City Beat: Bits And Pieces From Here And There


Editor Paul Osborne

     • I WAS talking on the phone to a community leader Friday morning and, as we were discussing the terrible financial condition of the State of Illinois, guess what happened? I glanced up and passing by one of my fourth floor office windows the State of Illinois was heading down, down, down!

     Actually, part of a sign on the roof of the Millikin Court Building, which is an outline of the State of Illinois, was being lowered to the street by a crane. I mentioned what was happening to the person I was talking with on the phone and expressed the hope that it wasn’t a “sign” of the future financial status of the State of Illinois — heading to the bottom.

     Well, the state is already at the bottom so, according to Moody’s Investment Services rating, there’s not much space left to drop. It could be worse, especially if it was a pink elephant flying by my window! If I see anything else going by my window. I will let you know. On second thought…maybe I won’t!

     • ABOUT TIME — One of our readers sent me an email a few days ago asking an interesting question: “Do you know who is responsible for the outdoor clock at the northeast corner of North Park Street and North Water Street? The time is usually very accurate. Someone must reset it when time changes to-and-from daylight saving time, etc.

     “For the past several weeks, the time has been hours off the current time. For example, at 8:55 a.m. today, the clock read 2:30. Last week, I called the City of Decatur. The person there referred me to the Civic Center ‘because the Civic Center takes care of all things downtown.’ The person answering the phone at the Decatur Civic Center thought that the clock might belong to the bank.”

     I never thought about the ownership of the clock, but I assumed it would be the responsibility of the City of Decatur since it is on city property — just like the Transfer House and the Central Park Fountain, which are on city-owned property. Of course, the Decatur Civic Center does not take care of “all things downtown”. I’m checking on the mystery of clock ownership and I’ll let you know what I find out.

     • I NOTICED Tuesday that the Central Park fountain has been turned on. There was a serious leak somewhere in the fountain and that delayed it being turned on last week. I was told that the fountain was filled with water and ready to operate last week but, overnight, all of the water leaked out of the bowls — yet there was no apparent place where the water escaped and there was no evidence on the ground surrounding it that the water had run out on the ground. With the new paint job on the fountain it looks like new and it is operational again.

     Maintaining that fountain is no easy job and city workers deserve a lot of credit for the great job they do. By the way, I was told that Sparky the Squirrel had to be rescued from one of the bowls before the fountain could be turned on. Not sure what he was doing there.

     • ENJOYED my chat with Steve Weber, CEO/President of Liaison Home Automation at 288 North Park Street, one afternoon last week. The first floor of the building at the corner of North Park and Franklin streets (most recently occupied by Bard Optical) has been transformed into a very impressive facility.

     The building was originally built to house the Decatur Woman’s Club a century ago and is certainly a highly recognizeable structure across from Central Park. It’s only a few doors east of where this newspaper was located at 240 North Park for many years before our move to our present location. Steve demonstrated some of the high tech applications to a home or business and I was amazed by the technology.

     Steve is an extremely likeable guy and I appreciate the invitation to talk about what his firm does and is doing in home automation. It’s also great to have the business located downtown and there’s no doubt in my mind this is not only a business for today’s market, but has a tremendous future.

          • THE OFFICIAL OPENING of the Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater happened over the weekend and there’s not any doubt that it is going to a very popular place for Decatur area residents and many more. The last I heard, tickets had been purchased for the weekend shows from people living in 16 different states — and the view of the lake and the stage is certainly spectacular!

     It’s been years in the making, but thanks to Bill Clevenger, Decatur Park District Board of Commissioners present and past, and everyone else who worked on this project… with a big thank you to Howard G. Buffett, the amphitheater is one more amazing project that is making Decatur a “destination” for many people.

     • PARTY ON — A news conference was scheduled for today (Wednesday) to announce the 34th Annual Decatur Celebration’s theme and entertainment lineup. Since we go to press Tuesday afternoon I’m not able to provide any information on what was said at the news conference, but will have a recap next week. The Decatur Celebration will be held in downtown Aug. 2-4

     • IT SEEMS like only yesterday that Decatur Celebration founder and producer Fred Puglia was in my office to get some input on a new festival that he was talking to local leaders about in order to have a major event in the city for the summer. The rest, as they say, is history.

     Our offices were then on the corner of Franklin and East Main Street and we had a great view of the festival parade and everything else going on. One of the vendors was an extermination company and we let them use our back lobby to bring the rats (caged) into our building in order to keep them cool since the temperature was so high outside. Fortunately, none of the rats got out of their cages and into our offices and started writing editorials!! Our offices have been downtown for every Celebration and I’ve especially enjoyed walking out the door and having all of the food choices to select from over the weekend.

     Best wishes for a successful Decatur Celebration and thanks to all who have been working so hard to save the event.

     • SO SORRY to hear of the death of Everett E. Nicholas, Jr, who passed away on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (His obituary is on page 21 of the print and online edition.)

     When we moved into the Millikin Court Building nine years ago, Everett was a member of one of the law firms next to our offices, so I talked with him fairly often when we would see each other in the hallways on the fourth floor. Everett certainly was my contemporary, practicing law in Decatur for over 50 years. Everett retired several years ago, and the firm is no longer in our building, but he maintained a small two room office on our floor to continue working part-time.

     The last time I saw him, he was not in good health, and he had some help in moving out of his last office. I gave him a pat on the back and told him I would miss seeing and talking with him and I know it was a hard decision, but an apparent necessary one, to close that office for good. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

     It seems that, after all of the decades I’ve been editor of this newspaper, every week when I look at the obituaries I see a childhood friend, business associate or other people I know who have passed way. Life goes by pretty fast…regardless of how many years a person lives.

     • A LEAK — This seems to be the year for leaks, not only in the Central Park Fountain as mentioned earlier in this column, but at the Fairview Family Aquatic Center. The Decatur Park District issued a news release last week stating: “An unexpected water line break under the concrete in the zero depth area of the pool will delay the opening of Fairview Family Aquatic Center.                          “The facility will not be open for the Memorial Day weekend as planned. Crews have been on site actively attempting to locate and repair the leak. Once the leak location is determined, the extent of damage can be assessed and the cost of repairs and repair timeline will be determined.”

     Updates will be posted on the Park District and Fairview Family Aquatics Center Facebook pages and at

     • FUEL PARTNERS — In response to community concerns regarding the critical nature of gas service to Lake Decatur and to better serve the boating population, the Decatur Park Board and City of Decatur have agreed to keep the sale of gasoline in operation for 2019. The gas pump located in Nelson Park will operate until Sept. 2, 2019, weather permitting.

     Payments accepted will be credit/debit card only, no cash or check. The summer hours are as follows: Tuesday/Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Saturday/Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Holidays 11:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m.                

     “Following discussions with new City Manager, Scot Wrighton, we were able to agree upon a workable, temporary option for gas sales on the lake for the 2019 boating season,” said Chris Harrsion, Park Board President. With increasing activity on and around the lake, it is good to see that partnership take place.

     • THIS IS JUST a heads up that the Decatur Municipal Band will begin its summer concert season on Monday, June 3 with a 7pm concert in Central Park. New this year is MC Jayson Albright, who will step into the role that Shirley Kistler had for 30 years. The band is also very pleased to be playing some of its concerts in the Devon Amphitheatre this summer. I’ll have a complete schedule of the Decatur Municipal Band concerts in next week’s edition.

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