranking firefighters and patrol officers will be increased from $39,304 to $41,804.  Firefighters also trained as emergency medical technicians and more experienced police officers will increase from $41,250 to $43,740.  Higher-ranking officers within the police and fire departments will receive a comparable raise, although the police and fire chiefs will not receive increases in their current salaries of $104,738 apiece.

The increases were provided for in an ordinance that Councilwoman Mary Brown, D-3rd, introduced Tuesday.  That ordinance was advanced through the legislative procedure all in one day, with no public review or discussion of the measure until after the council members took a 7-0 vote of approval.  Council members Mildred Shannon, D-1st, and Roy Pratt, D-at large, were not present for the vote.

The issue of pay raises for police officers and firefighters is not new, nor is it complete.  The mayor said officials have been talking about this issue since last October, with various issues constantly popping up to thwart the matter including costs of insurance increasing by nearly 40%.  But with the reduction in staff, the issue moved forward although staff reductions will not be relied upon to provide for the pay raises promised by the mayor for 2016 and 2017.

Next year's budget that Common Council officials will begin compiling beginning next month will include a $5,000 raise, with 2017's budget providing the remaining $2,500 boost in pay.  Freeman-Wilson said city officials have yet to figure out where the money will come from in order to cover the additional payroll cost, although it is likely that other city agencies and programs will have to receive cuts from their current funding in order to find the needed money.  "Those are new budgets, we'll be able to prepare them to include the extra money," the mayor said.  "There is no one who takes the idea of our public safety officials more seriously than I."


Local Steel Output Surges as Nation Production Reaches Six-month High
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[18 Aug 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region soared to 647,000T last week, as national steel output hit a six-month high.

Great Lakes steel production shot up by 20,000T, or 3.1%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 0.6% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, fell to 597,000T last week,down from 615,000 tons the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.768 million tons, up from 1.756 million tons a week earlier.  Trade publication American Metals Market said it's the highest level national output has reached in the last six months.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.9% last week, up from 73.4% a year earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 80.2% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output has been 55.7 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.6%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.8%.


Election Board Continues Probe of Gary Mayor Campaign Finances
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lu Ann Franklin
[18 Aug 2015]

CROWN POINT | A strenuous debate Tuesday about how to deal with complaints brought against the handling of finances by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilsons campaign committee again occupied the Lake County Board of Elections.

Following last Mays primary, four complaints were filed by Democratic mayoral challengers Jim Nowacki and Robert L. "Mr. Buggs" Sr., as well as Hammond resident Ken Davidson.  Freeman-Wilson outpolled a field of challengers in that election.

The complaints Nowacki and Buggs filed included allegedly improper contributions by Gary Community School Corp., unitemized receipts and contributions and illegible and/or missing reports.  The complaints also included discrepancies in the amount of campaign contributions, the names of campaign donors and how some of the funds were distributed.

Nowackis complaint also focused on subpoenaing members of Freeman-Wilsons campaign committee as witnesses in a hearing.  Davidson questioned a $10,000 contribution made by cashiers check on March 5, 2013, allegedly from Roosevelt Haywood III, although the name on the receipt for the check was misspelled.

At its July 21 meeting, the board voted 3-2 to quash a major portion of one of those complaints.  Instead, the commissioners ordered the election board staff and lawyers for both political parties to conduct a field investigation.

At Tuesdays election board meeting, the staff and attorneys indicated information from that initial field investigation meeting had not yet been shared with the board.  Commissioners voted unanimously to continue the field investigation and obtain information from Freeman-Wilsons campaign committee that might include BMO Harris Bank documents.


Gary Weekend Crime Activity Slow
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[17 Aug 2015]

Police say they had a quiet weekend in Gary.  With only one shooting, two stabbings and a robbery reported, Gary police experienced a relatively quiet weekend for violent crimes.

Two men a 35-year-old from Cedar Lake and an 18-year-old from Crown Point, both reported they were stabbed during an altercation about 11:45 p.m. Saturday in an alley in the 2000 block of Pennsylvania St, police spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.

The Crown Point victim was in the alley when police arrived.  Medics took him to the hospital for treatment.  About two hours later, the second victim arrived at the hospital and investigators believe he was part of the same incident, Westerfield said.

Detective Lorenzo Davis is investigating the stabbings.  Westerfield said police suspect a 26-year-old Gary man is responsible for both attacks.  Anyone who has information about the suspect can call Davis at 219-881-4738.

At about 10 p.m. Sunday, a 36-year-old Gary man reported he had been shot while driving on 5th Av near McDonald's at Grant St, police said.  The victim drove south on Grant St to the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus for treatment.

Sgt. Dan Callahan is investigating the shooting.  Anyone with information can call him at 219-881-1210.

Family Dollar at 4330 Broadway in Glen Park was robbed late Saturday morning, a police report states.  A black man wearing a black T-shirt and jeans robbed the store and ran from the area, the report states.


How a Criminal Attempted to Use Local Politics
to Usurp the Tax Sale Code to Satisfy His Restitution
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[17 Aug 2015]

The Gazette has exclusively obtained documents showing that the City of Gary worked with Jewell Harris, Sr. to transfer property owned by a defunct corporation to satisfy his $1,530,285.32 liability to the city under a federal criminal prosecution.  The problem with the transfer is that the property had already been sold at tax sale to Portone, Inc. when the City of Gary accepted the deed.

According to records maintained by the Lake County Auditor, Jewell Harris, Sr. also owed $233,710.90 in property taxes as of June, 2014.  The balance remaining due after the tax sale, approximately $227,000.00, is to be collected on behalf of the Citizens of Lake County.  Lake County Commissioners Roosevelt Allen, Gerry Scheub and Mike Repay have hired Jewell Harris, Jr. for that task.

Documents filed in Lake Superior Court show that Jewell Harris, Sr. wrote to Joe Van Dyk, Gary's Director of Redevelopment, just one week after the 19 Mar 2014 tax sale and offered to give the property in exchange for elimination or reduction of the restitution amount owed.  The Response from Van Dyk has not yet been received, but it is clear that Van Dyk readily accepted the offer.  On 16 Jul 2014 a quitclaim deed was prepared and presented to the City of Gary Department of Redevelopment purportedly transferring the property.

The City of Gary clearly knew about the tax sale prior to accepting the quitclaim deed from Harris.  On 2 Jul 2014 City Attorney Gregory Thomas filed an "Emergency Petition to Set Aside Tax Sale."  In the petition, Thomas alleges that the city received a deed from Enterprise Properties, LLC in 2013.  Most notably, the city alleges that they relied on the assurances of Roosevelt Allen and John Dull that the property would not be sold at tax sale.

In an affidavit from Jewell Harris, Jr., attorney for Jewell Harris, Sr., the Gary Sanitary District and Lake County Commissioners, alleges that the property was ONLY put on the tax sale because of a complaint from Portone, Inc, the ultimate purchaser at the tax sale.< >

Harris, Jr. states, under oath, that Roosevelt Allen, Jr. and John Dull repeatedly removed the property from the tax sale.  After filing the Emergency Petition to Set Aside Tax Sale on 2 Jul 2014 the city accepted what purported to be a deed from Enterprise Properties, Inc. a/k/a Jewell Harris, Sr. on 16 Jul 2014 and filed it the same day.< >

In the meantime, Jewell Harris, Jr. and Tramel Raggs worked to try to cancel the tax sale.  This is clearly evidenced by an undated e-mail from John Dull which was included in the Court documents.  Dull states "I met with Tramel [Raggs] and we reviewed our sale statute."  Dull goes on to explain that notice to the City of Gary was not required under Indiana law.  He concludes, "For the foregoing reasons, the sale of the property at the March, 2014 sale is valid and you should issue the certificate."

So the Gary Schools, Lake County and the City of Gary will probably never collect the $227,000 in delinquent taxes owed by Jewell Harris, Sr., and the City of Gary has accepted a worthless deed in exchange for restitution in a criminal case.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Let's see if I have this right:  The county hires son to sue father?  I am certain Jr. will go after Sr. with a vengance!  At the same time, Jr. is the attorney for both Sr. and the county?  No conflict of interest there!  How can this guy represent both the city who was duped by the acts of Sr. and the guy comitting the duplicity, his dad? 


Wirt School Robbed, Vandalized Two in Custody
Compiled from a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[15 Aug 2015]

Two adults are in custody but not before they did major damage to Wirt/Emerson High School in Gary.  The school is just the latest to be hit by "scrappers"- those who break into buildings and steal anything which can be sold to a scrap yard.

According to a social media post by Dr. Cheryl Pruitt, Superintendent of Schools:  "When will it stop.  Major lost [sic]and damage."

Adrian Richie, Principal of Wirt/Emerson:  Came to the school early this Saturday morning to work on student schedules and this is the mess I found. . . .  Looks like they were after anything that had some copper or brass they could take.  That is how they busted up instruments and the copper water pipes throughout the rooms!  Crazy.  The post says that the entire lower art wing was flooded.

A 24 year old and a 36 year old were in custody.

School officials sat silently as Lew Wallace High School was trashed and looted in April of this year.  Scrappers ripped copper pipes from the ceiling and walls of the historic school.  Nearly every abandoned Gary School has been looted for all the metal inside.  This is the first report the Gazette has gotten of a functioning school being looted for metal.  There have been reports of functioning businesses being looted for scrap metal in Gary.  At one time, scrappers were stealing live copper wiring from the poles.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  This is the first I have heard of Lew Wallace being vandalized; though I am not at all surprised.  Long ago I predicted the site would never sell and ultimately deteriorate into yet another Gary rathole.

Desperate measures, during desperate times, by desperate people!


Does Freeman-Wilson Have Eye on Greener Pastures?
Compiled From a Gary Free-Press Report by Silas G. Sconiers
[14 Aug 2015]

Since last year, I have been hearing that Mayor Freeman-WIlson is planning on resigning before the end of 2015.  I chalked it up to just another rumor and wishful thinking on the part of the gossipers.  However, after more recently hearing the same thing from an individual that is part of her inner circle, there may actually be something to it?

Apparently, one of her sorority sisters, recently getting a big position on the East Coast, has opened up some appetizing opportunities for her.  And face it, this whole Gary gig has not worked out very well for her (and certainly not for anyone else besides her largest campaign contributors and closest pals).  And it is a good career move if she can get outta Dodge before everything collapses completely.  She will be able to blame the citys collapse on her absence.

And what gives a lot of weight to what I had previously dismissed as rumor, is that there are already several individuals jockeying for position to get the support of the precinct caucus.  So far, Mike Brown and Ron Brewer have their hats in the ring.


Cops Feel August Heat as Murder Toll Rises
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[14 Aug 2015]

Not even halfway through August, and nine Gary homicides.

The sudden concentration of violent deaths eight young men and a teenage girl sets every investigator into motion, whether they are assigned a case or not, Investigations Cmdr. Del Stout said last week.  "Everybody pitches in," he said, whether it's helping to canvas an area, run background checks or search for suspects.

Of the August cases, charges are filed in two the shooting deaths of two 18-year-olds, James Powell (#38) and Ray Washington (#39), and Ray Lewis (#41), of Merrillville.  Shelton Curtis, 22, is in custody charged with murder.  Police say a dispute rose over the sale of marijuana. Meanwhile, Justin Summers, 19, of Gary, has been charged in Lewis' death, police said.

The other cases from this month and a majority of this year's 38* homicides remain unsolved.  Police say there are a number of factors that play into getting charges filed.  Often, detectives know who did it, but can't find witnesses who will "put it on paper" making the information official.

Even some victims are reluctant to cooperate.  "I've had victims go to their death beds refusing to tell us who shot them," Lt. Thomas Pawlak said. "Either the victims are involved in criminal activity or they feel like they will take care of it themselves," he said.

Even though the clearance rate is low, the department has taken steps to solve more cases.  Every Monday Gary detectives, including those assigned to various area task forces, such as ATF, U.S. Marshal Service and the Lake County Gang Task Force, meet to review the latest cases. "We brainstorm," Pawlak said.  "We go over every case, who we're looking at.  Someone might bring up a name and find out someone else is looking at them for another case.  This keeps everyone in the loop."

Every unsolved homicide case remains open, Pawlak said.  "We pursue it until the leads dry up, then all we can do is wait for something to break," he said.  For example, Sgt. Dan Callahan and Detective Lorenzo Davis obtained new information on a 2007 homicide after new evidence surfaced, Pawlak said.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich assigned two investigators to work cases in Gary last year.  In June, he added a third and provided the joint unit with office space in Crown Point.  Gary has five detectives on the joint homicide team.  The detectives operate out of both the Public Safety Facility in Gary and the Lake County police department in Crown Point.  The Gary-Lake County homicide unit allows those detectives to focus on the deaths, while Pawlak's Violent Crimes Unit handles the rest.

Homicides are up compared to last year, but overall violent crime is down for the first six months of 2015, statistics show.  From January through June of 2013, Gary reported 1,849 violent crimes, which includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.  In the same time period in 2014, there were 1,328 cases and during that period this year, 1,060, police spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.

On Monday, after two homicides within hours of each other, the Gary Violent Crimes Unit office bustled with activity as both units focused on the unrelated shooting deaths of Lewis, 24, and Darnell Jones (#40), 30.  "It's a team effort," Pawlak said.  He admitted that the flood of violent deaths this month has placed all investigators under additional pressure.

An FBI study published in the February, 2008, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin stated that, nationally, police departments that average at least 25 homicides per year reported that each investigator carried five cases.  "Statistically, departments with detectives who handled fewer than five per year as a primary investigator had a 5.4% higher clearance rate than those with detectives who had higher case loads," the report states.

The joint homicide unit won't enjoy the luxury of just five cases per detective this year.  Gary Detective Alex Jones already has eight homicide cases, including two this month and one in July.  "It does frustrate me because I can't give any of them my full attention," he said.  "But we all do help each other."

The patrol division, too, feels the crush of calls, often with less than the minimum number of 12 officers per shift required in the bargaining agreement with the city, as the Post-Tribune has reported.

Last Sunday, on the night Lewis was shot to death, the afternoon patrol shift fielded 82 calls.  Of those, 22 were disturbances, the department's daily log shows.  Policy demands that two officers respond to disturbances.  While some are petty squabbles, any of those 22 could have erupted into yet another violent death, police note.

For more seasoned detectives, the summer of 2015 reminds them of 1995, the year Gary set a record 132 homicides.  Then, it was the influx of crack cocaine and work of convicted serial killer Eugene V. Britt that set the statistics spiraling.  A breakdown of this year's homicides shows 58% are gang and/or drug related, while the remaining 42% are "otherdomestic, robbery, etc.," Pawlak said.

Pawlak was a traffic cop 20 years ago, working midnights.  Then and now, a shortage of manpower as officers left for better-paying jobs, left those who remain with rickety squad cars and limited equipment and sinking morale.  It requires patrol officers and investigators alike to make the best use of what is available each other.  "We all work together," he said.


Gary Resident Charged in Monday's Shooting Death of Merrillville Man
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joyce Russell
[14 Aug 2015]

GARY | A Gary resident has been arrested in the Monday night shooting death of a Merrillville man.

Justin Summers, 19, has been charged with homicide, aggravated battery, battery and criminal recklessness in the death of Ray A. Lewis (#41), 24, of the 9000 block of Lane St in Merrillville, and the aggravated battery of Christian Muniz, 19, of Merrillville.

Lewis was pronounced dead at 10:17 p.m., Monday night at the Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary following the shooting in the 4600 block of Harrison St.

Detective Alexander Jones filed charges against Summers on Friday and he is in custody, Gary Police Lt. Dawn Westerfield said Friday night.

Gary Police first became aware of the shooting of Muniz when he was brought to the hospital for his injuries. Upon speaking with Muniz, officers went to the area of 4600 Harrison St where Ray Lewis was found deceased, Westerfield said in a news release.


'Officer Down' Hoax Nets Arrest, Charges
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[13 Aug 2015]

A woman's voice calling "officer down" sent every Gary officer on the midnight shift Wednesday hearts pounding and minds racing to the scene.

What they found was an unmarked squad car with a broken right window, police spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.

Minutes later, police arrested Lynda Lacy, 19, of Gary, who is charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespass, resisting law enforcement and unlawful use of a communication medium, Westerfield said.

Lacy appeared in Gary City Court on the misdemeanor charges Wednesday afternoon.  Judge Deidre Monroe said Lacy would be ordered to undergo drug testing and psychiatric evaluation while in custody.

The call came at 1:50 a.m. on the Gary police channel usually reserved for officers seeking information about car registrations and warrant checks.  When a dispatcher asked for more detail, the voice repeated the call for help, Westerfield said.

Units in the area responded to the Gary Police Department and did a roll call of every working officer to ensure their well being, Westerfield said.  Police then searched the area and found a window broken out of a police vehicle parked at the station.  The radio in the unit was turned on and tuned to the station used in the transmissions.  The damaged squad was parked at the south side of the Public Safety Facility, one of two lots reserved for policed cars.  The radio was on when officers arrived, Westerfield said.

Police began searching the area and learned from Patrolman John Faulkner that he saw a woman wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans walking through the lot a few minutes earlier, the police report states.

Patrolman Justin Hedrick saw a woman matching that description on Polk St, just south of the station.  As he drove up to her, she started to run west through an alley, then climbing over a cyclone fence, police said.  Hedrick ordered her to stop, but she continued to run west between houses until she fell in the 600 block of Fillmore St.  The fall resulted in her being able to be taken into custody.


Drug Deal Gone Bad Suspects in Custody in Gary Double Homicide
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[12 Aug 2015]

GARY | Two men wanted in connection with a drug deal gone bad double homicide in Gary last week are in police custody, officials said early Wednesday.

Gary police Lt. Dawn Westerfield, spokeswoman for the Gary Police Department, said Shelton Curtis and Kevin Blackmon, both 22 of Gary, were in police custody Tuesday afternoon.

Curtis was charged Monday with two counts of murder in the Aug. 6 shooting deaths of Raymond Washington-Whitehead, 17 of Merrillville, and James Powell, 18 of Gary, in the 1100 block of Lane St in Gary.  Blackmon was charged Monday with assisting a criminal.

Both were also charged with attempted dealing in marijuana, hash oil, hashish or salvia.


Lake County Sheriff Doubling Patrols on Gary's Mean Streets
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[12 Aug 2015]

The Lake County Sheriff's Department plans to double the number of officers patrolling Gary streets to battle a spike in homicides this summer.

"It is an escalating problem," Sheriff John Buncich told the Lake County Council, which approved $200,000 in overtime Tuesday to pay for the patrols.

Since July 1, there have been at least 16 homicides in the city, including two overnight Monday.  Buncich said the department's forensic team, along with officers on the combined homicide unit, has been working day and night and there is no end in sight to the violence.

Buncich blamed much of the problem on gangs and drugs.  Gangs are fighting over customers who come to the city from neighboring communities to buy drugs, the sheriff said.  In some cases, young drug buyers and innocent bystanders are killed in the gunbattles.

"Several of these homicides are occurring in broad daylight," Buncich said.  "I've never seen so many guns on the street."  One person arrested recently had a 50-round clip, he said.

The rise in homicides comes as more and more Gary police officers leave the force.  The city has lost 28 officers since the beginning of the year, many to better-paying departments, officials said.  Police in Gary are the lowest paid in Lake County.

"This is an emergency situation in the city," Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen Jr. said, adding that the overtime would be a short-term measure while Gary officials reorganize the police force and find new revenue to raise the pay of its officers.

Councilmen Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said they support helping the city during the "surge" in violent crime but warned that other options needed to be pursued.  "If this is going to be an ongoing issue, there has to be some tough discussions with the city.  We are all in this together, too," Dernulc said.


Great Lakes Steel Production Falls by 19,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[11 Aug 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region slumped to 627,000T last week.

Great Lakes steel production slid by 19,000T, or 2.9%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year because of a surfeit of imports that now account for a record-shattering 31% of the total market share.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.7%.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, rebounded to 615,000T last week, up from 596,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.756 million tons, down 0.2% from 1.76 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.4% last week, down from 73.6% a year earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 80.2% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 54 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


2 More Dead, 1 Wounded in Latest Gary Shootings
#40 & #41* and Counting
From a Post-Trib Report by Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune
[11 Aug 2015]

Two men have died and another was wounded in Gary shootings since Monday night, police said.

About 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, police found a man on the ground near the 2000 block of Carolina St who had died of multiple gunshot wounds, said Lt. Dawn Westerfield, a Gary Police Department spokeswoman.  Police did not immediately have information about his age or the circumstances of the shooting.

On Monday night, a shooting incident near the 4600 block of Harrison St left one man dead and another wounded.

About 9 p.m., Gary police were notified of a gunshot victim at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus, according to a news release from Gary police.

A witness who was at the house at the time of the shooting provided a statement, Detective George Dickerson said.

While looking for evidence in the area where the man said he was shot, police found the body of another man.  Gary police believe he was fatally shot, according to Westerfield.

Both men are in their early 20s, Westerfield said.

The surviving man will be airlifted to a Chicago hospital for treatment.  Westerfield declined to specify which hospital.


Air Traffic Grows at Gary Int'l in 1st 7 Months of 2015
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[11 Aug 2015]

GARY, Ind. (AP) Gary/Chicago International Airport has seen an increase in air traffic through the first seven months of this year.

Airport Manager Delbert Brown told the airport authority board at a Monday meeting that traffic is up 33% as compared to the same point a year ago.  The (Munster) Times reports the airport is on track to exceed the number of landings and takeoffs that took place all last year.

Brown says people are taking notice of the airport following positive publicity, including the opening of a $174 million runway expansion earlier this summer.  Supporters said the expansion could provide an economic boost for the region.

AvPorts signed a deal to operate the airport for up to 30 years in January 2014.


Gary Man Charged in Double Homicide
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[10 Aug 2015]

An argument over the price of marijuana led to two teens being fatally shot Thursday morning, police said.

James Powell, 18, of Gary, and Raymond Washington, 18, of Merrillville, were found dead at a suspected drug house shortly before noon on 6 Aug.

Shelton Curtis, 25, who lives a block from the scene of the shooting deaths in the 1100 block of Lane St, is charged with two counts of murder and misdemeanor attempted sale of marijuana, court records show.

Kevin Blackmon, 22, who lives in the Marshalltown subdivision on Gary's east side, is charged with assisting a criminal and misdemeanor attempted sale of marijuana, court records state.  He was at the house at the time of the shooting and allegedly removed evidence from the scene after both teens were shot, the probable cause affidavit states.

Neither suspect is in custody.  When apprehended, Curtis will be held without bail.  Blackmon would need to post $25,000 to be released.

No one has been living at the house since Thursday, police said.  About 2 a.m. Monday, someone tossed a Molotov cocktail into the house, causing considerable fire damage to the interior, police said.  Police had already seized drugs and drug paraphernalia from the house, the affidavit states.

A witness who was at the house at the time of the shooting provided a statement, Detective George Dickerson said.

The witness told Lake County Sgt. Edward Jenkins that shortly before the shooting, he saw Curtis, known as "T-man," and Blackmon bagging up marijuana in the bedroom that Curtis had been renting, the affidavit states.  Powell and Washington, known as "Ghost," arrived, and Curtis and Washington argued, with Curtis saying he wanted more money and Washington wanting more marijuana for the cash he had, the affidavit states.

Curtis and Washington struggled, and both pulled out handguns, documents said.  Curtis shot first, sending Washington to the floor near the entrance of the home, the affidavit states.  A semi-automatic handgun was found on the floor near the victim.

Both teens were pronounced dead at the scene.

When the witness looked out, he saw Powell on the ground and heard Blackmon tell Curtis "grab their guns and let's go," the affidavit states.

During a canvassing of the neighborhood, police recovered about 1 ounce of suspected marijuana under a bush in a path between the scene of the crime and the home where Curtis was living, the affidavit states.

Anyone with information about the location of either suspect can call investigators at 219-755-3281 or 219-881-1210. Anyone who comes in contact with Curtis or Blackmon should call 911.


This popped up on my radar on 10 Aug.  I thought it might be of interest?

Petitioning The People of Gary, Indiana
                     For The
Resignation of the City of Gary Mayor!

The absence of the City of Gary's Mayor, has proven to greatly effect the public. We need to remove the abandoned homes, more police patrol to help protect and serve the community, bring in the National Guard, put a curfew into action, we need this TODAY!

The People of Gary, Indiana
                     For The
Resignation of the City of Gary Mayor!

As of 10 Aug 2015 there are 223 Supporters

For the People of Gary, Indiana started this petition

Sign this petition


Six More Gary Cops Quit for Higher Paying Jobs
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[7 Aug 2015]

At its regular monthly meeting, the Gary Police Civil Service Commission acknowledged, without comment, resignation notices from Sgt. Pete Sormaz, Cpl. Jeffery Hornyak, Cpl. Daniel Quasney and Patrolman Diego Alvarez.  Two more, Patrolmen James Sheets and April Brown, have submitted letters of resignation that were not included in the board's action.

All six have gone to other law enforcement agencies that pay more than Gary, which has the lowest annual salary in the county.  Gary's elected officials its mayor and nine city council members are among the highest paid in the state.

Since December, 2013, the department has lost at least 31 officers, mostly through resignations or retirements.  During that time, the city hired less than 20 replacements.  The budget allows for 235 officers, but police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said the number stands at 204, which includes at least six on extended sick leave.

In the meantime, homicides are up more than 70% compared to last year.


Police Bulk Up Presence in Gary after Eight homicides in Eight Days
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[7 Aug 2015]

The Lake County Sheriff's Department, the Gary Police Department, the Portage Police Department, the Regional Stop Team and Indiana State Police swarmed across the city in a sweep that netted 18 arrests Thursday night, including a suspect in a shooting.

Police sought out people with active warrants for their arrest in an effort to put a stop to the violence.  The beefed-up police presence resulted in the arrest of Anrell K. Lakey, 21, of Gary, on charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery, battery by means of a deadly weapon, battery resulting in serious bodily injury, three counts of attempted battery by means of a deadly weapon and three counts of criminal recklessness.

Lakey was a suspect in a shooting Thursday night in Glen Park where a man was shot in the abdomen, just hours before two more men were shot to death on the city's west side.  Police pulled him over in a white Toyota Camry by the 1200 block of E 21st Av at about 9 p.m., and found spent shell casings in the vehicle, according to a news release.

Gary has had 36* homicides so far this year.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson called on residents during a news conference Tuesday to double-down on efforts to reduce violence, such as talking to police, testifying as witnesses and volunteering to clean up neighborhoods.

Police arrested Lakey and 17 more men over the course of Thursday night, nabbing them mostly on warrants, including for possession of cocaine.  Five were taken to the Gary Police Department, while one was transported to Porter County on a warrant and 12 more were taken to the Lake County Jail.  Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said the arrests were just one part of a larger effort to crack down on crime in Gary, especially violent crime.

Homicide victims in Gary over the past week include Daja Brookshire, 15, Alec McCloud, 44, Valerie Gonzalez, 27, Utonise Harper, 22, Terrence L. Sallee II, 24, David Pippins, 21, James Powell, 18, and Raymond Washington-Whitehead, 18.


Gary Man Wounded Despite Extra Patrols
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[7 Aug 2015]

Four police agencies Lake County, Portage, Indiana State and the Regional Stop Team sent units to aid Gary police Thursday evening in a show of force, mostly in Glen Park but throughout the city.

Their presence was evident. Along U.S. 20, between I-65 and IN 51, four teams of officers were engaged in simultaneous traffic stops about 8 p.m.

Minutes before squad cars saturated the Glen Park neighborhood, a man was critically wounded standing outside his home.

The shooting seemed to bolster Mayor Karen-Freeman Wilson's comment during a news conference this week about the alarming rise in homicides:  "If we had 500 officers in the police department, it would not prevent the occurrences we have been seeing.  We are not able to have an officer on every street corner at all times," she said.

Devon Hudson, 26, was shot three times as he and friends stood outside his home in the 4300 block of Monroe St. Witnesses told police they had just returned from the water park and Hudson asked Lackey to moved his car, which was blocking their path, court records state.  Lackey drove off, but then returned and appeared angry.

"Devon then went to the trunk of his car and grabbed two sets of boxing gloves and tossed one set of the gloves in the grass and told Arnell Lackey, 'we can settle this like men,' " the probable cause affidavit states.  Lackey began shooting, striking Hudson, then aiming at others in the group as well.  No one else was injured, police said.

Hudson is in critical condition at the intensive care unit of the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus, police said.


Two Men Found Shot to Death in Gary
#38 & #39* and Counting
From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[6 Aug 2015]

A crowd gathered quickly outside the pale blue house on Lane Street where two teens were shot to death shortly before noon Thursday.

Both had been wounded several times.  One victim was lying outside a residence on the 1100 block of Lane St in the Tarrytown subdivision and the second was just inside the door of the house, police said.

Their deaths are the sixth and seventh homicides since Sunday and the second double homicide in the past week, bringing the total for the year to 36*, almost double for the number of homicides this time in 2014.

The Lake County coroner identified the victims as James Powell, 18, who lived about a mile away in the 2400 block of Whitcomb St, and Raymond Washington-Whitehead, 18, of Merrillville.  They were both pronounced dead about 1 p.m., a news release from the coroner states.

Investigators immediately began canvassing the neighborhood, speaking to residents about what they heard or saw as shots were fired.  Relatives and friends also arrived at the scene, and police had to break up a small disturbance outside the crime scene tape, police said.

Police said it appears the house had been the scene of prior drug activity, but investigators declined to speculate on any motive for the double slaying.

A third man was shot in the abdomen about 6 p.m. in the 4300 block of Monroe St, Gary police Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.  The man was in surgery Thursday night at a local hospital, and a suspect was taken into custody, he said.


Two More Broadway Buildings Coming Down
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Greg Tejada
[6 Aug 2015]

The Gary Redevelopment Commission approved a contract for just over $110,000 for a demolition company to tear down a pair of structures in the 600 block of Broadway in the heart of downtown.

JM Industrial Services, Inc., was awarded the contract for $110,800.  The commission on Wednesday voted 3-0 to approve the deal to tear down the structures at 652-654 Broadway and at 656-658 Broadway

Redevelopment director Joseph Van Dyk said demolition of other structures in the area leave those two structures exposed to the elements, and that both structures need to be torn down before they collapse under their own weight.  "They're collapsing from the back," Van Dyk said.  "They can't last much longer on their own."

This particular demolition is part of a larger effort to clear significant tracts of land on the downtown Gary business district along Broadway, in hopes of finding developers who would build new projects to help revitalize the Northwest Indiana city.


Local Officials Don't Get Pass From Gary Schools Superintendent
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[6 Aug 2015]

GARY | Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt is pressing some local officials to live up to their volunteer commitments or step aside as she tries to marshal forces to get Gary's schools ready for the coming school year.

The school year starts Aug. 24, but at a meeting Thursday updates were only provided on progress being made in cleanup efforts for five of the 12 schools.

"Better than none," said Daniel Bundridge, director of district improvement for the Indiana Department of Education.

Pruitt, however, said that people leading the committees need to live up to their commitments.  Many of those who initially volunteered to serve on the committee are elected representatives in local and state government.  Pruitt said the school district needs not just people who voice their support, but those who "really want to step up to the plate and get it done."

Committee members will have another chance to live up to their commitments at a meeting next Thursday.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said he and four others on his committee responsible for the Beveridge Elementary School and the Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls committed to raise $3,000 each.  He said at Thursday's meeting that he has raised $1,500.  He said most of the money would be directed to Beveridge which is an older school that has more maintenance needs.

Gary Community School Corp. spokeswoman Charmella Greer said the district is attempting to raise about $50,000 to meet the needs at each of the local schools, which can include paint, light bulbs, and other items.  In addition, the district is seeking volunteers to help paint, change light bulbs, replace ceiling tiles and stair treads, cut and edge grass and make other improvements at the schools.

Those interested in helping can visit the school corporation's website at garycsc.k12.in.us/curbappeal to donate through GoFundMe.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Is GoFundMe to be the new face of public education financing in Gary?


Vacant Houses Remain Open Where Slain Women Found
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[6 Aug 2015]

GARY | Its been 10 months since police found the decaying body of Teaira Batey in a vacant building in Gary.

The time period is nearly how long Batey, of Gary, had been missing before she was found inside the 1800 block of E 19th Av.  Though the property had been boarded up following the discovery of the body, the property is now unsecured and open for anyone to wander in and explore.

In fact, the three other properties where a total of six women, including Batey, were found dead last fall are all unsecured and open.  Police were led to the properties last October after Darren Vann, 44, of Gary, allegedly confessed to killing the women -- in addition to a seventh woman in Hammond.

Some residents in the Gary neighborhoods where the six women were found think it's time to tear down the structures.

Justin James,lives next door to the house where Bateys body was found.  James hasn't seen people coming in and out of the house, but he has peeked in and found covers indicating someone must be sleeping in the house.  "They need to tear it down," James said.  "Thats what they need to do."

LaLosa Burns, Gary spokeswoman, said the four structures remain on the demolition list -- though they are not set for immediate demolition because of the ongoing criminal investigations.  Burns said the houses were boarded up, but said police access the property.

It's unclear how long the houses had been vacant when the women were found.  All four properties are delinquent more than $51,000 in taxes, according to county records.  The four properties are up for sale at the next county tax sale in September.

The house were Batey was found is now owned by Gary Redevelopment Commission, according to county records.

The abandoned home at 2200 Massachusetts St., where the body of Tracy L. Martin, 41, of Gary, was discovered was last owned by For Women Only nonprofit.  The back of the house remains wide open to Broadway.  Inside, paint is chipping off the walls, a couch and chair sit in a disheveled room and a tree branch is growing into the house from a partially boarded-up window.

About 3 miles away, Barbara Gibson lives down the street from the house at 4330 Massachusetts St, where Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary, was found dead.  A padlock secures the front door, and bars on windows prevent anyone from going inside.  However, the backyard fence is knocked down and a backdoor is open.  For Gibson, knocking down the house is the start of what she thinks the city should do in the neighborhood.

In the 400 block of E 43rd Av, where 3 bodies were found the house is boarded up in the front and is nearly covered with overgrown grass. In the rear, a door is wide open, and a second structure on the property is also unsecured.

Charmaine Blanchard, who lives around the corner, thinks the city should tear down all the abandoned structures in the neighborhood.  "It's too dangerous like this," Blanchard said.  "There's no security whatsoever like this."  A lifelong Gary resident, Blanchard is often "scared as hell" just to walk to her car when she has to go to work, she said.  She counts on a neighbor across the street to keep an eye out on her home.  "I just wish (the abandoned houses) would be gone," Blanchard said.  "That's the only way this community is going to get better."


Gary Loses 2 More Police Officers, Many More to Follow
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Aug 2015]

At a meeting of the Board of Public Works today, the City of Gary officially accepted the resignations of two more police officers.  9 year veteran James Sheets and 4 year veteran April Brown both resigned from the force to take a position with a neighboring department.

In private, ranking officers say they would not be surprised to see many more resignations in coming months.  Gary officers openly discuss the starting pay and equipment which other departments provide.  FOP President Sam Abegg, when asked about equipment, stated:

Without law and order nothing else exists.  Until we start being treated as such this city will never see itself turn around; theyll be chasing their tail.  Its gonna be a hell of a time when you call for the police and it takes them an hour to walk there; and even then, at the rate were losing officers, there may be no one to respondSam Abegg, FOP President, Gary, Indiana

For her part, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has stated the City does not have enough money to provide pay raises and equipment for the police department.

Despite that, the Mayor recently replaced her own 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Police Vehicle, one of the nicest the department owns, with a 2015 Dodge Durango Police Vehicle.  The 2011 vehicle was given to the police department only after the Mayor was done with it.  Last year the City received a grant for bulletproof vests for police officers, but those vests were never provided.  The City receives federal COPS Technology grants, but radio and other equipment is in dire need of repair.  And finally, when speaking of priorities, the administration rushed through a $3M grant to political insider Vance Kenney in 2014, just weeks before telling Police and Fire personnel the City could not afford to give them a raise.


Mayor, Council Member Say Gary Police, Ffire to Get Pay Raise in 2016
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[5 Aug 2015]

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Tuesday she plans to provide salary increases for Gary's police officers and firefighters in 2016.

City officials in recent months have hinted they were considering pay raises for public safety officials when they put together the municipal budget for next year.  It would be the first pay hike for police and fire officials in nearly a decade.

But the mayor, who previously has refused to commit herself on the issue, used a press conference to announce a $70,000 donation from NIPSCO to say that part of the solution to reducing the level of violent crime in Gary is providing higher salaries so that the Gary police and fire departments can attract better quality and more experienced officers.

Freeman-Wilson would not offer any specifics about the pay raise, other than to say that she would make an announcement later this week.

She did say that money to provide higher salaries would come about because of cuts to be made in other city government agencies and programs, although she would not say Tuesday what programs would be cut or how much the cuts would amount to.

Ronald Brewer, the Common Council's vice president, said that "everything is up for grabs" in terms of areas in the city budget that could be cut.  "Nothing will be spared," he said.

Freeman-Wilson would make a proposal, but ultimately the Common Council would have to review her measure and would have the authority to alter it if they saw fit.

Police Chief Larry McKinley said he thinks the idea is worthwhile.  "It would give us an enhanced police presence," McKinley said.

Freeman-Wilson said that higher salaries alone aren't the key to reducing Gary's homicide rate, which thus far in 2015 totals 34* dead, with six of those slayings occurring during the past week.  "If we had 500 officers in the police department, it would not prevent the occurrences we have been seeing," the mayor said.  "We are not able to have an officer on every street corner at all times.


Shooting Deaths Bring Week's Total to 6 in Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[4 Aug 2015]

Within a few minutes Monday night, Gary police received calls of three shooting victims at two separate locations.

Before the night was over, two of those victims died, bringing the number of shooting deaths in the city to six in six days for a total of 34* homicides this year.  That's a 57% increase over the same time last year.  Detectives have filed charges or questioned a person of interest in nine of those cases, according to police and online records.

At this time last year, the city had logged 20 homicides and made arrests in five of those cases.


Gary Officials Call on Community to Curb Uptick in Violent Crime
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[4 Aug 2015]

GARY | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Tuesday that a surge in violent crime in Gary is no reason for discouragement but instead a call to double-down on a number of efforts.

The city has seen six homicides in six days, and the violence has to stop, officials said.

Law enforcement plays a vital role in reducing crime, but there is a role for everyone inside the city and beyond, Freeman-Wilson said.

"Its not just the corporate community. Its not just small businesses or large businesses.  Its not just our work as it relates to the faith community, because they are actively involved," Freeman-Wilson said.  "It's all of us working together.  Its law enforcement.  It's the community being willing to say what they see and to serve as witnesses and to help police as they work.

"It cant be a march here or a march there.  It cant be one or two people willing to come forward in one or two neighborhoods," she said.  "We have to do this all together."


Two Shot and Killed in Separate Gary Incidents Monday Night
#36 & #37* and Counting
From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[4 Aug 2015]

GARY | A 44-year-old Gary man and a 27-year-old Chicago woman were shot and killed in separate incidents in Gary Monday night.

Alec McCloud of the 2100 block of Delaware Pl was pronounced dead at 9:16 p.m. at The Methodist Hospitals' Northlake campus in Gary, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide at W. 5th Av and Roosevelt St.

Gary police Sgt. Thomas Decanter Jr. said officers were called at 7:53 p.m. to the 500 block of Roosevelt St for a call about a gunshot victim.  When officers arrived, the found McCloud sitting in a vehicle with gunshot wounds.  McCloud was transported to Methodist Hospital where he later died.

Decanter said one subject was in custody and charges were expected to be presented to the Lake County Prosecutor's office Tuesday afternoon.

Valerie Gonzalez, 27, of the 100 block of W 107th St in Chicago, was pronounced dead at 8:38 p.m. Monday at The Methodist Hospitals' Northlake Campus in Gary, Frey said.  The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound suffered in a homicide at W 25th Pl and Clark Rd.  Decanter said Gonzalez was shot in the chest.

Decanter said officers were called at 8 p.m. to W 25th Pl and Clark Rd for a report of a gunshot victim.  When officers arrived, they found Gonzalez and a man with gunshot wounds.  The man was shot in the right side of his head above his eye. The man was listed in serious but stable condition at Methodist Hospital Tuesday morning, Decanter said.


Second Victim in Gary Public Housing Complex Drive-by Shooting Dies
#35* and Counting
From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[4 Aug 2015]

GARY | A man who was shot in the head and throat in the drive-by shooting at Gary's Delaney Community public housing complex that left another man dead has also died, officials said.

David Pippins, 21, of the 2300 block of Washington St, was pronounced dead at 1:42 p.m. Monday at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said.

An official cause and manner of death are pending the results of an autopsy.

Gary police said Pippins was shot in the head and throat in a drive-by shooting just after 10 p.m. Thursday in the 2100 block of Polk St in the Delaney Community public housing complex.  Terrence L. Sallee, 24, of the 2100 block of Carver St, was also killed in the shooting.

Witnesses told police a red Ford Escort with tinted windows drove past and shot at the victims.  Both of the victims were affiliated with a local gang, police said.


Great Lakes Steel Production Slides by 2,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[3 Aug 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region dipped to 646,000T last week.

Great Lakes steel production slid by 2,000T, or 0.3%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output grew by 1.1% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, ticked up to 598,000T last week, up from 596,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.76 million tons, down from 1.74 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.6% last week, up from 72.8% a year earlier.

The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 79.6% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output has been 52.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


Teen Girl Shot and Killed in Gary a 'Good Kid'
#34* and Counting
From a nwiTimes Staff Report

GARY | A 15-year-old Gary girl was shot in the back and killed in a drive-by shooting there late Sunday night, police said.

Daja Brookshire of the 800 block of N County Line Rd was pronounced dead at 11:37 p.m. Sunday in the emergency room of The Methodist Hospitals' Northlake campus in Gary, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound suffered in a homicide in the 700 block of Adams St.

Lt. Thomas Pawlak said Brookshire's boyfriend drove her and a female friend to the friend's grandmother's home near W 6th Av and Adams St late Sunday night.  As the trio got out of the boy's car, someone fired shots from a passing vehicle, striking Brookshire in the back, Pawlak said.  Investigators at the scene determined at least 10 shots were fired.

The boyfriend and the friend dropped to the ground when the shots rang out.  They were not injured, Pawlak said.  The pair noticed Brookshire was bleeding and drove her to Methodist where she later died.

The boyfriend and friend told police noticed a vehicle following them for some time but did not see the make or model of the vehicle or the people inside.  "We have no clues," Pawlak said.

Pawlak said police never had any contact with Brookshire, her boyfriend or her friend in the past.  "They were good kids," Pawlak said.  "There was no reason for them to be targeted.  They've been friends since the sixth grade."

This would be the second time Investigators were called to the Truama hospital on Sunday.  The first fatal shooting occurred in the 700 block of Broadway at approximately 3:00 a.m., just two blocks west.


Early Morning Gary Homicide Outside Link Bar
#33* and Counting
From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Aug 2015]

The office of Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey has confirmed an early morning homicide right on Broadway in Gary.

Police and emergency personnel were processing the scene at approximately 3:00 a.m. this morning.  It is not known if it is related, but the shooting occurred as the nearby Link Bar closed.  A witness reported hearing seven shots and a large crowd of people.

Coroner Investigators were called to Methodist Hospital Northlake, 600 Grant St.  22 year old Untonise Harper of the 2300 block of Georgia St, Gary, IN was pronounced dead at 3:35 a.m on August 2, 2015 according to the report.  A gunshot would was reported and the case is being investigated as a homicide.


UPDATE:  Police Searching for Car in Fatal Gary Drive-by Shooting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[31 Jul 2015]

GARY | Police are asking for the public's help in finding two men and a vehicle wanted in connection with a Thursday drive-by shooting in Gary's Delaney Community public housing complex that left one man dead and another hospitalized.

Terrence L. Sallee II, 24, of the 2100 block of Carver St was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m., Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide in the 2100 block of Polk St. Sallee was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gary police Lt. Thomas Pawlak said the second victim was shot in the head and throat.  Officials at the scene Thursday initially said the second man was shot and later died at a hospital.  Gary police and Lake County Coroner's office investigators on Friday said the second victim, a 21-year-old Gary man, was alive at a local hospital.

Pawlak said the drive-by shooting occurred just after 10 p.m. in the 2100 block of Polk St.  Police on Friday were searching for a red Ford Escort with tinted windows.  Pawlak said two men were inside the vehicle when it drove past and shot at the victims.  Both victims were affiliated with a local gang, he said.

Police asked anyone with information about the shootings to call the Lake County Metro Homicide Unit at (219) 755-3852.


2 Killed in Shooting in Gary's Delaney Community Housing Complex
#32* and Counting
From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[31 Jul 2015]

GARY | Two men were fatally shot late Thursday in Gary's Delaney Community public housing complex, officials said.

One man died at the scene in the 2100 block of Polk St and the other was taken to a hospital with life-threatening wounds, Detective George Dickerson said.  The second man died at the hospital, officials said.

A man's body was sprawled on a sidewalk on the east side of the street, across from a basketball court.  Crime scene investigators arrived on scene and began using small flashlights to search a parking area in front of the basketball court and the street near where the man was lying.

Groups of people gathered in several areas just beyond the boundaries of the crime scene tape.

A woman in a group to the north of the crime scene was embraced and consoled by several people as she sobbed.  "That's my baby. That's my baby," she shouted.  People care only about themselves, she said.  "I'll go with you there.  I'll go with you there.  I'll go with you there," she said. "That's my baby.  That's my baby."

The circumstances surrounding the shooting about 10 p.m. remained under investigation.  Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Lake County Metro Homicide Unit at (219) 755-3852.


Gary Man Cuts off Fingers in Sword Attack on Girlfriend
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[31 Jul 2015]

GARY | A Gary man was in police custody at an Indianapolis hospital Friday morning after allegedly cutting off his fingers while stabbing his girlfriend with a sword at their apartment early Friday.

Gary police Lt. Thomas Pawlak said officers were called around 1 a.m. to the 4800 block of Pennsylvania St for a report of a stabbing.

Pawlak said Dale Lane, 43, allegedly stabbed his 35-year-old girlfriend in the stomach with a sword, cutting some of his fingers off in the process.  Lane was in custody at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis Friday morning.

The woman was transported to The Methodist Hospitals' Northlake Campus in Gary for treatment.


2 Men Questioned in Suspicious Gary Fires Released
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[30 Jul 2015]

GARY | Police released two men Thursday pending further investigation after questioning them in connection with several suspicious fires earlier this week in Gary, an official said.

Authorities have not been able to contact the owners of the burned buildings, and the Lake County prosecutor's office declined to take the case at this time without a known victim, police Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.  "The problem is the buildings have been vacant for decades, and the owners are long gone," he said.

The men, who are both in their 20s and from Gary, are now persons of interest in three fires, Pawlak said.


Great Lakes Steel Production Soars by 25,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[30 Jul 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 648,000T last week.

Great Lakes steel production shot up up by 25,000T, or 4%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year because of a surfeit of imports that now account for a record-shattering 32% of the total market share.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, slipped to 596,000T last week, down from 611,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.74 million tons, down from 1.753 million tons a week earlier.  Overall U.S. steel output slid by 0.7%.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.8% last week, up from 73.3% a year earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 79.6% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 50.4 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.7%.


Gary Police Question 2nd Person in Connection with Suspicious Fire
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[30 Jul 2015]

GARY | A second man was being questioned Wednesday in connection with a suspicious fire in Gary's Midtown section a day earlier, but police said finding the owners of several abandoned buildings that have burned in the past few days is proving difficult.

Without anyone to say their properties were damaged in the fires, police may not be able to seek charges against the two men they have in custody, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.  Pawlak said police plan to meet with the Lake County prosecutor's office to see if they can present the case without victims.

"That's the problem we have with the scrappers," he said.  "We couldn't get them for theft because no one owns the buildings.  It gets frustrating because we catch these scrappers and then we have to kick them loose because we can't find any victims."

A 22-year-old Gary man who was taken into custody Tuesday near the scene of a suspicious blaze in the 2000 block of Delaware St has cooperated with police to some extent, Pawlak said.  The second person of interest was taken into custody Tuesday night, Pawlak said.


Gary Firefighters Battle Yet Another Midtown Blaze
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[29 Jul 2015]

GARY | Gary firefighters were at the scene of another Midtown fire early Wednesday morning, the day after an arson suspect was taken into custody in connection with suspicious fires in the neighborhood, officials said.

Chief of Operations Mark Jones said no one was injured in the blaze at an abandoned home at the intersection of 7th Av and Virginia St.  Jones said firefighters were called to the scene at 3:22 a.m. and left just after 6 a.m.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, he said.

The latest blaze came the day after an arson suspect was arrested in connection with two suspicious fires in the city's Midtown neighborhood.  Police said they neighbors directed them to a man in a car with gas cans and rags watching Gary firefighters battling a blaze at a vacant building in the 2000 block of Delaware St early Tuesday.

Officials said the 22-year-old Gary man had a police scanner in the vehicle tuned to the Gary fire channel and initially claimed to be a Gary firefighter and a member of the Lake Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.  Police said the man is not and has never been a member of either department.

Firefighters were called to that fire while working on a blaze at a VFW post at 17th Av and Maryland St, officials said.  The two blazes are among five Gary firefighters battled early Tuesday.  On Monday, fire destroyed a vacant apartment building in the 800 block of Jackson St.


Gary Schools Pick Finance Expert to Help with Deficit, Debt
Compiled From an AP Report
[29 Jul 2015]

GARY, Ind. (AP) The Gary school district is bringing in a Michigan-based financial expert to help it deal with a $23.7 million deficit and total debt of roughly $92 million.

The (Munster) Times reports the Gary Community School Corp. chose Jack Martin on Tuesday night out of three specialists recommended by the Distressed Unit Appeals Board.  The district had 21 days to make their choice of the three under state legislation.

Martin's firm in Bingham Farms, Michigan, has worked with Detroit Public Schools, the city of Detroit and others in restructuring finances.

Gary schools have seen mounting financial troubles that have been attributed to declining enrollment and decreased state funding, among other reasons.


Man Arrested at Suspicious Gary Fire
Compiled From Post-Trib Staff Report
[28 Jul 2015]

Witnesses who saw a man with a gas can Tuesday leaving the scene of a pre-dawn fire in Gary's Midtown section alerted police when he returned to watch the blaze, police said.

When Patrolmen Terry Peck and Andrew Germonprez spoke to the man, he first claimed he was a Gary firefighter, which a battalion chief on scene quickly nixed, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.  The man's gray Chevrolet Malibu sported a firefighter decal, red and white emergency lights and contained a gas can, Pawlak said.  The 22-year-old Gary man changed his story and said he was a volunteer with Lake Ridge Fire Department, but police learned that was also not true.  Finally, he said he was a "firechaser," Pawlak said.

Police arrested him and he is being held on pending charges of arson and impersonating a public official, police said.  Both police and fire investigators are examining his connection to at least two suspicious fires Tuesday at 17th Av and Maryland St, and 19th Av and Maryland St.  Both were vacant buildings.  The site on 17th Av once housed a popular VFW.

Gary arson investigator Sgt. Mark Salazar said the two fires on Maryland St appear to be related, and blazes at 20th Av and Delaware St and 25th Av and Massachusetts St are still being reviewed.

Police hope to locate the owners of the torched buildings before the case is presented to the Lake County prosecutor.

The first three fires may be connected, Gary Fire Chief of Operations Mark Jones said, "because of their proximity."  He said the Indiana State Fire Marshal is expected to be contacted for assistance, Jones added.

The others were in the 800 block of Jackson St and near 3rd Av and McKinley St, Jones said.

Merrillville Fire Department provided mutual aid in battling the blazes, Jones said.


The Documentary, "Gary, Indiana:  A Tale of Two Cities"
Has been completed and is now available for viewing on the Vanderbilt University YouTube channel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_a7m6v0c-I&feature=youtu.be
56 mins. 30 sec. in length

A 1 min. 26 sec. preview is found here - https://vimeo.com/115191070

The 60-minute film includes interviews with several past and present Gary persona who reminisce about how the city has evolved during the past half century.

Those interviewed for the documentary include Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, former mayors Richard Hatcher and Thomas Barnes, Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, Indiana University Northwest Chancellor William Lowe and several local clergy members, all offering their thoughts about what Gary used to be like and the city's current incarnation.

The documentary depicts the two faces of Gary addressing the problems facing the once-thriving metropolis as well as the progress and possibilities among its people, churches and communities.  The film also shows some of the tensions Gary faces as it reconciles its past, transforms its present and charts its future.

Sandra Barnes, a Gary native, now is a professor at the divinity school of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.

Creator:  Dr. Sandra L. Barnes, Professor
Vanderbilt University
Peabody College


Another Abandoned Gary Building Goes Up in Flames
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[28 Jul 2015]

GARY | Firefighters responded to a fire at an abandoned apartment building in Gary Tuesday morning, about 24 hours after another abandoned apartment building and home burned.

Gary Fire Department Chief of Operations Mark Jones said fire crews responded to the blaze at 17th Av and Maryland St sometime before 5 a.m. and found the building fully engulfed.  Gary called for mutual aid from the Merrillville Fire Department, which responded with an aerial truck.

Jones said crews struck the fire by 6:30 a.m. but remained on scene.  No one was injured in the blaze.

A man was taken into custody for questioning in connection with Tuesday morning's fire, Jones said.

The fire came about 24 hours after a blaze at another abandoned apartment building that spread to an adjacent abandoned home.  Those fires took place in the 800 block of Jackson St.

The fire hit as firefighters were responding to calls for fires at other locations, he said.   "There's been a rash of them the last couple of days," Jones said, adding that they all remain under investigation.  Jones said there is "definitely a possibility" the fires are related.


Sold School Buildings Also an Eyesore
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum and Marc Chase
[28 Jul 2015]

GARY | Three of the five abandoned Gary school buildings sold in the last few years are as much of an eyesore as the 21 boarded-up and abandoned school buildings still owned by Gary Community School Corp.

The five buildings sold are the former Beckman Middle School, 1430 W 23rd Av; Kuny Elementary, 5050 Vermont St; Banneker Elementary School, 1912 W 23rd Av; Pittman Square, 4948 Delaware St and Tolleston Middle School, 2700 W. 19th Av.

Beckman Middle School was sold to Lew Management owned by Larry Webb.  Beckman has had nearly every window in the building broken out, gang graffiti decorates the brick and overgrown shrubbery make it difficult to walk around.  A look through windows shows graffiti where teachers used to write the day's lessons.

Webb said he operated a charter bus, school bus and limousine company.  In 2011, he said he would move his operation to the former Beckman school by September that year.  Webb said he intended to convert some of the classrooms into small apartments where his drivers could live.

That goal was not realized.  Webb could not be reached for comment.

In 2011, Kuny was sold to Life Ministries International for $50,000.  According to the Lake County assessor's office, the owner of the building is Life Church International Inc. at 671 E 45th Av.  There is a for sale sign on the property.

The Kuny school property has a faded temporary nylon banner that says "Life Center" hanging over the old sign with the school's name.  Several window openings and doors are boarded over with plywood.  On a recent visit, mildew permeated the entryway though shut doors.  Mops and mop buckets could be seen around the floor near the entryway.  Padlocks secure the doors of the old school and a small bus is parked behind the building.  No one connected to the property could be reached for comment.

The old Pittman Square school was given to Gary to be converted into a fire station.  Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the demolition was completed by the school corporation some time ago.  The City Council approved a HUD Section loan so a fire station could be built at the Pittman Square site and the Hudson Campbell Fitness Center would be renovated.

The former Tolleston Middle School was sold to The Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Indiana for $100.  It is the only one of the five sold properties that has been renovated, restored and is in use.

The school district sold the Banneker building to the National Civil Rights Museum and Hall of Fame, whose president and CEO is former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher.  It was sold for $50,000 in 2011.  Though there are broken windows and some gang graffiti on the building, the grass is cut and the grounds are generally maintained.

A year after Banneker was purchased, Hatcher said vandals broke into the building, stripping it of wire, knocking out walls and causing other damage.  "We hired a security firm to watch the building 24/7," he said Monday.  "Our security caught the people who, I guess, came back to finish the job."  Four were arrested and convicted in 2013 for the crime.

Hatcher said architects and engineers said it would take more than $1 million to renovate the building to use as the National Civil Rights Museum and Hall of Fame.  He said it didn't make sense to put that kind of money in such an old building, and the best use might be to tear it down and rebuild.

Hatcher, who has been working to get a National Civil Rights Museum and Hall of Fame in Gary for many years, said his group has raised about $500,000 -- the amount it would take to demolish Banneker.  Hatcher said there are other entities that have been willing to donate money to the Hall of Fame, and he's hoping to generate support and cash for the building.

Freeman-Wilson said she hopes to forge a partnership with the museum's organizers to develop a plan for the situation.

Those buildings, along with the 21 boarded-up and rotting school buildings across the city, are among nearly 7,000 abandoned buildings in the city.  Freeman-Wilson said abandoned buildings have been the "Achilles heel" of her administration.  "They are the most obvious evidence of the disorderly exit from the city that occurred from 1970 to 2010,"  She said abandoned schools must be viewed in the same context as homes, churches and businesses.

"Most people left the city due to the decline of the steel industry and related challenges.  There was no sale of homes or transfer of property.  Many people walked away from real estate, inheritances and small businesses," she said.

"We look forward to working with Dr. (Cheryl) Pruitt, board President (Antuwan) Clemons and the entire Board of Trustees to work toward the financial stability of the schools and municipal government," she said.  "We think that the (Distressed Unit Appeals Board) involvement presents a unique opportunity for cutting-edge collaboration that will be a model for other cities.  There are opportunities with every challenge."
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Talk of irony; the former mayor who was going to make Gary great is now the owner of an abandoned eyesore?


Insurance Company Sues Gary Airport Over Pollution Defense
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[27 Jul 2015]

Gary/Chicago International Airport's insurance provider wants off the hook for paying for the airport's defense against a case with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Old Republic Insurance filed a lawsuit against the airport authority on Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond asking that the court find Old Republic does not owe any money to the airport over the issue and that the airport pay back money Old Republic has already spent.  The lawsuit does not say how much the insurance company believes it is owed.

The issue centers around a notice that IDEM sent to the airport in September after two soil samples from the airport's property showed the presence of arsenic, benzopyrene and PCBs.  IDEM also reported an oily sheen on Boeing Ditch, which runs along the northwest end of the airport's runway.  The notice from IDEM required the airport to investigate and remediate the sources of the pollution.

Old Republic says in the lawsuit that it at first agreed to defend the airport against IDEM in the case, but now says that its contract with the airport specifically states that it is not responsible for any pollution or contamination unless it was caused by a crash or explosion.  The lawsuit argues that the source of the contamination found in the IDEM samples is decades old and had been there long before Old Republic signed with the airport in May 2000.

A representative with the airport could not be reached for comment Monday evening.  Dan Glavin, who is representing Old Republic, would not comment on the lawsuit.


USW:  Concessions at Heart of U.S. Steel Contract Offer
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Karen Caffarini
[27 Jul 2015]

The United Steelworkers union said the concessions U.S. Steel has asked for would erode decades of contractual improvements and benefits.

United Steelworkers said it has received an outline of an initial new contract proposal from U.S. Steel that includes dozens of demands for concessions.  The union said the concessions would erode decades of contractual improvements and benefits won for members and their families.  "While we have yet to receive a formal, detailed proposal from the company, it's clear from this initial outline that U.S. Steel is attempting to use the current industry downturn to gut our contract and weaken our union," the USW stated on its website.

According to USW, U.S. Steel is proposing major changes to health care that would increase costs for active and retired members.  The union said the company also wants to reduce vacation pay and reduce the union's role in health and safety issues, among other issues.

The union said active workers at U.S. Steel would have $2,600 minimum annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums up to $13,100 per year for families.  The company also is seeking to eliminate the current retiree medical plan and force Medicare-eligible retirees to shop for their own supplemental coverage through a private exchange, according to USW.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Steel said Monday the company doesn't generally comment on ongoing negotiations.

U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, both with mills in Northwest Indiana that employ thousands of area residents, are negotiating separate contracts with the USW.  Both contracts expire Sept. 1.

Negotiations are taking place as the U.S. steel industry continues to be hurt by illegal steel dumping by foreign countries, which has resulted in mass layoffs at mills across the country and in Northwest Indiana.  U.S. Steel, which has mills in Gary, Portage and East Chicago, reported more than 750 layoffs this spring.

The USW said last week that ArcelorMittal, which has more than 7,000 employees in mills in East Chicago and Burns Harbor, has proposed a three-year contract with no wage increases and reductions in incentive payments, vacation pay and sickness and accident benefits, among other concessions.

ArcelorMittal said last week that the initial proposals were made in an effort to close the labor cost gap with the company's competitors without reducing wage rates, which the company said are among the highest in the industry.  According to a 2014 ArcelorMittal fact sheet, the average annual wage for its union-represented employees is $97,946.


Gary Man Dies From Gunshot Wounds
#31* and Counting

Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[25 Jul 2015]

A 21-year-old Gary man who was shot multiple times and shoved out of his own car Tuesday afternoon, died Thursday at a Chicago hospital.

Derrick McGuire, was on 17th Av near Wallace St on Gary's west side when police and medics found him about 4 p.m.  He was flown to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he died Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Cook County (Ill.) Medical Examiner's Office said Friday.

Homicides in Gary are up 35% compared to the same time last year.  McGuire becomes the 27th* violent death in 2015; the city recorded 20 by this date a year ago.

McGuire was behind the wheel of his tan Chevrolet when he was shot.  His passenger pushed him out onto the street, walked around the car to the driver's seat and left the scene, witnesses told police, the police report states.

Police issued an alert to other law enforcement agencies with a description of the stolen car, Detective Cpl. James Nielsen said.

McGuire's home address on the police report was in Hammond, but police learned he spent more time in Gary, where his mother and grandmother reside.

Nielsen and Lake County Sgt. Edward Jenkins are investigating the homicide.  Anyone with information can call them at (219) 755-3852.


New Cars Sit While Gary Cops Drive on Bald Tires, Overdue Maintenance
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[24 Jul 2015]

The once good-natured grumbling about equipment problems vacillates between open hostility and frustrated resignation among some Gary police officers.

Jokes -- without smiles circulate the department.  "Foot patrols are coming back in style!" and "The city's just waiting for enough officers to quit so everyone has a car."

Ford quit making the popular Crown Victoria in 2011, but a majority of the city's squad cars are much older than that.  Three new Dodge Chargers bought last year are on the street, but 20 new Ford Explorers aren't.

Chief Larry McKinley announced the purchase of 20 new cars in the spring, but none of the black Explorers are in use.  Eight sit in a lot north of the Public Safety Facility but don't have markings, lights or sirens.

City spokesperson LaLosa Burns said of the 20 new cars, 12 are being prepared for service.  "We expect the 12 cars presently with the vendor will be on the road in early September," Burns wrote in an email, responding to questions posed by the Post-Tribune.  She didn't say what plans the city has for the others, but said, "currently the police fleet is sufficient for the number of officers."br>

In the meantime, a homicide detective, who asked that his name not be used, dropped his car off at vehicle maintenance before he left for vacation.  The car is still there, three weeks later and all it needs is an oil change and a tire repair, the detective said.

"There are no basic repairs," Burns wrote.  "When cars are brought in to vehicle maintenance, it is then for preventive maintenance.  The entire car is checked.  This takes time.  Vehicles are checked and certified safe before leaving the shop."

Bald tires, no air conditioning, no emergency lights are common complaints, officers say.  When officers drive a prisoner from one destination to another, they are required to state their beginning and ending mileage.  But that's not possible when the odometer is broken, officers say.  Windows don't roll up or down.  Doors don't open.  Seats are worn through.  Rust. Lots of rust.

"A lot of these cars are running 24 hours a day and the shortage is such that officers are doubling up in cars," Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 61 President Samuel Abegg said Thursday.

While a two-man car is preferable, Abegg said, it's less effective when that is the only car in that district for the shift.  Despite a collective bargaining agreement provision that sets, for example, a minimum of 12 officers on the street for that turn, the steady flow of resignations has left the patrol division numbers too depleted to accomplish that, he said.  This week, for example, the city's four districts had only two cars for each area during the day shift, and the midnight shift is short regularly, according to daily schedules.

Abegg, assigned to a gang investigative unit, has a take-home car he describes as "one of our better vehicles."  Fearing the loss of the car for an extended period while waiting for an oil change, Abegg had it done himself, he said.  "I've been an advocate of handling minor repairs, such as wiper blades and oil changes, ourselves.  But if vehicle maintenance (workers) get word, they freak out," he said.

"I have consistently sent Cmdr. (Sarita) Titus emails about cars down for weeks at a time.  Money is a problem.  I understand that.  But there is no doubt that you have to have the right equipment to do the job.  The car issue is a problem," Abegg said.


Gary to Fine for False Alarms
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[22 Jul 2015]

Businesses and homeowners in Gary whose burglar alarms are repeatedly triggered falsely will face the prospect of fines.

The Common Council voted 9-0 Tuesday in favor of an ordinance that gives the Police Department the option of issuing citations in cases where an alarm is triggered and police wind up determining there was no legitimate problem.

The ordinance was crafted by the Police Department, with Cmdr. Kerry Rice saying the issue of false alarms is a major problem for the department.  "It takes a lot of manpower and gas to respond to alarms, and it's a waste if they turn out to be false," Rice said, adding that the alternative for police would be to file a criminal charge of filing a false report.  "This is a city ordinance," he said of the new law.  "Filing a false report just seems a little harsh."

Citations could result in $50 fines for a first offense, and fines of up to $500 for each additional offense, although Rice said police plan to issue written warnings for alarms in residential areas and do not plan to issue actual citations until at least a third incident of a false alarm.

Beyond that point, city court judges in Gary will have the authority to issue an order disconnecting a business' alarm if it seems there is no other way of preventing it from being triggered under false conditions.

Council members approved the measure with no discussion, although at-large Councilman Ronald Brewer said previously he sympathizes with police not wanting to have their time wasted on minor incidents when there is enough criminal activity in Gary to keep them busy.

Rice reiterated his claim that Gary police responded to 4,076 alarms between March 1 and July 14, of which about 4,000 turned out to be for incidents that didn't warrant them.
Folks, that computes out to a 98.1% false alarm rate!


Gary OKs Funding Plan for Library Rehab
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[22 Jul 2015]

The Common Council gave its support Tuesday night to letting the Gary Library Board use $1.854 million in reserve funds to pay for a rehab of the main library building and repairs to four existing branch libraries in the city.

The decision was far from unanimous.  Opposition was outspoken, with several council members saying they believe the only way the city can afford to reopen the main library at 220 W 5th Av is by closing the four branch libraries.

"The (library) board needs to accept the reality that they are going to have to pick which branches to close," said council President Kyle Allen.  "That's the financial reality we (in Gary) face."

Allen, council Vice President Ronald Brewer and Councilwoman Carolyn Rogers, D-4th, voted against the request

The library board has spent $2.1 million in recent years on the building.

More than $1 million would go toward finishing the main library rehab, while the remaining $800,000 would go for painting, new carpeting and furniture at the four branch library buildings.

Brewer reiterated his claim that Gary's population has shrunk in recent decades to a level where five library buildings are no longer necessary, and he said he'd prefer to back the neighborhood branches over the idea of a downtown library building.  "Why do we want to put money into a facility that we don't know if we'd be able to keep open," Brewer said.  "We could wind up closing the main library again in a year or two.  We need to spend our money wisely."

But six council members expressed their support for reopening the main library building.  Councilwoman Mary Brown, D-3rd, said she thinks it was a mistake that the main library was closed in 2012, and that she thinks it is an important asset for Gary.  "It was a disservice to close the main library," she said.  "If we have to close some of the branches (libraries), then so be it."

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she thinks reopening the library located next to the Genesis Convention Center is a key part of plans to revitalize the city's downtown business district.  She also cited the money already spent on main library rehab work, saying, "It would be a total waste of money if we didn't give our approval to this."


Child Killer Caught Bus to Indy after Finding No Room in Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[21 Jul 2015]

A convicted child molester and murderer released from prison last week arrived in Indianapolis by bus Monday after finding a Gary homeless shelter closed a day earlier, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said.

Gary officials said Tuesday that Richard Dobeski, 67, was never a resident at the Brothers Keeper shelter and would have been discouraged from becoming a city resident.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson also expressed frustration that other law enforcement agencies may have given Dobeski a ride to the Lake/Porter County line and knew of his plan to go to Brothers Keeper but did not give Gary police any warning about his whereabouts.  "We are not going to stand for Gary being a dumping ground for any offenders," she said.  [Comment -GDY]:  So say you, Mayor.  Others not only do not agree, they are actively using Gary as a "dumping ground" for undesirables.

Freeman-Wilson declined to single out any one law enforcement agency.  Police Chief Larry McKinley said Gary police work respectfully with neighboring agencies and ask they do the same.


Gary Man Shot Several Times on City's West Side
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[21 Jul 2015]

GARY | A Gary man was shot multiple times Tuesday on the city's west side, police said.

Officers were dispatched about 4:30 p.m. to the 3600 block of W 17th Av for a report of a gunshot victim, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.

The 21-year-old victim was found near the middle of the intersection of W 17th Av and Wallace St, he said.  The man suffered about six gunshot wounds.


Board OKs Look at Gary Mayor's Campaign Finances but Rejects Subpoenas
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[21 Jul 2015]

Lake County Board of Elections launches investigation into campaign finance reports of Gary mayor

A field investigation into the campaign finance reports of Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was authorized Tuesday by the Lake County Board of Elections in an effort to resolve the remaining complaints filed in March.

The decision to conduct the field investigation came on the heels of the board's approval to quash subpoenas for bank records from BMO Harris Bank and individual appearances by the mayor, Lake County Clerk Mike Brown, Roosevelt Haywood III, Erika Nicole Rumph, Regina Cossey and Mary Cossey requested by James Nowacki, one of three men to file the complaints earlier this year.

Attorney Jewell Harris Jr. successfully argued the subpoenas sought by complainant Nowacki were too broad.  Nowacki argued that despite the information provided by Harris and the mayor's campaign, too many issues remained that only individuals close to the campaign could answer.

While some board members dubbed the wide-reaching subpoenas as a fishing expedition, Nowacki said that with the number of irregularities found in the mayor's campaign finance reports and the amount of money in question, "it's not fishing without a purpose."
Election Board member Michael Mellon agreed.  Mellon said the bank records were necessary to conduct an investigation into the unitemized expenditures and contributions found in campaign finance reports.  "I think it's our duty to do a proper investigation," Mellon said.

Last month an agreement was struck to narrow the scope of campaign finance complaints filed by Nowacki and Robert Buggs Sr., who both unsuccessfully challenged Freeman-Wilson in the May Democratic primary, and Ken Davidson, all alleging improper contributions from Gary Community School Corp., failure to itemize receipts and contributions, and illegible or missing reporting, among other items, after amended campaign finance reports were filed.

The complainants met with Harris, Election Board director Michelle Fajman, deputy director Patrick Gabrione and the board's attorney's for more than three hours and were able to resolve all complaints except for the lack of itemization for contributions and expenses.

Election board officials Tuesday again received amended campaign finance reports for the Committee to Elect Karen Freeman-Wilson, also known as Karen For Gary.


Brothers Reported Missing 2 weeks Before Bodies Found
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle Quinn
[21 Jul 2015]

The discovery Friday of two Gary brothers shot to death and left in a heavily wooded remote spot in Hobart was one step in a series of violent incidents that police say began in early May.

Arreon Lackey, 18, and his brother Antonio Lackey, 16, had been living in a Merrillville motel where their mother, Tia Moore, relocated them after their Glen Ryan home was struck by a hail of gunfire, police said.

Investigators with the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force believe the brothers were "taken" from the motel about June 16. Their mother reported them missing July 6, and Merrillville police were actively searching for the teens when fishermen found their bodies Friday off Indiana 51 near Ainsworth Rd in Hobart.  [Comment -GDY]:  Was there not a dual kidnapping reported at the time?  Why did Mom what 3 weeks to report them missing?

Their stepfather, Julian Moore, 40, told Gary police that about 9 p.m. May 8, there were six people, including a grandchild and the teen brothers, at home on Ryan Ct when he heard multiple gunshots.  No one was injured, and police recovered about 15 spent shell casings from the middle of the street.

"No motives could be given by occupants as to cause of residence being shot up.  No suspect information could be given as well," the police report states.  Bullets pierced the home's exterior, and police found them in two first-floor bedrooms and a bathroom.  Upstairs "bedrooms sustained multiple bullets through wall and window," the report states.

Officers remained at the scene while family members packed up and left for the night, the report states.

On May 27, a 19-year-old resident of Lakeshore Dunes Apartments was shot while walking along railroad tracks near 3rd Av and Lake St, just blocks from the Glen Ryan subdivision.  Police said the elder Lackey, known as "Ajaye," was a suspect in that shooting.  No charges were filed, however.

At some point, the boys' mother rented them a motel room to move them away from problems in their neighborhood, police said, but problems followed them there.

Their stepfather told the Post-Tribune on Tuesday afternoon he did not want to comment about the death of the boys.  "But thank you," he said.

Neighbors said the boys' parents moved from the house in the 4400 block of Ryan Ct in Gary's Aetna section a few months ago.  They said the teens were nothing if not gentlemen.

Denise Jones and her son Antonio Jones remember the boys playing basketball in her yard.  She said she knew the younger Lackey boy better.  "(Antonio) Lackey wasn't in any kind of trouble, as far as I ever knew.  He was a typical kid but always polite to me," Denise Jones said.  "I couldn't believe they could've done something that made someone hurt them.  "This is a quiet neighborhood.  I heard of some kid stealing bikes on another street, but that's really it."

A man who asked that his name not be used remembered the Lackey brothers on the street.  "My wife was diagnosed with cancer, and she was going back and forth for treatments.  The boys always asked (about) my wife and to tell her they said 'Hi,' especially the young one," the man said.  "I can't speak to what other people say about them, but to my mind, they were never any trouble."

Starita Stevens, principal of Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, confirmed Tuesday that both victims attended the charter school in Gary, but neither graduated.  Stevens said Antonio withdrew in 2013.  She said she couldn't say when Arreon withdrew.  She said he wasn't expelled from school but did have behavioral issues.

In Hobart, a resident wondered about the property where the brothers were found.  Sally Pavel said she never saw anybody going in or out of the area in the back of the property.  She said there was a chain across the road, yet there were different cars parked there at different times.  "I've heard gunshots from back there on more than one occasion," Pavel said.


Coroner IDs Hobart Skeletons as Two Gary Teens
#29 & #30 (?) and Counting
From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz [20 Jul 2015]

The Lake County coroner's office has identified skeletal remains of two slain males found Friday in a wooded area in Hobart as two Gary teens.

The two were identified as Arreon T. Lackey, 18, and Antonio D. Lackey, 16, both of the 4400 block of Ryan Ct in Gary.  The bodies were found Friday afternoon by fishermen in the 7000 block of Grand Blvd in Hobart.

Earlier Monday, Coroner Merrilee Frey said a woman had told the coroner's office she believed the two bodies could be her missing sons.  "It had been several weeks since they were reported missing," she said.

"We've been working on this all day today," Frey said.  The identification came after Frey and a forensic odontologist returned Monday evening to where the bodies were found to collect more evidence to help identify the bodies through dental records.

The coroner's office has said the men died of gunshot wounds and has ruled their deaths homicides.

Bob Byrd, spokesman for the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force, which is helping to investigate the case along with the Hobart and Merrillville police departments, said it appeared the bodies had been there for a while.


Police Investigating Gary Teen's Shooting Death
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[20 Jul 2015]

Nuns living in St. Mark Catholic Church on Ridge Rd in Gary told police they heard gunshots about 11 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday morning, a housekeeper opened a window and saw the body of Melvin Travis, 18, lying in the alley that runs behind the church, police said.

Investigators suspect Travis had been robbed but didn't say what may have been taken from him before he was shot, police said.  Lake County crime scene detectives recovered one shell casing next to the teen's body.  He had been shot once in the side of the head, police said.

Gary police crime scene detectives on Monday went to a relative's home in the 3700 block of Harrison St after family members said they might have evidence to help in the case.  Travis had been living at his grandparents' home in the 3500 block of Lincoln St, police said.

A family member told police Travis left home about 10 p.m. Saturday.

Anyone with information about the homicide can call detectives Cpl. Edward Gonzalez or George Dickerson at 219-755-3852.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Given that a shell casing was found at the scene, it would appear that an earlier report of the teen having been shot at his home was in error.


Cash-strapped Gary Schools Barely Surviving
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[20 Jul 2015]

GARY | Leaders of the broken Gary Community School Corp. believed selling closed school buildings would be a way to raise money to pay its bills and better educate students.

That process has been stalled by an IRS tax lien on the closed school buildings.

There are 21 closed school buildings, including the old school service center.  The district moved out of the service center into the former Lincoln Achievement Center, also in need of numerous repairs.

School officials began selling buildings in 2010 when they were being squeezed by charter schools, declining enrollment, reduced tax collections and decreases in state funding.

The former Tolleston Middle School was sold to The Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Indiana for $100.  Banneker Elementary School was sold to the National Civil Rights Museum for $50,000.  Beckman Middle School was sold to Lew Management for $100,000.

The district was negotiating with former KIPP Lead charter school for a sales price of $300,000 on Norton Elementary School.  That deal fell through when the law was changed requiring school districts to lease or sell a closed school building for $1 per year to a charter school.  Then KIPP closed.

Gary attorney Kenya Jones, with Robert L. Lewis and Associates, which handles the school district's real estate, said a deal fell through to sell the former Chase Elementary School.  "Chase was one where we had accepted an offer, and when the tax lien came up we had to call a halt to it," she said.  "We have not closed that deal.  It's still pending.  I can't discuss the details.  I can't identify the potential buyer.  Due to the IRS issues, we can't do anything with the buildings right now.  We have to provide clear title, and we can't do that," Jones said.

The Gary Community School Corp. owes more than $7.1 million in taxes and interest to the IRS. That includes delinquent taxes of $5.1 million and penalties and interest of $2 million.  It has made at least one installment payment of $10,000 to the IRS.  The school district also owes $4.15 million to NIPSCO, $730,000 to AT&T and $440,000 to the Gary Sanitary District.  It has been barely treading water, trying to keep up with the payroll.  All told, the district is $23.7 million in debt.

Gary Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the district has experienced many issues, including a decline in tax collections.  Pruitt has taken steps to cope, including the closings and reducing the number of teachers and administrators to shore up the budget.  However, the district's deficit continues to climb along with the overall debts.

In 2011, Jones said the school district did a formal bid notice with plans to sell the shuttered Aetna, Kuny, Melton, Spaulding, Chase and Carver elementary schools, along with Edison Middle School.  The only school that sold was Kuny.  She said it was sold to Life Ministries International for $50,000 in 2012.  However, that building sits vacant and is considered an eyesore in the community.

- Concerned Neighbors

Julian Bey, Mildred Thomas and George Clark live in the Ambridge neighborhood.  Bey said residents used to work together to keep the grounds around the school maintained, even planting flowers.  "We had been doing everything we could to keep the drug dealers from coming in here and setting up shop," he said, walking around the building.

Thomas said she's frustrated.  "When the school was open, the grass was perfect.  Now, we have to beg them to cut it.  There is graffiti on the building.  People come along and throw trash out and bottles.  We used to do a lot to keep it up but as you get older, you just aren't able to do as much.  It's an eyesore," she said.

Bey said drug dealers know to keep away.  "We will let it be known we don't tolerate that in this neighborhood.  We're very serious about that, and we will call the police about almost anything we see that is out of the ordinary."

- State Steps In

The budget legislation approved by the Indiana General Assembly calls for the Distressed Unit Appeals Board to assist the school district, much as it assisted the city of Gary a few years ago.  State Sens. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, were instrumental in providing that lifeline to the district.

The Gary School Board is considering three financial specialists.  DUAB gave the district 21 days from July 14 to select a financial adviser.

Pruitt said she hopes DUAB can also assist them with the IRS lien and getting back on track to sell school buildings.  "I've also talked to the mayor and (U.S. Rep. Pete) Visclosky about how we can access demolition dollars.  I understand the neighborhood's concerns about the closed school buildings and the need to do something with them.  I believe that we'll be able to move forward with these new partnerships."


18 Year-old Gary Teen Shot to Death at His Home
#28 and Counting

Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[19 Jul 2015]

Melvin Travis, 18, was shot at his home in the 3500 block of Lincoln St, but the coroner's office was called to the 600 block of Ridge Rd, about a mile from where Travis was shot.

According to a release from the coroner's office, they were called to the scene at 6:38 a.m. and pronounced him dead an hour later.

Gary Sgt. Thomas Decanter said Sunday afternoon that Gary police were called to the scene at 6:20 a.m. and found Travis' body in the alley south of Ridge Road with one bullet wound.

His death has been ruled a homicide.  Decanter said police are still investigating the case and do not have any suspects in custody.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Something is not being reported here?  The police had to talk with someone who knew/saw something.  How else could it have been determined the young man was at home when he was shot?  How did his body get from his residence to the alley on Ridge Rd?


21 Abandoned Gary Schools Add to Urban Decay
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Marc Chase and Carmen McCollum
[19 Jul 2015]

GARY | The wreckage of 21 brick behemoths pockmark struggling Gary neighborhoods, providing sanctuary for crime and urban decay.

At one time, these former public schools were the nucleus of thriving sections of the city, nearby residents and former students recalled.  But that's a bygone era.  Now, vast swaths of school property are overrun with weeds, and the shuttered buildings, some in visible decline, display the territorial tags of gang graffiti.

A Times investigation of every shuttered Gary school revealed at least two that are openly accessible to gang activity and other crime.  Earlier this month, Connita L. Richardson, 17, of Chicago, was found strangled to death inside the former Emerson School at 716 E 7th Av.  A host of other schools sit moldering with broken windows, overgrown lots and in some cases crumbling exteriors.  And at least two residents living near shuttered schools told Times reporters last week they carry firearms for their own protection when walking near the buildings.

The Gary Community School Corp. still operates 16 open schools in this economically beleaguered city, and it struggles to keep up with those.  The state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board is intervening, providing the names of possible financial consultants to help the school district deal with $23.7 million in debt.

Meanwhile, the 21 shuttered school buildings represent a cycle of blight that can be difficult to break, urban planning experts said.  Population loss in struggling cities like Gary leads to decay and abandoned homes, an official with Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council said.  That loss in residents means a decline in students in those neighborhood schools, which in turn leads to closed and abandoned school buildings that further exacerbate an already bad situation.  From a development standpoint, it's a self-perpetuating roadblock to progress.

But to the residents living in the affected neighborhoods, the city's plethora of closed schools are just additional reminders of the deterioration surrounding them in their daily lives.

- Urban Eyesores

The shattered windows of Gary's former Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts provide gaping entryways for the elements, both natural and criminal.  The lessons of teachers once scrawled in chalk on blackboards at this former north side high school have been replaced with gang graffiti visible from the street.

Gary's former Spaulding Elementary School shares the same block as Emerson and a similar fate.  Multiple ground-level and second-story windows are completely missing, leaving the building's interior open to bad weather or anyone who wants to enter.

About five miles west of Emerson and Spaulding schools, Melba and Enoch Johnson live across the street from Brunswick Elementary School, now a partially boarded building surrounded by knee-high grass at 5701 W 7th Av.

"Closed and abandoned buildings make the neighborhood not look safe," Melba Johnson said.  "They just found that girl inside of Emerson.  "Look at the way they cut that grass.  It's just half done.  Look behind the fence.  That's where the playground used to be.  You don't know what's back there now."

Farther south in the city, the former Lew Wallace High School, 415 W 45th Av., has only been closed for a year.  But weeds have already overtaken its sidewalks, some windows are broken and a brick wall on the building's west end is crumbling.  It's a far cry from the alma mater Johnathan Williams, 35, remembers.  Williams graduated from Lew Wallace in 2001 and still lives in the neighborhood. [Comment -GDY:  I graduated from LWHS in 1964.]

"It's the school you go to, so you love it because it's home," Williams said, acknowledging that gang and criminal activity plagued the neighborhood surrounding the school even when Lew Wallace was open.  But even with that criminal activity, Williams said, "The school was good for the neighborhood, because it kept the neighborhood in check.  Because you knew at the end of the day, the school was here, so you had to keep up appearances.  "When a school shuts down, part of a community shuts down," Williams said.

Last Tuesday, Williams exercised around the rubber-coated track of Lew Wallace, still trying to make use of the former school's grounds.  He said he wishes the building could find a new purpose in the community.

- Conundrum of Decay

But repurposing shuttered, disintegrating school buildings can be far easier said than done, an official with the Chicago-based urban-planning think tank Metropolitan Planning Council said.

It becomes a conundrum of decay in blighted city neighborhoods that once relied on public schools as a major anchor, said Marisa Novara, the Metropolitan Planning Council's director of housing and community development.  It starts with loss of population, Novara said.  And Gary is a poster child for government buildings and resources that were built up around a larger population that have declined steeply beginning in the late 1960s.

Between 2000 and 2010 alone, Gary lost the title of Northwest Indiana's most populated city.  Its population fell to 80,294 in 2010 from 102,746 in 2000, U.S. Census data show.  That's a decline of 22,452 residents, or about a 22% decline in a decade.  That level of population loss often leads to blighted and abandoned homes in neighborhoods, Novara said.  It also means schools affected by such a population shift no longer have the students to sustain all facilities.

The complexity of the problem lies in how to stop the downward spiral, Novara said.

Timothy Davis, 50, said he remembers when the population loss began.  Davis said he's a lifetime resident of the neighborhood surrounding Lew Wallace.  He graduated from the now-closed high school in 1984, and he still lives with his mother in the neighborhood.  "My mother called it white flight," said Davis, acknowledging the term isn't the most politically correct, anymore.

"Now look at what's left," he said, motioning to several abandoned homes near Lew Wallace.  "Look at the windows," Davis said, referring to the former school.  "It's not boarded-up because the city wants to board it up.  It's boarded-up because they (vandals) keep breaking in."

One resident walking near Lew Wallace Tuesday said he carries a gun in his waistband because of the criminal threat throughout the neighborhood.  Nearly every home along the west side of what used to be Lew Wallace High School is abandoned.  Emerson, where 17-year-old Richardson's body was discovered, and Spaulding are surrounded by abandoned homes as well.

The blight that led to school closures also makes it difficult to attract potential buyers or developers for closed school properties, Novara said.  "The very nature of what makes the schools close down to begin with, also makes it that much harder to redevelop the school properties," Novara said.  "Demand is often very low for these properties.  "And in the realm of real estate, the longer properties like this sit, the harder it is to move them.  It's certainly a complex cycle."

 - Lost Memories

Beyond the impact of abandoned schools on potential development and property value is the psychological effect on the residents who remain in those neighborhoods, Gary's Dorothy Stewart said.

Stewart lives near both Horace Mann High School and Vohr Elementary School, both among the 21 closed Gary school buildings.  "I've lived in this area for more than 40 years," Stewart said.  "When I first moved to Gary, it was beautiful.  Look at all of the decay and ruin.  It's deplorable.  "If they are going to close the building, the least they can do is keep it up."

Some residents place the blame for blighted buildings directly on school officials, but George Clark said everyone in the affected neighborhoods bears some responsibility for looking after the facilities, even if they're closed.  "People don't care about the neighborhoods.  They don't teach their kid that if you're eating a candy bar and finish it, don't toss the paper out the window; put it in your pocket until you get home," said Clark, who lives near Gary's shuttered Ambridge Elementary School, 370 Rutledge St.

Though Clark and other neighbors try to clean and groom the former school grounds from time to time, it's hard to keep up with a magnet for graffiti and vandalism, he said.  "There were some kids coming down the street the other day, and they broke a bottle and were just going to leave it there ...  We try to keep our property up.  We don't know who did the graffiti.  It had to be done either very early in the morning or late at night because we didn't see anyone.  That's only in the last two or three months.

"We don't have as many little kids in the neighborhood as we used to.  We raised our kids and prepared them to go other places.  There's nothing here for them."


Charges Pending after Gary Man Dies Following Beating
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[18 Jul 2015]

GARY | A 27-year-old Gary man died Thursday night after an alleged Wednesday night assault, authorities said.

O'Bryan Brown, of the 500 block of East 21st Pl, was pronounced dead at 6:56 p.m. Thursday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the Cook County medical examiner's office reported Saturday.

Brown died from skull and brain injuries caused by blunt force trauma to the head during an incident in Gary, according to the medical examiner. The death was ruled a homicide.

Gary Police Sgt. Thomas Decanter said Brown was assaulted Wednesday evening after a domestic disturbance involving two other people in the 1800 block of W 5th Av.

Investigators were preparing a case Saturday to present to the Lake County prosecutor.


Man Dies After Protecting Sister
#27 and Counting
ompiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[17 Jul 2015]

O'Bryan Brown was the kind of man who didn't think twice about intervening when his sister and her ex-boyfriend tussled Wednesday outside an Oak Knoll Renaissance apartment in Gary, those who knew him said Friday.  For his trouble, he suffered a cut lip, a police report states.

But later that day, he was found unconscious in a Gary alley near the hospital and his sister's apartment.  He was severely beaten and flown to Christ Advocate Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL, where he died Thursday night, police said.

His 26-year-old sister and her ex-boyfriend both ended up at the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus emergency room about 2:45 p.m., police said.  Brown was there, too.

She had bumps and bruises on her face and head, and a cut on her hand from a struggle with her ex over a knife, police said.  He had cuts on his face from the same struggle, police said.

Family and friends for both of them were also at the emergency room and there was some disagreement there, police sources said.  Brown left, walking west from Grant St.  Sometime later, he was found in the alley, bloody and unconscious.

Brown, 27, was the father of three children.  A close family friend who asked that her name not be used told the Post-Tribune Brown was on disability and was a good man and a good father.

He is the 25th (?-27 by GDYNets count) homicide of the year in Gary, an increase of six, or 32% from the same time in 2014.

Lake County Sgt. Edward Jenkins is leading the investigation into Brown's death. Anyone with information can call him at (219) 755-3852.


Concerns Grow as More Gary Police Officers Leave
Compiled From a Gary Crusader Report by Louise Scott
[18 Jul 2015]

The recent departure of five police officers has raised concerns among city leaders about Gary's shrinking police force.

The Gary City Council on Tuesday, July 9, learned about the shrinking number of police officers on the force after the five officers resigned.  The resignations bring the number of officers who have left the force this year to 23, according to Thomas Decanter, Public Information Officer for the Gary Police Department.  He said they never gave a reason, but sources say the city is struggling to keep police officers offering low salaries.

According to research figures, Gary's probationary officers earn $35,646 and a 1st Class Patrolman, $39,304.  Merrillville pays its entry level officers $48,000 annually.  In Hobart the starting pay is near $60,000 and Hammond is in the upper $50,000.  Dyer, Schererville, Crown Point and Highland pay their police officers all in the $50,000 range.

Sources tell the Gary Crusader that many officers have left the Gary police force for various reasons.  Some have chosen to retire because they feel they are being taken advantage of and that morale is low in the department.  Other officers have left because the department's vehicle fleet is worn out, making it difficult for officers to do their jobs.  Other officers say Gary is too risky to patrol with its high crime rates and dangerous streets.

Decanter said the Gary Police Department is allotted to have 234 officers on their roster.  He said currently they have between 209 and 211 and the last time they received a raise was in 2007.

Decanter said he doesn't know what the solution is for the Gary Police Department to get back up to the roster they should have.  He said, "There's been a lot of debate about it and different suggestions and ideas, but I dont know what will stop them from leaving to go to other departments.  I can't tell you.  I don't fault them for leaving because this job isn't for everyone.  The guy that left to go to the railroad thought it was the best thing for him to go somewhere else."

He added, "Just like those that retired, it was their time to go.  At the beginning of this year we had a female with 30 years who retired and she did a great job but it was her time to go.  Things like that are invaluable and we lost all of that experience.  Like I said this job isn't for everyone, but you can't do it forever."

In the past several months, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has been working to come up with a solution with the Gary Fraternal Order of Police.  In an interview with the Crusader, Wilson said she is looking into increasing the base salary of the Gary police officers by $10,000.  That would cost the city an extra $5 million.  Wilson said with the city's tax revenues and income from other sources down, she doesn't know what resources to tap into to pay for the increase.  She said the police and fire department expenses already take up 60% of Gary's budget.  But Wilson remains optimistic about finding a solution.  "We're looking for a way to keep them by increasing their compensation," she said.

Sgt. Samuel Abegg, president of the F.O.P. for the Gary Police Department said he believes the department is budgeted for 235 officers, but could not confirm it.  Abegg said he also believes the number of police officers on the force is now under 200.  He said the high resignations this year is unusual for a police department.

Abegg said officers are leaving because they "feel that they are being taken advantage of, used and exploited in the manner that they shouldn't be.  They come to work and the morale is extremely low because of the pay and the resources are borderline deplorable."

Abegg said the aging police cars are also a problem.  "A lot of them are worn out, used excessively and far exceed their normal use for wear and tear on a squad car.  I know they have ordered 20 new cars, but 20 cars at a time in an agency as big as ours is not going to cut it.  It has to be done on a yearly basis and if the cars they are using are not functional it is more difficult for the guys to do their jobs especially when the streets are in poor condition where you are constantly trying to avoid pot holes."

But Abegg said the pay rate for a Gary police officer is a big concern.  He said, "We certainly don't do this job to get rich.  They do it for their commitment to public service but at the same time you shouldn't have to go out and get a second job to make ends meet."

Abegg said compared to the crime rate of other cities, Gary's low pay is why officers are leaving.  He said, "It factors in that these guys are being asked to go out and save the world and you are not providing them with anything to do that with.  The low pay forces them to have to work two or three jobs so that means you have an officer who is more fatigued and more apt to be injured in the line of duty."

Abegg said the Gary Police Department needs to increase the base salary of its officers.  "They need to give us a $10,000 increase in the base salary so that we can be a competitive agency so that the officers that are here will stay here and when they do have applicants they will get quality individuals who will be long term because they won't have a reason to leave.  That's the only thing that will keep them around."
[COMMENT -GDY]:  What we have here are seeds which shall only germinate more problems contributing further to the decline (economically, socially and in every way imanigable) of a once thriving city.


Man Attacked after Fatal Crash Still in Critical Condition
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[16 Jul 2015]

The 46-year-old Gary man suspected of killing Ronald Mayes on Tuesday night (14 Jul) by ramming him with his car remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, police said Thursday.

Friends of Mayes, 48, a supervisor at Northwest Indiana Food Bank, attacked the driver after he had angrily driven his car in reverse, hitting three parked cars and pinning Mayes against a tree in the 3800 block of Massachusetts St about 9 p.m., according to police.

Mayes and the suspect were attending a barbecue on the block when the suspect became angry and began to drive away, police said, but then used the gray Nissan Sentra to injure Mayes and a 22-year-old man.

Sgt. Gregory Wolf said he isn't sure who the suspect knew at the barbecue.  Wolf is interviewing partygoers who may have seen some or all of the events that led to Mayes' death.

After Mayes was struck, his friends pulled the driver from his car and beat him, causing bleeding on the brain and spinal damage, Wolf said.  The driver is not able to speak due to his injuries, Wolf said.  He is in intensive care unit at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL.


Man Shot Seven Times Leaving Girlfriend's Home in Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[16 Jul 2015]

A Gary woman returned to her Midtown home in Gary on Wednesday night and found her boyfriend there.  That boyfriend was injured by gunfire as he left the apartment, according to investigators.

The 39-year-old woman told police Anthony Murphy had used his key to enter her home, and that they had had a serious argument earlier.  The couple argued inside the house and continued upstairs at her home in the 1400 block of Jefferson St.  Other people were at the house and heard the commotion, police learned.

About 11 p.m. Murphy, 42, left the apartment and was met by gunfire.  He was shot seven times with bullets in his chest and arms, the police report states.  A 20-year-old man who calls the female resident his "play mother" was also shot when he opened the door after hearing the gunfire.  He was struck three times in his leg, police said.

The woman reported nine bullets damaged her home.

Murphy was moved from Gary to Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL, where he was listed in stable condition, police said.

Sgt. Edward Jenkins of the Lake County police department, who is working with a joint team that includes Gary detectives, is leading the investigation. Anyone with information about the shooting can call him at 219-755-3852.


Independents Join Gary Mayor Race
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[16 Jul 2015]

There were four new candidates for Gary mayor among the 14 independents who filed for a spot on the November ballot before the noon Wednesday deadline.

Robert Campbell, Syron Smith, Eddie Tarver and Douglas M. (Doug) Wright have all tossed their hat into the ring in an attempt to defeat incumbent Democratic Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson who also is being challenged by Republican Charles R. Smith.


New Gary Police Vehicles Not Yet Ready for Duty
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ken Davidson
[16 Jul 2015]

Just one day after CBS 2 in Chicago aired a report about the deplorable condition of Gary, Indiana police vehicles, Team Gary Indiana posted photos of 8 new Ford Explorer police interceptor editions.  The City provided no information on when or how the vehicles were purchased.  The statement read:

Improving Public Safety and Public Safety Equipment is a top priority
The City of Gary Police Department continues to add New Vehicles to its Police Fleet.
These Ford Explorers recently added, are in addition to the 4 New Chargers purchased earlier this year.

Police officers quickly responded on social media wondering out loud where the vehicles came from:  "Were driven from their storage lot, to the police station, so as to he "displayed" by the "city" to prove that they are "trying" to make the city better.  The vehicles sit unused, (allegedly) because there is no money to equip the vehicles for police duty" wrote one skeptical Gary officer on Facebook.  Yet another stated "When they actually do get put in service its impossible that those 8 cars can be distributed amongst 12 officers (on a good day) per shift, 3 shifts per day, 7 days a week.  Smoke & Mirrors Sir, Smoke & Mirrors!"  Others questioned whether they would go to officers on the streets at all.

The real question came from a citizen, however, "Those vehicles are not ready for patrol useneed decals & lights, obviously, but do they have all the other equipment necessary?  Or is there no money to make them street-ready? "  Ford offers vehicles that can be put on the street immediately.  Lights, city specific markings and even radios are now installed before the vehicle leaves the factory. (See the Ford Flyer Here )  So the question remains, why are these vehicles not ready for patrol use in a city that needs them so desperately?  The Mayor's 2015 Dodge Durango was delivered and put into service months ago.


Man Fatally Struck by Car at Gary BBQ
Compiled From a WLS-ABC7 Report by Sarah Schulte and Michelle Gallardo
[15 Jul 2015]

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- A suspected drunk driver is being questioned after police say he ran over someone at a barbeque in Gary.

The driver allegedly backed into Ronald Mayes in the 3800-block of Massachusetts St on Tuesday night, killing the father of two.

Mayes, 48, had worked for the last three years at the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, where he had worked his way up to operations supervisor.  At the food bank, Mayes was known as the employee who never stopped working.  In addition to his food bank family, Mayes is survived by his wife and two children.

Residents in the Gary neighborhood said Mayes was at a cookout standing on the sidewalk along with several others when one of the people at the party got in his car to leave and backed his vehicle straight into Mayes.  Police said the driver may have been intoxicated.

"We just saw a car spinning seven times in a 360, and hit the grass," said Dante Dudley, a witness.  Witnesses said the car went completely out-of-control and hit several other parked vehicles before it finally came to a stop.

Gary police said that most of the driver's injuries were a result of the beating he received from residents.  "His vehicle came to a rest and we believe that several subjects on the scene took him out of the vehicle and battered him on the scene," said Sgt. Greg Wolf, Gary Police Dept.

The driver was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he remains in police custody.  No charges have been filed.


Indiana Harbor West to Close?  ArcelorMittal Says No
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[15 Jul 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | An investment analyst and a major trade publication have reported ArcelorMittal is looking at closing its Indiana Harbor West steel mill, a sprawling century-old plant where generations of region residents have worked.

ArcelorMittal responded Tuesday by saying it doesn't plan to shut down any blast furnaces in the United States, which means it wouldn't shutter an entire steel mill.

The Luxembourg-based steelmaker, however, reiterated its stance that it needs to look at closing, idling or selling off under-used facilities after losing an average of about $294 million a year in the United States over the last half decade at a time when nearly 30% of the nation's steelmaking capacity is sitting idle.  U.S. steelmakers have blamed a flood of low-cost imports.

"While it's true that global economics, coupled with internal cost and productivity challenges, have placed significant pressure on our U.S.A. business and forced us to re-evaluate our footprint, no final decisions have been made with regard to an asset optimization plan," said Andy Harshaw, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA Flat Carbon in 2014.

"What I want to ensure you is that we have no intention of reducing our blast furnace capacity in the United States."


Buildings Coming Down on Broadway
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[15 Jul 2015]

Gary's downtown Broadway will soon display a gap-toothed smile that city officials hope is inviting to prospective retailers.

Four de-listed historic district buildings on the west side of the 600 block of Broadway are coming down.  Demolition should be complete in about a month.

"The vision is the opportunity to work with potential business," said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  She hopes a retail chain, like a small-sized Wal-Mart or others take notice.

"We can say we have this development plan and it's available to you," she said.

Freeman-Wilson said the city will soon have a Centier Bank branch and data center at 504 Broadway, but it needs more retail stores.

The city's redevelopment commission is completing the demolition of landmark buildings that back in Gary's prosperous days once housed the Hurwich & Haller Furniture Co., Jackson's Optometry and Sax Footware.  They've stood empty for decades and are now owned by the city.

Redevelopment director Joe Van Dyk said it's tougher to obtain funding to demolish commercial structures, compared to residential.  Through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the city received a $254,000 grant after providing a $26,000 local match.  "We identified a few targets like the Palace Theater and buildings in the downtown corridor," he said.

The city also secured funding to demolish the Ambassador Apartments, a 68-unit crumbling structure at 6th Av and Jackson St across from Jefferson Elementary.  Demolition is expected to begin next week.

"Almost all had some sort of historic designation," he said.  "We went through the state Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Landmarks, and they determined the Ambassador and the four buildings on Broadway are no longer historically significant because of their state."  [COMMENT -GDY]:  The buildings were allowed to deteriorate to the point they no longer have any historical or architectural significance, let alone any economic value.

When they target buildings for demolition, Van Dyk said the city first considers public safety and the potential for economic development.

Once the four buildings are demolished, Golden Chop Suey, on the corner of 7th Av and Broadway, will no longer have vacant buildings to its north.  Instead, Van Dyk said immediate plans call for the area to be graded, seeded and maintained as green space for now.  Greg Gordon, manager of Golden Chop Suey, is looking forward to having neighbors.  "If they rebuild, it will be a good thing," he said.


Council Committee Split on Whether Library Reopening Worth Cost
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[15 Jul 2015]

The Gary public library system used to include a downtown library at 220 W. 5th Av, but it was closed in 2012 for financial reasons.

For 3rd District Councilwoman Mary Brown, the loss of the main library in downtown Gary still resonates.  The remaining four branch libraries in the neighborhoods are significantly smaller, don't have the same resources and just aren't the same.  "I was totally devastated when it closed" in 2012, Brown said.  "I wanted to see it stay open."

Yet for at-large Councilman Ronald Brewer, the shuttering of the library at 220 W. 5th Av was a move that made financial sense in light of Gary's declining population.  He wonders if efforts to fix up the building and reopen it are misguided.  "A lot of people want a lot of things to happen" in Gary, Brewer said.  "But we don't have the resources to do this."

Brown and Brewer were the two council members on hand Tuesday night for a Finance Committee session at which the Gary Library Board's desires to reopen the main library building to the public by September were up for discussion.

In recent years, the library board has spent $2.1 million to fix up the building, which involved repairing leaks that resulted in flooded basements, mold and asbestos removal.  But that amount used up all the money in the library board's budget that was set aside for the project.  Library board Finance Chairwoman Paula Nalls said work is about 70% complete, and officials want to tap into their library improvement reserve fund and library rainy day funds to come up with another $1.854 million.

Library Comptroller Fred McMillan said $1,030,000 of that money would be used to complete the main library repairs, while the remainder would be used to fix up the four branch libraries, which officials said could use new paint for the walls, new carpeting and furniture.  The library board already has approved these expenditures.  But under state law, the library board's budget must also be reviewed by the Common Council.

Brewer made it clear he isn't enthused by the project.  "We know what the citizens want.  I just hope it is something (the city) can afford," he said.  "What makes us think we're in a position to re-open the library?  We know why we closed it in the first place."

McMillan said he thinks the amount of money already invested in the repair project make it essential that the work be finished, which Nalls said would be assured if use of the emergency funds was approved.  "We started this project, and we need to finish this project," McMillan said.  "Otherwise, it's a loss of money to the taxpayers."

While library board President Odis Richardson said he thinks Gary will benefit from restoring its main library building to public use.  "If we don't have culture, education and literacy (in Gary), young couples with children will choose not to live here," he said.  [COMMENT -GDY]:  What is this guy smoking, I wonder?

For her part, Brown, who chairs the finance committee, said she was a regular user of the main library building when it was open and she thinks it wrong that many of its resources including the Indiana Room that contained primary source documents related to Northwest Indiana and state history are now in storage and inaccessible to the public.

Although Brown also admits to being unsure if the project's cost will be fully covered.  "If the funding is sufficient, I have no idea," she said.

The library resolution may come up for a vote when the full Common Council meets again on July 21, although Nalls said officials may try to convert the measure from a resolution into an ordinance which would delay a final vote for a few weeks.

As for the measure's ultimate chances, Nalls was reluctant to venture a guess.  "I'm hoping they will," approve it, she said.


Local Steel Production Increases by 5,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[14 Jul 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 633,000T last week, the second straight week it's increased.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a tsunami of imports that now account for a historic 32% of the total market share.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.6%.

Great Lakes steel production increased by 5,000T, or 0.7%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output shot up by 3.3% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, jumped to 597,000T last week, up from 555,000 tons the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.74 million tons, up from 1.684 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.8% last week, up from 71.2% a year earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 79.6% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output has been 46.9 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


Near Collision Leads to Road Rage Shooting, Arrest
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[14 Jul 2015]

GARY | A 28-year-old man is accused of shooting at a motorist in the intersection of 37th and Broadway after the two were nearly involved in a car crash, according to court records.

Gerald A. Jones Jr., of Gary, was charged Monday with carrying a handgun without a license, criminal recklessness and pointing a firearm.

A motorist told police he was driving behind a red truck at 9:30 a.m. Saturday when the truck abruptly stopped, which caused the motorist to swerve around the truck.

The motorists later exchanged words while they were stopped at a stoplight.  According to the affidavit, Jones told the driver he almost rear-ended him to which the motorist said, "(Expletive), you need to learn how to drive, pay attention."

Jones then allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot at the motorist twice, according to the affidavit.  The motorist, who was not injured, called 911 and began following Jones until a police car caught up to them.

The motorist alleges Jones pointed the handgun at him two more times after the shooting, according to the affidavit.  Jones eventually was arrested after he tried to run from police.


Three Wounded During Daytime Shootout
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[13 Jul 2015]

Three people, including a 12-year-old girl from MN, were wounded Saturday afternoon in what police said was an exchange of gunfire south of Gary's Gleason Park.

Three occupants of a car were at 35th Av near Polk St in the city's Glen Park section about 1:25 p.m Saturday when two black men, dressed in black, walked up to them, the police report states.

At least one of the men started shooting, striking the front seat passenger, and the girl, who was in the back seat, police said.  The driver was not wounded and drove west to the Subway restaurant on Grant St where they met with medics who took the two victims to the hospital.  The front seat passenger was struck in the calf and the girl was hit in the back, police said.  The third victim was shot in both hips and was in critical condition this weekend, police said.

The girl told police she was from MN and unfamiliar with the area where the shooting occurred.

Sgt. Michael Barnes is investigating the shooting.


Gary Schools' Bail-out Includes Financial Overseer
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[10 Jul 2015]

The Gary School Board will receive the names of three possible fiscal managers from the state Monday at a public hearing at the Gary Area Career Center, 1800 E. 35th Av.

The state's Distressed Unit Appeal Board will present three options to the school board, which will have 21 days to select one.  If it doesn't name one, the process ends.

If the school board makes a selection, the new manager will oversee the Gary Community School Corp.'s finances for one year and be paid by the state.  The district will also become eligible for relief from some of its loans from the state and could receive interest-free loans.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, worked out the bail-out plan by adding an amendment to the state's two-year budget.  She networked behind the scenes to convince her Republican colleagues to support the effort to shore up the struggling urban district that's mired in millions of dollars of debt.  "It's a way to get out of fiscal problems, instead of going from paycheck to paycheck," Rogers said of the district's precarious finances.

Similar to the state relief provided to Gary in 2009-10, a private consultant would take financial control of the school district that has about 7,000 students.

"This person will come in and make the hard choices," Rogers said.  "It will relieve the board members who are elected.  They can always say the finance person did it."

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt was out of town and could not be reached for comment, according to school spokeswoman Charmella Greer.  Pruitt is expected to make a presentation Monday on the fragile financial state of the district.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson also is expected to offer remarks to the DUAB members.

The district will lose another $9 million under a new state funding formula that's also part of the budget bill.  Last year, the district closed five schools in the face of a $23 million deficit.

In May, voters rejected a $51.8 million, seven-year tax increase referendum.  The district sought the money to stay afloat because it's been ravaged by property tax caps and a declining tax collection rate.  In addition, enrollment has dropped as parents send their children to six charter schools in the city.

Earlier this year, former financial officer Michael Washington estimated the district's total debt at about $81 million.  The I.R.S. is among its many creditors.  Washington's name appears on two liens, totaling $6.8 million, filed by the IRS last year in the Lake County Recorder's office.  The IRS contends the district failed to pay payroll taxes for part of 2012 and 2013.

The school board fired Washington in April after suspending him for one month.


Steel Shipments and Exports Fall Steeply Year-over-year
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Jul 2015]

Steel shipments and imports posted small monthly gains in May, but fell sharply year-over-year.

Shipments, the amount of steel that's actually sold, increased 1.2% in May over April but were down 14.6% as compared to May 2014.  Exports rose 3% in May as compared to April, but were 16% less than the year prior, according to the American Institute for International Steel.

Domestic steel mills shipped 7.1 million net tons in May, as compared to 8.3 million net tons in May 2014, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Hot-rolled sheets, hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip and cold-rolled sheets were all up month-over-month.

So far this year, they shipped 36.2 million net tons, a 10.5% decrease compared to the same period last year.

The United States shipped a total of 870,099 net tons of steel in May, including nine-fold more to the Dominican Republic, which was the third-largest international buyer of U.S. steel in May, according to the AIIS.

Most U.S. steel exports go to Canada and Mexico.  Exports to Canada were down 21% year-over-year, and exports to Mexico fell 1% over the same period.  Exports to the European Union, another major market, slid 9.5% from April to May and 4.8% compared to May 2014, but have grown by 16.9% so far this year.

So far this year, total exports have fallen 12.1% as compared to 2014.  Canada's sluggish economy is largely to blame, and U.S. steel exports will continue to suffer until its top trading partner sees conditions improve, according the the AIIS.

"With Canada accounting for roughly half of all foreign purchases of steel from the United States, the steep decline in exports north of the border equals almost the entire dip in total exports from 2014 to 2015," the American Institute of International Steel said in a statement.

"Although Canada's finance minister insists that the country is not in a recession, many economists disagree.  It is clear, though, that the nation's economy is at least struggling."


Gary Aims to Demo Empty Buildings after Teen Found Strangled
By Craig Wall, FOX 32 News
[9 Jul 2015]

Abandoned Emerson H.S.-Gary, INThe murder of 17-year-old Connita Richardson of Chicago, who was found strangled in an abandoned school in Gary, Indiana, is galvanizing the community around the need to move quickly to demolish vacant and abandoned buildings.

"It's really depressed, it's an eyesore and it's kind a like you walk out here, you see this up-and-down throughout Gary and it shouldn't be this way, they should be able to sell these houses off instead of letting them just sit there and rot away," said Gary resident Robert Henderson.

The plague of blight hangs over countless neighborhoods in Gary, and the old Ambassador Hotel and Apartments is the next major commercial building targeted by the city for demolition.  "It is an eyesore," said Doris Beard, who lives right next door to the building which has been abandoned for at least the ten years that shes lived in her home.  "It's very dangerous, bricks are constantly falling and we worry about the school and the children," Beard added, referring to the school just across the street.

Richardsons murder happened in a building that is not owned by the city, but instead by the school district, which does not have the money it would take to have the building razed.  So, demolishing it quickly is not a simple proposition.  "That does not cause us to step away from it, it causes us to work with them to look at opportunities to reuse or repurpose buildings, but also to demolish them when appropriate," said Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary's mayor.

At a meeting in a church just down the street from Emerson, a city official told residents they are making progress demolishing a lot of buildings; 154 of them since last October when numerous prostitutes were found murdered in vacant buildings.  That work has been made possible by six million dollars in federal grants.  But there are about 6,700 abandoned structures in Gary, so the process will take time.

For many, the Emerson school is now a priority.  "It is our hope that we are able to galvanize our community to gather resources to help board up Emerson and Spaulding so that this, something like this does not reoccur, happen again," said Curtis Whittaker, Pastor of Progressive Community Church which is right across the street.


Stanrail Plant to Close in Gary After Three Decades
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[9 July 2015]

GARY | A factory that has made steel parts for railcars for more than three decades is closing.

Roll Form Group, a division of metals service center Samuel, Son & Co., Ltd., has decided to close the Gary factory it acquired three years ago.  As many as 88 employees will be affected.  Workers at the plant, which once employed 100, have been offered the chance to relocate to another Roll Form Group facility in Mississippi.

The company decided the 155,000-square-foot plant at 1225 Martin Luther King Dr was too old and outdated after a review of its manufacturing operations.  The company said the closure was necessary to remain competitive in the future.  Stanrail had been "significantly underused," Roll Form Group President Lou Sartor said.

"The review concluded that given the extensive investment that would be required to modernize and optimize this facility, combined with the under-utilization in our other world-class facilities, this was the best decision for the group overall," Sartor said.  "The Roll Form Group remains committed to the products, customers and industries that have been so well served out of the Gary location.  Production will be moved to the Roll Form Group's Iuka, MS., and Cambridge, ONT, Canada manufacturing operations to further enhance our ability to meet the needs of our valued U.S and Canadian customers."

Stanrail produced box car plug and sliding doors, nailable steel flooring, roofs and uncoupling levers for boxcars.

Though railroads have been booming in recent years as a cheaper way to move goods around, boxcars have been fading.  Railroads have been switching over to more modern intermodal cars, which also can be shipped by semi-trucks or ships.  Only 692 new boxcars were made last year, according to the Railway Supply Institute.  Demand slowed down to the point where employees at the plant had only been working for four days a week for more than a month, Sartor said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Yet another blow to the once strong economic body of the "Steel City."


Five More of Gary's Men in Blue Leave for Greener Pastures
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[9 Jul 2015]

Five more police officers are leaving the understaffed Gary Police Department as the city struggles to offer competitive salaries for public safety workers.

The Board of Works and Safety approved the resignations of Sgt. Pete Sormaz, Patrolman Diego Alvarez, Cpl. Jeffery Hornyak and Cpl. Daniel Quasney on Wednesday.  Last week, probationary officer Edward Maldonado Jr. resigned.  About 20 officers have resigned so far this year.

The City Council learned Tuesday the police roster has dropped below 200.  The city's budget allows for 235 officers.  Because of its financial troubles, Gary has not kept pace with raises for its public safety workers in the past several years.  As a result, experienced officers are taking jobs with other police departments where the pay is better and the duty less dangerous.  Or they're joining private industries.

Gary is the lowest paid, but busiest department in Lake County.  Probationary officers earn $35,646 while a 1st Class Patrolman makes $39,304. The town of Merrillville's website lists its entry level police officer salary at $48,000.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she's been working to come up with possible solutions with the leadership of the Gary Fraternal Order of Police and Chief Larry McKinley. "Anytime you're $10,000 less than a neighboring department and have arguably the greatest risk, you don't have to do the math," she said of the pay disparity.  "We get that.  They need a sense that they're valued."


UPDATES-Emerson School Murder
Compiled From Post-Trib and nwiTimes Reports
[10 Jul 2015]

Her aunt Kizzie Richardson said the teen had spent part of the day Sunday with her before she dropped her niece off at her grandfather's place in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.  From there, Connita Richardson went to her boyfriend's house, Kizzie Richardson said, and at some point, a cousin from her mother's side of the family came and got her.

The aunt said the fact that her niece's cousin hasn't been seen since her body was discovered makes her suspicious of him.  She added that she hopes her niece gets justice.  "They're going to get what they deserve," Kizzie Richardson said.

[8 Jul 2015]
A Chicago teen found dead inside Emerson High School in Gary had been strangled, the Lake County coroner's office reported Wednesday night.

The woman was identified as Connita L. Richardson, 17, of the 800 block of E Hyde Park Boulevard.

Police from the Lake Metro Homicide Unit canvassed the area around the vacant school Wednesday hoping to find clues about the woman found inside.  So far, no one is in custody in connection with the killing. It's not clear why the teen was in Gary.

On Wednesday afternoon, a stunned neighbor said she and her kids typically walk by the school every day.  "I'm not understanding how it was possible," she said.  "There's a police officer here almost every day."

Over the past several years, vandals and scrappers have ravaged Emerson, Gary's first high school that opened in 1909.  Its windows are gone and the school, once an anchor in the east side neighborhood, is now one of its biggest eyesores.  The building where Richardson was found is one of 23 shuttered school buildings in Gary.


Woman Found Dead in Former Emerson School in Gary
#26 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[8 July 2015]

GARY | A woman was found dead inside the former Emerson school building in Gary Tuesday night.

Gary police were called at 7:19 p.m. to the school building at 716 E 7th Av by a concerned citizen who reported seeing someone in the building.  Officers arrived and found a black woman lying face down with what they described as "minor trauma to her body."

The Lake County Coroner's office had yet to identify the woman Wednesday morning.  The woman was pronounced dead at 8:20 p.m.  The coroner's office ruled the woman's death a homicide.  A full autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

Gary police said the woman had multiple tattoos, including one on her left bicep reading "gorgeous" and a bird on her thigh. She also had tattoos of a cupcake, a name on her right forearm and the word "love" with flowers on her right abdomen, police said. The woman was wearing a gold necklace with a charm with the word "coco" on it as well."

Gary police Sgt. Thomas Decanter said the Lake County Metro Homicide Unit is investigating and officers are following up on leads.  No one was in custody in connection with the case early Wednesday.  Police are asking anyone with information about the crime or who may be able to identify the victim to call the Lake County Metro Homicide Unit at (219) 755-3851.


Local Steel Production Rises by 6,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[7 Jul 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 628,000T last week, the second straight week it's increased.

Great Lakes steel production increased by 6,000T, or 0.9%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output fell by 2.82% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, plunged to 555,000T last week, down significantly from 597,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.684 million tons, down from 1.733 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.2% last week, down from 73.3% a year earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much healthier 79% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output has been 45.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.6%.


ArcelorMittal Warns a Hot Strip Mill Could Close
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[6 Jul 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | One of the Calumet Region's largest employers is warning that it doesn't make sense to keep so many hot strip mills open at a time when they're so underused.

ArcelorMittal USA Flat Carbon CEO Andy Harshaw recently blogged the steelmaker must find ways to increase capacity utilization without decreasing total production or market share, which could have ramifications for local employment.  The multinational steelmaker estimates its U.S. operations have lost an average of $293.8 million a year over the last five years and that it spends more than $1 billion a year in overall repair and maintenance costs in the United States every year.

"Record levels of steel imports up 70% for flat carbon products alone since 2013 have consumed typical market demand that domestic steelmakers like ArcelorMittal would normally serve," he wrote in a blog post.  "As a result of this and other market forces, many of our key assets are running at relatively low capacity utilization levels, and they have been for quite some time."

Harshaw said for instance ArcelorMittal's hot strip mills are only operating at 70% capacity.  The Luxembourg-based steelmaker, which has U.S. headquarters in Chicago, operates a hot strip mill in Riverdale just across the state line, an 80-inch hot strip mill in Burns Harbor and 80-inch and 84-inch hot strip mills at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago.  ArcelorMittal also has a 84-inch hot strip mill at its steel mill in Cleveland.

The steelmaker has to pay operations and maintenance costs for the hot strip mills, even when they aren't making steel about 30% of the time, Harshaw wrote.  "Each of the companies' four largest HSMs in the U.S. requires an average of $39 million per year in repair and maintenance just to keep them operating," he wrote.  "It is not sustainable to operate multiple HSMs at low utilization rates when the same volume of steel could be produced by fewer HSMs at higher utilization rates.

"Why run five HSMs at 70% when you can finish the same tonnage running four HSMs at 90% capacity?  Consolidating the HSMs and running at higher utilization rates also leads to more efficient use of repair and maintenance dollars, allowing us to invest more in the remaining assets.  The same logic would apply to other operations as well, from the hot end to finishing."

Harshaw said ArcelorMittal must look at selling off some assets and investing in others, in order to keep its most strategic facilities running as close to 100% utilization as possible.  The company hopes to lower operating costs at a time when market conditions are so weak.

"Clearly, we face formidable challenges with difficult choices ahead," he wrote in the blog post.  "It's no secret that ArcelorMittal USA's financial performance has been poor.  Fixed costs including wages, medical costs and post-retirement expenses are significant and dont fluctuate with the ebb and flow of steel consumption or market prices for the products we produce.  These costs are increasing each year while our average steel selling prices have declined dramatically due to imports and capacity utilization rests at historically low levels."

The stakes are high, Harshaw wrote.  "Companies that adapt to changing conditions will survive; those who refuse to change will continue to fill the coffers of the bankruptcy lawyers," he wrote.


Gary Police Investigating Black Oak Woman's Death
#25 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[5 Jul 2015]

GARY | Gary police are investigating the death of a woman who suffered a gunshot wound Saturday in the city's Black Oak section, officials said.

Holly Jones, 28, was shot in the 5000 block of W 26th Av, a Lake County coroner's release said.  She lived nearby, in a home on Mount St.

Police were dispatched to the 5000 block of W 26th Av at 10:23 p.m.  Coroner's investigators were called to the scene at 11:02 p.m., and Jones was pronounced dead at 3:50 a.m.  Jones' cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound, but her manner of death is pending.  Gary police are handling the case as a death investigation, Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

* There are discrepancies among the various reporting agencies of the total number of Gary murders.  My higher number is based solely on my compilation of homicide reports from all available sources.  By any measure, the actual number of murders in Gary is appalling! 

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Created 1 Jul 2015 - 11:36:44 Hrs.

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