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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Council sets work session to discuss pay raises

The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting next week to discuss big pay raises for the council and mayor who will be elected in November 2018. After several months of discussing the proposal, the council decided Aug. 7 that it needed more detailed consideration.

The special meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at City Hall. The meeting notice says "The purpose is to have a work session on mayoral/council pay increases. No action will be taken." The notice says action will be taken on a proposed change to the zoning ordinance on industrial signs. All council meetings are open to the public.

The ordinance the council defeated Aug. 7 would have raised the mayor's annual pay to $12,000 from $1,200, and the council members' $600 salary to $4,800 a year, starting in 2019. Proponents have said the current pay is archaically low and the officials will have even more to do as Midway develops, while skeptics say the increases would be too large, especially for the council.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

'Peace in the Park' Sunday, Aug. 27 to 'celebrate diversity and discuss important topics of the day'

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has announced a special event in response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., and related issues. "Peace in the Park" will be held in the newly landscaped quarry area of Walter Bradley Park Sunday, Aug. 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. Here's a poster:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Message from the Mayor: We should, and will, do our part to make the world a better place; stay tuned

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

With the horrific tragedies that occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend I am once again struggling to wrap my mind around the fact that in 2017 there are white supremacists marching in the streets of our cities and towns. Racism is a vile and infectious idea – and completely un-American. The very idea that someone’s value is determined at birth was at the heart of the American Revolution, and the rejection of that notion is our highest principle.

But the division in this country has recently gone from polarizing political speech to violence and death, and so many of us are simply bewildered – and afraid. It’s as if a wheel has been spun that we can’t get to stop turning, and it continues to pick up speed. I’ve long believed that true change and true progress does not happen from the top down, but from the bottom up.

We are so fortunate to live in a wonderful and peaceful community, but we don’t live on an island, and we can and should do our part to make our world a better place. In the spirit of that, we are in the early stages of planning a city event to allow anyone and everyone to share what they’re feeling – regardless of who they are or what they believe. We will make details available as soon as they are ironed out. Perhaps we can even set a good example for other cities by showing how we can come together and enjoy one another, despite our petty differences.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Council wants to think more about pay raises

After months of thinking about it, when the time came to vote, Midway City Council members decided they needed to keep on thinking about paying the mayor and council elected in November 2018 a lot more than the officials make now.

The ordinance the council defeated Monday evening would have raised the mayor's annual pay to $12,000 from $1,200, and the council members' $600 salary to $4,800 a year. In monthly terms, that would take the mayor from $100 to $1,000, and the council from $50 to $400. Proponents said the current pay is archaically low and the officials will have even more to do as Midway develops.

Sarah Hicks moved to adopt the ordinance, and Steve Simoff seconded it. But they were the only council members who voted for it, and Simoff said afterward that he still wanted council members to get only $200 a month.

That sentiment was shared by at least some of the four members who voted no: Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel, Bruce Southworth and Libby Warfield, who had been the only one who publicly expressed significant reservations about the proposal.

Gallagher said, "I think the 400 is way too much," and suggested cutting it to $200 a month and adding another $100 to the pay of the mayor, who "is going to have a hell of a lot more to do." Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that extensive a change would require redrafting of the ordinance and two more readings.

Warfield said in June that data from the Kentucky League of Cities showed that annual salaries in the six Kentucky towns most similar to Midway average $6,000 for the mayor and $1,900 each for council members.

Hicks said at Monday's meeting that there are "significant differences" between Midway and those towns, including income. She said Midway's median income is $53,874, and the next highest income among the group is in Bloomfield, at $39,196. She said Midway's income is "significantly above the state levels, but all the other cities were below the state levels."

Hicks also noted the town's proximity to interstate highways and much larger towns, and said "We are the only city of our size that has a university." She said much of the income in the other comparable towns "comes from manufacturing or extraction."

Southworth, a retired Midway and Versailles city official, said "I don't do this for the money. That's not the reason I'm here. It don't really make any difference to me."

McDaniel suggested that the council vote down the proposed ordinance and have a workshop to learn more about the issue.

Vandegrift said the council pay in the ordinance could be lowered by amendment, without redrafting and extra readings, but no council member moved to do that.

"I'd like to look at it some more," McDaniel said, apparently reflecting a consensus. Hicks acknowledged, "We could do more financial analysis," looking at budgets of comparable towns and the percentage of expenses that go to administration.

Warfield suggested there are intangibles to consider when making comparisons with other towns: "Do they give me the same feeling I get when I'm in Midway?"

After the 2-4 vote, Vandegrift said further action should be initiated by the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, chaired by Hicks. When she asked about a time frame, Vandegrift said he would send out more information on the issue this week.

Speed bumps: The meeting was the first since Vandegrift announced that he was getting rid of the removable speed bumps on East Stephens Street because of deterioration and would seek a refund of $5,300 from the manufacturer.

Gallagher asked about a four-way stop at the intersection of Brand and Stephens streets, but Vandegrift said state traffic engineers have told him that would cause accidents. "I think the answer is enforcement," he said, but added after some discussion, "We need to pursue all options. We're not going to stop working on this."

Southworth, who lives near the intersection, suggested lowering the speed limit, since "It makes the ticket bigger" for a typical speeder.

Tax rates: The council held first reading of an ordinance setting tax rates for bills that will be mailed this fall. The real-estate rate would remain the same, 10.2 cents per $100 of value, but the tax on personal property would be lowered to 12.43 cents from the current 14 cents.

Vandegrift said afterward that the rates are calculated to raise approximately the same amount of money as last year. He told the council that he would schedule second reading and passage of the ordinance for the next meeting, Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Police contract: Vandegrift announced that the City of Versailles, which provides police protection in all of Woodford County, had begun negotiations with the county government on a new police contract without involving Midway.

The mayor said he told Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle that all three governments should be involved in the talks, rather than Versailles approaching Midway after doing a new deal with the county.

"We're going to be asked to pay more money," Vandegrift said.

Other action: The council approved an encroachment permit for Equine Analysis Systems of 107 W. Main St., which has bought the vacant lot that lies behind it and fronts on Winter Street. The permit (and a state permit, because Winter is US 62) will allow EAS to build a driveway and handicapped parking area.

Southworth asked why half of the excavated area would be graveled instead of paved. Deborah Boehler of EAS cited cost. She said part of the driveway had to be paved to keep gravel from sliding into Winter Street, according to the state permit. Hicks said, "I'm glad you're using gravel, because it's permeable and reduces toxic runoff."

The council deferred action on a request for an event permit for Bourbon Country Burn, a proposed bicycling event, because of questions about the route, personnel to help with traffic control and the plan to use Walter Bradley Park, which has the free water supply, as a water stop.

Hicks also voiced concern about the number of races and similar events being routed through Midway: "We could just get so popular that it might not be an asset any longer."

Steve Morgan of the Midway Business Association announced that the next free CPR class for bystanders will be held Aug. 16. He said seven people (four business owners and three council members) attended the class held last month.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dr. William Brown retires from Midway University, which gives him most of the credit for its re-accreditation

William Brown and President John Marsden
Midway University has granted emeritus status to Dr. William Brown, who has retired from the school, and given him most of the credit for being re-accredited for 10 years.

"In 2014 and 2015, he led an institution-wide effort to ensure Midway's reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges," a university news release said. "Midway University was reaffirmed for 10 years in December 2015 without sanctions or monitoring largely due to the efforts of Dr. Brown."

"Dr. Brown has had a profound impact on this institution and has directly or indirectly touched all students, whether they knew it or not," University President John Marsden said. "He is an honorable man and valuable colleague and will be sorely missed in his retirement."

Marsden announced Brown's honor from the Board of Trustees at the school's commencement ceremony on May 13, the date of his retirement.

Brown began his career at what was then Midway College in the fall of 1996 as an assistant professor of philosophy and religion and a staffer in the financial-aid office. "In 1997, he played a critical role in a newly created School for Career Development, which is the predecessor of the university's evening and online programs," the release said. "Dr. Brown was instrumental in the day-to-day oversight of the School for Career Development and held various positions in that office including dean and vice president. More recently, Dr. Brown served as associate vice president of academic affairs with oversight for the credit-for-prior-learning program, assessment, accreditation, academic policies, administrative withdrawals and drops, academic petitions and appeals, and the dual-credit program."

Brown holds a Ph.D. in theology from the Pontifical University of Rome and an M.A. in Philosophy from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sam Shepard in Midway: He liked the town that honored his privacy, and he chose to spend his last days nearby

Shepard at the Sundance Film Festival
in 2014 for the opening of Cold in July.
By John McDaniel
Special to the Midway Messenger
    This week began on a sad note when it was announced Monday that Sam Shepard, noted Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, author, screenwriter, director and Oscar-nominated actor,  had passed away at his farm near Midway, just across South Elkhorn Creek in Scott County. The family waited five days before letting the public know that he died from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
    Samuel Shepard Rogers III was born in the town of Fort Sheridan, Illinois, just north of Chicago, on Nov. 5, 1943. He died Thursday, July 27, at the age of 73.
    A close friend of mine, after hearing of Shepard’s passing, sent me a text wanting to know if I had heard the news. My friend, a Shepard admirer, author of several books, and a filmmaker himself, knew that I often talked to Shepard, and on one occasion my friend sat down with us and discussed the ins and outs of their trade for an hour or two. I sent a text back saying I hadn’t heard that Sam had passed away. However, the news did not surprise me, because I had seen him out just a couple of months ago on Main Street, and saw how much different he looked from just a little over a year ago before he found out that he had ALS. Seeing him in his wheelchair, it was easy to surmise that his days left on this earth were few.
    After seven years or so, it’s going to be a little bit different not seeing Shepard in town anymore, hanging out on the downtown patios or squirreled away in back of one of the Midway restaurants, writing notes in his notebook or reading a book as he ate.
    I met Sam like I have met so many other people who have made their way through Midway. It was several years ago when I was sitting at the bar at The Black Tulip, now the Grey Goose, watching the women’s college fast-pitch playoffs on the TV above the bar, when this guy came in wearing boots, blue jeans, and a wild head of hair the wind had blown in every direction. He takes a seat beside me and orders a shot of Patron Tequila, says “hi,” looks up at the screen and questions why I liked watching women play fast-pitch softball. When I told him that was what was playing when I came in, he laughed. I said if he would rather watch something else, we could get the bartender to change the channel. He gulped down his shot of tequila and ordered another. I drank my Miller Lite, asked the bartender if she would change the TV to the horse-racing channel, so we watched races and talked about horses.  He said that he had some horses racing, but it was more like a hobby.
Shepard at Sundance, 2014
    He was friendly enough, but a bit reserved in his conversation, as I drank another Miller Lite and he did another shot of tequila. After finishing up I had to leave and said goodbye, and he replied that he would probably see me around again. Like I said, he wasn’t much on conversation, at least not that particular day. However, he was right; he did see me around again, and I later discovered that he was one of the most interesting conversationalists that I have ever had the pleasure of talking with. In fact, he turned out to be one of the most interesting people that I have ever known.
    I soon learned that this windswept, cowboy-looking fellow was actually a movie star who had been nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for playing test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. I was also informed that he had bought a farm and would be living just outside Midway. That was pretty neat, but I didn’t really know that much about the movies he had been in, or anything else about him, for that matter. To me, he was just somebody who had been in a movie; no big deal. After all, Star Trek’s William Shatner came around town a few times a year, so a movie person in Midway wasn’t unheard of. To me, people in movies and on TV were pretty much like everyone else, except most of them had more money than they knew what to do with. I was to find out later found out that Sam wasn’t like a lot of other movie people and wasn’t the stereotype movie celebrity.   
    After seeing him around town almost every day after our first meeting, I quickly discovered that he was without a doubt a curiosity, and it was comical to sit back and watch people’s reaction once they recognized who he was as he sat in corner booths of Midway’s restaurants. It was interesting how far out of the way women would walk to get a closer look, not looking where they were going, and bumping into chairs as they stared at him while making their way to the bathroom.
Shepard at the back door of his home on now-closed Sharp Lane in Scott County
    One night when he was eating at Heirloom with Phil Gerrow of Midway, a contractor who did most of the work on Shepard’s home off Fishers Mill Road, a group of ladies at the front of the restaurant recognized Sam across the way and began giggling like a bunch of high-school teenagers who just got patted on the behind by the captain of the football team.  They would giggle some more, put their heads together, and plan their next course of action. Each one of the six made their way past his booth on the way to the bathroom, one at a time, and came back to the table verifying that the guy sitting in the booth was definitely the Sam Shepard.
    Henry Wombles, co-owner of the Heirloom at that time, and I sat at the bar laughing and wondering what it would be like to garner that much attention. After a while others in the restaurant recognized Sam, and the normal table chatter that filled the room dropped to a steady murmur, fingers began to point as heads shook in agreement, and people at the tables would wave their waitresses over to have them confirm that the person sitting in the booth at the back of the restaurant was indeed Sam Shepard. That’s when people would begin to get up from their tables to head for the bathrooms, slowing down as they passed Sam’s booth.
    One night one lady, in a very nice-looking yellow dress, must have been on some serious diuretic pills or the Heirloom food was seriously disagreeing with her. Henry and I sat at the bar and counted nine round trips from her table to the bathroom and back again using the longest route possible so that she could walk close to Sam’s booth.  That’s the way people acted when they visited Midway and recognized Sam Shepard at one of the restaurants in town and it happened every time he came to town.
    Shepard told the New York Times in 1994, “I still haven’t gotten over this thing of walking down the street and somebody recognizes you because you’ve been in a movie, there is an illusion that movie stars only exist in a movie. And to see one live is like seeing a leopard let out of the zoo.”
    I think a lot of people were intimidated by Shepard. Though they were excited to see him in the flesh, it was very seldom that onlookers would actually stop to ask him for an autograph; most would just stare at him. Midway residents would smile and speak but, I only knew a few who ever bothered him for a picture or autograph. Townspeople made it a point to respect his privacy, and I believe that is why he liked Midway so much.
Shepard's home (Photos from www.sam-shepard.com)
    Every once in a while, someone would gather up enough nerve to ask for an autograph, or ask if he would have a picture taken with them. Sometimes he would accommodate them with a great big smile, other times he would be very reluctant, and other times he would refuse and totally embarrass the person who dared to make such a request. Such refusals were mild compared to the tongue-lashing he gave people who would walk up and set off flashes from their camera into his face. He would remind them that he wasn’t some animal in the zoo.  Knowing that he couldn’t very well take their cameras away, he would warn them that he had better not see or hear about the picture appearing on Facebook or anywhere else. The violators would apologize, duck their head, and disappear as fast as they could.
    This was just the beginning of me getting to know Sam Shepard. Little did I know that we would later have many interesting talks, discussing politics, religion, horses, dogs, and probably a few subjects that Wikipedia has yet to research. The more I learned about him I discovered that he was more than just a face on a screen. I gained a respect for him as I learned more about the 40 plays he wrote, including “Buried Child,” which won the Pulitzer.  I discovered that he was a genuine cowboy and loved his quarter-horse cutting horses. I learned that he could play guitar and sing, and one night when he wanted to see inside the Thoroughbred Theater that my brother Jim and I ran, he saw my set of drums on the stage and asked if he could play them. I told him where I kept my drumsticks and he went on stage, sat and played drums until 2 a.m.
    There is no doubt that Sam Shepard was a very talented, complex and intelligent person. He could be rude, he could be funny, he could be compassionate, and he had days that he just didn’t give a damn. I liked him for a lot of reasons, but he won me over because during one of our talks he once told me that he really did like Midway and that it had such a quality that even he had a hard time finding the words to describe the area around here. Maybe that’s why he chose to spend his last days here.

John McDaniel, left, is a member of the Midway City Council, the Midway correspondent for The Woodford Sun, and a former Midway and Woodford County police officer. He wrote this expanded version of his weekly Sun column at the request of the Midway Messenger.

Tonight on Broadway in New York, marquee lights will go dark for one minute in memory of Sam Shepard. He is survived by three children: Jesse, his son by his marriage to O-Lan Jones, and Hannah and Walker, his children with actress Jessica Lange; and by two sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers. Funeral arrangements are private, and no plans have been made yet for a public memorial, according to the website www.sam-shepard.com.

UPDATE, Aug. 3: Singer-songwriter Patti Smith writes in The New Yorker magazine about times spent with him on his Midway farm.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bevin appoints new circuit judge from Georgetown

Woodford County is getting a new circuit judge.

Gov. Matt Bevin has appointed Georgetown lawyer Jeremy Mattox of Georgetown as a judge in the14th Judicial Circuit Judge, Division 1, also serving Scott and Bourbon counties, effective Aug. 25. He will replace Rob Johnson, whom Bevin recently appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals to fill a vacancy created by the election of Larry Van Meter to the state Supreme Court. Johnson's term runs through 2018. The other judges in the circuit are Paul Isaacs and Family Court Judge Lisa Morgan, also of Georgetown.

A news release from Bevin's office said Mattox is a graduate of Harrison County High School, Georgetown College and, in 2006, the University Kentucky College of Law. "Mattox has practiced law almost exclusively in central Kentucky, representing clients in a variety of civil, criminal and domestic matters," the release said. "He has been involved in a number of civic organizations, including the Georgetown-Scott County Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Justice Association," a lobby for plaintiffs' lawyers.

Mattox said in the release, “I am honored by this opportunity to serve the citizens of Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties and am grateful to Governor Bevin and the Judicial Nominating Commission for selecting me.” The governor fills judicial vacancies from a list of three names submitted by commissions for each jurisdiction. The other nominees were Damon Loyd Preston and Perry Thomas Ryan, also of Georgetown.