Header

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

County approves tax-increment financing for Midway Station; state approval, last hurdle, comes next

The plan to redevelop most of the Midway Station industrial park into a residential and commercial community cleared its next-to-last hurdle Tuesday evening, as the Woodford County Fiscal Court joined Midway's plan to do it with tax-increment financing: subsidizing the redevelopment costs with most of the added tax revenue from the development.

The magistrates and County Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle added one new element: No money can be paid to the proposed developer, Dennis Anderson, without the county's approval. In tax-increment financing, a developer applies to the local authority for reimbursement of the costs of providing public infrastructure, such as parking lots, streets, sidewalks and utilities.

The county's passage of the ordinance creating a TIF district means that county tax revenue will be included in the 80 percent of payroll- and property-tax revenue, not including school and fire taxes, that would be dedicated to paying for public infrastructure that Anderson has estimated will cost $31 million.

The ordinance passed without dissent, but had been delayed for months while some magistrates sought assurances about TIF from the state auditor. Stephenie Hoelscher, spokeswoman for the auditor, told the Midway Messenger, "Essentially, we said we’d take a glance at it, but we cannot bless any sort of contract or agreement. That’s not what we do. They may have a great contract that falls apart upon implementation. We advised that they should make sure there are sufficient oversight capabilities."

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email last month, "The delays by the fiscal court have surprised me, especially since the heavy lifting will have to be done by Midway. I have no problem with them being as cautious as possible, though." Vandegrift will be the official primarily responsible for overseeing the TIF district.

Optioned tract recently zoned industrial is white outlined in purple. Area earlier rezoned industrial for prospective factory is mainly yellow outlined in purple. Area in solid purple has been zoned industrial since original development of Midway Station.

The county and city developed Midway Station, north of Interstate 64, as an industrial park 25 years ago. The project has largely failed, creating about 10 jobs. That has left the county and city on the hook for interest payments on the bonds used for development, now at $11,400 a month. Anderson is making those payments in return for an option to buy the property from the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which holds title to the property.

Anderson has said he has the financing to begin the project and hoped to begin work this fall, but that is unlikely to happen before spring because the TIF district must still be approved by the state. Preliminary approval usually takes one to two months and final approval at least four months, said John Faris, a consultant for Anderson.

Anderson has said the project will cost $126 million, with development lasting as long as 20 years, the maximum life of a TIF district. His consultants have estimates that the project will generate $94 million in tax revenue over 20 years.

Midway Station was rezoned several years ago for commercial and residential development, but the Great Recession prevented development. More recently, as prospects for industry presented themselves, the rear part of the property was zoned back to industrial, and the EDA optioned an tract between that and Georgetown Road and got it rezoned industrial. The EDA board will hold its regular monthly meeting at 8 a.m Friday at the courthouse in Versailles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kenny Smith dons yet another hat, builds bridges from Midway to Woodford County Chamber of Commerce

Kenny Smith in his Kennydid Gallery on Main Street
By Arion Wright
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Many merchants in Midway believe the town hasn’t received its due share of attention from the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, but Midway merchant Kenny Smith is trying to build bridges between Midway and the chamber as the group’s leader this year.

Smith wears many hats in Midway. He is the president of the Midway Merchants Association, the artist coordination of the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, and the festival coordinator of the Midway Fall Festival. His newest hat is chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.

Smith “has been going to meetings, meeting new people, and getting along with Don Vizi, the director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, where Midway needs influence,” said Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store.

Midway’s concerns with the chamber have been mainly about tourism. A few years ago, when Tom Bozarth was mayor, he floated the idea of a separate chamber of commerce and tourism commission for Midway, hoping that construction of a hotel in the city, and imposition of a bed tax to fund the commission, would lead to more promotion of Midway.

Woodford County has no hotel or motel, only bed and breakfasts with a total of 52 rooms, so the county bed tax generates only about $10,000 a year for the county tourism commission, which spends it on tourism promotion, as required by state law, in concert with the chamber.

Bozarth didn’t follow through on the idea, as the chamber hired Vizi and he reached out to Midway. Recently the Midway City Council, on recommendation from new Mayor Grayson Vandgerift, a former member of the tourist commission, included a contribution to the chamber in the city budget.

Vizi said in an interview, “Kenny Smith was selected as the chairman of the board of the chamber at the end of last year. He has been an excellent chairman and brings together Midway, Versailles, and the Woodford County businesses.”

Penn said the chamber hasn’t done a lot for Midway, and the only way things will change is if young, small retailers get involved. She thinks Smith is really reaching out to aim towards a different direction.

Smith said Midway needs a hotel. One is called for in the development plan of the Green Gables development on the former Weems property at the southeast corner of the Interstate 64 interchange, where McDonald’s and a Shell convenience store have located and a Subway is under construction.

Vizi said, “The main stumbling block is to convince a potential hotel owner that a hotel is needed in Woodford County and that there is a need for hotel rooms for events such as weddings, Keeneland, visitors, and business meetings. The chamber and the Tourism Commission have always pushed to get a hotel in Woodford County, whether that be in Midway or Versailles, as that would open up Woodford County to many other events and bring more people to Woodford County.”

Smith said Midway already has a lot of visitors because of horse farms, but he wants more people to be able to spend the night in Woodford County. It will “take someone or a corporation with the financial means to risk building a facility that would be economically feasible,” he said.

“We try to promote Woodford County as an experience, not a destination, so that tourists will want to come back,” he said. ”People will remember the experience more than they will the destination. We don’t want to lose the quaint, small-town and historic flavor.”

Penn sees another need. “I think they really need to help restaurants in the city of Midway,” she said. “Maybe if they got more involved in politics on the state level, transportation chamber and it would help us a lot.”

Smith, who is from Lexington, is the owner of the Kennydid Gallery. He said it opened in 2011 and offers a variety of fine art including photography, paintings and wood art.

“We also offer prints, books, postcards, and greeting cards by the displaying artists,” Smith said.  The artists include painter Laura Sullivan, Margo Adams, Jack R. Cochran, Heather Mullins Podna and area photographers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midway University, League of Women Voters to host debate for lieutenant-governor candidates Sept. 23

Candidates for lieutenant governor will debate at Midway University Sept. 23, in a forum also sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.

League official Cindy Heine said the debate will be held in the evening, and a specific time will be set next week.

Since 1995, candidates for lieutenant governor have run on a slate with candidates for governor, with one vote being cast for both offices, as for president and vice president. The party nominees for lieutenant governor are Republican Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green, running with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin; and state House Caucus Chair Sannie Overly of Paris, running with Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville.

Heine said Heather Curtis of Versailles, the wife and running mate of independent candidate Drew Curtis, has not been invited because Drew Curtis has not received at least 10 percent support in any nonpartisan poll. He got 8 percent in last month's Bluegrass Poll, before filing his candidacy papers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Libby Warfield overcomes cancer to gain council seat

This story originally appeared in the print edititon of the Midway Messenger. This version contains corrections and minor additions. The Messenger regrets the errors.

By Megan Ingros
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

When life gives you lemons, find the matching curtains and spruce up your interior design.

At least that’s what certified interior designer, church organist and Midway City Council member Libby Warfield might suggest.

Libby Warfield
Warfield, 63, has been serving on the council since January. She filed to run in 2012, but pulled out of the race before her name was ever on the ballot because she was diagnosed with stage four cancer of a salivary gland. The cancer grew into Warfield’s facial nerve trunk, which caused one side of her face to be permanently paralyzed.

“When they told me at Markey Cancer Center that I had stage four cancer with only a 30 percent chance of survival, immediately I started saying ‘I trust in God and I have faith in God for whatever reason this has happened’,” Warfield recalled, “It was a second-nature reaction to it.”

Warfield underwent chemotherapy and radiation at the same time, and five months after her treatments and surgery she returned as choir director and organist for Troy Presbyterian Church. She has been an organist since she was 16.

Salivary gland cancer is a rare type that can be caused by age, radiation exposure, diet and certain workplace exposures.

“Some studies have suggested that people who work with certain metals or minerals and people who work in asbestos mining, plumbing, rubber products manufacturing, and some types of woodworking may be at increased risk,” the American Cancer Society says on its website.

Warfield said she has been on construction sites her entire life and is trying to stay away from paint and chemicals. With a changed lifestyle, including an organic diet, vitamins and herbal supplements, she is doing everything she can to remain cancer-free.

“When I think about anything I’m doing now, I am trusting in God that I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing,” she said. “It also has a lot to do with the way I go about making decisions.”

So how does Warfield make her decisions now as a council member? Differently, she says. “Now I always look for what’s God’s will in this,” she said. “A lot of times it’s how much time you can study and research an issue, that’s key.”

Warfield said she believes in getting into a position to look at every angle and aspect of a situation. “I’m really studying, everyday I’m doing something for the council,” she said two months into her term.

Mayor Grayson Vandergrift said he recognizes Warfield’s strong incentive to really understand what is going on in the town. “I don't know Libby very well on a personal level,” he said, “but I appreciate her attention to detail and her desire to learn more about how city government works.”

Vandegrift and Warfield were on opposite sides recently as the council debated an ordinance, proposed by Vandegrift, to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. Warfield and Council Member Steven Craig voted against the ordinance, the eighth of its kind in the state.

Warfield questioned the ordinance in meetings, but chose to explain her vote in writing, in a statement attached to the minutes of the council’s June 1 meeting, at which the ordinance passed.

She wrote that the county Human Rights Commission had not shown the need for the ordinance. “There is no prejudice or discrimination here,” she said, adding later, “My 39-year-old son, who is gay, was born here and lived most of his life here. He is a past member of this city council. He and I agree that there is no reason for this ordinance at this time.”

Warfield concluded, “Who do we think we are to impose such a law? Wouldn’t it be better to proclaim to the world that Midway has always been and will continue to be a ‘Golden Rule Community’ and spending some quality time defining what that really means?”

Warfield also said the ordinance would be difficult to enforce, reflecting a concern that she voiced in an interview shortly after it was proposed in February.

She mentioned several ordinances dealing with such things as dogs, sidewalks and ordinances that “are just impractical and impossible to enforce, such as Ordinance 92.22(f) requires a window in every room; 92.22(j) – no spitting on the sidewalk; 92.22(k) – imperfect trap, sink, drainage appliance.”

Warfield said she ran for council because she feels blessed by being born and raised in Midway: “I reaped all the rewards of a really tiny town and the experience growing up here was amazing and I just felt like I needed to do something to give back.”

Serving the community runs in the family. Her son, Matt Warfield was as a council member for two years, and her mother, Jean Clifton Sharon, served for 12 and was a correspondent for The Woodford Sun. She has been married to David Warfield since 1972.

“I do have a lot of knowledge about the past of Midway, not that we should base our decisions on what used to be, but that is a good foundation,” she said.

Warfield wants the council to resume a program to helped homeowners repair and replace sidewalks. “We’ve got to get those straightened out,” she said.

Early in her term, made what she called “a big hoopdeedoo” about the need for “an ambulance in Midway or an ambulance closer to Midway.”

Vandergrift took the issue to the county fiscal court, which rejected it.

More than anything, Warfield says she wants to be a voice for those who are reluctant to use their own. “We have really nice people in this town, and they’re not going to complain no matter what, even if they have strong opinions on something it would be very rare,” she said. “I have a business phone number, Libby Warfield Interiors, so it’s not hard to find in the phone book. I’m willing to talk to people about whatever their concerns are anytime.”

Warfield said she may seek another term if she is able, but faces the drawback of having to file in January for the November 2016 election: “I don’t live my life any more with long-term plans.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Council OKs bid for vets' memorial walkway, mayor's idea for joint meetings with other governing bodies

The Midway City Council will spend $14,005 to build a 10-foot-wide walkway along the back side of the veterans memorial in the Midway Cemetery, a long-discussed improvement.

Acceptance of the bid from Turn to Stone was recommended by the council's Cemetery and City Property Committee and accepted by the council at its regular meeting Monday evening.

The council also heard and saw a presentation from Billy Van Pelt of Woodford Forward about the group's recent survey of Woodford County citizens' attitudes and opinions about development, farmland preservation and other issues. For a story about the survey, click here.

Van Pelt said those who responded to the survey, representing about 13 percent of the county's households, have "a sense of stagnation in growth and development" but still want to protect prime farmland.

"They're thirsty for business to come in," said Martha DeReamer of The Matrix Group, who supervised the self-selected survey. She said there was no way to know how the opinions of non-respondents might differ from those of respondents, but the diversity of the results suggest "no red flags" in the methodology.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift complimented the work. "I've seen a lot of surveys like this over the years and this is one of the best I've ever seen," he said. "It's a great resource for us." The survey broke out opinions of Midway residents, Versailles residents and the rural parts of the county.

Van Pelt said Woodford Forward would make the same presentation to the Versailles City Council on Tuesday night, and hold an open house at Woodford Reserve at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for interested people to meet members of the group and discuss the issues.

Vandegrift said the survey gave him an idea: that the city councils and the Woodford County Fiscal Court should have a joint meeting twice a year to discuss broad issues facing the county and "talk about how to move forward together, not look backward." Noting survey results, he said, "Clearly the people of Woodford County want to see the three governing bodies work better together."

The mayor asked for the council's blessing to approach Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County Judge-Executive John Coyle about the idea. The council agreed. Council Member Dan Roller said the communities that win awards are those where the county and cities are not competing with each other.

Among other business, Vandegrift reported that the new turnout gear for the fire department has been delivered, Council Member Libby Warfield complimented Vandegrift for recent paving repairs near Midway Grocery, and Roller complimented the police department for its response to the Friday burglary of Railroad Drug, in which the burglar was apprehended after a silent alarm alerted owner Ken Glass.

The council again briefly discussed the need for repairs to the city's welcome sign near Interstate 64. Vandegrift said they had talked about using some material other than wood, and he lnoew two people in town who might be able to do the work, but "I'd like to see some ideas."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Council panel to discuss sidewalk at veterans' memorial

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meeting Friday, July 31, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the sidewalk at the veterans memorial in the cemetery. The notice from City Hall says no action will be taken. All committee and council meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Midway Messenger print edition has been published, online and in hard copies around town

The Midway Messenger is primarily online, at www.MidwayMessenger.org and here on the Messenger blog at http://midwayky.blogspot.com. But twice a year, we publish a print edition, with work from the previous or current semester at the University of Kentucky, where students produce the Messenger as part of Community Journalism classes in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications.

The print edition includes some stories that have not yet appeared online, including a story about Midway merchant Kenny Smith building bridges between the town and the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce as its chairman this year, the ongoing effort to revitalize the Midway Renaissance organization, a feature on Midway's two honey producers, and a profile of cancer survivor and City Council Member Libby Warfield.

Because the print edition appears twice a year, it includes several stories that first appeared online weeks or months ago. The front-page stories are about two big issues, one settled and one pending: the city's new anti-discrimination ordinance and the possible routing of a new Versailles bypass and whom it would help or hurt. All the stories were written by UK students under the direction of Associate Extension Professor Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

Copies of the Messenger are available at many locations in Midway. If you see a location that needs copies, please email Cross at al.cross@uky.edu. The print edition can be downloaded as a 6 mb PDF by clicking here. Printing of this edition was financed by Kentucky American Water Co., represented by an advertisement on the back page.