Tom's #Mailbag, May 27, 2016 – Champaign/Urbana News

Got a question for Tom? Ask it here

It’s a time of transition in central Illinois. Most schools are out, hockey season (for me) has ended, the Danville Dans return to Danville Stadium Tuesday night, the Legislature is getting ready to blow out of Springfield (leaving a bigger mess than ever) and the mailbag has an outdoor feeling: lots of questions about streets and roads, old buildings, water, gasoline prices and that much-rumored Garth Brooks concert next spring. Plus a long list of past mayors of Urbana and the lowdown on electronics recycling.

Vacant frat house

“There is a large, apparently empty frat house on the corner of 4th and John streets. Any idea what happened there and its future?”

That is the Alpha Delta Phi house at 310 E. John St., Champaign. It was built in 1924 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s a really neat house, actually,” said Ashley Dye, senior assistant deans of students at the UI.

Unfortunately the chapter closed one year ago, said Dye. Its alumni board closed the chapter because of low membership.

The building has been vacant but the national organization hopes to return to the UI campus. There is no plan for that, however.

Non-flowing fountains

“Why can’t the University of Illinois keep the water features in the Upwells sculpture on the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Quad working?

It’s a beautiful place where people gather but all the fountains there never seem to be working at the same time. This summer all three of the mound-like fountains are off. Budget problems can’t be the only answer because it’s been like this every summer.”

Steve Breitwieser of the UI’s Facilities Services department said that FS performs annual startup maintenance on campus fountains just before commencement ceremonies.

“During that process on this year, it was determined that bubbler and filter pumps were not working properly,” he said. “Repairs are planned for this summer and will include installing new motors to operate the three lower-flow water features as well as making other improvements to the fountains.

“Battery backup and sump pump capabilities will be added to assist with better drainage. This will help establish more consistent performance for the fountains by keeping the equipment area dry, especially during periods of heavy rain.”

Solon House update

“Solon House — what’s the latest? Anyone tried to make that a bed and breakfast?”

“We’re not going to do that,” said Thomas Garza, executive director of the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA), which owns the Solon House at 503 S. State St., C. “During the time it was for sale (a few years ago) at least a couple of people, I remember, looked at it with hopes of doing something like that. But the amount of money it would require to fix the place was just too great and they couldn’t see a way forward financially.

“Now that it’s about a half a million dollars closer to being finished maybe somebody will revisit that idea.

“But we never had any intention of doing something with the place ourselves. We’re just trying to save it and/or find someone else to do it. We’re not set up to own property.”

Garza said PACA is “two to three months” from finishing its work on the house, which will be 150 years old next year.

“But we’re just doing the structural, exterior stuff — the really deteriorated stuff, the porches, the masonry, the roof, all that kind of stuff. We’re getting it to a nice shell. Someone with more money than I have is going to have to redo all the mechanicals, the plaster, the wiring and all that stuff. We didn’t do that stuff because we didn’t know how someone was going to use it.”

PACA was awarded a state grant for some of the preservation work but — surprise! — the state didn’t honor its commitment of more than $70,000 to restore the building next to Edison Middle School. So PACA borrowed the money to pay the contractors for their work.

Garza said PACA will put the Italianate property, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, on the market this fall or perhaps next spring.

For now, he said, he doesn’t know what the price would be to purchase the Solon House.

Electronics recycled

“Since Illinois landfills and recyclers no longer take TV’s, how will those collected at last Saturday’s electronic recycling event be disposed of?”

Susan Monte, Champaign County’s recycling coordinator, said much of that material — and there was a lot of it — is moving a couple of states east.

“In Illinois, the number of electronics recyclers that accept cathode ray tube TV’s for recycling is down to only a few companies. The company providing electronics recycling services at Saturday’s collection event (Advanced Technology Recycling) removes the cathode ray tubes from the TVs and monitors collected and ships these to a processor in Ohio that specializes in glass processing,” she said. “Saturday’s collection event was the largest that ATR has participated in to date, with an estimated 100 tons of electronics (mostly cathode ray tube TVs) collected.

“Beginning in program year 2016, in addition to being registered with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, all recycling or refurbishing facilities used by collectors of ‘covered electronic devices’ and ‘eligible electronic devices’ were required to be accredited by the Responsible Recycling (R2) Practices or e-Stewards certification programs or any other equivalent certification programs recognized by the U.S. EPA.

“The registration and certification requirements of the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act, together with the higher costs associated with specialized glass cleaning process necessary for recycling and safe handling of the cathode ray tubes of TVs and monitors, are some contributing reasons for the shortage of TV recycle options available to residents in Illinois.”

The biggest reason for the shortage of TV recycle options, she said, is that the funding mechanism in the law has proved to be insufficient to meet the state’s needs.

“Local governments and their taxpayers are bearing more and more of the financial burden to provided continued e-scrap collection in Illinois — and that is proving to be unsustainable,” said Monte.

More information regarding efforts toward a solution based on a product stewardship approach to improve the e-scrap collection program in Illinois is available at the Illinois Product Stewardship Council website

Wrong way on Randolph

“I live off of Randolph Street in Champaign and have frequently noticed cars driving south (i.e., the wrong way). Is there more that can be done to tell unknowing drivers that Randolph is a one-way street? And how serious an issue is wrong-way driving in Champaign and Urbana?”

Randolph Street is properly signed and marked in accordance with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, said Kris Koester of Champaign’s public works department. “These signs and markings include one-way directional signs placed at intersections and all white pavement markings, in addition visual cues exist, like cars parked facing one direction on both sides of the street and traffic signal heads only facing one way.

“There are locations where additional signage has been installed in response to requests, based on crash reports and observations. There is no overarching issue that we are aware of with wrong-way driving in Champaign.

Potholed street

“I’ve driven Locust Street from Green Street to Armory Street in Champaign and can’t believe the shape that road is in, a pothole every inch. Any word when it will be repaired?”

Not for quite some time, said Koester.

“Street maintenance continues to be a priority for the public works department. There is currently a backlog of work, based on pavement conditions and available funding resources. Locust Street has tentatively been identified as a work location in the three-year work plan for resurfacing in 2018,” he said.

Bone Yard Branch

“Does anyone know how the Boneyard Creek got its name?”

On page 714 of J.O. Cunningham’s indispensable “History of Champaign County,” he writes of the American Indian leader known as “Old Soldier,” who was a native of Champaign County and “could relate to the settlers many incidents of its history,” including the winter of the “big snow” when the depth, he said, reached seven feet.

“To him may also be ascribed the name borne by the creek known as the Bone Yard Branch, which meanders through Urbana from the west. He told the early settlers that its banks had always been covered with the bones of many animals, some of which were left there by the camping parties, while many of them were the bones of animals which perished of hunger during the big snow.”

Does Garth Brooks still have it?

“Do you think Garth Brooks is still popular enough to fill up Memorial Stadium?”

This apparently is related to an item in last week’s mailbag about the possibility of a big Brooks concert at Memorial Stadium next April.

Last month Brooks drew more than 90,000 fans for six shows in Des Moines.

He’s also doing six shows in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, June 9-12, and already has sold more than 86,000 tickets, which according to Saskatoon radio station CKOM, initially was at a pace of 42 seats per second. Face value is $79.98.

Yes, I think he could fill the stadium, which has a capacity of 60,670, but presumably would be expanded for an outdoor concert.

Action on Cardinal Road

Reader Ryan Springer, following up on another item in last week’s mailbag, said he filed an online complaint with the Illinois Commerce Commission about “the need for automatic railroad warning devices at the Cardinal Road highway-rail grade crossing.

“I received an email today from Michael E. Stead, Rail Safety Program Administrator, Illinois Commerce Commission, with information that they have plans to install automatic flashing light signals and gates,” said Springer.

“A project to install automatic flashing light signals and gates at the Cardinal Road crossing is part of the Commission’s FY 2017-FY 2021 Crossing Safety Improvement Program 5-Year Plan, which was published April 1, 2016,” wrote Stead. “Assistance from the Grade Crossing Protection Fund has been programmed in FY 2020 (after July 1, 2019) for the project. Grade crossing safety improvement projects included in the ICC Crossing Safety Improvement Program 5-Year Plan are selected from project applications submitted by local agencies or projects identified by staff analysis.”

Wildlife in the basin

“What’s the story behind the three white ducks living at the Second Street Detention Basin? Did they just come on their own, or did someone introduce them there?”

Dorothy Chappel, who lives across the street from the basin at Skelton Place, said she thinks the ducks have been there “two or three years” and that they were brought there by “people from the university.”

T.J. Blakeman, a senior planner with the city of Champaign, said he doesn’t know how they got there but that he thinks they’ve been there two years.

“There’s a lot of nature there,” he said. “We have turtles, lots of fish, geese, ducks and (Thursday) I saw a picture that someone posted that our beautiful blue heron is back,” he said. “They like it down there.”

Mayors of Urbana

“Could you provide a list of the mayors that have served in Urbana over the years?”

Here’s what we could find, courtesy of the Urbana city clerk and the Champaign County Historical Archives:

1855-56 Archa Campbell

1856-57 Ezekiel Boyden

1857-58 Jesse Jaquith

1858-59 Ezekiel Boyden

1859-61 Charles A. Hunt

1861-64 Edward Ater

1864-66 Joseph W. Sim

1866-67 Clark R. Griggs

1867-68 Eli Halberstadt

1868-69 James M. Davies

1869-70 Myron S. Brown

1870-71 William J. Ermentrout

1871-74 Eli Halberstadt

1874-75 Royal A. Sutton

1877-80 J.P. Cunningham

1880 John Gere

1880-89 Samuel T. Busey

1889-91 C.A. Besore

1891-93 James H. Brownlee

1893-95 William B. Webber

1895-99 George W. Hubbard

1899-1901 Samuel C. Fox

1901-05 John A. Glover

1905-07 Samuel C. Fox

1907-09 Samuel W. Love

1909-11 George W. Hubbard

1911-13 Franklin H. Boggs

1913-17 Olin L. Browder

1917-19 Chester W. Richards

1919-1924 James Elmo Smith

1924-25 Frank M. Leslie

1925-27 W. F. Burres

1927-29 A. W. Smith

1929-33 Reginald C. Harmon

1933-35 Lyman M. Hurd

1935-39 John Gray

1939-49 George F. Hurd

1949 Joseph R. Somers

1949 Larry W. Taylor

1950-55 Glen E. Chapman

1957-68 Stanley B. Weaver

1969 Donald Skadden

1969-72 Charles M. Zipprodt

1973-76 Hiram Paley (left)

1977-93 Jeffrey T. Markland

1993-2005 Tod Satterthwaite

2005-2016 Laurel Prussing

Memorial Day gasoline prices

“I keep hearing that gasoline prices are lower this Memorial Day than in years. How good?”

Today the average price for a gallon of regular in Champaign-Urbana is $2.39 a gallon (although it’s as low as $2.33 in town and $2.25 in Tuscola). A year ago on this date it was $2.60 a gallon in Champaign.

Nationally, according to AAA, the average gas price today is $2.32 a gallon. A year ago it was $2.74. Two years ago it was $3.66, about the same price as in 2012 and 2013. In 2011 it was $3.79 a gallon.

The Memorial Day that gasoline prices nationally were this low was in 2005.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Curated By Logo