Tom's #Mailbag, July 20, 2018

Tom's #Mailbag, July 20, 2018

Have a question for our veteran reporter? Click here and he'll do his best to track down an answer.

A little bit of everything this week: a downtown development update, a Streetfest update, a McDonald's update, how a new apartment building can mean a lot to Champaign's assessed valuation, a horse-themed subdivision, a change in intersection signal timing after a Mailbag question and the background of an official city seal.

Also, questions and answers about a quiet police siren, an old schoolhouse, a Rodney Davis protestor, missing lane markings and Courtsiders' contributions. Ready, set, go.


Lane markings missing

"I have noticed on several Champaign County highways that the centerline markings have been removed and have been gone for quite some time. What is the reason for removing them?"

"A contractor removed the striping in preparation for our seal coating projects," Champaign County Highway Engineer Jeff Blue said. "We hope to have those roads seal coated next week and then the stripes will be painted back on the roads."


Downtown development update

"Are there any new developments regarding the ice hockey arena adjacent to Illinois Terminal? Would there be a possibility of public curling teams?"

Bruce Knight, director of planning and development for the city of Champaign, notes that the University of Illinois Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is still working on raising the money to fund a full-fledged Division I hockey team that for now would be located at the proposed arena in downtown Champaign.

"The city and developer (Hans Grotelueschen) are also in negotiations on the development as a whole and plan on a city council study session this fall to seek direction on how to proceed," Knight said. "If the project proceeds the intent is to have three sheets of ice, one of which would be for use of the general public and I would think that curling could be an option there."


McDonald's construction

"What is all the construction at the McDonald's on Philo Road?"

A building permit for the McDonald's at 1705 S. Philo Road was issued on June 11 to Earll Construction of Grafton. The project cost indicated is $673,000 for remodeling work that involves both exterior and interior updates and includes facade changes and installation of kiosks, said John Schneider, Urbana's director of community development services.

Incidentally, the kiosks being installed are for self-service ordering stations.


Champaign property values

"We keep hearing about how all these new apartment complexes in Champaign are increasing the city's assessed valuation. Can you get any proof of that?"

As an example I compared the property values of the new apartment complex (Healey Place) at 601 S. First St. in Campustown with its old use as a Picadilly Liquors store. Its assess valuation is now a bit more than $2 million, meaning it has an estimated fair cash value of a bit more than $6 million. Before it was a 5-story apartment building (with a new Picadilly Liquor store on the first floor) its assessed valuation was $186,030. That's a more than tenfold increase.


The horse connection

"I just sent a check to a business on Churchill Downs Street in Champaign. Is there a horse connection to the name?"

Yes, that is part of the Thor-O-Bred Acres subdivision in Hensley Township, northwest of Champaign. Other streets in the development include Laurel Park Place and Belmont Park Lane. The original developer/investors were the late Delten Teuscher, Mohammed Sharabash and Kent Weeks, said Weeks.

The name came from Teuscher.

"He wasn't a racer, an owner or anything like that, just a looker," Weeks said of Teuscher. "He had been to the Belmont and the Kentucky Derby and he just liked going to horse races."


Streetfest cancellations

"Two for two this summer for the Champaign park district and Streetfest being called off because of weather. What happens to all that money that was designated to cover those costs?"

The last Streetfest that was called off has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Walnut Street and University Avenue, said Joe DeLuce, executive director of the Champaign Park District.

It will feature the music of Kayla Brown, Craig Russo's Latin Jazz Project, and Mojo — a tribute band to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There also will be free face painting and balloons for children and TCBY ice cream treats.

But to your question, "Since the events were cancelled the only costs the district had were for staff time and cancelation fees for some rental items, the performers and vendors did not need to be compensated," he said. "We are also working to transfer some of the funds from these events into the upcoming Flannel Fest in the fall and possibly move it to a downtown Champaign location. Any funds not spent this year will stay within the park district budget and are then re-distributed into the following year's budget."

Flannel Fest? I looked that one up. Here's what it says at the park district web site: "Saturday, October 6, 2018 11:00 am-4:00 pm Hessel Park.

“Get your flannel ready and join us for a day of fun fall festivities! Watch the Timberwork’s Lumberjack Show perform demonstrations throughout the day including log rolling, axe throwing, and speed carving. Enjoy music, art, games, crafts, food trucks, and much more at this fall event!”


East Urbana traffic control

“Who controls the traffic light at U.S. 150 and Smith Road in Urbana and can it be reprogrammed to allow more traffic flow for the east/westbound traffic? There is a lot of traffic in the morning and evening commute.”

Your question has prompted a change at the intersection, said Kensil Garnett, Region 3 engineer for IDOT.

The traffic signal is operated jointly between the Illinois Department of Transportation and the city of Urbana, said Garnett. “Each direction has a minimum and a maximum time that it can be green, and vehicles traveling across detector loops in the pavement extend that time from the minimum up to the maximum. As long as there is a steady flow of traffic east/west, the ‘green’ should stay up for the maximum of 40 seconds, which is appropriate given the traffic volumes traveling through the intersection.

“If there are vehicles waiting on the side street and the controller senses a ‘gap’ in the east/west traffic, it will shut it off to service that side street. It is possible if east/west vehicles are not staying grouped together, the signal will prematurely sense that gap in traffic, and will switch to service the side street.”

Garnett said that “as a result of your query, we have adjusted that setting in the controller to force a bigger gap to be present before it will go to service the side street.”


Armory is an Avenue

“With respect to West Armory, the post office uses Armory Street. However, the Champaign street signs use Armory Avenue, which causes confusion, such as when using a navigator. Is there a reason for the discrepancy?”
According to recorded subdivision plats, Armory Avenue was originally named Davidson Street, said Kris Koester, a spokesman for the Champaign Public Works Department.

“Sometime in the 1920s or ’30s, Davidson Street was changed to Armory Avenue. We could not locate any official documentation on the street name change. However, we did locate some old Champaign County atlases that read ‘Armory Avenue’,” he said. “Currently, all city street signs read ‘Armory Avenue’ except one in the University of Illinois’ jurisdiction that reads ‘Armory Drive.’ That one is currently in the process of being changed.

“We checked City GIS records with a couple of other online map systems and discovered they are correctly labeled as ‘W Armory Avenue’ and ‘E Armory Avenue.’ We also checked with our local post office and they report they use ‘Armory Avenue’ when referring to the street. The USPS online Zip Code look up also corrected ‘Armory Drive’ to ‘Armory Avenue’ when an address was entered.”


Subtle police siren

“I witnessed an event today that had me wondering. I was first in line for a red light at the intersection of Springfield and Prospect when a police cruiser approached the intersection from the opposite direction. The officer was running full lights and sirens when they approached the intersection and cars were not yielding. I’ve noticed how quiet the police cruiser sirens are so I specifically watched the faces of the other drivers for a reaction. They never even glanced in the direction of the cruiser so I don’t think they were ignoring them or trying to ‘beat’ them, they simply didn’t hear or see them. Is there a reason the police sirens are so quiet? I had a window open a few inches and I barely heard the siren from two to three car lengths away. This seems kinda dangerous for officers trying to negotiate traffic in an emergency. I think the last thing you’d want in a siren is ‘subtle.’ Any reason they don’t crank up the volume?”

We got this response to your question from Tom Yelich, assistant to Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb for community services:

“Champaign Police vehicle sirens are manufactured by Federal Signal and use a ‘ES100’ siren — a widely used siren for police vehicles. The output for these sirens meet the requirements and performance standards of the National Institute of Justice set forth by The Law Enforcement and Corrections Standards and Testing Program.

“The siren volume is not adjustable; however, certain external elements outside of police control, such as wind direction and speed, may impact the audible level of sirens.

“In some cases, tactical advantage may be gained by responding to certain in-progress calls without emergency sirens and/or lights so that suspects are not made aware of police presence.

“In any case, officers must exercise great caution, and emergency sirens and/or lights should not be relied upon in lieu of officer diligence and discretion to ensure safety of all others during an emergency response or pursuit.

“For more information on CPD’s policy address on the use of lights and sirens, please see: Policy Response to Calls, Motor Vehicle Pursuits, and Forcible Stopping.”


City seals

“What’s the history behind Champaign’s seal? What about Urbana’s? Who designed them?”

Former Champaign Mayor Dan McCollum, who also is the city historian, said “the city’s seal stamp shows agricultural images, and dates back to the 19th century, possibly as far back as 1860 when a vote was taken to incorporate as a city. The actual incorporation was recognized in 1861 when a second vote was taken. Note, nevertheless, the date on the seal is 1860. The seal is still in the City Building. That far back, my guess is that the seal was a commercial job, possibly from design offerings but its origins lost in the sands of time.”

Another city-used image, which uses the City Building, is not the city seal, he said.

“It was selected by the city manager (Steve Carter) while I was mayor. There were no objections from council members who, like Steve Carter, are justifiably proud of the iconic, art deco structure,” McCollum said.

People at the Urbana Free Library and the city of Urbana so far have been unable to track down a complete history of that city’s seal. We’ll update this question as information becomes available.


Rodney Davis protestor

“Almost every day around noon there is a man walking outside of U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis’ Champaign office, holding a sign. Who is he and what is his complaint?”

That’s Benjamin Beaupre of Champaign, who describes himself as a Libertarian who also is a big supporter of the Second Amendment. But he is no fan of Congressman Davis or Donald Trump.

“I started this with the House investigation (of Russian interference in the 2016 election) ending (in early March) without them actually interviewing all of the witnesses. They had people come in who didn’t answer questions. They didn’t get answers. So after Rodney didn’t stand up for that it broke my heart because we were attacked. I voted for Rodney. I thought he was the moderate I thought he was and he’s gone all-in with Trump, or he’s been silent when about important things,” Beaupre said. “I’ve been coming out here once or twice a week, less often when it was hot.”


Courtsiders contributions

“In a commercial that ran on one of your radio stations, the car dealer Jennifer Shelby says the booster club raised money to buy team time-out benches for the women basketball team. Could the DIA really not spring for those? Something tells me that if this were the men’s team, Brad Underwood wouldn’t have to turn to donors to pay for stools.”

The Courtsiders have long been a very passionate and generous booster club for the Fighting Illini women’s basketball team, said Kent Brown, associate athletic director for the UI athletic department.
“Each year, the club works with the coaching staff in identifying some way they can directly support the program, while providing relief to the program’s operating budget. The same can be said for the Rebounders Club and men’s basketball. By supplying items like this, it allows resources to be used for other things in support of the team members,” he said.


Pigeons at airport

“I was at Willard Airport last week and saw several pigeons. It seems odd for there to be pigeons at the airport and not at the park or downtown.”

It’s not odd at all. According to a 2008 research paper by Piotr Matyjasiak of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, one of the most dangerous species of birds at airports are pigeons and feral pigeons.

“These social birds live on grain, seed and fruits. Feral pigeons often forage on newly sown crop fields or on crop residues. Feral pigeons can live on food remains. They can wander in flocks near buildings of the airport terminals and in the airside zone, or around built-up areas surrounding the airport,” he wrote. “They can visit in large numbers wooded areas surrounding airports.”

Pigeons and birds of prey accounted for 3 to 15 percent of bird strikes at airports in the United Kingdom, he said.

Old rural schoolhouse

“There’s a red brick building on Curtis Road in the country southeast of Urbana that looks like it was a school. Was it?”

Yes, and we answered this question in 2016. It was the Silver School, which closed in 1949 and was sold by the Urbana school district in 1966. Here’s a link to the 2016 Mailbag answer ...


Another view of the Corral

“What is with readers’ infatuation with Golden Corral? We have a plethora of great, independent places to eat that people should try giving their business to instead of worrying when we will get the next gross buffet in town. It’s just mind boggling that folks could love the place that much.”

Hey, you sound like me. Can I send all the CG questions and phone calls to you?

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