This week in the Mailbag: checking a David Foster Wallace story, checking up on a parole hearing for a man who killed five children more than 50 years ago, and checking out a long-rumored retail development at Mattis and Springfield in Champaign.
Also: chain restaurant news, the Urbana police body camera policy, the history of the wind chill index, street improvement projects this year in Champaign, and the winds inflicting problems on the WDWS transmitter.
Upcoming parole hearing for convicted murderer
"I am longtime friend of the niece and (the late) sister of late Mr. William Cox in Mattoon. I knew Mr. and Mrs. Cox, the parents of the Cox children killed by Charles Fuller. My friend said since her mom passed away, she does not know when the next parole hearing is for Fuller. Would you happen to know?"
The parole hearing for Fuller — who now goes by Thomas Fuller
— is scheduled to be heard by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board on Aug. 1, said Jason Sweat, chief legal counsel for the board.
"Please let your readers know that they or the family members of Mr. Cox are always welcome to register with the Board, as victims of Mr. Fuller's offenses under Illinois law, both for purposes of notification regarding hearings and in order to voice their concerns or meet with Board Members to protest Mr. Fuller's release," Sweat said.
You and others who want to comment about Fuller's release can email the board at PRB.VictimServices@illinois.gov or write to:
Illinois Prisoner Review Board
Victim Services Unit
319 East Madison Street, Suite A
Springfield, Illinois 62701
I wrote about the Fuller case last year. In April 1968, the 18-year-old senior at Mattoon High School shot and killed five of the 11 children of Mr. and Mrs. William Cox, who lived on a farmstead eight miles northwest of Mattoon. The victims, ages 16 to 5, all had been shot in the head. One child had been shot seven times. Fuller was the boyfriend of 16-year-old Louise Cox, who was not among the victims.
Here's a link to that column ... http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2018-05-02/tom-kacich-fifty-years...
"Did Champaign experience a tornado or any other kind of newsworthy weather in June 1978? In his 1990 essay 'Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley,' David Foster Wallace claims to have had a perilous encounter with a tornado while playing tennis in Hessel Park on or around June 6, 1978; however, Wallace was not immune to exaggerating or falsifying certain details in his non-fiction. For instance, in the same essay, he cites Philo as his hometown. In fact, Wallace grew up in Urbana and, according to a 2010 article by Charles B. Harris citing the late author's father, likely never even set foot in Philo. Did Wallace also take creative license with the alleged Champaign tornado? Can you please help solve this Wallace weather whodunit?"
June 1978 appears to have been a pretty humdrum month, weatherwise. According to a map of Champaign County tornadoes, published on the website of the State Climatologist Office for Illinois, there was no tornado in Champaign or anywhere else in Champaign County throughout the entire year of 1978. The map shows that there have been tornadoes within the city of Champaign in 1967, 1970, 1971, 1993, 2001, 2003 and 2006.
And data from the Midwest Regional Climate Center shows that temperatures that month ranged from 93 to 49, precipitation amounted to just 1.96 inches and the heaviest one-day rainfall was 1.02 inches.
June 6 was particularly unnoteworthy: high of 81, low of 60, a trace of precipitation.
West Champaign development
"What is the latest on the new Champaign Starbucks planned in new complex that was supposed to open at the Springfield Avenue Development? I thought there was going to be a new complex development at the northeast corner of Mattis and Springfield according to Ramshaw Real Estate."
Not too many years ago this was the site of the little Primitive Baptist Church and more recently the New Fellowship Corner, home of the Champaign-Urbana Alcoholics Anonymous community.
The site was cleared in 2017 and has been the source of all kinds of speculation, including a new CVS pharmacy.
Now, Lauren Ramshaw of Ramshaw Real Estate said the company "will develop and manage a new retail center" at the corner.
"Union Square will be a 12,000 square foot retail center with Starbucks as its lead anchor," she said. "Plans and permits are currently being submitted to the city. Construction will begin this spring with projected completion in early fall."
To put a 12,000 square foot center in perspective, that's the size of the Philo Commons development at 1720 S. Philo Road, Urbana, or the strip mall at 1903 N. Neil St., Champaign, across from Market Place Shopping Center, that features seven shops including the Lacey's Place video gaming parlor, a nail salon and a Verizon store.No permit applications have yet been submitted to the city of Champaign.
"What is being built in the 800 block of East Main Street in Urbana, where the former Collins gas station was? The old building was torn down and a new one is in the process of being built, but I don't see a sign indicating what will be there."
A permit was issued to Dreamscape Custom Homes, Inc. on Oct. 15, 2018, for the construction of a building for a convenience store, said John Schneider, Urbana's community development services department.
"When can we expect WDWS-AM to be broadcasting at full power again?"
The station's transmitter experienced problems during the high winds on Monday and has been at reduced power since, said News-Gazette Vice President Mike Haile. He didn't want to risk anyone's safety on the 450-foot tower during this week's poor weather — when wind gusts reached 41 mph and for 36 hours were consistently above 20 mph — and delayed any tower work until Saturday. That's when temperatures are expected in the 40s with winds below 10 mph.
He said he's hopeful the station will be back at full power this weekend.
As a side note he said that listeners have made use of live streaming and that the number of online listeners tripled this week.
Old IGA/County Market store
"I've recently seen work being done on the old County Market (on Kirby Avenue across from Jarling's). Has someone finally decided to do something with that building?"
There has been some minor demolition work going on, but no permit applications have been submitted for new work, said Larry Happ, Champaign's building safety supervisor.
Upcoming road rehab
"Are there any plans in the near future to repave Windsor Road between Prospect and Mattis?"
Here's some good news from Kris Koester, spokesman for Champaign's public works department: Windsor Road between Prospect Avenue and Mattis Avenue will be repaved during the 2020 construction cycle.
The 2019 construction cycle includes:
— repaving of Bradley Avenue from State Street to Carver Drive;
— the MCORE Project 4 (Wright Street and Armory Avenue) construction;
— reconstruction of Prospect Avenue from Windsor Road to Curtis Road;
— Phase 3 of West Washington Watershed Improvements;
— Bradley Avenue near the I-57 bridge.
Congested area in Champaign
"When will the Mattis/Broadmoor intersection become a four-way stop? Parking be eliminated on Broadmoor in that business block with bus stop? All these issues create traffic jams daily in the area."
There are no plans to make the intersection of Broadmoor Drive and Mattis Avenue into a four-way stop, Koester said. "According to our records, parking is restricted on both sides of Broadmoor Drive to just past the commercial entrances on each side. Parking is also restricted further east on the south side of the street to Lakeside Drive," he said. "If there is a location more specific than that, or if it appears signs are missing, please contact Public Works."
Congested area in Tolono
"Why does the right hand lane of southbound traffic end as you approach Tolono? To me it was built totally wrong. The left lane should end. The law states that slower traffic stays on the right. The left lane is the passing lane. So what happens is that slow drivers stay in the left lane the entire way to Tolono. They bottle up the highway."
Kensil Garnett, the Region 3 engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, explained that during southbound travel on U.S. Route 45, the two southbound lanes come together as they approach the three-lane cross section in Tolono.
"The outside lane is merged into the inside travel lane as the pavement drop is better achieved by design this way.
This is considered a merge area and not a lane drop," he said. "The design allows for future roadway widening to be achieved without disruption to the inside travel lane design."
He also had this interesting observation: "The 2004 Illinois law concerning left lane driving applies to interstate and controlled access highways not to state highways that contain signals and intersections. Therefore, drivers are allowed to use both lanes of U.S. Route 45 to travel as there are left and right turn lanes along this section."
Urbana body camera policy
"The News-Gazette has written several articles about the Urbana Police Department's acquisition and now implementation of body cameras by its officers, most recently in a story on Friday, Jan. 18. So after all this fanfare, why is the police department's policy on body cameras, which is posted on Urbana's official city web site, redacted? It seems like an already-approved city policy should not be redacted, for heaven's sake. Can you ask the UPD to shed light and transparency on this situation?"
Here's a link to the Urbana police body camera policy, which went live in mid-January ...
The redaction you wrote about encompasses four lines of a five-page document.
Nonetheless, Urbana Interim Police Chief Bryant Seraphin explained that it has to do with the radio frequency of the body cameras used by police.
"That chunk they took out has to do with body cameras and frequencies and the potential for tripping up bombing devices. It's an officer safety, tactical component," he said. "We pulled that out. FOIA (the state Freedom of Information Act) allows you to make exemptions for certain types of things. There's a cautionary tale in that paragraph and we decide that we don't need that out for the whole world to see."
"Looks like the Clark Park neighborhood is in the news again, with neighbors arguing about who gets to build what on their property. Any idea how much time the city has spent on dealing with this neighborhood vs. a neighborhood like Garden Hills that could actually use some attention from the city council?"
Bruce Knight, the city's planning and development director, said that "based on our time tracking software my staff has spent somewhere around 300 hours working on processing" the Clark Park neighborhood application for a conservation district.
"Please note," he added, "that this was an application to establish a conservation district that we developed and submitted by neighbors from the area. When an application is submitted it is the City's obligation to process that application no matter how much time it takes."
List of closings
"Is there an opportunity for improvement with the new 'View Local Closings, Cancellations, and Notices' feature at The News-Gazette website? The feature is very hard for me to find on an I-phone. Even on a desktop, it is hard to find specific businesses or schools. Today (Jan. 30), I noticed some school districts reporting both districts and individual school buildings closed, Central Illinois Bank provided five identical messages, and Rantoul Township High School's notice is filed under the name of the district's superintendent. With all of these issues, the old system of listings and posting notifications seemed much better."
"This is a new system, and this was the first real round of closings while utilizing it. We'll try to do a better job in the future of weeding out those closings that get put in multiple times," said News-Gazette Managing Editor Mike Goebel.
Wind chill history
"When did wind chill become a thing?"
The idea of a wind chill measurement has been around since 1940, according to a scientific paper by Dr. Bruce C. Paton at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Here's a link to the paper ... https://www.wemjournal.org/article/S1080-6032(99)70867-7/pdf
According to Scientific American, wind chill "is a mathematically derived number that approximates how cold your skin feels — not how cold your skin actually is. Thanks to blood in your skin and underlying tissue, your body constantly radiates heat, generating a thin boundary layer of warm air on the surface your skin that helps insulate you from the cold. If you stand still in air that is 20 degrees F and there is no wind, your skin will be warmer than 20 degrees F. Wind carries some of that heat away, however, and the faster the wind, the faster the heat loss. Once the wind surpasses 25 mph or so, it whisks away heat more quickly than your body can emit it, leaving your skin exposed to the full low temperature.
"Your nerve endings and brain perceive the rapid drop in skin temperature as extreme, however. Scientists are not sure why this occurs, but they think it is a signal to close down blood vessels in the skin and extremities so more blood can flow to the body's core, to keep your organs warm and keep you alive — even if you lose a finger or toe to frostbite in the process. Wind chill is all about perception, and the wind chill index is an attempt to gauge that perception."
The wind chill index of today is different than the one of 1940.
In 2001, the National Weather Service implemented a new and improved wind chill temperature index.
It "makes use of advances in meteorology, biometeorology and computer modeling to provide a more accurate, useful formula for calculating the dangers from winter winds and freezing temperatures. In addition, clinical trials have been conducted and the results of those trials have been used to verify and improve the accuracy of the new formula," the weather service said. "Led by the NWS, implementation of the standarized WCT Index took place throughout the nation and involved the entire meteorological community, and the media, which plays an important role in explaining the index to the general public. In this way, an accurate and consistent measure has been provided to help the public protect itself against the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia. The index has been implemented in Canada and the United States in order to have a consistent WCT Index for North America."
Shuttered sandwich shop
"On several occasions I've visited Which Wich on campus. I've seen both a sign that says they're hiring and that they've had a plumbing issue since November, yet their doors are locked. Still, that location doesn't come up on the app. Are they closed/closing?"
The lights are on inside but nobody's home at the shop at 512 E. Green St. Its phone has been disconnected, mail is piling up inside its entry door, the shop is no longer listed on the company website and Google says Which Wich is permanently closed.
Fun with Golden Corral
"Is Jeff Foxwothy contracted to do a comedy set at the grand opening of a new Golden Corral? I feel like you need to contact both Jeff Foxworthy's manager and Golden Corral's corporate office to answer my question."
"Just curious. Do you think Golden Corral will invite you to cut the ribbon when their new restaurant opens in Champaign?"
No and no.