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Gary Council approves funding for warming and cooling center, new ambulances

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city of Gary
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The Gary City Council has approved spending for a dedicated warming and cooling center. Arlene Colvin, the director of Gary's Department of Community Development, says the city plans to rehabilitate the old fire station at 41st and Washington.

"The Health Department is going to run this center. With it being rehabbed and having much more space, we're allocating space for actual sleeping arrangements, so this will be able to be open 24/7," Colvin told council members Tuesday.

Currently, cooling centers are available at the Gary Public Library on 5th Avenue, the Calumet Township Multipurpose Center on 41st Avenue and Brother's Keeper on Broadway, when the temperature is 88 degrees or higher. The new, dedicated facility could be ready by the end of the year. It will be funded with $500,000 in COVID-19 Emergency Solutions grant funding.

It was one of three federally-funded projects in the Gary Department of Community Development to get council approval Tuesday. The council also approved the use of $500,000 for two new ambulances and more than a million dollars to be added to Gary's overall street paving budget.

Council Member Mike Brown said that while he supported the projects, he was concerned that the council didn't have a chance to see the bids in writing. "I am a supporter of what you all are talking about doing, but I'm also a person who believes we need to be fiscally responsible in our spending, even if it's money that's given to us from other forms," Brown said.

Meanwhile, in a divided decision, the Gary City Council replaced four paramedic positions with lower-paying EMT positions by a vote of five to three with one abstention.