Thursday, September 29, 2016

Council committee to discuss unspecified 'change in regulations' at 10 a.m. Monday

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 3, at City Hall to discuss a "change in regulations," says the notice from the city, with no elaboration. All committee and council meetings are open to the public. The council will hold a regular meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Council committee endorses idea of moving Weisenberger Mill bridge to city park

This story has been updated since the committee meeting.

Walter Bradley Park has a new bridge. It might also be getting an old one.

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council agreed Wednesday afternoon that the city should apply to the state to get the Weisenberger Mill bridge when the bridge is replaced next year. The state is seeking proposals for moving the one-lane bridge, built in 1935.

Weisenberger Mill bridge (Commonwealth of Kentucky photo)
If moved to Midway, the bridge would not span any stream. Its proposed location is a marshy area in the park, next to Newton Street. The park has a new pedestrian bridge farther downstream on Lee Branch, in the formerly overgrown wooded area.

"I think we owe it to our citizens to keep it here, because it means so much to Midway residents," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the committee. He said the state would bring the bridge to the site, but in pieces, and the city would have to pay for reconstructing it.

"What we really want are the trusses," said prospective park manager John Holloway. "The rest of it is just two concrete pads for it to fit on. . . . I would make it as close to the ground as practical." Holloway's park plan calls for two trees at the site, but he said that could be changed.

Committee chair Sara Hicks mentioned other possible locations, but Council Member Libby Warfield said, "I can't see any place that would accommodate it as easily" as the park. Council Member Steven Craig said, "I think it's going to look great in the park and I'm actually excited about getting it there."

The council is expected to discuss the idea. Vandegrift said the state wants proposals by Nov. 10. He said the city has spent about $6,000 of the $10,000 park budget on the pedestrian bridge, but also has more than $3,000 in extra money that has been donated for park improvements.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Park bridge has gained its essential appearance

The bridge over Lee Branch in Walter Bradley Park is virtually complete. Workers are grading the approaches today; the temporary plywood at the far left keeps dirt from falling into the creek. This photo was taken from the upstream side after crossing the bridge.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bridge over Lee Branch in park is nearing completion

L-R: City workers Timmy and Terry Agee, park manager-to-be John Holloway, city worker James Downs.
Lee Branch is bridged. The pedestrian span over the creek in Walter Bradley Park is nearing completion, following installation of the supporting steel beams on Friday. City workers and John Holloway, who is line to be park manager when the city's new Park Board gets organized, worked on installing the wood elements Monday. Holloway, a theatre professor at the University of Kentucky, has spearheaded the volunteer work that has transformed an overgrown section of the park into a great asset for the community. He said the grand opening for the bridge is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'The case of the curious cat' remains unresolved; ordinance committee to consider issue

This story has been corrected.

The concern about lethal traps endangering pets remained unresolved at the Midway City Council meeting Monday night. At the last meeting, on Sept. 6, council members tabled the discussion after they were pressed to answer a letter from a concerned resident whose cat was killed in her neighbor’s yard by a trap set for groundhogs.

This meeting didn't make much progress on the issue either. After a 35-minute debate, council members concluded that the issue needed more public input, so they referred the mater to the council's Ordinance and Policy Committee. agreed to invite the Midway community to voice opinions on it at the next council meeting, on Oct. 10.

Sarah Gilbert was the owner of Bunny Kitty, the cat killed in a lethal trap set in a neighbor's yard back in August. Gilbert acknowledged the friendliness of neighbors and good character of Midway, but she believes that lethal traps don't belong here.

"I really don't think kill traps keep with the spirit of community that we have in this town," she told the council. It is legal to set lethal traps for animals pests in Midway, but Gilbert and her boyfriend, Stewart Surgener, reiterated her written request for an ordinance to ban them.

Members were sympathetic to the loss of Bunny Kitty, but not to the point of taking action.

"I'm not certain that we can enforce this," said Council Member Libby Warfield. Instead of banning lethal traps, Warfield suggested they urge members of the community "to take more personal responsibility" and communicate with neighbors if they resort to using such traps for animal pests.

Gilbert disagreed. "Just because you can't enforce a law all the time, doesn't mean that it still shouldn't be law," she said.

Council Member Daniel Roller Steven Craig said existing ordinances that could make banning lethal traps problematic. He posed the questions: Should pets be on a leash, and do trap owners have rights "if a neighbor's pet is on his or her property?" These questions and more will be examined by the Ordinance and Policy Committee, which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift says will also research how other cities have handled similar situations.

"We're dealing with one unheard element here," Vandegrift said. "We just need to see other ideas of how people handled this."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fall Festival is again a success, despite rain

Crowds filled Main Street and spilled onto Gratz Street.
(Photo by Alexandria Kerns, UK School of Journalism and Media)
By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The sun may not have shone much on Kentucky this weekend, but that did not stop crowds from enjoying the 42nd annual Midway Fall Festival.

The festival started Saturday morning with beautiful weather as visitors gathered on Main Street to explore offerings of the vendors, who were more numerous than ever.  This changed around 4 p.m. when it started to rain heavily, which led many vendors and festival patrons to leave for the day.

Sunday, the skies cleared and many vendors and visitors returned to finish out the festival strong.  Kenny Smith, president of the Midway Business Association, estimated that between 12,500 and 15,000 people came to the festival. Last year’s crowd was estimated at 15,000. Smith attributed the likely decrease to the weather.

“The rain hurt us on Saturday,” said Smith. “We didn’t have a surge of people in the afternoon.”

Among the vendors leaving early Saturday was Carol Hyde of St. Louis, whose booth flooded. She blamed a storm drain directly behind her booth.  Hyde did not let the rain ruin the weekend, however, and returned Sunday to enjoy the rest of the festival.

Some vendors chose to stay despite the rain.  Julia Weber, with Adventures Creation, did not leave until the festival was over Saturday evening. Weber’s booth was full of beautiful jewelry that Weber said she had collected from all over the country. Once the rain passed Saturday, she said, visitors returned to the festival.

“If I can make money, then I am going to stay and enjoy the festival,” Weber said.

One festival visitor, Ashleigh Harden of Lexington, did not let the rain affect her Saturday festival experience. Harden said she loved the small-town feel of Midway, and was surprised to see what the vendors had to offer.

“I was so excited when I saw that one of the vendors was selling succulents,” said Harden. “They were even priced pretty cheap!”

According to Smith, the festival had 127 vendors this year selling crafts and serving food. Smith said some vendors reserved several booth spaces, which extended the festival across Gratz Street next to the United Bank parking lot. The vendors included many new and old faces and products ranging from wreaths, to plants, to pony rides.

About 150 vendor spaces had been reserved, up from 120 last year. One veteran vendor was surprised to see how the festival had grown.  Jo and Sherman Kallin, owners of Down Home Soap from Louisville, were moved from their typical spot because they did not turn register in time. The couple was surprised, but happy to see the festival become more popular.

“We have been coming to the festival for about 20 years, and we’ve never seen vendors by the bank,” Sherman Kallin said.

Several vendors traveled hundreds of miles to be a part of Midway’s community for the weekend.  The Kreole Sisters came all the way from Lafayette, Louisiana, giving festival-goers a chance to experience authentic Cajun food by passing out free samples of pralines and bread pudding. The vendors’ menu included several authentic dishes to visitors such as chicken and sausage gumbo and fried catfish topped with crawfish ettouffee.

R. J. Corman Railroad Co. gave visitors a little taste of Midway history during the festival by having a train on site for people to tour.  Corman set up the train to look like the dinner train that is located in Bardstown. Drew and Gail Costa, from Versailles, were impressed.

“It was nice to actually see inside the train car,” said Drew Costa. “We had thought about doing the dinner, but seeing it made us really want to do it more.”

Even with the downpour of rain Saturday afternoon, the festival was still able to bring in a large crowd of people to Midway. This proved that despite the weather, the festival still a success.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Midway University enrollment jumps 14.5 percent following admission of male undergraduates

By Olivia Jones
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University has its largest incoming class, giving it a 14.5 percent increase enrollment from last fall. This fall’s enrollment is 1,194, up from 1,043.

The university has new graduate-level academic programs and recruits from closed St. Catharine College, but the biggest factor appears to be its first admission of men as resident undergraduates.

In May 2016, Midway’s Board of Trustees made the school fully coeducational. Of the 151 new students, 23 percent are men.

The admission of male undergraduates also meant the establishment of men’s athletic programs, and that was spurred by the closing of Saint Catharine, a Roman Catholic college near Springfield.

In June, Midway University signed agreements with three St. Catharine College coaches that brought not only the coaches, but some of their players for men’s baseball, basketball and soccer teams.

Non-athletics students are also transferring from St. Catharine to Midway; the university is one the college’s official “teach-out” schools, a designation that provides an easier transfer of credits and and waives admission fees.

"This summer has been an exciting, and extremely busy, time on campus," Midway University President Dr. John Marsden said in a Sept. 12 press release, adding that the school's motto this years seems to be "It's a new day at Midway."

It is a new day, compared to 2013 when the school suffered an 18 percent enrollment decrease, dropping to 1,362 from 1,567 the fall before and starting a three-year decline.

The first big drop affected the school’s finances, which had already been hit when the trustees abandoned plans for a pharmacy school that had already cost millions and led to the resignation of the previous president.

The school relies heavily on tuition for its revenue, and cut 12 of the 54 faculty positions. It also suspended making matching contributions to employee retirement accounts. Ellen Gregory, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications, said the matching resumed “within the last budget year.”

Seven of the laid-off teachers filed a lawsuit against the school in 2014, challenging the terminations on the basis of “breach of contract and age discrimination.” Gregory said the lawsuits are still pending.

Enrollment dropped another 16.3 percent in Fall 2014, to 1,140, and another 8.5 percent last fall, to 1,140. Thus, this year’s figures represent a major turnaround.

“Midway has always been an institution that has made changes as needed,” Marsden said in the news release.

The school said enrollment in traditional undergraduate programs (formerly the Women's College) is 432 students, 238 of whom are new to Midway, either first-year or transfers, making the largest incoming class in the history of the institution.

Out-of-state students are 22.7 percent of the enrollment, “and nearly 10 percent of the student body is made up of international students from 10 countries,” the college said in its news release.

The school said graduate student enrollment is at an all-time high at 189 students enrolled in the master of business administration, master of education and master of science in nursing programs.

“The increase in our graduate enrollment is significant,” Marsden said. “We have added additional concentrations in the MBA program, started a new MSN program this fall and our M.Ed. program is the most affordable in the state."