Tom's #Mailbag, May 4, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, May 4, 2018

Submit questions by clicking here and Tom will chase down your answer

One more big 'Bag before we at Mailbag International Headquarters take a one-month vacation. We will be back in June, tanned, rested and ready — just like they said about our old pal Richard Nixon in 1968.

Lots of good stuff in this week's Mailbag: dogs biting mail carriers, the Golden Corral makes a comeback with millions of dollars of other Champaign construction projects, Judah Christian construction, girl Boy Scouts, rural roadwork, Dr. Howard School, more on Stone Creek, traffic laws on private property, downtown Champaign pedestrian safety and deceptive telemarketers.

See you in June!

Booming Champaign

"Is the Golden Corral ever going to build here?"

Perhaps. The city of Champaign has received revised plans for the restaurant site at 1202 W. Anthony Drive, said Building Safety Supervisor Larry Happ. "The new plans are currently under review," he said.

Happ has really good news about construction projects upcoming in Champaign:

— Permits for two 7-story apartment buildings at 202 and 210 S. Fourth St. (the site of the old Marquette School) have been approved. Includes 167 apartment units with a value of $31.8 million.

— Permits for two OSF clinics, at 2710 N. Prospect and 2043 S. Neil, are under review. The approximate value is $500,000 each.

— A permit for seven apartment buildings, with 180 total units, is under review at the Legends subdivision off of Staley Road near the new Carle campus.

— A permit application for a Davita Dialysis Center, at 1004 W. Anthony Drive in the old Ryan's Steakhouse location, is under review.

Champaign's total construction value for the year (up to May 3) is $113.6 million. Through the same period last year it was $45.7 million, said Happ.


Mail delivery and dogs

"In Champaign-Urbana, what determines whether a residence has a mailbox on the street, or gets their mail delivered to their door by delivery on foot?"

It's a matter of timing, said Champaign Postmaster Larry Chandler. There has been no door mail delivery service nationally since 1986, he said. Since then the postal service has approved only centralized or curb service.

"It takes so much more time to deliver to the door," said Chandler. "But it's also an issue of safety.

"Here in Champaign we've had five dog attacks so far this year. Two of them resulted in carriers being taken to the emergency room by ambulance. We just need to get these dogs restrained.

"We've had some people who are upset because they're not getting their delivery because they have dogs in their front yards or dogs chained up by the mailboxes or dogs pushing on the door, pushing on the glass, and we just can't take that risk. We need people to control their dogs."

The five dog attacks so far in 2018 compares with only two all of last year, said Chandler.

"A lot of our residents have been very cooperative. Everybody says their dog doesn't but if their dog has teeth their dog can bite. Someone may say their pit bull is docile but we really can't believe that," he said.


Girls in Boy Scouts

"Are any Prairielands Council packs or troops participating in the pilot program for girls?"

Not yet, says Steve Adams, scout executive for the Prairielands Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

"The 'early adopter' program was established by the Boy Scouts of America to give interested Cub Scout packs the opportunity to register girls in Cub Scouting as early as January, before the general kickoff this summer," he said. "One of the requirements was that the packs commit to providing the opportunity for the girls to complete the rank requirements in much less than the normal time allowed (the school year). A few Prairielands Council packs were interested in the 'early adopter' program, but did not feel they could complete the advancements on time. So we have not registered any girls yet."However, girls are being invited to join as early as June so that they may attend Cub Scout Day Camp at Camp Drake, in Urbana, or Tuscola during June. We are excited to be offering girls the opportunity to join the Cub Scout program very soon."


Judah update

"What's the status of the new Judah Christian School in west Champaign? What's the estimated completion and move-in date? Also, are there any plans for the utilization of the old Prospect Ave. building after the move?"

Michael Chitty, superintendent at Judah Christian, has your answers:

1. The status of the new JCS in west Champaign is that we are still in the fundraising stages of our Judah Rising Campaign.

2. We don't have an estimated completion and move-in date since it is dependent on fundraising over the next several months.

3. Our ultimate goal is to sell the Prospect Avenue property after the move.


Closed donut shop

"Daylight Donuts in Tuscola appears to be closed. The sign says they are 'on vacation,' but they have not been open in several weeks. The rumor is it's a permanent vacation. Any news on this?"

We have tried several times to reach Richard Kidwell, the owner of the shop, without success. And we will note that both Daylight Donuts and The Spicery Tea Room, also in Tuscola and also owned by Kidwell, have closed recently. Not a good sign.


Deceptive telemarketers

"Can you find out how telemarketers are able to clone local exchanges and actual real names and businesses. This week my caller ID showed a call from the Paxton Hospital — it closed over 30 years ago — the bank here and a man I'm pretty sure has died. Should I answer, it's some recorded call about my credit or a resort."

We turned to Champaign resident John Bambenek, who operates a computer security service in Champaign and travels the world to speak on related issues.

"The short answer is that caller ID is trivially spoofable. When we started implementing VoIP (Voice over Internet), that enabled the ability for the originator of the call to set their own caller ID. Telemarketers use this to set the area code and sometimes exchange (the next three numbers) to be geographically close to their targets to make it more likely you pick up the phone," he said. "Like so many other technologies, we put things on the internet without considering its security risks.

"A worse problem is when people spoof your own phone number and call 911 in the hopes of generating a SWAT team response on the victim. Tracing these calls is exceptionally difficult and usually outside the resources of most local police.

"Unfortunately there is no immediate solution to that problem besides keeping notes on the call (caller ID and time), and talking to the scammer to elicit as much information as you can and then report them to (the FBI's Internet Crime Complain Center) and the FTC."


Park district at Stone Creek?

"In the Mailbag last week it was mentioned that one of the options being considered for the Stone Creek golf course was have a public agency operate it. Is the Urbana Park District interested?"

Officials from the park district and The Atkins Group met more than a year ago and there was an informal discussion, but nothing came from it. I think a park district takeover of the golf course would be very unlikely. The park district recently acquired 30 acres of undeveloped property across Windsor Road from Stone Creek and has to come up with a plan to manage that site. It also has a number of other active projects in the queue, such as improvements to Crystal Lake Park and the potential expansion of the Kickapoo Rail Trail into downtown Urbana.


Ice House

"Is the Ice House ever going to open again? I see lights on when I drive by some nights."

Happ said there are no building permits in for the old Ice House building at 703 N. Prospect Ave., Champaign.


One last trip

"Will there be a final chance to visit Dr. Howard School before it is demolished?"

The school district will host an open house at the 108-year-old building from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24.

Dr. Howard School was built as a four-room school on land donated by Dr. Hartwell C. Howard, one of Champaign County's first doctors. (The golf course at Lake of the Woods Park in Mahomet also is named for him).

Here are the deets about the open house ...

Dr. Howard Celebration

1117 W. Park, Champaign

Short program at 5:30 p.m.

Food trucks and fun throughout the evening.

No RSVP required.


Traffic laws on private property

"A question for which I can't find a solid answer on the Internet, but I'm sure you can figure it out, Tom: Are state and local traffic laws enforceable on private property? I'm thinking both of publicly accessible property like a parking lot at a mall and not-so-publicly-accessible property like a friends' farm. From what I can tell, it varies jurisdiction to jurisdiction. So, in our fair cities, can I get a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt, or rolling through a stop sign, or letting a kid drive when they don't have a learner's permit?"


I asked retired Judge Michael Q. Jones, who did such a good time as the traffic court judge in Champaign County (among his other duties) that he once found me guilty of speeding and I barely objected.

"If you look at the motor vehicle code it always talks about doing such and such on a highway. The highway can be anything from the interstate to Green Street. But the laws are not enforceable on private property," he said.


Downtown Champaign pedestrian safety

"Has there been any discussion about adding flashing pedestrian lights to the walkways on Walnut Street between University Avenue and Main Street in downtown Champaign? I have seen many near-accidents. It's especially problematic at the walkway in front of Radio Maria, as parked vehicles can make it difficult to see pedestrians who abruptly step into the street."

This summer, said Champaign Public Works spokesman Kris Koester, three projects in the downtown area will attempt to enhance pedestrian safety.

"The first is scheduled for next week, where we will close Neil Street between Main Street and Chester Street to repair the pavement and replace the brick paver crosswalks along Neil Street. That project should last three days," he said. "On Tuesday night (May 1), city council approved over $1.03 million in contracts to complete two additional major projects this summer, scheduled to begin in late May.

"The second of the three is at the Walnut/Logan/Neil/Clark intersection. This project will include the installation of traffic signals and accessible pedestrian signals. Other improvements will include bumpouts at each of the intersection corners to make pedestrians more visible and shorten pedestrian crossing time.

"The third project is at the Walnut and Taylor intersection. This project will add bumpouts at the southeast and southwest corners of the intersection to improve pedestrian visibility."


Architect credits

"I noticed that when The News-Gazette publishes stories and pictures about new developments in the area that include the architect's renderings/drawings, the designers receive no credit for the images they create, but the photographer who takes a picture of those images gets a photo credit in the story. Is there a reason for that? In addition to giving credit where it is due, it would be nice to know if the architects working in our community are locals or out-of-town firms."

Good point. I suspect you were referring to the photos of the drawings of the proposed development in downtown Champaign that includes an expanded Illinois Terminal building and developer Hans Grotelueschen's planned hotel, conference center, sports arena and more.

The maps and illustrations of the MTD's portion of the project were by Champaign-based Ratio Architects.

The maps and illustrations with Grotelueschen's part of the development also were by Ratio.


Barker Road work

"So what's the deal with the 2-mile stretch of Barker Road from Kirby to Curtis? It was fine until about a year ago when it became a gravel road. Just recently I came upon an SUV that had flipped over and was in the ditch. Is there any way to get this repaved or will it stay a gravel road from now on?"

Jeff Sebens, the road commissioner in Scott Township, said the road is scheduled for repair this summer.

"We'll oil and chip it as soon as the weather gets fit," he said. "It'll be back like a normal country road, probably by sometime in July."

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