Larry Webb continues to use the former Beckman Middle School he purchased as storage housing for his fleet of school and coach buses despite the objection of some surrounding neighbors. (Photo by Ted Brown)
Neighbors in the area of the once-closed Beckman Middle School have a problem with a local bus company occupying the property. They are torn between supporting the community’s tax base with a new business or living in an area with strong emission fumes and noise each morning from buses.
John Wilcox has lived in the Beckman neighborhood for over 25 years. He believes that Larry Webb, owner of Eclipse Charter & Tours Company is allegedly operating his company without a license. He said, “I was at the city’s legal department and we found a number of things that Larry Webb is in violation of. He is working in the city of Gary without the benefit of a license, he’s doing renovation without the benefit of redevelopment issuing him permits and he’s not in compliance with the city council that voted that his buses not be down there.” Wilcox said he was told that city departments would send someone out and cite him for those things.
He said on the corner where Webb’s buses enter and exit every morning, there are two military veterans living there. One is a disabled veteran who is suffering from Agent Orange from his military duty in Vietnam. He said, “At least 11 buses leave out of there early in the morning at about 6:30 a.m. and traffic has to stop while they come out. This is a residential area. It is not zoned for business.”
Wilcox said he was in a meeting with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and she agreed with the things he found out. He said, “I showed her an article that appeared in a local paper regarding Trade Winds and with the stroke of her pen the business was closed down because they were doing essentially the same thing. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but if there’s a cover up going on or someone is being paid off, that has to be what it is.”
Wilcox accuses the city’s Zoning Department of trying to help Webb get a variance to do business in the area. He said, “I told them that wasn’t their business to help him. I told them no one is helping the neighbors and they are the ones who are suffering.”
Wilcox said the problem he has with Webb conducting business from the Beckman School property is first that it is not zoned for business. He also said Webb plans to not only park his buses there, but his sources tell him that if a person has a bus, they can also park it on his property for a fee. A third complaint is that Webb plans to install a 3,000-gallon above the ground fuel tank for his diesel buses in addition to gasoline tanks for the school buses.
Wilcox said at this point he does not entertain what could be done with the property or alternative uses. “The only thing that could be done is get it in compliance with zoning for the area and turn it into some type of community center or school because that’s what it’s zoned for.”
He said even if Webb addresses all of the issues with occupying the Beckman School site, he still would not be in favor of his company occupying the property. “He can’t comply with it. We are just talking school buses. This is the only thing he has identified with. The zoning department has told me he did not mention he has a charter bus company. Larry Webb is a slumlord businessman. He has a construction company. He has to move all of his construction equipment in there,” he said.
Wilcox said the city served him with a citation for his dog because he did not have a city license. He said, “They haven’t served Larry Webb with any kind of license.”
Larry Webb could not be rea-ched for comment.