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Friday, September 19, 2014

Midway Fall Festival is Saturday and Sunday

They're not quite sure if it's the 39th or the 40th, but the people of Midway are proud of their Fall Festival, and with good reason. It usually has great weather, big crowds, good entertainment and other attractions. It runs Saturday from 10 to 6 and Sunday from 11 to 5.

Midway merchants are promoting the downtown event as the 40th annual, but John McDaniel, the Midway correspondent for The Woodford Sun, reported this week that he discovered that the first festival was actually held on June 26, 1976, as Midway Bicentennial Saturday. It was "so much fun that it became an annual event," McDaniel wrote.

The R.J. Corman Railroad Co. wasn't able to fulfill its plans for a dinner train to Midway and maybe Frankfort a few years ago, but it will have a dining car from its Lexington-Versailles dinner train on display Saturday. The steam engine it usually brings is under repair.

Here's the entertainment schedule for Saturday: 10 a.m., Midway Children’s Choir; 12:30 p.m., Bark Alley band; 1:45, Jones Family Band; 3 p.m., Aaron Hamilton Project, a jazz band with Midway Council Member Aaron Hamilton. on Sunday, Billy and Lauren Hill will play at 1:15 p.m. and the Wildcat Cloggers will entertain at 2:15. For more information see www.MidwayFallFestival.org.

Kevin Locke renamed to state housing-building board

Gov. Steve Beshear has reappointed Midway architect Kevin Locke to a four-year term on the Kentucky Board of Housing, Building and Construction. Locke, of Ross Tarrant Architects of Lexington, represents the Kentucky Society of Architects.

Council OKs deal to help Lexington project, hears it could help finance Midway Station development

The Midway City Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday morning to create a nonprofit corporation that can sell tax-exempt bonds for projects that use tax-increment financing, a scheme that uses most of the tax revenue generated by a project to pay off the project's debt.

The proposal was made by the Kentucky League of Cities to help finance the CentrePointe development in the heart of downtown Lexington, but it could help Midway and developer Dennis Anderson turn the long-dormant Midway Station into the commercial and residential area he has envisioned for six years.

Mayor Tom Bozarth read a letter from Anderson saying that he intends to ask for tax-increment financing to redo the public infrastructure in the 185 acres north of Interstate 64. Monday night, Anderson estimated that cost at $31 million.

Bozarth said John Soper, chair of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property, told him that EDA is also supportive of the TIF idea. Bozarth is president of the League of Cities this year.

Temple Juett, attorney for the League of Cities, said Midway would have no liability if the CentrePointe project of developer Dudley Webb fails. "It's a little risky," he said. Webb attorney Darby Turner said most the bonds for the project will probably be bought by bond funds and mutual funds.

Council Member Bruce Southworth said, "I'm not against it, but what's in it for us?" Bozarth said creation of the nonprofit corporation would create another option for Anderson "or anyone else who wants to do development in Midway." He said it would not affect the city's bonding authority.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Council hears about tax-increment financing; developer says it would greatly increase Midway Station prospects

By Tessa Lighty, Paige Mullen, Sarah Brookbank and Quinn Schwartz
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

It has been a roller-coaster ride for Midway Station, the failed industrial park, but the development could be back on track with tax-increment financing, which developer Dennis Anderson says would greatly increase the chances of it becoming a mixed-use development.

Tax-increment financing allows a city or county to create a TIF district and use the increase in future tax revenue from development within that area to fund the cost of development. Representatives of Commonwealth Economics, which is working for Anderson, explained TIF to the Midway City Council at its meeting Monday night.

TIF is “used to help local governments jump-start improvements in declining or underperforming urban areas where development would not otherwise occur,” according to the Kentucky League of Cities website. Turning Midway Station into a TIF project would allow the area, once developed, to use the increased state and local tax revenue within the district, to keep the money local, as opposed to spread around the state.

"It allows even the smaller cities to recover some of the tax dollars that they generate and send to the state. You don’t know where the state is going to allocate those dollars," Casey Bolton of Commonwealth Economics told the council. He said TIF does not create new taxes, tax exemptions or any restrictions on the property in the district.

Anderson (right, photo by Tessa Lighty) didn't speak during the meeting, but he told the Midway Messenger afterward, “The chances of this project happening become greatly increased with the TIF.” He said the estimated cost of reconstructing streets, utilities and other infrastructure in the 185 acres of non-industrial property for residential and commercial use would be roughly $31 million.

“It sounds like a huge amount, but it is over a 20-year period. Nine million dollars a year,” he said. “There’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to be changed. . . . When you go to change the elevation of a lot, then the street changes, the sidewalk changes, and everything changes with it. . . . Also, the electric there is not appropriate for a mixed-use community so it has to be changed as well.” Anderson said the infrastructure would be the property of the city.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority developed Midway Station as an industrial park 24 years ago, but it has created fewer than 10 jobs. After a proposal to relocate Bluegrass Stockyards on the property ran into local opposition, Anderson signed a tentative deal in 2008 to buy and develop the property as a residential and commercial development. The area was rezoned but Anderson said in 2009 that development had been delayed by “lackluster economic conditions.” In January 2011, Anderson signed a new deal with the EDA in which he pays the taxes on the property and the interest on the $6 million debt the county and city incurred to develop it.

Prospects for development have improved recently, with rezoning of the rear of the property for a major industrial prospect the EDA is recruiting and commercial development of property Anderson owns on the south side of Interstate 64. The planning and zoning commission took no action last week on a request that some adjoining property behind the industrial area also be zoned industral.

A TIF district brings back 80% of state income tax, property tax and corporate liability taxes and 100% of local income, occupational licensing fees and real estate taxes, Brett Antle of Commonwealth Economics told the council. Examples of TIF areas are the Yum! Center in Louisville and the new Kroger-centered development in Versailles.

The council wasn't asked to do anything regarding Midway Station, but it was asked to approve an agreement with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government to help finance a major TIF project in downtown Lexington, the CentrePointe hotel and related development. The deal was proposed by the Kentucky League of Cities, of which Mayor Tom Bozarth is president.

After Council Member Bruce Southworth said he wanted more time to study the proposal, the council scheduled a special meeting for a.m. Friday to act on it. For more information on the project, from the Lexington Herald-Leader, click here.

The council decided to wait until a joint meeting with the Versailles council to act on Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle's request that the cities pay the county more for emergency-management services for the current fiscal year, on the promise from Coyle that the county would consider reducing the amounts for the following year. The county wants Midway to pay about $700 a month for the services; it has been paying $500.

In other business, the council approved  a request to add three names to the Midway Veteran’s Memorial (John L. Dotson, Vietnam/Persian Gulf, and Martin Goldey and Jeffery D. Spencer, Iraq/Afghanistan); a new electricity franchise ordinance; and a permit for St. Matthew’s Church to close the sidewalk for its fish fry. It gave first reading to an ordinance on encroachment permits, a subject of some controversy this summer.

Information for this story was also gathered by Jackson L. Reams.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Midway College says its budget is likely to stay balanced despite another decline in enrollment

By Midway Messenger Staff

Amid yet another decrease in enrollment, Midway College announced last Thursday that it had a balanced budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014 and said it is likely to stay that way.

The school experienced an 18 percent decrease in enrollment from 2012 to 2013, and said in a press release that it had declined this fall to 1,140 students from 1,362, a drop of nearly 17 percent. The loss was entirely in the what the press release called the nationally declining “non-traditional market” for students over age 24, or the college's coeducational programs. The Women's College enrollment went up by two students, to 294.

Dr. John Marsden, president
"Enrollments are of course a significant part of looking at the vitality of an institution. However they do not, and cannot, tell the entire picture," college President John P. Marsden said in a press release. He said "fundraising, budgeting, managing expenses and sound business practices all impact the bottom line," and the college is likely to have a balanced budget in the current fiscal year.

Marsden said in the release that he was unaware of the budget issues when he was hired in February 2013. "I was incorrectly told there would be a balanced budget," he said. "Once on campus, I discovered significant budget issues and we immediately took action."

To balance the budget, Marsden and college trustees were faced with a number of difficult decisions. Perhaps the toughest was the release of 14 faculty members and 16 staffers in the fall of 2013, as well as suspending contributions to faculty retirement accounts. According to Marsden, a balanced budget would not have been possible without these changes.

Seven of the former faculty members, all from the School of Business, filed a lawsuit against the college alleging breach of contract and age discrimination. The suit claim the terminations failed to consider seniority, special skills and job performance, as well as failing to involve the former faculty members in any discussions about the supposed financial hardships. The case is pending.

The press release focused on the positive developments that helped the college climb out of its deficit of $1.8 million, such as the partnership with a Panamanian government agency that will send the college 26 students per year for a college readiness program at full tuition.

Other changes use to balance the budget included outsourcing dining and physical-plant services, creating a new tuition payment process, improving collections, suspending the match for employee retirement funds, and greater fundraising efforts. It said fundraising other than estate gifts was up 60 percent in the recently ended fiscal year.

The release made nothing more than a footnote of the reason the college ran into trouble in the first place. It said the 2012-13 fiscal year "was a year of recovery from substantial losses for Midway College from discontinued pursuit of a School of Pharmacy and misaligned spending during periods of declining enrollment." For more on that, click here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chamber to raise funds with art auction at college

A benefit art auction for the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, in the Anne Hart Raymond Building at Midway College. The art preview will begin at 6 p.m. and the auction will start at 7.

More than 200 works of art "by nationally and internationally recognized artists will be auctioned, as well as three pieces donated by local artists, galleries, and community members," the chamber said in a press release. "Beginning bids will be below retail gallery prices. . . . A magnificent piece of art will be raffled off the night of the auction."

Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres donated by chamber members who are helping sponsor the event will be served.  Admission is $5 in advance or $10 at the door. For more information contact Chamber Executive Director Don Vizi at woodforddirector@gmail.com.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Council deals with taxes, smoking, festivals, emergency services, encroachment issue

The Midway City Council kept the city's real-estate tax rate at 10.6 cents per $100 and heard first reading of a revised ordinance on the personal-property tax rate Monday night.

The council also passed a smoking-ban ordinance, to replace a county health department regulation that by all indications is in violation of the state constitution, under a June decision by the state Supreme Court.

Pending final approval on second reading, the property-tax rate will be 14 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, two cents less than last year, because the total valuation has gone up. The original draft ordinance had to be revised and delayed because of a clerical error.

The smoking ordinance bans smoking in public places, workplaces, city buildings and vehicles, the seating areas of any "arenas, stadiums and amphitheaters," and within "a reasonable distance of not less than three feet" from any windows or outside entrance of a place where the ordinance applies. For a PDF of the ordinance, and the tax-rate calculation, click here.

Kenny Smith, representing the Midway Fall Festival, asked the city to be a financial sponsor of the Sept. 20-21 event, "so that we're clear and on the record what we can expect from the city." Bozarth replied that there had never been any written agreement between the city and the merchants association, which sponsors the festival. He appointed Council Members Grayson Vandegrift, Dan Roller and Sharon Turner to meet with festival organizers.

The mayor said the festival should be treated like the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, which returned to the Midway College campus this spring after three years at Equus Run Vineyards. He noted that the fall festival has paid vendors' license fees for two years (under a relatively new ordinance passed after Francisco's Farm left town). "Francisco's Farm has been sent a bill, and I don't know if we've ever received payment," he said.

Council Member Sara Hicks is the president of Midway Renaissance, the main sponsor of Francisco's Farm. She said after the meeting that the $1,800 bill came as a surprise and was incorrectly calculated because at least 10 of the 90 "vendors" at the two-day festival were actually sponsors with booths. Hicks said the difference in the two festivals is that the fall event is on "the streets of downtown Midway," but "I'm sure something will be worked out."

Most of the discussion during the meeting was about Woodford County's unofficial cancellation of its agreement with Midway and Versailles to jointly finance emergency management services, following the cities' complaint that they are paying too much.

The agreement will expire 90 days after the county gives formal notice of the cancellation, EMS Director Keith Slugantz told the council. "I expected the public officials to work this out a long time ago. The public conflict has been between the county and Versailles; Bozarth said he had been unable to discuss it with county officials.

Vandegrift said he was surprised that the county was acting so abruptly. "The county has some reasonable claims," he said. "I think we do, too. I would like to see some kind of compromise." He said the fiscal court and city councils should meet to draft a revised agreement. Bozarth said that meeting needs to happen soon.

The council held a nine-minute closed session, citing the exception to the open-meetings law for discussion of proposed or pending litigation.

The council quickly disposed of the issue that got the most discussion at the last meeting, approving a revised encroachment permit for Jon Maybriar that allows him to keep the concrete he used instead of pavers. Bozarth noted that the city's engineer had a favorable opinion of the work.