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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Gary’s school system may get some money to tear down some abandoned buildings and fix up the ones that remain.

Gary spends $6 million a year of its state funding to repay state loans it received to stay afloat when it was drowning in $60 million.  The Senate will vote Tuesday on a bill to essentially refinance that loan, by earmarking most of those payments for the next 10 years to get rid of vacant schools that contribute to Gary’s urban blight. 

The city has condemned nine abandoned schools, but the school district doesn’t have the money to tear them down. State Board of Education member Tony Walker is special counsel to Mayor Jerome Prince – he says he recently toured Gary West High School, the last traditional public high school in the city, and found at least 40 leaks in the roof, in classrooms, hallways and the library. And Walker says he only covered half the building. He says those conditions are “not tolerable” for Gary’s students.

Along with repairs and demolition, the money could pay for a new central middle school/high school. Gary Senator Eddie Melton (D) says while the system has shrunk, it’s geographic footprint hasn’t, and Gary West is too long a trip for students on the other side of the city.

A state-appointed emergency manager oversees the schools. Melton’s bill originally called for the state to restore local control in three years. A revised version worked out with Senate Republicans instead requires a public status meeting at that point.

The refi would stretch out the final payoff of the loan by six-and-a-half years.

Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)