Tom's #Mailbag, Feb. 16, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, Feb. 16, 2018

Questions for the 'Bag? Ask them by clicking here

It's another Infrastructure Week at the mailbag. But unlike other infrastructure programs, this one is 100 percent funded and doesn't require an 80 percent local match.

Questions this week about a famous parking ticket in Champaign, Champaign's McKinley Field (remember that U.S. Sen. William McKinley left one to Urbana, too), congestion in Campustown, construction at the UI softball stadium, school zones, curb styles and streetlights. Also: a suggestion for marketing Ford County's odd shape, Unofficial, taxation of lottery winnings, the Olympics on the radio and a no-man's land at Illini basketball games.

McKinley Field (Champaign) upgrade

"Is it official that (the Champaign school district) will be building a varsity football stadium complex at the McKinley Field location for the use of Central High School on Friday nights (4-5 times a year)? This was not part of the referendum approved by voters. Voters were told that Tommy Stewart Field would continue to be the varsity competition site with a new turf field and lockers for Central athletes."

The current referendum plan for McKinley Field is to provide updates and improve the game day experience for the junior varsity football games already being played at McKinley Field," said Emily Schmit, director of communications and community relations for the school district. "Among these updates and improvements there will be an artificial turf football field, new track and accessories, additional parking, a new support building (restrooms, lockers, concessions, and storage), new bleachers, and a sod football practice area. As of now, there are no official plans to host Friday night varsity football games at the McKinley Field location."

Campustown gridlock

"Has any thought been given to prohibiting left-hand turns onto Green Street from southbound traffic on Fourth Street? This is the corner next to the high-rise apartment buildings. I often use Fourth Street to get to the U of I campus from the north, but if someone is trying to make a left turn at that intersection, traffic backs up on Fourth Street for what is sometimes two or three cycles of the traffic signals. There is no left turn arrow and not enough room to pass on the right side of a car trying to make a turn. With a long line of cars heading north on Fourth Street making a turn nearly impossible, especially during rush hours, it would seem to make sense to enforce a "no left turn" policy at this corner."

Your suggestion is being taken under advisement.

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," said Chris Sokolowski, Champaign's assistant city engineer. "There may be other options such as altering the pavement markings and/or traffic signal changes. Public Works will take a closer look at the intersection this year."

Carle at the Fields street lighting

"Do you know if the lighting set-up will be continued from the 'new' Fields South Drive (from Curtis Road intersection at Carle Fields) to the 'old' end of Fields South Drive (to Windsor Road intersection)? There is a big difference in the lighting shadows/reflections on both ends. Just curious."

"The new street lighting on Fields South Drive was constructed by Carle as part of the Carle at the Fields Subdivision development," said Tony Vendeventer, Champaign assistant city engineer for development. "The new lighting stops at the north limit of their development."

'Unofficial' ending?

"Didn't the Chancellor say 'Unofficial' had to stop after last year's death? Yet it's right around the corner. So what happened? Can't the U of I do more than just talk?"

As much as he might like to in this case, the chancellor can't tell a private business how to operate. If you have a problem with "Unofficial," talk to the campus area stores and bar owners that sell beer and alcohol and make money off of this "unofficial" holiday.

Curb styles

"Driving through some neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana, something I've noticed recently is that there seems to be two different types of curbs along the street. Some are vertical and high sided while others have a gentle slope. With the vertical curbs space for driveways are usually cut out of the curb while the sloping kind are left as is for driveways. Is there some sort of standard at play or is it up to the developer what type of curb is installed?"

The vertical and high-sided curbs are referred to as barrier curbs, said Vandeventer, and the curbs with a gentle slope are referred to as mountable curbs.

"In areas with barrier curbs, the curb is sawed and removed when a new driveway approach is constructed. In areas with mountable curbs, driveway approaches are constructed against the back of the mountable curb," he said. "Barrier curb is the city standard, but the city does allow mountable curb in subdivision developments with narrow lots if curb removal for driveway approach construction will require removing 50 percent or more of the curb along the street frontage of the lot.

"If a developer wishes to construct mountable curb in lieu of barrier curb, that change is negotiated during the annexation or platting process."

Famous voided parking ticket

"On Twitter, there is a picture of the governor getting out of a parking ticket. Is he above the law? Why doesn't he have to pay it?"

That photo you saw on Twitter was taken last Friday by News-Gazette photographer Stephen Haas, who was "shooting" the visit of Gov. Bruce Rauner to The News-Gazette.

We asked the city of Champaign why the governor didn't get nailed with a parking ticket and our regular correspondent (and city public works spokesman) Kris Koester provided the answer:

"Thanks for the question. The local parking entities have a long standing 'handshake agreement' to not enforce citations on vehicles of elected officials (when known) while on official business or emergency vehicles (police, fire, EMT)," he said.

The poor traffic enforcement officer who wrote the ticket had no idea the two big black SUVs parked on Main Street were assigned to the Illinois State Police or the governor's security detail, said Haas. They had no markings or license plates to indicate they were with ISP or the governor's office.

Lottery winnings taxed

"If a resident of another state purchases a winning lottery ticket in Illinois, whether it be for the state Lotto or a multi-state game, is that person required to pay any taxes to the state of Illinois, or is he only liable for taxes to his home state?"

"Any prize valued at $1,000 and higher will have Illinois state tax withheld no matter which state the players reside in," said Jason Schaumburg, lottery communications director.

That's under the 4.95 percent Illinois state income tax rate.

Illini font

"Is there an official name for the font that is used on all of the 'Hail to the Orange' ads? I'm talking about the one that resembles splattered paint."

Illinois Sports Information Director Kent Brown says "the 'paint' font was actually custom made by one of our outstanding staff graphic designers to only be used for Illinois materials and marketing pieces." It apparently has been adopted by a professional sports league designer, he said.

Unused seats

"Looking at the Illinois basketball games on television, in the first half at the Illinois basket end, who is supposed to be sitting in the seats at the top right of the screen? They are always empty and look terrible in the TV shot."

Brown said those seats behind the visitors bench are 50 reserved seats for the visiting team.

"Unless they return those to our ticket office, we cannot sell them. Some schools use their allotment and some don't," he said.

UI stadium work

"There are lots of cement trucks behind the softball stadium on Kirby. Is the U of I expanding the stadium?"

Brown says the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is "constructing permanent camera stands to be used for television coverage at both the softball and baseball stadium."

School zone flashing lights

"Traveling east on Florida Avenue in the morning, I frequently pass Wiley School and then Thomas Paine School. Often the flashing yellow light is no longer flashing for Wiley, but as I pass Thomas Paine, the flashing light is still on. By the time I pass, school has started, and the crossing guards are gone from both locations. I slow down to 20 but wonder why the light stays on longer for one school than it does for another."

"The flashing yellow school lights programmed schedules per each school's request are performing and functioning correctly," said Urbana Public Works Director Bill Gray. "The excerpt below (from the Illinois secretary of state) may help the individual who inquired with you ..."

"What is a school speed zone in Illinois?

"The following is an excerpt from Chapter 625 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Act 5, Chapter 11, Section 605. The title of the section is "Special speed limit while passing schools and while traveling through highway construction zones"

"(a) On a school day when children are present and so close thereto that a potential hazard exists because of the close proximity of the motorized traffic, no person shall drive a motor vehicle at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour while passing a school zone or while traveling upon any public thoroughfare where children pass going to and from school.

"The following is an Opinion of the Attorney General's Office (Number S-706):

"This paragraph limits vehicle speed to 20 miles per hour only during school days while the vehicle is passing a school zone or is traveling on a street on or across which children pass going to or from school, and then only when children are physically present on such street or are outside the school building in a school zone. The 20 mile speed limit is not in effect when the children are inside the school building even though school is in session."


Olympics on the radio

"What local radio station is carrying coverage of the Winter Olympics in Korea? I believe Westwood One has the rights. If there is no radio station covering them, why not?"

Westwood One is carrying the Olympics. Stations have the option of carrying "shortform coverage," which includes thrice-hourly updates, longform coverage which includes two hours of coverage for 17 nights and/or coverage that includes play-by-play of USA men's and women's hockey.

Only four stations in Illinois are taking Westwood's coverage: WSCR-AM in Chicago, WYDS-FM and WZNX-FM in Decatur and WYFX-FM in Mount Vernon.

Mike Haile, the vice president and general manager at News-Gazette Media stations WDWS, WHMS and WUIL, said he considered picking up the Olympics coverage but that it was too much of a time commitment and would conflict with other programming.

He added, though, that he has watched a lot of the NBC-TV coverage of the Games and that he believes it's been "outstanding."


And finally, more about the odd shape of Ford County

This observation comes from Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel:

"I always thought it looked like a foam finger. Perhaps Champaign County missed an opportunity here by not latching onto it."

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rsp wrote on February 16, 2018 at 9:02 pm

Maybe they can work out a deal where the unused tickets went to a charity, like Cunningham's Childrens Home. If they let the visiting team know where they go if they don't want them they might be inclined to make the effort, and they could be used for kids to come to the game or some other group. It could change each game.