Gary Public Safety Building

The Gary Public Safety Building at 555 Polk St. was bought in a $40 million sale in tax-exempt bonds. 

GARY — Officials may vote as early as Tuesday night on a proposed sale and lease back arrangement of the Public Safety Building to raise money needed to balance the city government's budget.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who floated the idea earlier this summer and again last week to the Common Council, said Monday she will ask council members Tuesday night to take her idea to the market.

The mayor said there is no buyer lined up at present, but banking firms have expressed some confidence in its future success.

Councilwoman Carolyn Rodgers, D-4th, said the six-story brick structure, near 4th and Tyler, would continue to house the police department as well as the city court and clerk offices.

Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt said the city could realize between $35 million to $40 million that would be used to pay down the city's debt, particularly the more than $3 million owed on employee health insurance.

The building once housed the Gary Mercy Hospital until it closed in 1995. Former Mayor Scott King used $15 million in casino revenues in the late 1990s to renovate a part of the old hospital. It reopened in 2003 as the Public Safety Building.

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Council members reached by The Times Monday afternoon said they didn't have enough information to take a vote on the matter, but none expressed opposition.

Councilman Herbert Smith Jr. said he is open to the idea because the city government cannot continue operating at a deficit.

Gary passed a $54 million budget for this year, but it is only expected to collect about $30 million in property taxes, according to the county auditor's office.

The city receives millions of dollars in local income tax and state and federal grants, but there are restrictions on how that money can be spent.

"It bothers me we wouldn't own the Public Safety Building, but I'm not rejecting this," Smith said. "We are in a situation where we have to do something and our options are limited."

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.