The Gary (Ind.) school district has put 33 vacant facilities up for sale to local taxing units, public universities and colleges, but only one of the buildings attracted a bid, officials say.
The Northwest Indiana Times reports that the city of Gary has bid $100,000 for the shuttered Franklin Elementary School—about $1.3 million less than the initial asking price.
“Obviously, we were hoping for more bids, but we were also not surprised,” says Peggy Hinckley, the school district's emergency manager who was appointed last year to turn around the system's financial woes.
A second phase of the bidding process is open to the general public and ends Aug. 24.
Hinckley says no decision has been made as to whether to accept the city's low bid for Franklin Elementary. If the bid is accepted, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says, the city will be in a better position to apply for a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant and convert the property into housing.
Members of Hinckley’s fiscal advisory board questioned the amounts sought for the schools in the first bid notice, The Gary Post-Tribune reports.
“The numbers were way out of line,” says board member Clorius Lay, a Gary attorney.
Hinckley says the district could not afford private appraisals for the properties and used assessments provided by Calumet Township Assessor Jackie Collins. The district has since been given updated assessments that are mostly lower than the set used initially. It will assign new values to the remaining properties for subsequent bids.
If the properties do not find suitable bids, an auction is possible, but that is an option of last resort, Hinckley says. The district prefers to find buyers that fit in with the affected communities — that means selling properties to responsible buyers and developers.
"The problem with auctions, you lose control of the properties," Hinckley says.