Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Midway's new 'boutique' McDonald's is a test for the big corporation, franchisee Joe Graviss says

By Caitlin McPherson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The McDonald’s restaurant opening at 10 a.m. Thursday in Midway is a guinea-pig store, testing out a ‘boutique’ approach for the world’s largest restaurant company, according to franchisee Joe Graviss.

Boutique, in short, means smaller. 

Graviss said Midway is finally ready for a fast food outlet, but this McDonald’s will be different than his eight others. 

The restaurant  has only 54 seats for dining, about half of the number of seats at a typical Graviss McDonald’s location. 

“They tried it years ago.  They kind of got away from it,” Graviss said of the approach. “I asked McDonald’s to come down three times to see if it made sense to put a restaurant at this interchange. . . . Three times I brought them down here and three times they said, ‘No, it’s not a viable market.  There’s not enough rooftops, not enough cars.’”

With the success of the Shell station and convenience store in the Green Gables development, Graviss said he asked the company to take another look. That, and perhaps a change in corporate management, changed McDonald’s mind, Graviss said.

Despite the small dining area, Graviss doesn’t expect drive-through customers account for any greater percentage of sales than a typical Graviss McDonald’s. He said his Nicholasville Road store gets 68 to 70 percents of its sales from drive-through.

Graviss’s ownership of the restaurant came as a surprise to many people in  Midway, partly because Green Gables developer Dennis Anderson spoke only of dealing with McDonald’s, not Graviss.

Graviss explained that McDonald’s had full control of the construction because the store is a test store for future boutique restaurants.

“McDonald’s wanted to keep control of all development cost,” he said. “They know that I like to spruce things up, for lack of a better term, so they wanted to control the spending and the cite and development cost 100 percent.”

Once McDonald’s achieved what they wanted, they handed control over the Graviss, he said, allowing him to make minor changes such as landscaping, locations of electrical outlets and access to USB portals. The restaurant has wi-fi for Internet access.

The manager of the store will be familiar to some in Midway. The manager of the Nicholasville Road store, Mary Husband, is coming home to supervise a staff of 45, about 30 of whom are from the Midway area, Graviss said.

“She is actually one of our younger tenured managers,” Graviss said.  “We are really proud of the fact that a lot of our team will be Midwegians.” 

The golden arches aren’t too far from Husband’s front door in the Northridge subdivision.  She said she hopes that her new job will give her a small role in helping the community.

“I think it will be just as busy as Nicholasville Road was, because there were a lot of other restaurants on Nicholasville that hurt us a little bit,” she said. “Here we have the interstate and all of Midway, so once we get established I think we can be right there with them.”

But is Midway ready for the arches to shine over the city's established, historic dining options? The fine dining options in Midway have made a name for the city. The Holly Hill Inn, the Heirloom and other restaurants downtown are quite the opposite from McDonald’s.

Graviss said his new restaurant will bring more people into Midway, and boost sales for the historic dining options and other downtown businesses.

One thing is for sure: Midway’s new neighbor is ready to serve the community.  The question is, is the community ready to welcome it? The ribbon-cutting for the restaurant will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, with the first meals served at 10. On Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m, a meet-and-greet limited to employees and their families will be held, to create a sense of community.

Monday, December 15, 2014

TIF ordinance delayed; special meetings needed, starting Wed.; Bozarth hands out honors, recognition

The Midway City Council delayed action on a tax-increment financing ordinance for Midway Station after lawyers worked through the weekend to complete legal documents but didn't get them delivered until the council was adjourning its regular meeting Monday night.

The council scheduled a special meeting for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to give first reading to the ordinance. Mayor Tom Bozarth said another special meeting would be scheduled to give final passage. Bozarth and two council members leave city government at the end of the year.

Doug Martin, a lawyer in city attorney Phil Moloney's firm, said the package of documents also includes a local development agreement, in which the city would agree to pledge its tax revenue from the area to projects and public infrastructure there; a master agreement with developer Dennis Anderson; and "probably an interlocal cooperation agreement" with Woodford County, which is expected to dedicate property- and payroll-tax revenue from the area to reworking its public infrastructure for business and residential development, the cost of which Anderson has estimated at $30.7 million.

John Soper, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the largely failed industrial park, said he executed another extension of EDA's option agreement with Anderson Monday. Anderson is paying $11,400 a month interest on $4.7 million in principal remaining from the bonds that the city and county issued to develop the industrial park.

Soper said of TIF, "We think it's a bright spot, a way out of this thing, and we think it makes all the sense in the world for the stakeholders involved to put that TIF in place."

Since it was the council's last regular meeting of the year and his administration, Bozarth took time to thank and recognize council members and others for their work during the last eight years.

"We don't always agree, but at the end of the day we did agree on what's best for Midway," he said. "We ought to be proud of what we've accomplished." He told the council that was "not about me ... without you all we couldn't have gotten anything done."

Bozarth noted that the city has $35,000 in savings when he became mayor in January 2007, and now has now $600,000, with more than $1.5 million in cash at its last audit. "I challenge you to grow that," he said.

Bozarth will be succeeded by Grayson Vandegrift, who defeated fellow Council Member Sharon Turner in November. "It's good to have new ideas and new direction and I'm looking forward to sitting back and watching," Bozarth said. "It's been a great run for me; the friendships I've developed have been priceless. I want to wish each and every one of you good luck."

Tom Bozarth and Sharon Turner
After receiving a standing ovation from the council and others in attendance, Bozarth had the council adopt resolutions honoring the "sacrifice, hard work and passion" of Turner, retiring Council Member Aaron Hamilton and county Magistrate Larry Craig, who served on the council in 2003-06. "This town and its citizens have given a lot more to me than I've given to them," Craig said.

Turner didn't comment, but Hamilton said of his eight years on the council, "It has been a good run. I've enjoyed it. I'm really glad that I did it, for the friendships I've made and everything and I just want to thank everybody for your support."

Bozarth also gave keys to the city to Moloney, Woodford Sun correspondent and former police officer John McDaniel, and Midway Messenger publisher Al Cross, who lives in Frankfort and directs University of Kentucky students who cover Midway.

Donations to Ky. American Water's H2O (Help2Others) fund can help financially distressed customers pay bills

Kentucky American Water reminds customers of an opportunity to help families in need by donating to its H2O (Help to Others) program. The program is administered for the water company by Dollar Energy Fund in order to assist eligible customers in financial distress with their water bill payments.
The program is funded by donations from American Water shareholders and individuals.

To make a donation, customers check off the H2O box on the back of their bill, or donate directly to the program via Dollar Energy Fund’s website at www.dollarenergy.org.

To be eligible for H2O assistance, customers must have a total gross household income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level for that size household. Customers may apply for assistance at social service agencies in the region, including the Woodford County Community Development Office, 285 Beasley Rd., Versailles (873-8182); Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Lexington, Inc. 1310 West Main St., Lexington (253-1993) or United Way of the Bluegrass, 100 Midland Ave., Suite 300, Lexington (233-4460).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

State's plans for Weisenberger Mill Road bridge are back up in the air after public objects to two-lane option

By Jackson Reams
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The rebuilding of the one-lane bridge on Weisenberger Mill Road has again been delayed due to the public’s opposition to a completely new bridge.

The bridge was built in 1930. (2013 photo by Nini Edwards)
The road winds its narrow way through farmland in Scott and Woodford counties with its namesake just inside Scott County. The 101-year-old Weisenberger Mill building sits on Elkhorn Creek, which is crossed by an old one-lane bridge with an almost 90-degree curve on the Woodford County approach.

The bridge has been marked for renovation or replacement since 2010, and a meeting was held in January 2013 to see what the public wanted done. The public preferred renovation, not replacement, so the state studied whether that was possible.

Ananias Calvin, the project manager, said in a recent interview that a crew was sent out to examine the bridge and found “extensive work” was needed, so only one solution made sense.

“We came to the conclusion that this bridge will probably be better if we just put in a new bridge,” Calvin said. The next step was to decide if the city wanted to go with the public’s preference of a one-lane or a two-lane bridge. “You have a two-lane road; why would you put a one-lane bridge back?” Calvin asked.

That question was answered, to state officials' dismay, at a second public meeting at Midway College Oct. 21 – a meeting that Calvin said the Transportation Cabinet wasn’t required to hold, but did to inform the public of the new direction they were taking.

“We wanted their response and we got it; they didn’t like it at all,” Calvin recalled. The answer to his question was: a one-lane bridge slows down traffic, a need on the narrow, curving road.

Debra Instone stands at her often-smashed fence in the curve.
Debra Instone’s Mill Creek Farm is on the outside of the 90-degree curve, where vehicles have repeatedly crashed through a wooden fence.

“If they make that two-lane and people know they don’t have to stop [for oncoming traffic that reaches the bridge first], the traffic’s gonna get faster,” Instone said in an interview at the site.

Instone said she has lived on the property for 11 years and someone has hit her fence “every year and this year three times.” She said, “It’s a huge responsibility if one of my horses get on this road. They don’t care if someone took my fence out, your horse is on here and someone hit it and got hurt; that’s my fault.”

Calvin said he agrees with Instone that there is a problem: “If you put in a two-lane bridge the speed will increase . . . because you don’t have to slow down to allow whoever was at the bridge across first.”

However he said a two-lane bridge would be as safe as a one-lane. “One was a traffic calmer,” he said. “The other one made it where two cars can go across at the same time.”

Instone and Philip Weisenberger III, son of mill owner Mac Weisenberger, said \trucks trying to cross the 15-ton-limit bridge are also a concern. “There are trucks that get down here and realize they can’t get across the bridge,” he said. Instone said, “It takes them about 35 minutes to get turned around and get back to where they came.”

Weisenberger added, “All the trucks that come to our place turn around and back out, they never even cross. But I do see lots of trucks going through here.”

Instone and her husband Giles Instone said in a letter to Calvin that if a two-lane bridge goes in, they had four requests: “The current weight limit for vehicles remain in place… A blinking light be added to the 15mph sign… The existing metal guard rail be extended to the west to the width of the road… Raised bump strips [rumble strips] similar to those located on Old Frankfort Pike be installed on the road.”

Calvin said the new bridge, one-lane or two, will not deter traffic because the weight limit will no longer exist.  “If it goes any lower than that, it might be closed.”

Calvin said in a reply letter to the Instones that the blinking light and rumble strips are possibilities, but “Since this is a county road, we would have to work with the County Agencies concerning a blinking light, rumble strips (raised bump strips), and the extension of the guardrail around the curve.”

Woodford County had an agreement with Scott County to be responsible for the bridge, but got the state to take responsibility in return for the county working on a state bridge in Millville, according to outgoing Midway Magistrate Larry Craig.

The Kentucky General Assembly appropriated $500,000 for replacement of the bridge. That would not be enough to pay for a solution that has been suggested by several members of the public: move the bridge slightly downstream, to get the road away from the mill and line up the road with Paynes Depot Road, which intersects Weisenberger Mill Road on the other side of the curve from the bridge.
Likewise, Philip Weisenberger suggested in a letter to Calvin that “a small curve be added into the road.”

The mill attracts customers, tourists, photographers and fishers.
Calvin replied, “We have already looked at your idea of implementing a curve on the Scott County side but since it would have increased our construction cost beyond the amount budgeted, we decided not to.”

The Rev. Earl Raglin also lives just around the corner from the curve on Paynes Depot Road. He said in an interview he supports “ripping the bridge out and putting in a two-lane bridge” because “Quite a bit of traffic is flowing across that bridge and I’m afraid a one-lane bridge won’t accommodate that.”

But the views expressed at the meeting, and afterward, were strongly against a two-lane bridge, according to the state’s file on the matter. To download a 104-page PDF of the file, click here.

“After the public meeting my supervisor/branch manager, Robert Nunley, told us to step back and take another look,” Calvin said. “My timetable just changed; I have no idea what it is. I had one until the public meeting.”

Calvin said no ideas have been taken off the table, but the state is making sure that they are absolutely positive what they want to do before they move forward. Calvin said he doesn’t “know which way we are going to go but we are going to reevaluate it.”

The announcement that of the reevaluation pleased both Instone and Philp Weisenberger, who are fine with the current situation. “It wouldn’t bother me if they kept what’s here now,” Weisenberger said.

Calvin, however, says the damage done to the bridge and its supports means something must be done, but he is unsure of when that decision will come: “It would be really hard to give a schedule because we have been going back and forth so much.”

The next step could be putting more money for the bridge into the state’s six-year road plan, but that plan is adopted in even-numbered years and changing the state budget in odd-numbered years requires a 60 percent vote in each house of the General Assembly.

Several Midway leaders attended the meeting including Tom Mayor Bozarth, Mayor-elect and Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, outgoing Council Member and then-mayoral candidate Sharon Turner, and Council Member-elect Libby Warfield. In written comments, Warfield said she was “convinced that [a] 2 lane would be a mistake” and “create many new problems for this area.”

Council irons out details of tax-financing plan for Midway Station, sets first reading of ordinance for Monday

By Paige Mullen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council decided Tuesday to move forward on the tax-increment financing project for redevelopment of Midway Station. TIF uses most of the new revenue from development to pay for the public infrastructure and some other costs of the development.

At a special meeting to clarify details about a TIF ordinance, the council directed city attorney Phil Moloney to draft the ordinance for first reading at its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday. It would come up for final passage at a special meeting before year’s end.

Moloney and his law partner, Doug Martin, discussed the remaining issues regarding the ordinance with the council and John Farris and Casey Bolton of Commonwealth Economics, a consulting firm that Lexington developer Dennis Anderson hired for the project.

Farris said the TIF will be limited to the footprint of the Midway Station property, a largely failed industrial park that has saddled the city and county with millions in debt. Business tenants and contractors will report their investments, payrolls and tax payments on forms created by the state to the developer or the developer’s compliance agent, who will report them out to the city. The mayor will be designated at the agency responsible for reporting to the state and overseeing the TIF.

Farris said the developer can write into the lease with tenants that they must supply this information when requested. Anderson estimates that the total investment in the project will be $176 million.

Chart prepared by developer's consultants and given to city council
Once $20 million has been invested, the state can make disbursements to the special district fund, from which 80 percent of the increased tax revenues would be used to pay for public infrastructure costs such as parking, utilities, streets, sidewalks, gutters, storm sewers and detention ponds, as well as associated costs such as grading, demolition and disposal – not just to Anderson but to tenants and utility companies for their expenses.

The council asked Farris what could make up the $20 million. "Anything spent on the footprint so there is nothing specific, that is just capital investment," he said. "Anything from soft cost to state funds that are spent. It doesn't even have to be spent by the developer, anything that is spent out there." However, the public infrastructure is the only reimbursable expense. Anderson has estimated those costs at $30.7 million, almost half of it for parking.

Plans call for the city to get 2 percent of the disbursements to cover its administrative costs, including accounting and legal expenses. Questions arose about how the city might be able to pay such costs if the 2 percent is inadequate. Farris said the fees will build over time and noted that the city will be receiving 20 percent of the new tax revenues from the project.

Farris said he expects the county to participate in the project, allowing its increased occupational- and property-tax revenue to support it. A chart offered by Farris estimated that in the first 10 years, the city and county’s 20 percent would total $2.63 million.

School and fire taxes are not included in the TIF, but those taxing districts would benefit from development, with the schools getting almost $4 million in taxes during the first year, according to the estimates. In his presentation, Farris emphasized an even larger number, $6.5 million, which would be the total new local tax revenues available to the city, schools and fire district.

The time limit on the project is 20 years. "When the public infrastructure has been paid for, all taxes flow like they normally do," Farris said. For a copy of his graphic presentation, click here.

Council Member Bruce Southworth wanted to know when the city would take possession of the infrastructure and thus be responsible for any repairs. Council Member Sharon Turner said, "The 2 percent won't cover that."

Southworth suggested that the responsibility could be shared, with the amount of the city’s responsibility increasing over time. He added later that the city’s tap-on fees for water and sewer should remain in place.

Martin noted that the local taxes that go into the special district fund can be spent on local capital improvements, while the state tax money must be used for public infrastructure.

Member Dan Roller said, “We don’t want to be responsible for the repairs if we’re not getting the money for it.”

Farris said he presumed the tap fees would be the same and the repair issue could be handled in a master developer agreement between Anderson and and the city. He complimented Roller, saying, “That’s looking into the future, which a lot of people don’t do.”

Roller replied, “I think we’re here today because with that project out there, there wasn’t enough looking into the future.” Midway Station was developed with the hope of attracting industry but has spawned only three or four businesses with about a dozen jobs.

Anderson first proposed making the entire tract commercial and residential, and it was rezoned accordingly. Then the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property, came up with some good industrial prospects, so part of the land that had been rezoned residential was rezoned back to industrial.

As the 47-minute meeting was wrapping up, Mayor Tom Bozarth thanked the council and said, “We have a responsibility to look at the city’s interest not tomorrow, not today, but beyond into the future. And I think that is one thing I want to commend the council about, is they have been talking about this since September and we have been very diligent I want to thank each and every one of you for asking these questions.”

The council ended the meeting in agreement that the 2 percent administrative fee is acceptable for the city. On another issue, Anderson has agreed to pay the fees to the state for processing the application.
The EDA is expected to approve the TIF at a special meeting Friday at 8 a.m. at the courthouse in Versailles.

“We know where we’re going and we’ll get this thing wrapped up and move forward,” said Bozarth, who leaves office at the end of the year and will be succeeded by Council Member Grayson Vandegrift.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Midway Branch Library hosts reception and showing of work by artist John Berry, to be on display until Dec. 30

By Sidney Rose Emison
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway Branch of the Woodford County Library is hosting a gallery of renowned artist John Thomas Berry’s work on selected dates through December 30. Berry is hosting the showcase of his eclectic array of artwork, which is mostly Andalusian horse paintings, but also includes canine charcoal portraits and landscape paintings.
Midway artist John Thomas Berry's work was first displayed during a Dec. 2 reception at the library.
Berry, who lives on West Higgins Street, has lived all over the United States, but moved to Midway years ago, and has loved the opportunity to paint the subjects he enjoys most, horses. And the Bluegrass state may be the best area to practice that profession.

“I was born in Texas. Raised in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa,” Berry said during a Dec. 2 reception for him at the library. “And then moved to Michigan, then spent 13 years in California, 17 years in Taos, New Mexico; and I’ve been here 10 years. … I love Midway, it’s fabulous.”

Prior to pursuing a full-time art career, Berry trained and showed horses professionally. His work has received awards from such prestigious organizations as the American Academy of Equine Art and the Hudson Valley Art Association in New York City. His paintings hang in private and corporate collections throughout the United States, Ireland, England, France and Spain.

Diana Ratliff is a fan of Berry’s work and purchased a painting at the Dec. 2 reception. “I love this piece because it is an Andalusian and they are Spanish horses,” Ratliff said. ”One of my friends, who is going to be the beneficiary of this Christmas gift . . . and several members of her family went to Spain a few years ago and took riding lessons and rode Andalusians the whole time they were there, so I thought it was a beautiful Christmas gift for her.”

Berry and Midway gallery owner Mary Thoreson have collaborated since Berry moved to the area at about the same time Mary retired from nursing and bought the gallery with her husband.

Thoreson said she couldn’t quite remember how she and Berry met, but she knew they respected each other’s work. “I think it was mutual, but I have an Andalusian horse and he does a lot of Andalusian art. So there was a draw through that,” she said, adding that Berry recently did a painting of the horse.
Mary and Eric Thoreson’s Damselfly Gallery consistently features three works by Berry among those of 200 regional artists and artisans, many of them horse-inspired paintings and sculptures. Mary Thoreson’s favorite piece in the library gallery on Tuesday was an Andalusian charcoal piece that she said was “extremely expressive of the breed.”

Berry said he decided to move to Midway after a friend in Versailles convinced him it could benefit his career.

“Her name is Cindy Wolf and she’s a very well-known sculptor and she said, ‘Why don’t you come here, since this is a large part of your market and it’s the home of horses? If it doesn’t work then at least you made the move.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, that makes so much sense and of course it would never occur to me.’ And I’m still here and I love it.”

Berry said he was always interested in the arts, but rediscovered his passion for the arts in his 40s. He thinks young people are being deprived of the nurturing aspect of art.

“I feel sorry for the youth of our nation actually, because most schools are not teaching art, which I think is a great sadness,” he said. “Art, at its best, speaks to your soul and it creates a sense of beauty and I don’t know if that is something we have a lot of in our lives. And so I just think it’s so important for young people, in particular, to be made aware of the arts. Not just painting and sculpting, but literature and all of the arts, music, et cetera. Because those are things that really nurture the soul.”

For more information on Berry's current schedule visit http://calendar.kentucky.com/performer.aspx?perf_id=2163116. For more information about his art contact him at Box 4330, Midway; 859-846-9948; or jtber3@aol.com. Here's a video report, with an interview of Berry:

For a higher-quality version of the video, by Caitlin McPherson of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telcommunications, click here.

Joneses recognized for helping St. Joseph Hospital

Di Boyer, major-gifts director for the
Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation,
poses with Brereton and Libby Jones.
Brereton and Libby Jones of Midway were recognized for their support of Saint Joseph Hospital at the annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted Nov. 19 in Lexington by the Bluegrass Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

The program recognizes individuals or groups who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to the community through philanthropy, the hospital said in a press release: "The Brereton and Elizabeth Jones Family Foundation has provided life-saving philanthropy to the patients and families served by Saint Joseph Hospital throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky."

It cited the Joneses' support of the hospital's mobile clinic, and fundraising for mammography equipment at Saint Joseph Martin, in area with high rates of breast cancer. “Brereton and Libby Jones have always believed in helping those less fortunate quietly and without desire for public recognition,” said Di Boyer, director of major gifts for the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation. “We are incredibly grateful for their many generous contributions that have brought wellness, healing and hope to thousands.”

Jones, who was governor in 1991-95, and his wife operate Airdrie Stud, a Thoroughbred farm on Old Frankfort Pike west of Midway. They also support education, including the cost of producing the latest print edition of the Midway Messenger.