Kathy’s #Mailbag, Aug. 25, 2023

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How much money the UI makes from Chief Illiniwek merchandise … how COVID-19 is monitored in the post-testing era … demolition of an old building in downtown Champaign … a local link to the “10-codes” used by law enforcement … nuns as students on the UI Campus … and whether the former Head Start school building in Savoy will be getting a new tenant anytime soon. Oh, and Parkland College’s historic ties to the Himalayan Chimney restaurant. All that and more in this week’s Mailbag.

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Kathy Reiser/The News-Gazette

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Parkland College Archives

NOW & THEN: Himalayan Chimney

Even long-time residents may assume the building at 134 W. Church Street in Champaign has always housed a restaurant, but it’s had … an eclectic history.

The 1950 city directory shows it was a Piggly Wiggly grocery that also occupied 132 and 130 W. Church. After that, it was Eisner Food Store #1.

Older Baby Boomers may remember 134 W. Church as Parkland College’s Student Center in the late ’60s and early ’70s — while Parkland’s brand-new, permanent campus was being developed in northwest Champaign. The 1975 city directory says 134 W. Church was the Parkland College Counseling Office. Before the college’s current campus was completed, Parkland put classrooms and offices wherever officials could find space — mostly, but not exclusively, in downtown Champaign.

Several well-loved restaurants have occupied the building since then. Listings show the Greater Downtown Champaign Food & Beverage Company was there from the late ’70s well into the ’80s. Then came The Bermuda Onion for a while in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Nitaya Jisook’s Nitaya Thai Restaurant was a favorite dining spot there from the mid-1990s through most of 2016. The current occupant of the building, Himalayan Chimney Indian bistro, bar and grill, opened in 2017.

Several commenters on this week’s Now & Then Facebook post said they thought The Great Impasta had been located in this building at the corner of Church and Randolph. Nope. The Great Impasta’s first restaurant was right next door, at 132 W. Church.

(One correction to last week’s Now & Then: Jeremy Motley pointed out that the Rantoul Walmart pre-dated Champaign’s by about three years. Thank you, Jeremy!)

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John Dixon/The News-Gazette

Annual revenues from Chief merchandise

“Officially licensed clothing with the Chief Illiniwek logo is still for sale through various outlets — and presumably, the royalties are going to the owner of the trademark. I assume the UI still owns it. How much income do those royalties bring in every year — and which part of the UI gets to keep it?”

The UI Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Derrick Burson said “the Chief logo continues to be a trademark owned by the University of Illinois. It has been a part of the school’s vintage licensing program, ‘The College Vault,’ along with other older UI logos for many years.

“For the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2023, royalties for Chief logo totaled $6,300. By comparison, the other College Vault items displaying various Illinois vintage logos generated $40,000 in royalties. The overall gross licensing royalties earned by the University of Illinois were $1.9 million in 2022-23.” Burson said the majority of all royalties go to the DIA.

Law enforcement ’10-codes’ developed in Pesotum

“I’ve heard that the ‘10-codes’ used in law-enforcement radio communications were developed right here in Champaign County. Can you find out more?”

That’s a big 10-4. Illinois State Police Trooper Jayme Bufford said “we found some information that indicated in the late 1930s, District 10 (Pesotum) Communications Director Charles ‘Charlie’ Hopper came up with the 10-codes to simplify ISP radio transmissions. This stemmed from recommendations by APCO (the Association of Police Communications Officials) to standardize police radio communications. APCO was founded in 1935.”

By 1940, APCO member agencies in the Midwest had been testing the 10-codes for a few years, and the organization released a standardized set of codes recommended for use across the country. According to an APCO Bulletin at the time, 10-4 meant “affirmative” or “I understand” … 10-6 meant “busy” … 10-24 meant “trouble at station — unwelcome visitors — all units (in) vicinity report at once” … and 10-29 meant “check for wanted.”

My personal favorite is 10-32, “is drunkometer available?” A McGill University webpage tells us the drunkometer functioned very differently from modern breathalyzers: it relied on a color change due to a reaction between alcohol in the breath and acidified potassium permanganate. Without a quantitative scale, it simply relied on the idea that a deeper purple color indicated more alcohol. But I digress.

I found two explanations as to why 10 is the prefix for the codes, though I was not able to confirm them with a definitive source. The first story is that the codes were developed for use in ISP District 10 before they were adapted for broader use, so 10 was a natural choice.

Another explanation is that early radio transmissions often were “clipped” for a fraction of a second at the beginning; the important part of the message was the digit(s) that came after the 10, so it didn’t really matter if part of the 10 was inaudible. It could be that both explanations are true.

Today, some agencies still use the 10-codes while others have switched to plain-language radio transmissions. In the case of 10-4, “OK” has the same number of syllables – so the 10-code doesn’t really save any time.

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First United Methodist Church is planning for a playground at 203 W. Hill St.

Kathy Reiser/The News-Gazette

Demolition in downtown Champaign

“Demolition appears imminent at an old two-story building just north of the Springer Center and west of a city parking lot in downtown Champaign. Who owns it, and what are they planning for that spot?”

Ron Fields, chairperson of the Board of Trustees at First United Methodist Church of Champaign, says the property is about to get an extreme makeover.

“For decades, the address at 203 W. Hill Street in Champaign was home to the AMVETS, an organization of veterans serving their fellow veterans and community. In 2020, a local developer purchased the property with the intent to repurpose the building into apartments,” Fields said.

“In 2023, the First United Methodist Church, whose property is adjacent to this land, purchased the property and plans to tear down the building and create a playground and have age-appropriate play structures for its daycare center. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the daycare within First United Methodist Church.”

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Kathy Reiser/The News-Gazette

Origins of ‘first-name’ streets in Champaign

“How did John, Daniel and the other ‘first-name streets’ in Champaign get their names? Were they chosen simply because they were short and easy to remember, or were they named after specific people?”

I don’t know how all of Champaign’s “first-name” streets got their names — James, Charles, William, et al. — but was able to find out how some of the first few were named. According to a March 30, 1923 article in the Daily Illini, four of Champaign’s most prominent citizens were out touring their properties one morning, and making plans to divide some of their land into lots that could be sold as the city grew. This was sometime prior to 1873. They decided to name four of the streets not after themselves … but rather, after one another. (Or so the story goes!)

The article said Healey Street was named after J.M. Healy (sic), a civil engineer with the Illinois Central Railroad. Daniel Street was named after Daniel Gardner. Chalmers Street was named for Chalmers Sherfy. A Preservation and Conservation Association newsletter article from July-August 1996 tells us Sherfy managed the Cattle Bank in the 1850s, in what was then West Urbana (now Champaign). Sherfy also served as county treasurer.

John Street was named after John Gardner Clark. In a 2022 “forgotten history” presentation at the Urbana Free Library, Carolyn Knox said “in addition to owning over a thousand acres of farmland that is now Champaign, John G. Clark was a contractor with the Illinois Central Railroad, managing hundreds of immigrant laborers, founding member of the First National Bank of Champaign and the Illinois Title and Trust, a pro-abolition supporter of Lincoln, a signatory of the Urbana and Champaign Institute whose building anchored the choice of Urbana for the University of Illinois, (and) founding member of a utility company that lit the community for the first time.”

He also “donated a block of land to John Milton Gregory on Fourth Street, the property for South Side School, streets, and the park property (John G. Clark Park) nestled in a subdivision he designed to benefit commerce in Champaign.” Was Clark Street also named for him? I was unable to find any evidence about that, one way or the other.

Like the reader, I’m curious about other “first-name” street-name origins: William, Charles, James, Edwin, Willis, Russell, Lynn and others — though some of those may have been surnames rather than given names. If you’re a local history buff who can point me to credible documentation about the origins of those other street names, please drop me a note at [email protected].

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Wastewater monitoring for COVID-19

“With the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency in May, I understand there have been some changes to how COVID data are collected and reported. Is C-U one of the areas where wastewater is being monitored to detect community levels and spread of the virus?”

C-U Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde said yes, our local wastewater is tested regularly to detect communitywide levels of the virus that causes COVID-19. The testing in 79 Illinois communities is part of a joint program between the UI System’s Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Department of Public Health.

Laura Clements, who manages the Illinois Wastewater Surveillance System project for DPI, said IWSS “provides over 8.4 million Illinoisans with timely, cost effective, non-invasive, community-level insights on the spread of viruses, now including SARS-CoV-2, influenza A/B and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) A/B.” (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus strain that causes COVID-19.)

Clements said wastewater treatment plants from across the state have volunteered to participate in the program, including the plants that are part of the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District. “These plants send samples twice weekly to University of Illinois-Chicago for processing and analysis, quantifying viral remnants in each sample.

“They are then sent to Argonne National Laboratory for genetic sequencing and analysis to identify SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in each community. DPI and Northwestern University partner on data interpretation and visualization. Results are shared with public health decision-makers, wastewater plant operators and the public through a variety of mechanisms, including iwss.uillinois.edu.”

Remembering nuns on campus in summertime

“Remembering when Catholic nuns were on the UI campus during the summer months and stayed at a sorority house on Wright Street. I don’t think they spend summers here anymore. Can you find out which order they belonged to and other details?”

Rev. Robert Lampitt, head chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the UI, said “I have it on good authority from a priest who served here during the ’80s that the community-in-question was the Dominican Sisters out of Springfield, Ill. He said they were getting advanced degrees in education.

This priest said they lived in a sorority on Daniel street across from C.O. Daniel’s. Maybe KAT (Kappa Alpha Theta)?”

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Kathy Reiser/The News-Gazette

Activity at former school building in Savoy

“Looks like there’s been some recent cleanup activity at the former Head Start school in Savoy. Anything of interest happening there?’

Not right now, anyway. The building started out as the “new” Savoy School in 1947, with additions built in 1958 and 1961, according to the Short History of Savoy, Illinois book. It was used as a public grade school until 1977, by which time the Savoy district had become part of Champaign Unit 4. Today, the Village of Savoy owns the property.

The Champaign County Head Start program moved some of its classes into the school building “probably in the early ‘90s,” according to Dalitso Sulamoyo, CEO of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, which operates Head Start programs locally.

He said the RPC’s most recent lease for the Savoy space ran out this summer, and ongoing staffing shortages have led Head Start to consolidate its programs at facilities in Champaign over the past few years. Plus, most Head Start students live in Champaign, and busing them to a location closer to home makes more efficient use of time and funding.

“The village made it more than affordable for us to operate in that facility, at way below market rate. This decision we made really had to do more with stabilizing the program, due to staffing shortages,” Sulamoyo said.

So what are Savoy’s plans for the building? Village Administrator Christopher Walton said the village “will not be leasing this space for the foreseeable future. Staff will facilitate a discussion with the Board of Trustees regarding future uses of the space at a later time.”

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Concrete streets that last

“In my Champaign neighborhood (John to Kirby, Mattis to Russell), many concrete street sections are stamped with the date they were poured — mostly early 1990s. Nearly all are in great shape after 30 years. Can the city still get this kind of concrete? So many of the concrete streets in our area are in poor shape.”

Champaign Public Works’ Kris Koester said the streets in those areas were platted in the 1950s and 1960s. Many segments in those areas have been patched or partially reconstructed over the past 60 years.

The segments with stamped dates probably were poured as part of a concrete-patching project; Koester said the practice of stamping concrete patches “has gone by the wayside. Some of the other areas of pavement – both some in decent condition and some in need of repair – likely date back to the original construction dates from the 1960s and 1970s. It is likely some or most of the areas in poor condition are part of the original pavement constructions, which are now over 50 years old.”

He said the “design life” of most pavements is about 30 years, although pavements can outperform the design life, especially on local-class streets that tend to see less heavy vehicle traffic. Durability also depends, in part, on the concrete mix used for the pavement. Champaign always requires contractors to use an IDOT-approved mix, but Koester said the pavement mixes change over time depending on what types of rock and cement are available.

“For example, concrete from the first half of the 20th century used river rock, which was extremely durable. There are many river rock streets still in service today in Champaign. However, that source was exhausted at some point and could no longer be utilized.

“Unfortunately, the amount of funding available for the maintenance and reconstruction of pavements is less than the amount needed to replace pavements based on their design life. As a result, oftentimes areas of poor pavement are replaced over time rather than removing all pavement, good and bad, and starting over. Based on the information we have, this has been the case with this area for the most part.”

He reminds readers that if they see specific city-owned streets, signs or other Public Works features that need attention, the department would love to get that information directly from members of the public. In the case of pavement, “we could check against our pavement database and then see if there is any short-term patching work or long-term annual paving work that needs added.”

Champaign Public Works may be reached by phone at 217-403-4700, or via email at [email protected]. The See-Click-Fix app may be the quickest way for smartphone users to report Public Works problems to the City of Champaign.

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Kathy Reiser/The News-Gazette

Ongoing alarm, elevator problems

“Fire crews frequently respond to false alarms at 1806 Cottage Grove in Urbana, and the elevator has been out of order since December — eight months now. How many times will the fire crews come out for false alarms, and what is being done to fix these problems?”

Nick Hanson, the City of Urbana’s building official, says an elevator technician was at the property last week and found a broken cable. “The property owner is currently working with Kone Elevators to make the needed repairs.

“In the past year there has been approximately 10 alarm activations at this property for what the fire department considered a result of a malfunction. If the number of false alarms becomes excessive, the fire department can require substantial modifications to the system(s) and/or the property owner can be fined,” Hanson said.

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Kathy Reiser/The News-Gazette

Traffic lights at Market Street interchange

“The Market Street overpass at I-57 is very congested. Cars exiting from I-57 don’t always stop before turning onto Market Street — and many semi-trucks are exiting to go to the Road Ranger fuel station. The temporary traffic signals have been so helpful. Will they become permanent? Please?”

It seems not even a “pretty-please with sugar and cream” would work in this case. These decisions are based on data, and IDOT engineer Kensil Garnett says the data for “current traffic volumes and characteristics at the Market Street interchange do not meet warrants that are set forth by the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for permanent traffic signal installation.

“These (signals) have only been added as a precaution as part of the I-57/I-74 reconstruction project. These temporary signals will be removed when they are no longer deemed necessary, which may be before the end of the project.”

And longer-term…? “We will continue to monitor these intersections along with all intersections in (IDOT) District 5 and will analyze for signal justification per the MUTCD as traffic volumes approach warrant thresholds.”

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Bringing Casey’s to Champaign/Savoy

“Casey’s General Store has a location in Urbana, and in many smaller towns in our area. Do they plan on coming to Champaign or Savoy anytime soon? Circle K sure could use some competition!”

“Stephanie W.” with the convenience stores’ guest relations office sent us a nice, generic note that said “we’re happy to hear you’d like to see a store in this location. We will share this with our store development team for their consideration. We also recommend submitting your site for consideration (at caseys.com/real-estate). We truly appreciate your suggestion.”

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