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FIeldhouse improvements could get costly
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FIeldhouse improvements could get costly

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Welcome to Merrillville

MERRILLVILLE — It could cost the town nearly $200,000 to complete necessary improvements to the former Fieldhouse building.

Town Manager Patrick Reardon provided that estimate to the Redevelopment Commission while discussing the work that needs to be done in the facility.

That includes mold remediation, securing the property, electrical work, HVAC repairs and other improvements.

The town is expected to seek bids for the property once all the improvements are done. Once on the market, it could take about one month to go through the bidding process.

“This property will be sold in the near future,” Reardon said.

Town Attorney Joseph Svetanoff said $2.95 million is the minimum amount Merrillville can accept for the site. That figure is based off two appraisals.

After repaying about $950,000 from a bond issue that was used to fund the purchase of the Fieldhouse property, the town is planning to use the remainder of sale proceeds to fund the first few years of operations of the community center that should open in 2021.

The RDC approved a resolution that will make funding from the sale eligible for the use of operations. Council members Marge Uzelac and Leonard White, who sit on the commission, opposed that action.

They said the Fieldhouse wasn't acquired for the purpose of benefiting the new community center.

White said “we all want this thing to be successful,” but the council should've already had plans for operations funding.

Councilman Shawn Pettit said Merrillville leaders had planned to generate money for operations by leasing portions of the center to a youth organization and a health care provider, but those deals didn't move forward. Merrillville also planned to seek donations from businesses and other entities for naming rights of different areas of the community center, but the town is no longer pursuing that option because of the financial issues COVID-19 has caused.

Pettit agrees the Fieldhouse building was purchased for a different purpose, but it's Merrillville's best option to provide “seed money” for community center operations.

The town in 2014 purchased the Fieldhouse facility for $3.2 million to attract a Korean pharmaceutical company to Merrillville.

Although the company leased the site for years, it sat empty during that time. The lease agreement called for the company to purchase the building by March 31 this year, but no deal was reached.

“We ought to be thanking our lucky stars” it wasn't acquired by the pharmaceutical company so Merrillville can use sale proceeds for the community center, Pettit said.

Besides the way the sale proceeds could be used, White said he isn't receiving information about the community center and other Merrillville issues in a timely fashion.

Councilman Richard Hardaway agrees, and he believes the problem is council members are working individually instead of as a group.

“We have lost sight of what we were elected to do,” Hardaway said.

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