Tom's #Mailbag, April 20, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, April 20, 2018

Ask our veteran reporter about anything and everything by clicking here.

A lot of infrastructure questions this week, with a little bit of table shuffleboard and April snowfall for variety. Queries about Cronus, campus construction, a railroad crossing, a safer University Avenue around Central High School, potholes in the post office parking lot and more.

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Cronus update

"Hey Tom, have you heard of any updates on the Cronus plant in Tuscola? Seems like they are about 1-2 years behind on their original building plans. Have they broke ground yet?"


"Any more updates on Cronus plant in Tuscola? What a fitting name — means god of time. Seems like they keep pushing and pushing out the timeline. I would be interested to know if they have even bought the land yet or spent any of their money on the project? It's hard to imagine they would start on the project this year. And if they say the fall, hard to believe that. Nobody starts construction of a major facility project with a few months before winter."

"You can let the readers know that the project is still on track to break ground in the second half of 2018 and there will be more announcements about the progress soon," said Peter Gray, a spokesman for Cronus.

Gray said our last story on the project, which ran in August, is still accurate.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, who has been active in pushing for the project, noted that part of the delay is related to a switch in contractors. Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions is the new contractor.

Coincidentally Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is on a trade mission trip to Germany and Poland, visited the Thyssenkrupp world headquarters on Thursday. Maybe that means something; we'll know soon.

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Snow business

"Tom, new snow on the ground today, April 16. What's the latest date for snowfall in Champaign-Urbana since they've kept records?"

Great question with a greater answer.

It snowed here on May 2, 1929. And the weather observer claimed that there was 2.5 inches of snow.

However, the high temperature that day was 47 degrees and the low was 32.

"I truly believe that it snowed that day. The only catch is that the observer noted that the snow melted as it fell," said state climatologist Jim Angel. "With those kinds of temperatures and that late in the season, I can't imagine being able to accumulate 2.5 inches."

There also have been dozens more reports of traces of snow in Champaign-Urbana in May, one as late as May 18.

The more recent May snowfall was a trace reported on May 6, 1989. The high that day was 41 degrees and the low was 34 degrees.

Finally, how much snow we've had this month? 4.9 inches, when the average for April is 0.4 inches.

We have had at least a trace of snow on seven days this month. The record for April snowfall in Champaign-Urbana is 8 inches in 1920.

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Table shuffleboard

"Is there a bar in the area that has a shuffleboard table?"

Yes. After exhaustive research I can tell you of one place: J.T. Walker's Brewery on Main Street in Mahomet. They also have darts.

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Central crosswalks

"Might there be funds available to upgrade the crosswalk signage and lighting along University Avenue and Central High School?

"The street is crowded with parked cars, young drivers commuting to school, adults speeding to work, and a mix of too bold or too timid students attempting to cross the street. With the upgrades available in crosswalk signage available, Public Works could improve a chaotic situation; if not avert disaster."

Champaign Public Works and Police will look into your question.

Here's the word from Public Works spokesman Kris Koester: "The three blocks between 709 University Avenue stretching to 407 University Avenue is a signed School Zone speed limit area, meaning the speed limit is limited to 20 mph, during morning and afternoon traffic around the start and end of school days.

"This area is zoned this way for people crossing University Avenue to get to/from Central High School and Holy Cross School. Crosswalks on both the east and west side of Central High School are also marked with bright yellow crosswalk signs and arrows pointed at the crosswalk.

"The crosswalk markings were recently updated during a pavement marking project. Public Works staff will look at the area to see if any additional enhancements can be identified. In the meantime, this information will be shared with Champaign Police Department to inquire about the use of the speed feedback trailers."

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Savoy railroad crossing

"There is a left-turn lane east of the railroad tracks on Curtis Road in Savoy. I have never been able to activate the left-turn arrow when turning south on Dunlap. Does this signal not work?"

The left-turn lane for the westbound approach of Curtis Road to U.S. 45 is used primarily for lane assignment and is a permissive movement — where a green signal permits vehicles to turn left as traffic allows — most of the time, said Illinois Department of Transportation Region 3 Engineer Kensil Garnett.

"There is a left turn arrow on the signal indication on the far side of the intersection. The westbound left turn movement will only get a green arrow when a train is approaching," he said. "This caveat is part of the signal programming involved with our railroad interconnect. Essentially, the controllers for the railroad and highway intersections work together to clear vehicles from the track crossing as a train approaches. The same setup is used at the Church Street and Airport Road intersections in Savoy."

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Champaign post office lot

"The parking lot and circle drive/mail drop off at the main Champaign post office on Mattis Avenue is in horrible condition. Which is responsible for the repairs — the feds or the city?"

That's the responsibility of the postal service, and Champaign Postmaster Larry Chandler said they're on it. He said a request has been made to fix the lot. And he thanked you for your concern.

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Former C.V. Lloyde building rehab

"What is the status of the old C.V. Lloyde building in downtown Champaign? Is there a plan for development? I thought I've seen a CU Under Construction sign there at one point and time. It looks like it should be condemned."

That last sentence is pretty harsh, but here's your answer anyway, courtesy of Champaign Building Safety Supervisor Larry Happ: a building permit at the old CV Lloyde building at 102 S. Neil was for a Cookies by Design. The permit expired on April 3, 2018.

"Apparently they decided on another location at 902 Meijer Drive. Building permit BS18-0317 was issued March 9, 2018 and is currently under construction," he said. The permit describes the business as "walk-in and pick up service with employee only work areas behind counter."

As for your latter assertion, he wrote, "If there are any complaints about this building they would be handled by David Oliver in the Neighborhood Services Department."

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Owens Funeral Home porch

"For quite some time now, the southeast corner of the porch roof at Owens Funeral Home has been supported by two long beams. This is not only unsightly, but looks like a health/life/safety issue that the city should be interested in addressing, especially since funerals at Owens continue unabated and the porch is heavily used. Can Mailbag find out what's going on?"

I was there Thursday and work on new support columns is under way.

Here's the word from Larry Happ: "Owens Funeral Home at 101 N Elm St. is doing some repair work on the front porch which includes the replacement of some porch columns. The porch roof is temporarily supported adequately until the new columns are delivered. The new columns are being fabricated to match the original columns which is a lengthy process."

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Campus construction

"What's happening to the old NCSA building on Springfield and 6th Street?"

Steve Breitwieser of the University of Illinois Facilities & Services says that it's "being connected to the Campus Chilled Water System. The project is expected to be substantially complete in May before the start of the primary cooling season."

More information on the CCWS is available here.

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HomeGoods store?

"Is it true a HomeGoods store is coming to the Champaign area? If so do you know when the projected date is?"


"Rumor is we will be getting a HomeGoods here this summer. The nearest one is Bloomington. If so where will it be located?"

HomeGoods applied for a building permit in Champaign YESTERDAY, said Happ. The permit is for "interior demolition and new tenant buildout" of 718 Town Center Boulevard,  the old HH Gregg store.

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Pekara update

"Is the new Pekara still in the works at Springfield and Prospect? I noticed recently that the 'Financing by' and 'Coming Soon' signs have both disappeared."

"We'll announce it ourselves," I was told.

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