Tom's #Mailbag, June 8, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, June 8, 2018

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Thanks to many Mailbag readers last week's question about the "White Heath country club" has been answered and explained a lot more thoroughly than it was last week. Kudos to all of you.

But before that we take on a Bag full of new inquiries about criminal cases in Champaign County that result in probation, the proposed downtown arena, a new pizza place, the Ice House, medical marijuana, the I-74/I-57 interchange, the legality of motorized bicycles, a roadside memorial, MTD service, construction along the Canadian National Railroad tracks and the you-know-what restaurant.


Medical marijuana policy

"My unfortunate wife .. suffers from constant severe pain caused by her serious adult-onset scoliosis. Unfortunately her other medical conditions prevent her from taking the opioids that would normally be used to manage such pain. There has been reliable research and much anecdotal evidence that supports the efficacy of marijuana (CBD) for such chronic back pain. Yet Carle has no doctors who are willing to support the use of marijuana for chronic back pain; and although there are commercial dispensaries in Champaign and in Urbana selling medical marijuana, there appears to be no local medical doctor qualified and willing to issue the medical certification cards that are needed to authorize its purchase for medical use. The nearest seems to be in Chicago or Springfield. Why is that? Specifically, why is no Carle doctor in Carle's Pain Clinic willing to authorize marijuana use for pain?"

Jamie Mullin of Carle provided this response:

"A person's course of treatment is a matter between a patient and their physician. Carle does not have an organizational policy in opposition or support of this potential therapy but the organization has educated its physicians about options and how to be compliant with Illinois laws.

"For physicians who do provide certifications, Carle expects that they will be knowledgeable about the law and follow all state policies and procedures. The role of the physician under the law is to certify that a patient with whom they have an active physician-patient relationship has an eligible condition. Physicians provide this certification directly to the state.

"This is not equivalent to providing a prescription for medical cannabis. Illinois law does not require a prescription. Rather, once a patient completes all of the necessary requirements and is officially certified by the state, they may purchase cannabis in approved quantities from state-approved dispensaries without the need for physician involvement."


Criminal cases that result in probation

"How many criminal felony and misdemeanor prosecutions are there in Champaign County per year and of those, how many result in a sentence of probation?"

The following information comes from Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz and Court Services Administrator Joe Gordon ...

Total cases filed:

2014 — 1,824 felony, 1,376 misdemeanor

2015 — 1,823 felony, 1,340 misdemeanor

2016 — 1,733 felony, 1,198 misdemeanor

2017 — 1,806 felony, 1,143 misdemeanor

2018 to date — 786 felony, 531 misdemeanor


From Champaign County Court Services Administrator Joe Gordon:

Defendants sentenced to probation, which could include cases filed in previous years

2014 — 929 (629 felony, 300 misdemeanor)

2015 — 976 (658 felony, 318 misdemeanor)

2016 — 835 (596 felony, 239 misdemeanor)

2017 — 797 (538 felony, 259 misdemeanor)

2018 January to April — 297 (203 felony cases, 94 misdemeanor)


Rietz said her office reviewed the status of the felony cases filed in 2017 and found the following:

— 15 percent resulted in a prison sentence— 32 percent resulted in probation sentence

— 25 percent were dismissed for various reasons, including dismissed as part of a plea agreement in another case, dismissed due to the defendant being a fugitive returned to another state, dismissed due to federal prosecution, dismissed due to completion of a diversion program, or dismissed based on issues with the ability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial

— 28 percent are open and unresolved


Ice House update

"While driving by the Ice House on Sunday along Prospect Avenue I noticed customers on the patio. Has it reopened?"

It has. Its owners, according to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, are Richard Stone and Adam Shallenburger.

The building at 703 N. Prospect Ave. has had quite a history, according to a review of old city directories. It was first listed in 1927 — during Prohibition — when it was Majors Bros. grocery. By 1934 it had become the Alonzo H. Ferris restaurant. In 1938 — after Prohibition — it became the Charles H. Lyons beer tavern. By the late 1940s it again was a grocery store, the William J. Armstrong food store. A few years later, though, it went back to serving alcohol and has continued to do so for about 65 years: first as Armstrong's Tavern, then Jack Strunk's Tavern, then Unk and George's Tavern, then Van's Pit Stop, then Fallon's Ice House and now The Neighbors at the Ice House.


MTD questions

"What are some of the most unusual items that passengers have brought onto an MTD bus? Has anyone tried to move furniture via bus? Has the MTD looked into an on-demand pickup service for low ridership sections/times of routes?"

Karl Gnadt, the managing director of the MTD said he isn't aware of any attempts at bringing large pieces of furniture on the bus.

But, he added, "I do remember that we had a tuba in lost and found once. That made us laugh. How do you forget that you brought your tuba with you on the bus!"

As for your other question he said the MTD administration has been discussing with its board "buying an app service that will function similar to Lyft in low-demand areas. "That conversation has progressed to the point that we've just recently released an RFP for that service. So hopefully by the end of the year we'll be able to launch it in the southwest Champaign area as well as use it for the overnight campus service, SafeRides. This allows us to operate in large non-dense areas with fewer vehicles and to use small vans instead of buses in those areas."


Roadside memorial

"We have noticed a very nice memorial on the corner of (U.S.) 150 and Duncan Road. We have asked numerous people but, no one seems to know who it is for. I cannot remember any wrecks or deaths there so I am asking you for help."

It is a memorial to 19-year-old Justin Shaw of Champaign, who died in a two-vehicle accident at the intersection on April 20.


GC update

"It looks like the property that is/was supposed to become a Golden Corral is up for sale. Has Golden Corral dropped its plans for coming to C-U?"

No. The building permit application for a proposed Golden Corral at 1202 W. Anthony Drive, Champaign, was revised in late May and is still under review.


Motorized bikes

"What is the law concerning motorized bicycles I see racing around town. I regularly see one running up and down Market Street near Wilber Heights. They don't have any lights and are very dangerous cutting in and out of traffic."

Sounds like something the police should be notified of.Here's what Sgt. Ryan Cape of the public information office of the Illinois State Police said about those bikes:

"Illinois law says 'low-speed gas bicycle' has operable pedals and a gas motor of less than 1 horsepower. Top speed must be limited to 20 mph while carrying a person who weighs 170 pounds or less. You can ride it without a license, insurance and registration as long as you are 16 or older.

"All riders are supposed to follow the rules of the road and use hand signals when making turns. Clearly this is not done by many who bicycle. I think many agencies are not looking to make traffic stops on motorized bicycles unless an individual officer would observe an incident he deems to be a clear violation and safety concern for the bicyclist and motoring public."


New pizza place

"I see that a new building is under construction at or near 407 E. University in Urbana. It's near the Carter's Furniture store. Any idea what's coming there?"

The project is for a multi-tenant commercial building anchored by Domino's Pizza, said Brandon Boys, Urbana's economic development manager.


Interstate interchange

"About the 57/74 interchange story: Why is the current configuration deemed so dangerous? Isn't it the same as other interchanges built during the same era? Are we the only community experiencing trouble?"

Kensil Garnett, the Region 3 engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said that "operational and safety concerns" at the more than 50-year-old interchange prompted IDOT to "identify funding for preliminary engineering in the FY 2012 Annual Program.

"The on and off ramps are very tight cloverleaves with limited space to enter and exit the respective interstates. Additionally, they have speed limits of 25 miles per hour," he said. "The old cloverleaf design of the current interchange is functionally obsolete and it needs to be replaced with a safer, modern interchange.

"IDOT has completed Phase I with their study approved by the Federal Highway Administration. Phase II, which includes plan preparation, land acquisition, utility relocation and environmental mitigation is currently ongoing.

"Phase III, the construction phase, can consist of several construction seasons for a large project. Projects of this magnitude take time. District 5 is working to have construction plans for the replacement of structures affected by the interchange reconfiguration available for a summer/fall 2019 letting contingent on available funding. The district is also working to have plans to construct the proposed ramp connections at the interchange available also."

The entire I-57/I-74 interchange project is in IDOT's multi-year program which covers FY 2019-FY 2024, meaning it should be completed by 2025.


Railroad construction?

"What is all of the construction activity along Curtis Road in Savoy? To the east of Route 45, there is a large amount of dirt excavation that extends to the north along the railroad tracks; and then to the east, well past First Street. Lots of heavy equipment, and large piles of dirt that stretch for hundreds of yards. It looks like they're building a new road running along Curtis, but that doesn't make sense."


"I am writing to see if you know what is going on along the east side of the CN Railroad tracks north from Curtis Road to Windsor Road. There has been a construction crew clearing a roadway at least two lanes wide. The construction is also taking place east of Neil Street to First Street. I am wondering if this has anything to do with the viaduct that was mentioned a few weeks back to be constructed in Savoy at the CN Railroad line."

No, it isn't related to the longterm plans for a viaduct.

"The construction along Curtis Road is part of a large gas main replacement project being done by Ameren," said Savoy Public Works Director Levi Kopmann. "Over the course of the summer, they will be installing a new 12-inch steel gas main east of the railroad tracks from Windsor Road south to Curtis Road, east along Curtis Road, and north along First Street.

"I believe the new pipe will be buried somewhere in the range of 8 inches to 10 inches, which helps explain the large

amount of soil that has been excavated so far."


Water fountain update

Updating a question from April: the drinking fountain at the detention basin in Glenn Park in west Champaign is now open.


Downtown Champaign arena

"If the proposed new arena is built in downtown Champaign will it be privately owned and operated or will the (University of Illinois) own it and operate it with U of I hockey being a main tenant?"

Hans Grotelueschen, the private developer behind the proposed project which also would include a hotel and conference center, office space and expansion of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District's Illinois Terminal building, said, "The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics will definitely be the main tenant and operate the facility, potentially housing a hockey team as well as women's volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics. Regarding ownership, we're exploring all options with our partners at the University, MTD and the city of Champaign.


Hickory Hill Hunt Club

And about that White Heath country club question last week ... I got more than 30 emails from people about the Hickory Hill Hunt Club, which operated in the White Heath area of Piatt County from 1959 to 1973.

So first of all, thanks to all of these people who kindly informed me about the hunt club: Kip Pope, Clayton Pope. Diana Delaplane, Colleen Maxwell, Joe Rank, Tammy Benson, Rick Orr, Harvey Hodges, Ed Williams, Colleen Kidd, Anna Mary Hays, Roger Clark, Dianne Beetz, Deborah Baker, Erik Ensrud, Lin Warfel, Andy Harner, Steve Morgan, Kathy Neef, Peggy Wells, Chalie Shapland, Alan Rankin, Dave Hinton, Doug Rettig, David Sholem, Lou Liay, Fred Kroner, Judy Ring, Peggy Klausner, Beth Carey, Alan King, David Marker, James VanDeventer, Andy Busch and Jim White. There undoubtedly are more; I just lost count.

Many of them offered recollections of the club's brief history — weddings, high school post-proms, bachelor parties and other events held at the club that formerly had been the 60-acre country estate of Champaign attorney Ray F. Dobbins. He sold it in 1959 to a partnership that included Bill Parkhill and Bud Smith of Champaign and H.H. Hanlon of Kenilworth.







Membership brochures for the club — obtained from the current owners of the hunt club grounds — Ann and Larry Brown — said it was "unsurpassed in recreational and dining facilities. The large attractive club house and surrounding acres provides year 'round recreation for the entire family and a wide variety of social activities to delight one and all.

"Nearby is the Hunter's Cabin, the picnic grounds and the area for trap and skeet shooting. Inside the members relax in the spacious air conditioned living room and cocktail lounges, dine in the Sherwood Forest Room and swim in the heated indoor pool."

There also were outdoor pools and tennis courts and two ponds for fishing.

For several years there were stories on the "society pages" of the local newspapers about events at the club and then suddenly they stopped. The last story, published in the old Champaign-Urbana Courier in 1973, described a raid on the club during which investigators from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission shut down its bar.

"The action was taken because the club was selling liquor in an area where sales are not authorized. The club is in Sangamon Township, which is 'dry,'" the Courier reported. "Judge Sarah Lumpp of Champaign issued the search warrant which permitted the investigation. The club's stock of liquor was confiscated.

"Edward O'Rourke has operated the private club for the last year, leasing the property from the Hickory Hill Corp., which formerly operated it for a number of years. Liquor had been sold there for about 12 years."

That's how Jim White remembers it as well.

"The chief fly in the ointment was that Sangamon Township was dry, so they could not get a liquor license," he wrote. "They filed a petition to put the question of Sangamon remaining dry up for a vote. The township voted to remain dry. No liquor license, no hunt club. They finally subdivided the remainder of the property."

Kathleen Piatt, who is now the supervisor in Sangamon Township, is skeptical. Although her family was not a member of the club, she remembers learning to swim there as a young girl.

"It was really stunning in its day," said Piatt. "But it was very isolated. I just think it couldn't be sustained with all the costs to keep it open. But it was a very posh place."

Larry Brown, who lives on a portion of the grounds of the old hunt club and once operated a chain of 25 outlet-type clothing stores in Illinois and Indiana and the Old Mill Pottery store in Champaign, said he had heard the story of the raid and subsequent closure of the club "but I don't know that officially. It may be, but all I know is that it closed in 1973."

He's owned the clubhouse and 10 acres of the property since 1976, and is busy renovating it this summer, including rebuilding the outdoor tennis courts and refurbishing the 35,000-gallon indoor pool. The outdoor pool, which has a capacity of 135,000 gallons, is not used.

"When it was the hunt club I wasn't here but it was pretty fantastic," he said, taking me on a tour of what had been the dining room, club dressing rooms, a small snack bar, a library, the lounge and bar. "It's a big house. There are four fireplaces and five stairways."

He said he purchased the property from Bill Parkhill after he had been bargaining with him about purchasing three lots of the Lake Park subdivision south of Champaign.

"He had June (Parkhill) took us out to see it," he recalled. "As soon as we rounded the corner we saw this and said, 'Wow.' We had come from Spain, where I has served in the Air Force, and there were mountains. We saw this and right away we knew we were going to buy this house. We negotiated a great place and bought it."

Brown, who is a youthful 78, said he isn't fixing the property to sell it.

"We're fixing it to enjoy it," he said. "I figure I've got 20 more years here."

The rest of what had been Ray Dobbins' country estate was subdivided and now includes dozens of homes.

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