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Gary flies high in 2015

MAYOR KAREN-FREEMAN Wilson on July 10 led a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new runway at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. The opening was one of several projects that highlight the city’s resurgence. (Photo by Erick Johnson)

Airport runway, projects, highlights city’s comeback

From start to finish, some of this year’s newsworthy stories were centered on the city of Gary’s experiences in economic growth, political scandals and the loss of some of our most prominent and distinguished figures within the community. The year 2015 has truly been a year to be remembered and the events Gary experienced will perhaps be cherished by many.

The Gary Common Council on May 19 unanimously passed new zoning laws to allow building materials store Menards to be built. The new store would be located between the 3600 and 3700 blocks of Colfax and Calhoun Streets.

On June 6, Burt Sanders, a beloved police officer, was found dead inside the Church of God in Christ building, 5718 W. Ninth Avenue. Hours before the discovery was made, Sanders called 911 pleading for help that never came. Reports said that the dispatchers, Sherrie Williams and Vanessa Reese did not follow up when prompt medics could not get inside building. Williams was fired on June 12. Reese, a 12-year veteran dispatcher, was suspended for three days and placed on a performance improvement plan.

On July 10, The Gary Chicago Airport dedicated the opening of the facility’s expanded runway project in addition to the Bessie Coleman Hanger Opening.

On July 11, the Gary Air Show returned to the renovated Marq-uette Park after a two-year absence. Thousands of spectators jammed Miller Beach to view the dazzling acrobatic maneuvers of skilled stuntmen.

On July 28, 6-year-old Jacob Williams was killed and several others injured in a bus accident in downstate Indiana. Jacob was with the St. Jude Deliverance Center, which was on their way to a youth convention center in Dayton, OH when the bus overturned in Hancock County – some 20 miles south of Indianapolis. The driver of the bus, Charles Goodman, 53, was charged with felony reckless homicide and driving with a suspended license.

On September 15, the Gary Common Council said it will spend the next few months finding ways to stitch together an ordinance that would make it illegal for anyone to parade around town with their pants sagging and their backside hanging out. The proposal has thrust Gary into a national debate as city leaders aim to protect their city’s squeaky clean image and wholesome reputation. Supporters say sagging pants are the youth’s way of asserting themselves by rebelling against traditional codes of conduct. But leaders say sagging pants are unsightly and bad for the city. The council wants the proposed ordinance to become law by December 2016.

On Wednesday, September 30, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced a $3 million grant to upgrade roads that lead to the city’s industrial areas.

Centier Bank on October 23 opened a branch in the historic Gary Bank Building. The building, which is now owned by Gateway Partners, is being viewed as a catalyst for future downtown development. The building was the location for the former Gary National and the former Chase Bank on the corner of Fifth and Broadway.

On December 7, Gary is one of seven cities selected by the Knight Foundation as a demonstration site to implement comprehensive community revitalization and economic development.

Gary City Councilman-at-Large Roy Pratt on December 15 attended his final council meeting before retiring after 34 years representing the city.

Politicians that made the news by ending up in jail included Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, 6th District Councilman Ronier Scott and East Chicago Councilman Robert Battle.

Smith, Bizzell and Warner Funeral Home made the news when two babies were discovered in the ceiling panels of the funeral home for an undetermined amount of time.

Gary residents Diamond Bynum and her toddler relative King Walker went missing on July 25. With no leads, the two still have not been located.

Indiana University Northwest started their expansion plans this year with the construction of a new Arts and Science Building. The project has come under fire from some leaders who say not enough local residents are being hired to work on the project.

In May, voters in Gary rejected a referendum aimed at providing a financial bailout for the Gary Community Schools. Later, Indiana State Senator Earline Rogers introduced a bill in the Senate to provide state assistance to the financially ailing school system.

The longstanding Ambassador Hotel and Apartment Building was demolished after many years as a prominent, but decaying fixture in the city.

A new Veterans Apartment facility opened this year. The facility will house veterans who were previously living in shelters or on the streets.

On November 12, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson withdrew her support of a proposed immigrant detention center after a coalition of community activists protested against the project at City Hall. Protesters said the proposed facility’s developer, the GEO Corporation, had a record a human rights abuses. The proposed facility was to have been built near the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Gary and Indiana lost some pro-minent leaders this year. They include longtime Gary Councilman Cleo Wesson, radio personality and journalist Amos Brown and veteran legislator William “Bill” Crawford.

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