Tag Archives: Federal Government

City of Gary Says Sheraton Project is Neighborhood Stabilization

19 Dec

by Ken Davidson

At last night’s meeting of the Gary Redevelopment Commission, the Board approved a contract for environmental monitoring of the Sheraton Hotel project. The contract was awarded to Shrewsberry and Associates, LLC of Indianapolis. Shrewsberry and Associates has strong ties to State democrats, including former Chairman of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee William Crawford. Crawford came under fire for not disclosing his financial interests with the Firm when he was appointed to Ways and Means. Shrewsberry no longer lists its Board of Directors on its website or in public filings that are readily available.

The original Request for Proposals for the demolition called for the contractor to include asbestos remediation and monitoring within the proposal. This additional cost was calculated into the bids submitted by others who were not aware that the Board would later hire another firm and pay that firm separately.

All of this is not unusual for Gary. Although the above is questionable, at best, the Gazette receives reports of such irregularities on a semi-consistent basis. What makes this proposal astounding is how the City apparently plans to pay for the additional cost. The Gazette has learned that the City has included the Sheraton Property in the 2014 Neighborhood Stabilization Plan.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed, abandoned and short-sale homes, the program’s goals is being realized.

The grant information provided by the City appears to reference this purpose:

[NSP] appropriates $2,717,859 for the purpose of assisting in the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.The grant program is commonly referred to as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).

The Times of Northwest Indiana Legal Notice 12-19-2013

The Notice goes on, however, to list the “neighborhood surrounding the old Sheraton Hotel and its adjoining garage located at 465 Broadway” as an area of additional need. The Sheraton is not only a commercial property, it lies in the major commercial zone of the City. Sitting between City Hall and a Township owned office building, the structure is blocks from any residential structure. The neighborhoods that SHOULD receive relief under the program will not receive the funding intended for them. In fact, it seems likely that Gary will end up repaying another very large grant to the Federal Government.

With 10,000 abandoned homes, one would think that every cent of the NSP funds would go toward rehabilitation of residences.

IHCDA Outlines $60M Plan to Demolish Abandoned Houses

28 Oct

by Ken Davidson

 

Karen Freeman-Wilson

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson addresses a crowd at IHCDA informational session

Representatives of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency tonight announced a plan to divert $60M from the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish abandoned homes throughout the state.  Under the plan, Indianapolis and Lake County would share in approximately $16M in federal funds.  The packed house at the Gary YWCA was led by State Senators Earline Rogers and Jim Merritt, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and IHCDA representatives.

IHCDA Coordinator Ryanna Binder presented a matrix to be used by local governments to request funds under the program.  Criteria such as habitability, number of police calls and potential uses for the vacant land would all be weighted and utilized to determine which houses are scheduled for demolition.

Lake County Treasurer John Petalas was present and stated that there are more than 10,000 vacant or abandoned homes in Gary which are in need of demolition.  This statistic may be flawed, however, as it apparently comes from a statistic prepared by the County which includes vacant lots.  Mayor Freeman-Wilson has stated it would cost approximately $6,600 per home for demolition.  The program would allow up to $15,000 for acquisition and demolition of properties.  Under the formula, Gary could demolish approximately 300 homes if the funds are distributed based on population.   Mayor Thomas McDermott, the Chair of the Lake County Democratic Party, has suggested the State provide $65M to Gary to demolish abandoned homes.

Officials stated the Federal Government would still have to approve the use of funds.  Submissions for demolition could begin as early as January if all approvals are obtained.  There were no representatives from other cities or towns in Lake County at the meeting although they would be eligible to vie for the funds.

During question and answer sessions, the comments primarily centered on city enforcement of codes and maintenance of abandoned properties as well as rights of way.