Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Council panel to discuss neighborhood associations

The Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at City Hall. The meeting notice says the purpose is to discuss neighborhood associations, and no action will be taken. All committee and council meetings are open to the public.

The council discussed the possibility of creating neighborhood associations on March 21, pursuing a suggestion by Joyce Evans and Judy Offutt. Evans said the idea was “driven by the need for a little closer communication within the community.” She added, “I think it’s about getting to know who your neighbors are and how you can interact with them and help out.”

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said at the March meeting that neighborhood associations would be “a great way to connect city government to the city,” but Council Member John McDaniel questioned the need for them, noting Midway's small size, and said he would prefer "town hall meetings."

Vandegrift said such meetings typically attract about 30 people, and neighborhood associations would probably be more effective because individual leaders within the associations could promote involvement in each community, person to person. He, Evans and Offutt agreed that the first step in creating associations would be to establish neighborhood boundaries.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Message from the mayor: Christmas lights judging Fri.; shop at home; council meets Jan. 2; Merry Christmas!

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

If you want to be in the running for one of the coveted Midway Woman’s Club annual Holiday Decorating Awards, make sure your strands are plugged in this Friday night. Starting at 7:30 p.m., members of the club will be driving around all of Midway’s 11 square miles to pick the best of the best. If you wake up Saturday morning with an award attached to your door, you’ve got bragging rights for at least 365 days.

When and if you’re looking for one of those last-minute gifts, I strongly encourage you to find that little something in downtown Midway (if you haven’t already). Locally owned businesses make Midway’s commercial economy standout from the pack, and study after study shows that money spent close to home tends to stay close to home. Shop owners who get support from local citizens do better, and when they do better, they reinvest in their communities, which benefits everyone.

Our next city council meeting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 2 (because of the New Year’s holiday) at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. In the meantime, here’s to hoping that you and yours have the happiest holiday season yet. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sam Shepard's last book, written at his Midway home, is an intimate, precise portrait of Lou Gehrig's Disease

Shepard chose his book's cover image, of an old
man staring at circling birds, by Graciela Iturbide.
Playwright, author and actor Sam Shepard, who had a home near Midway and spent his last days there, is the author of a just-released book about his fatal struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Spy of the First Person "is an unvarnished, intimate portrait of a man facing the end of his life, as he reflects on his past and observes how his own body has betrayed him," Alexandra Alter writes for The New York Times.

"He had always been incredibly private, and he didn’t want to publicize his deteriorating health," Alter reports. "Few people apart from his family, closest friends and collaborators knew about his diagnosis." It was known among those in Midway who knew him, but as usual, they respected his privacy.

"Shepard explored his condition through his writing in vivid, precise prose that transformed his worsening symptoms into something akin to poetry," Alter writes. "He wrote in notebooks at first, as he always had, but when his condition grew more grave and he could no longer control his hands, he dictated into a recorder" while sitting in the garden of his home near South Elkhorn Creek in Scott County. He got help from his longtime editor, LuAnn Walther, and his old friend, singer Patti Smith.

Sam Shepard's home near Midway, where he died July 27
“He was always a very private writer, and the fact that he was now having to involve his family in his process was not easy for him,” Walker Shepard, one of Shepard’s two sons, told Alter in an email. “I think it was a relief for him to work with Patti because she is not family.”

Shepard's sisters, Sandy and Roxanne, "transcribed the tapes and gave the pages back to him to read over," Alter reports. Sandy Rogers told her, “His mind was like a steel trap. He would dictate for an hour and a half or two hours from the top to the bottom, and he would never change anything.”

Alter writes, "One of the most moving moments in the book occurs before the story even begins. In a heart-rending inversion of a typical dedication page, where the author often thanks his or her family, 'Spy of the First Person' is dedicated to the author himself: “Sam’s children, Hannah, Walker and Jesse, would like to recognize their father’s life and work and the tremendous effort he made to complete his final book.”

The 96-page book is available at the Historic Midway Museum Store. For Midway City Council Member John McDaniel's remembrance of his friend, written shortly after his death, click here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Electric-vehicle charging station unveiled at City Hall

Cutting the ribbon: Council Member Bruce Southworth; David
Huff, director of energy efficiency and emerging technologies for
KU and LG&E; Mayor Grayson Vandegrift; council members John
McDaniel and Sarah Hicks; Woodford Forward CEO Chase Milner.
Kentucky Utilities representatives and Midway city officials unveiled KU’s new publicly available charging station for electric vehicles Thursday in the far corner of the parking lot behind City Hall.

The City Council agreed in July to reserve two spaces at the back corner of the parking lot for the charging station, which was installed at no cost to the city. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said then that KU had picked Midway to be one of 20 towns with such stations, which charge $3.28 per hour.

Council Member Sara Hicks, who had pushed the idea, said at the July meeting it would attract new visitors to town and generate business because "They'll have to sit around for an hour" while their vehicles charge. Vandegrift said, "It's just the next step in becoming a greener city."

Local nonprofit Woodford Forward took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Its chief executive officer, Chase Milner, "initiated outreach with KU and the mayor of Midway this spring in seeking to cultivate a private/public EV partnership opportunity," the group said in a news release.

“Chase helped to bring renewable energy innovation and EV charger development to Midway’s infrastructure grid, thereby putting the City of Midway ‘on the map’, which will help to attract more zero-emissions vehicle drivers to Woodford County,” Woodford Forward Chair Benny Williams said. “We hope that this effort will also help spur more destination tourism to Midway’s uniquely charming and historic downtown, as EV drivers will now have a great place to visit and shop while they wait on their vehicles to charge.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mayor sees much progress, several challenges in annual report to City Council

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift delivered the following annual report at tonight's meeting of the Midway City Council.

It’s easy for many of us – at least I know it is for me – to go through life as though Midway is the center of our universe. For me and you, in so many ways, it is the center, and so I think you’ll forgive me for speaking in such terms. Developments in recent years have been extremely encouraging, and now we are seeing the fruit of generations of care that has given us a better right than most to lay our claim that we are the greatest small city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

More specifically, our general fund is very healthy, our debts are rapidly being paid down, and there is no need to raise any city taxes anytime in the near or remote future. In each of the last two years we have lowered property tax rates, and come budget time, I’ll be proposing we lower them once again.

In financial terms, the reason for our stability is no secret. In fact, the entire Bluegrass Region knows that Midway is open for business. As I stated previously, the added payroll taxes generated by American Howa Kentucky, now in full production, have begun flowing into our city coffers, and with the end of the 4th quarter of 2017 approaching, we will soon begin to collect the significant revenue that Lakeshore Learning Materials is generating, and of which we have all been long awaiting.

Midway University, also a significant contributor of occupational tax revenue, is thriving. Now co-ed, their enrollment numbers are climbing, and nothing but good news is coming from 512 E. Stephens Street. The Homeplace at Midway is an enormous sense of pride, a significant employer, and it continues to win accolades for their superb service to the wisest of our citizens.

Downtown is as vibrant as ever. Three new restaurants have opened in the past year alone, bringing our downtown dining options to an impressive eight, and new shops continue to relocate here from Lexington. The downtown business district has organically been expanding from Main Street onto North Gratz, stretching towards our continuously improving Walter Bradley Park.

A rejuvenated Midway Merchants Association has created new and successful events that have delighted local businesses, residents and visitors. Midsummer Nights in Midway had a terrific sophomore season, and the Midway Fall Festival brought in the largest crowds the 43-year-old event has ever seen. Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival continues to improve, and creates a midsummer boost of its own to downtown shops and restaurants. We should continue to support and encourage these efforts, providing these non-profit organizations the atmosphere – and the autonomy – they need to succeed. I challenge the Midway Merchants Association, in particular, to have it so there is at least one event in each month of the year, so as to give local merchants much needed support to get them through the tougher times.

As a government, we’ve shown that we can accomplish tasks that have seemed elusive to the city for many years. The success at Midway Station, the resolution of inconsistent cemetery regulation, and the public-private collaborations that led to the repair of highly trafficked sidewalks have proven that like our citizens, our government can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Our next challenge will be passing and enforcing a new Property Maintenance Code ordinance that will ensure that diligent property owners are not burdened by careless neighbors, and that renters in our city never have to suffer the negligence of bad landlords.

We’ve also made important tune-ups to our wastewater treatment plant in hopes that we can extend its lifespan for another decade. In 2018, we will finally pay off the old wastewater treatment plant. We should then consider having the plant appraised, deemed surplus property, and put up for public bid. We are currently planning improvements to some of our worst storm sewers, and will be paving more roadways in the spring.

With all of the positive news we’ve become accustomed to, we still have many challenges. As I’ve said before in previous annual reports, we can’t take our eye off of needed improvements to old water and sewer lines. Currently, we are making repairs in small doses, and this policy will need to continue until we have paid off our current debts, because no matter how much new revenue we have or are still to create, the expense of such projects will still most likely involve borrowing money.

Despite the change in fortunes the city has seen at Midway Station, many challenges there still await us. Nothing worries me more at the moment in our mercurial industrial park than the fate of the roads. It is clear now that there can be no guarantee that any private developer will pay for the cost of the needed finishing coat on the roadways there. At the same time, I don’t see any reason why we as a city should accept into our possession any road at Midway Station in its current condition.

One solution is to continue to push for a rezoning of the 61 acres on the east end of the park from residential back to industrial. Aside from the increased revenue this would generate, it could also allow for the complete removal of those inadequate roads in that portion of the park.

All of our problems, however, are solvable; most cities would gladly trade their main issues for ours. If a community works together, and everyone’s light is allowed to shine, then they possess a formula for success.

In summary, our local economy is booming, our citizens are engaged, and our accomplishments can easily be seen. Despite our challenges, it’s abundantly clear that our city is flourishing, and the opportunities we have are only bounded by our own imaginations. I have never been more optimistic about our city’s future than I am right now. Like the classic children’s story about a little engine that could achieve what others believed impossible, we are the “little city that could,” because we think we can … we think we can … we think we can …

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Train brings Santa Claus to Midway, delighting children

Santa Claus made his annual arrival in Midway this morning via the RJ Corman Railroad Co. A large crowd of children and adults waited along the tracks and East Main Street for the engine and caboose, which arrived promptly at 11 a.m. Santa greeted many of the children and even some of the adults.

Santa's arrival, and Friday night's lighting of the tree, next to the tracks near the corner of Main and Gratz street, signaled the full-scale opening of the Christmas season in Midway, which merchants began on Nov. 4. For a YouTube video of Santa's arrival, by Mary Massie, click here. For her video of Santa at the Eat, Drink Breathe cafe, go here. Thanks, Mary!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Housing no longer planned for Midway Station; mayor says he doesn't want 'sprawling' housing developments

Midway Station is likely to remain an industrial and commercial development, with no residential zoning. That was the main news as Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reviewed recent developments and looked ahead with the City Council Monday evening.

Vandegrift said developer Dennis Anderson, who has an option to buy much of Midway Station, "is very interested" in changing 61 acres that are zoned residential back to industrial. He said they agree on the need for that, especially with the truck traffic to and from the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center that began shipments this month.

"It never really was a good idea out there," with industrial property so close to residential, Vandegrift said.

Midway Station was a failed industrial park in 2008 when the council and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority adopted Anderson's plan to turn it into a commercial and residential development. That plan was delayed by the Great Recession, then was changed by the advent of industry on and near the property and the state's expected disapproval of Anderson's initial tax-increment financing plan to redevelop the property.

Housing: If the 61-acre tract is once again zoned industrial, Vandegrift said, there will be no plans for housing in Midway. He said housing developments need to be affordable for the young and old, have a "small footprint" and "fit with Midway. . . . We do not need another sprawling neighborhood with a big footprint."

Specifically, the mayor said there should be no residential development south of Leestown Road, other than "infill" of small, undeveloped tracts. That could run contrary to the plans of David Thomas Phillips, who owns 31 acres between Leestown Road and the Northridge Estates subdivision. In 2010 Phillips filed a lawsuit seeking a judgment seeking to invalidate development restrictions that were supposedly placed on the property at the time Northridge was developed. The lawsuit has not proceeded largely because Phillips has not pressed it, apparently die to legal complications.

Immediately before his Leestown Road comment, Vandegrift said, "We should be thinking about some guidelines to keep our growth in check and keep it sustainable." Speaking more generally, he said the city needs to look for small industries, not just "whales." Lakeshore has promised to employ 262 people to earn incentives from the city, county and state.

Annexation: The mayor noted that EDA decided last week to exercise its option on 104 acres of the Homer Freeney farm on Georgetown Road, between Lakeshore and the new Brown-Forman Corp. warehouses. "It makes perfect sense for us to annex that. We can create more good jobs and more revenue, and we're not going to encroach on good farmland," he said. "The growth is not going to last much longer. . . . I think we've got to take advantage of it while it's here."

Council Member Sarah Hicks asked if the city should annex the warehouse property, which goes all the way to the Scott County line at South Elkhorn Creek. "I see no reason to," Vandegrift said. "It's a fire hazard," and the county gets the property-tax revenue on the aging whiskey.

The mayor said Anderson has closed on a lot that will be the site of a service station and convenience store on Georgetown Road, and has notified the city of his intent to close on five more acres fronting the road.

On other development topics, Vandegrift said the downtown area is "flourishing" and "is as near to full occupancy as it has been in a long time," the two major exceptions being a building that is blighted and another that the owner won't rent. He said a "longstanding" business that he declined to name wants to move to downtown Midway from downtown Lexington.

Other business: Hicks reported that a plan for trails in Woodford, Franklin and Owen counties will be rolled out at the Kentucky Association of Counties office in Frankfort on Nov. 29 at 11:30 a.m. She said she has worked for two years on the issue and the top priority for Woodford County is a trail from Frankfort to Midway, which she hopes could be extended to Weisenberger Mill.

In the only major business at the meeting, the council agreed to sell the city's 34-year-old fire truck to the town of Berry in Harrison County for $1. Vandegrift said, half-jokingly, "Berry is a much smaller city than us, and as the big guy, we've got to look out for the little fellows."