Spokesperson says the boilers do not currently require repair
By Erick Johnson
Officials overseeing Gary’s school district are still not providing details about questionable repairs made to the shuttered Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
Two weeks after emailing questions to Gary Emergency Manager Peter Morikis and Deputy Superintendent Nakia Douglas, spokesperson Chelsea Whittington responded with answers that provides little light on the progress of the repairs.
Roosevelt had been closed since February after it was widely reported that the boiler failed and the pipes burst during sub-zero temperatures caused a polar vortex. A recent story in the Crusader raised questions of whether Roosevelt had been closed for good as classes remain at the Gary Career Center. The building had been left crumbling with broken windows, debris and overgrown grass. The Crusader’s request to view the repairs or see photos of the maintenance work went unanswered. When pressed about the repairs, Douglas hung up twice on a Crusader reporter. Neighbors near Roosevelt said they have seen workers removing items from the school, located at 730 W. 25th Avenue.
With classes over for the school year, the future of the historic building remains in doubt as Roosevelt students prepare to spend another year at the Gary Career Center during the upcoming school year.
In her emailed response on June 25, Whittington said that emergency repairs to the heating system and plumbing were “made over the past several months.”
Whittington said the primary damage was “to the heating system and the plumbing. The boilers may not have incurred significant damage. However, a full determination of the condition of the boilers has not been made due to the damage to the heating system and plumbing.”
Asked about the estimated costs to correct the problem, Whittington said “additional work is required to determine the total costs of all repairs.”
Whittington did not give an estimated time assessment on when the problem will be resolved and the building will be reopened to hold classes again.
“Due to the complexity of the damage and the condition of the building, a firm date has not been determined,” she said.
The Crusader asked how many GCSC employees are working on the repairs at Roosevelt. Whittington said “GCSC has 15 grounds and maintenance employees who work in all buildings including Roosevelt. Additionally, GCSC contracts with heating, mechanical and plumbing companies for specific repairs.”
In a follow up email that same day, the Crusader asked for the name of the contractor or companies that work with the GCSC in correcting maintenance problems. The Crusader again requested to tour the building to view the repairs. The Crusader also asked for a second time to view any photos of the repairs. Officials haven’t responded to the follow up questions, one week after they were submitted.
Officials have also not responded to a request under Freedom of Information Act a copy of maintenance and financial records pertaining to Roosevelt’s heating system dating back since January 2019. The Crusader also requested all emails from Morikis and Douglas since January.
In an email on June 25, Michael Tolbert, an attorney for GCSC, said he is working on the Crusader’s request, but have not yet produced any documents.