Monday, January 30, 2012

More on Polar Bear

WSIL has a video and accompanying story on the Polar Bear event, while Eric Ginnard has photos of attendees.  No indication of any major incidents save for the one train accident.  In 2011, police wrote over 100 citations and one source says Pinch Penny went through over 2000 cases of Corona during the event.

More on Polar Bear and Accident

According to an email I received from a reader, Pinch Penny's security at this year's Polar Bear had increased from last year, with private security people walking the parking lot at both Pinch's and Cali's.  Pinch also reduced the total number of people allowed in the beer garden from last year, allowing new people to enter only when an equal number exited.

It also appears there is a hole in the security fence at almost the exact spot where the man was struck by the train Saturday and that people have used it frequently as a short cut to get back to the Towers, even dragging pallets to the spot to make it possible to cross the muddy ditch.

For those not familiar with Carbondale, the accident location is some distance away from any of the bars participating in the Polar Bear activities.  He would have had to travel several blocks after leaving wherever he was drinking in order to get there.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Polar Bear

In case you hadn't noticed, this is Polar Bear weekend in Carbondale which brings several thousand people into C'dale.  Headquartered at Pinch Penny Pub, it's basically an excuse for lots of drinking, much of it outside.  Hopefully, there will be lots of taxi service or designated drivers around.

Update:  The police are out in force writing tickets for open containers and underage consumption of alcohol and there has been one accident early this morning. According to Mayor Fritzler's Facebook page, a 19 year old man with a blood alcohol content of .273 tried to jump on a passing freight train and failed, causing him to at least lose a leg.

I have to wonder if the bars involved, up to four now in the eleventh year of the event, spend any extra money on security.  They fact that they didn't, choosing to rely solely on the police to help control the event, is one of the reasons Halloween went out of control.  Large quantities of alcohol and large numbers of students never end well.

Update 2:  It appears the original post on the Carbondale for Joel Fritzler Facebook page has been deleted.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Walking Through Downtown

Was walking through downtown and was struck once again by the fact that, once you get south of the Square, it's really hard to maintain foot traffic flow.  Retail areas set up for pedestrians such as malls and business districts like downtown, are set up to promote foot traffic flow.  That's a major problem with the location of the food court at University Mall.  It's set up at the end of a corridor, with the offices of Southern Illinois Healthcare as the anchor to draw foot traffic there.  The result is, last time I checked during the holidays, there was only one restaurant there, leaving 7 spaces empty.

Similarly with downtown, there are too many gaps between buildings to promote customers moving from space to space between the Square and Pagliai's. Much of Washington Street is empty, save for parking, from Newell House to Italian Village.  There are also a large number of open spaced, filled with grass or parking down Illinois Ave., from Walnut to College.  Large breaks in the flow of buildings don't encourage people to move from place to place.

However, I have heard recently of some development plans that would infill several of those empty spaces.  Keeping my fingers crossed that those plans come to fruition

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cheese Please

The place doesn't look like much but if you like cheese, check Ware Grocery at the intersection of Highway 3 and 146, west of Jonesboro. The store stared selling cheese last fall and has the best prices in the area that I have seen.  I figure they are buying surplus from a wholesaler as I picked up a 10 pound bag of English Cheddar trim pieces for $5.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spring Attendance at SIUC

Caught Chancellor Cheng's Morning Conversation this morning and spring attendance figures caught my attention.  It appears spring attendance has declined another 1.9%, though final figures have not released yet. Hopefully the university's marketing plan will start to bear fruit soon, thought it's going to take more than banners and billboards to change the direction of attendance.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Downtown as Tourist Destination

The more I look at downtown Carbondale, the less I see it as a viable place as a tourist destination (Not that I've heard much talk about trying to position it as such).  Save for the area right around the square, the rest of the central business district is flat, the result of decades of replacing multistory buildings with single story ones or even worse, nothing.  There's little photogenic about the downtown area once you move off the square and even the square itself doesn't project a vibe of "Come, linger here. Stroll around and admire my quaint buildings, my charming shops, my landscaping."

Downtown Carbondale works fine as a central business district, even an entertainment district, but it's just not attractive enough to pull tourists into the area and keep them there.  If the town wants to go this route, and I'm not sure it should, it needs a ten or fifteen year plan in order to get there.

What I would like to see happen, and that could happen within a shorter time frame, is re-position Carbondale as the Gateway to the Illinois Wine Country or the Entrance to the Shawnee.  Either (or both) could happen,with focus from the community, within 3 to 4 years,without the major re-development it would take to make Carbondale itself the destination.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Annual Carbondale Classic

Carbondale Main Street, the Carbondale Nightlife and Venegoni Distributing once again work to establish downtown as a drinking destination.  The organizers are having to go outside the traditional downtown area (Pinch Penny Pub) to fill the slate as two long time downtown bars (Stix and Gatsby's) aren't on the list as participating.

The Nightlife, Venegoni Distributing and Carbondale Main Street are getting ready for the 3rd Annual Carbondale Classic. This year’s bar-to-bar putt-putt golf is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, 2012. Check in time for teams will begin at 9:45 and teams will tee off promptly at 10am. Registration has already begun and ends Monday, March 19th.

Teams can register at participating bars or at

All team members must be 21.  The participation fee for a team of four is $100.00 and includes long sleeved tshirts, a chance at prizes and an official scorecard.  This year, a team can also add a caddy (designated driver) who will receive a free hoodie and free non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day.

Last year’s event was very successful and this year we are happy that the following bars and restaurants will be participating in this year’s event: Hangar 9, The Blue Martin, Elks Club, Global Gourmet, Tres Hombres, The Cellar, Sidetracks, Italian Village and Pinch Penny Pub.

Each participating bar will set up their own creative and challenging hole for teams to play. The first place team will receive $500 and a golf package to a local golf course. Second place will receive $300 and third place $200. Winners will be announced at a party hosted by the participating bar with the most teams registered.

Come see what makes Downtown Carbondale the place to be, with this new Carbondale favorite! 
For more information, call the Carbondale Main Street office at 618-529-8040. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oakland Ave. Auto Repair

No sign yet that Oakland Ave. Auto Repair has any plans to move as the shop was directed to do in the letter sent by then Assistant City Manager Kevin Baity last November.  Quite likely they won't either, as the majority of the city council has shown little to no interest in pursuing the matter further.

From the city's viewpoint, I can certainly see why.  The warehouse nee' auto storage facility has sat empty for several years now, gradually deteriorating like many other larger unoccupied buildings in Carbondale (Animal Crackers, Tuscan Lodge, Peerless Linens to name a few).  Now the owners have fixed it up and the repair shop does decent business,generating some sales tax revenue for the city..  I pass the location a couple of times a week and always see a couple of cars inside undergoing repairs.

Also, when Home Rentals sought permission to lease the space to the repair shop, the city gave it, wrongly as it turns out.  Home Rentals, which has proven fairly dogged in its dealings with the city over the years, could validly claim that the company made substantial investments in the building in good faith and take the city to court should the city decide to pursue the movement order.  I'm not a lawyer so have no idea how that would shake out legally, but it certainly seems reasonable from a lay point of view.  Home Rentals, as one of the largest landlords in town, certainly has the money to pursue a legal option, likely moreso than one of the residents of the area, who might want to take action against the city for allowing the business to open up in an area not zoned for it.

New Spa

There's a sign up on the old Pagliai's building on South Illinois announcing the Studio Day Spa.  Presumably, planing for this is further along than the aborted microbrewery ever got last year. By my rough count, if it opens, this will make seven stylists or spas located in the downtown area, giving the bars a run for their money.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vintage Soul

According to the postcard I received, Vintage Soul, a coffee shop, event planning and gently used furniture store, opened at 821 S. Illinois today. That's the location next to Universtees briefly occupied by Jazzy Pops. Further according to the postcard, part of their business plan involves giving back 50% of their profits (would bet net profits rather than gross but neither the website nor the postcard says) to various organizations.  Currently listed are  Ekklesia Homeless Ministry and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Meetings, We've Got Meetings

Busy night this Thursday the 19th.  Sustainability Commission meets at 6 p.m. at the Civic Center. On the agenda, a review of the proposed chicken ordinance (yet again.  I figure it will get OKed by about 2014), bike paths and recycling.

Then, for more local political fun, the CCHS (that's Carbondale Community High School, for those who don't speak acronym) School District #165 Board meets in the high school cafeteria at 7.

Then you only have a week to wait until the Carbondale Elementary School District #95 meeting at 7 p.m. on the 26.

Grant Meeting

The City of Carbondale has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the City’s proposal to submit a grant application for the HOME Single Family Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation (SFOOR) program in Carbondale.  The grant application will be submitted to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.  The SFOOR program provides financial assistance to lower-income owner-occupants who desire to have their homes rehabilitated.  The program is funded by the Illinois Housing Development Authority with HOME funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Persons desiring to comment or offer suggestions on the proposed grant applications are invited to attend a Public Meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, in Room 103 of the Carbondale Civic Center, 200 South Illinois Avenue, Carbondale.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Yogurt Shop

Cool Spoons, a frozen yogurt shop, plans to open on North Giant City Road on March 1.  From their Facebook page (since the website isn't active yet):

Cool Spoons is a new self-serve yogurt shop with an expected grand opening on March 1, 2012. With over a dozen flavors, 50+ toppings, and a custom smoothie bar, Cool Spoons will have a dessert for every taste bud.

Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Closed: Christmas Eve, Christmas day, Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Eve

Economic Impact of SIUC

This report got a lot of attention when it was released last fall.  I just ran across a longer article giving more details. Among some of the highlights:

SIUC has a economic impact on 32 counties in central and southern Illinois.
Every dollar appropriated by the state to SIUC generates about $7.75 in economic activity.
That same dollar generates about 40 cents in tax revenues to both state and local givernments.
Just over 17,700 jobs are created (directly and indirectly) by SIUC.
$357.5 million in research grants generated over the last 5 years.
Those same research grants generated about $42 million in state and local taxes.

It can't be overstated just how important SIUC is to the well being of southern Illinois. The university is the economic engine for the entire region and I fear enrollment (which is what ultimately brings the dollars in) will continue to drop until the university gets leadership with the long term commitment to the institution that Delyte Morris brought.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Here Yesterday, Gone Today

Received an email from a reader after yesterday's post about A&B Mexican Groceries, point out that the sign had vanished, replaced by a "For Lease" sign. That was fast.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Mexican Grocery

A & B Mexican Grocery has opened in the old Subway location on West Main St.  To my knowledge, and indicating the growth of the Hispanic market in Carbondale, that makes 3 groceries dedicated to Mexican grocery items in town, one downtown and two on the west side.  Also as far as I know, there is no other grocery devoted to the foods of a particular ethnic group in town. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Special City Council Meeting

This Tuesday, Jan 10th at 7 p.m.   Looks like the only thing on the agenda is a pro-forma vote (at least according to the press release sent out last week), appointing Kevin Baity as the new City Manger. Expect at least one "No" vote as Jane Adams has posted on her website that she plans to vote against the appointment.

Prescription Card Roll Out

The Prescription Card program, a benefit of C'dale membership in the National League of Cities, will be discussed at a press conference tomorrow:

The City of Carbondale will hold a press conference on Monday, January 9, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. in the Carbondale Civic Center located at 200 S. Illinois Avenue, to make an announcement regarding the rollout of a Prescription Discount Card Program made available by the City of Carbondale through the National League of Cities.

Liquor Sales

The Southern has an article looking at the effect last summer's change to liquor licensing has had on local beer and wine retailers.  I found it interesting that they talked to three of the four local businesses that started selling beer and wine but only one that sold it prior to the addition of the new licenses.  Maybe the article didn't want any more "sales have been down by 25%" quotes in the store.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

National Guard Armory

The DE has some more information on the sale of the Armory, including that there is no asking price, rather the Guard is taking sealed bids on the building.  No indication if there is a minimum bid or not.  A couple of city officials expressed an interest in buying it, but really, what would the city do with it?  We have a perfectly serviceable civic center, with no problems with overcrowding, at least that I know of.  The city actually got rid of a city building (the Eurma Haynes center) earlier this year, so to spend city funds on another one, without a plan in place, makes little sense.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wanna Buy an Armory?

From an email sent out to the Arbor District list.. It would be rather hard, given the zoning for that area, not to mention the traffic flow, for anyone to make commercial use of the property.  I remember Carbondale Main Street expressing an interest in the building at one time, possibly for use as a year round farmer's market,  but only if it were donated to the organization:

The now vacant national Guard Armory at the corner of Sycamore and Oakland is up 
for sale. The grounds cover approximately 2.89 acres.The building was 
constructed in 1938 during the high modernist period of the New Deal. It is 
controlled by the Illinois Department of the Military. Today the building was 
open to inspection for the public. 

The main building has 32,449 Square Feet of space.

The main structure houses a large auditorium/gymnasium/parade ground. It appears 
to be constructed of concrete arches. We did not see any cracks in the 

However, we learned that the Army shut the building down for almost a year and 
drains stopped up causing water to flow through areas of the lower roof. 
They said since the problem was corrected it has not leaked again.

There is a large kitchen, though the equipment is being removed.

There are several sets of bathrooms, showers

There are a number of offices circling the central auditorium. In the basement 
there are more offices, storage. 

There are two large buildings separate from the original Armory. We estimate 
this at more than 200 feet long. They were used to store vehicles and was built 
in the 1950s

On the southwest side of the complex is more outdoor parking as well as fuel 

City Manager Baity

According to a press release sent out by the mayor, Kevin Baity will be the next city manger:

The Carbondale City Council has reached a consensus that Mr. Kevin Baity  will serve as the next City Manager of Carbondale.  Mr. Baity has been employed by the City of Carbondale since August 2006 and is currently the city’s Director of Development Services and Interim City Manager.  He was originally hired as the city’s Assistant City Manager for Economic Development.  Prior to coming to Carbondale, Mr. Baity had served as the City Administrator for the City of Flora, IL; the Director of Community Development for the City of Centralia, IL; and the Director of Environmental Health for the Perry County (IL) Health Department.

A Special Carbondale City Council Meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm to formalize the decision by voting on an ordinance to approve a City Manager Employment Agreement.  The meeting will be followed by a reception to introduce Mr. Baity to the public as the City Manager.

I find the term "consensus" an interesting choice of wording.  It doesn't say he was voted upon by the council, just that some form of agreement about him.  Apparently the council, or at least the mayor, is making=ng the announcement prior to the actual vote. At least one city council member has concerns about this. From a eamil sent out by councilwoman Jane Adams:

Until we officially vote, our discussions in Executive Session are private. Does the Open Meetings Act allow the Mayor to publicly characterize our private deliberations?

It is entirely proper for the Mayor to call a special Council meeting. However, the press release says that there will be a reception following which will “introduce Mr. Baity to the public as the City Manager.”

Again, no vote has been taken. We discussed, we argued, we debated. We developed a sense of where the majority sentiment lay. Without compromising the confidentiality of our debates, I think I can fairly state that the Mayor was a leader of the majority. But there was no vote. To have voted would have been illegal – a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Until that public vote, Mr. Baity cannot be presumed to be the next City Manager. Nor can there be a presumption of “consensus.”

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mary Lou's

Looks as if Mary Lou's will move to its new next-door location in the near future.  I see the sign has already moved from the old building to the new one.