Thursday, April 27, 2017

Betty Bright, a Midway fixture and the city's first female council member, died Tuesday at 93; mass Friday

Betty Bright
Betty W. Bright, a lifetime fixture in Midway for most of its residents and the first woman on the City Council, died Tuesday afternoon at her home at The Homeplace in Midway. She was 93.

Elizabeth Weisenberger Bright was the daughter of the late Augustus Joseph Weisenberger and Louise Egalite Weisenberger and the widow of William “Billy” Morrison Bright IV. She was preceded in death by a brother, Philip Joseph Weisenberger II, who was the owner and operator of Weisenberger Mills, and three sisters, Edith Woeber, Mary Louise Martin and Ann Bozarth, who was the mother of former mayor Tom Bozarth.

She is survived by two chosen daughters, Elizabeth “Missy” Louise (Mike) Bradley and Patricia “Pattie” Bright (Chuck) Wilson; four grandsons, Charles Schade (Saree) Wilson III, William Mathney (Kimberly) Wilson, Robert Hammond (Melissa) Wilson, and Thomas Joseph (Morgan) Wilson; four great-grandchildren, Lacie, Ellie, Cameron, and Tripp; her sister-in-law, Betty McWilliams Weisenberger; and many nieces and nephews.

She was born in Lexington but was otherwise a lifelong resident of Midway, except during her husband's Air Force career. She was a graduate of Cardome Academy in Georgetown and attended the University of Kentucky. She was a devoted member of St. Leo Catholic Church in Versailles for more than 50 years and served on the Parish Council. She was active with the Woodford County Homemakers and the Midway Woman’s Club.

During her 22 years on the City Council, her passions were the restoration and preservation of the 1917 Model T Ford Fire Truck and the maintenance of the Midway Cemetery. She was known for her love of animals. Her family thanked her care givers who helped her at Daisy Hill and The Homeplace.

Visitation was held Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Leo, followed by a rosary service. The funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the church, with committal and inurnment at 1 p.m. in the Midway Cemetery. Memorial donations are suggested to the St. Leo Building Fund, 295 Huntertown Road, Versailles KY 40383.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cemetery committee to meet at 4 p.m. Thursday; Events, Outreach and Tourism panel at 9 a.m. Friday

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will hold a meeting on  at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss "general cemetery issues," says the meeting notice, which says "No action will be taken."

The council's Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee will meet at 9 a.m. Friday, April 28, at City Hall to have a general discussion on tourism and outreach, and no action will be taken, the meeting notice says.

Message from the mayor: Join inspired citizens to take park to another level; help plant trees Saturday, 10-1

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway
Our society is built from the bottom up, not the top down. This means that cities and communities like ours are the foundation of our civilization. I see no better example of a true community effort than what is happening at Walter Bradley Park. Citizens who want nothing more than to improve their city and its natural beauty so it can be enjoyed by generations to come are working wonders, and this Saturday is a chance to lend your hand.
On April 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Midway Parks Board and the Friends of Walter Bradley Park will be planting 150 pink dogwoods and 150 native shrubs and bushes, weather permitting. You can check walterbradleypark.org for updates if the weather looks questionable.
My budget proposal for fiscal year 2017-2018 includes $17,000 for park improvements because I believe we need to strike while the iron is hot, and while so many citizens are inspired to take our park to another level. I also believe it’s important to give our volunteer labor the funding they need to build and transform a jewel of Midway that improves the quality of life for us now and for those still to come.
Also this Saturday, the Midway Woman’s Club will be having their annual Spring Home and Garden Sale from 8 a.m. to noon at the club’s house at 230 S. Gratz St. Proceeds will benefit the Betty Ann Voigt Memorial Scholarship.
Our next city council meeting will be this Monday, May 1, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. As always, all are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UK study for local groups finds almost 30% of jobs in county are directly or indirectly related to agriculture

Agriculture and businesses that support it account for almost 30 percent of the jobs in Woodford County, according to a study the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and Environment released Monday.

Cover of study report
Alison Davis of the college's Community & Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky did the study for Woodford Forward, the Pisgah Community Historic Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Performance Products of Versailles, which sells horse supplements.

The study found that Woodford County has 9,478 jobs, 1,881 of which (19.8 percent) are directly attributable to agriculture and 2,783 of which (29.4 percent) are directly or indirectly related to agriculture.

"This is a very large number," Davis said at a press conference at the UK farm near Versailles. "It is a small county, but it is a very significant number."

Davis said the figures do not include jobs from industries that serve agriculture but may serve primarily other industries, such as fencing and painting. "We try to be as conservative as possible," she said. Later, she said the study cost about $15,000.

In addition to collecting data from proprietary sources, the researchers interviewed people at 15 varied Woodford County businesses, including the Holly Hill Inn and Heirloom restaurants in Midway, asking them what makes the city or county an attractive place to do business, how the horse industry and other agriculture-related activities influence their business, and how their views of it as a place to do business would change "if the rural landscape declined significantly."

Davis summarized the answers to the last question as: "Woodford County would lose its appeal as a place to do business and a place to live; recruitment and retention of employees would become more difficult; and Woodford County would lose its distinctive identity and brand." The study adds, "While some development is wanted, careful consideration of available labor and the impact of infrastructure is needed in the planning process."

Map from study showing commuters into and out of county
Davis said a significant issue for the county's economic development is a shortage of local labor. She said the study found that 4,400 people come into the county for work. That is outweighed by the 7,070 Woodford residents who work in other counties, but the relatively large inflow helps dispel the notion that the county is just "a bedroom community," state Rep. James Kay said.

Kay was among those who offered comments and questions after Davis's presentation. Another was Hampton "Hoppy" Henton, who said "what's missing in this audience" are people from the towns and the planning office, because there needs to be discussion about development, roads and so forth.

Davis replied, alluding to the study's sponsors, "There's a pretty significant divide between the two groups, and it's hard to get them in the same room together." She said one person from CEDIK is trying to get such conversations going.

Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Greg Kocher, who recently wrote a profile of Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper, asked why Soper wasn't intervewed. (Soper told the Midway Messenger that he wasn't invited to the event.)

Davis said the interviews were limited to businesses, but "That would be the next step. . . . I think that's a conversation that needs to occur." Earlier, she noted that interviewees called for “stronger communication between the ag and non-ag sectors.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

City council to meet on budget at 10 a.m. Wednesday

The Midway City Council will continue its deliberations on the budget at a special workshop meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The meeting notice says no action will be taken. However, preliminary decisions may be made. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

The council held its first budget workshop last Wednesday and must pass a budget before the next fiscal year begins July 1. For a copy of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's proposed budget, click here

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Midway commencement May 13 will include first men to receive bachelor's degrees; Legends owner will speak

Susan Martinelli Shea
Lexington Legends owner Susan Martinelli Shea will be the keynote speaker at Midway University's May 13 commencement ceremony, which will be the first to award bachelor's degrees to male students.

Shea, a teacher by trade, left the profession in 2004 after a family tragedy and "devoted the last thirteen years of her life to working within the inner city of Philadelphia, specifically reorganizing the learning-support program in The Gesu School, where she is chair of the Faculty Support Committee and board member," the university said in a press release. "She also founded Dancing with the Students, a non-profit organization continuing to teach ballroom dancing to students, grades four through high school, in 17 under-served schools within the Philadelphia system. In 2017, she introduced this successful program to the students of the Crawford Middle School in Lexington."

Shea owns, and her son Andy operates, the Lexington Legends, a minor league baseball club affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 13, in the Graves Amphitheater. Receiving degrees will be 257 graduates, including 12 who transferred from recently closed St. Catharine College near Springfield and completed their degree at Midway. Among them are the first male undergrads to earn their degree since Midway became fully co-educational last fall.

"It's an honor for us to welcome Susan Martinelli Shea to campus for what will be an historic commencement ceremony," Midway President John P. Marsden said. "She has dedicated her entire professional life to working with under-served students as a teacher and nonprofit leader. I have no doubt that Susan will inspire Midway's graduates as they prepare for the next chapter in their lives."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Council hears about brewery or distillery recruitment, hotel/motel prospects, cemetery regulation enforcement

Economic development was the main theme of the Midway City Council meeting Monday evening.

Brewery-distillery task force chair Steve Morgan gave a report.
The council heard a detailed report from a task force trying to recruit a brewery or distillery, heard the executive of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce say he was surprised Midway doesn't have a motel or hotel yet, and approved the temporary appointment of Katie Vandegrift, wife of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, to the county Economic Development Authority.

Steve Morgan of Kentucky Honey Farms, chair of the task force, told the council it has focused on existing breweries or distilleries that might be interested in placing a satellite location in Midway. He said it would be a riskier proposition for a new, stand-alone operation.

Morgan mentioned two prospective locations: the area at the north end of Gratz Street, which was home to distilleries during Midway's distilling era (1852-1959), and the Leslie Mitchell farm on the northwest quadrant of the I-64 interchange.

Morgan said being visible from the interstate would be an advantage, but he and the mayor said there is more potential in the downtown location. "Our main goal is there," Morgan said, "because Midway needs something that brings traffic into Midway every day." He added, "The whole dynamic . . . would change, of the businesses in Midway," with new shops.

Vandegrift said, "It's all about diversifying your economy." He said the state economic-development employee who helps with brewery and distillery projects was the state's officer on the Lakeshore Learning Materials project, and "She's very excited to work on this."

For now, Midway's economy is becoming more industrial, with opening of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant and construction of the huge Lakeshore distribution center next to it in Midway Station.
The Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center is under roof and apparently still set to open in the fall.
Those developments should lead to a hotel or motel in Midway Station or the Green Gables development across the interstate, said Don Vizi, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce, who asked the council for financial support of the chamber.

Vizi spoke about lodging prospects when Council Member Sara Hicks asked him how Midway could have lodging beyond bed-and-breakfasts and noted that the Board of Zoning Adjustments recently denied a permit for a new one in the residential area of South Winter Street.

Vizi said several hotel operators have contacted the chamber. "You have the ideal location for it," he said. "I don't know why that has not happened." He said he had thought Midway would get a hotel or motel before Versailles, which is getting a Holiday Inn Express.

Midway interests have sometimes been concerned that the chamber and the county tourism commission, which the chamber staffs, have not done right by the smaller town near the county's northern edge. But the city gave the chamber $1,000 last year and $1,500 the year before, and Vizi asked for $1,500. The council indicated that it would decide during the budget process that is just beginning.

Vizi said chamber staff always ask people who stop at the visitor center in Versailles if they have been to Midway. "Three of four that come in there don't know Midway exists," he said. "I think we've helped that quite a bit."

Replying to a question from Hicks, Vizi said 22 of the 68 businesses in Midway are members of the chamber, a greater percentage than the chamber has among Versailles businesses.

Vizi said he attends monthly meetings of the Midway Business Association and works with merchants to promote the town. He noted that the chamber board will meet at Midway University on the morning of April 27.

Chamber Chair Bob Gibson said the chamber board has been pushing for Midway and better connections between the two towns, and will have a Midway update on every monthly agenda.

Appointments: Vandegrift said he had searched for some time to someone to fill the city's vacancy on the Economic Development Authority who is "willing and able, and who understands the balance we're trying to strike." Until he can find that person, he said, he wants his wife to hold the position.

Katie Vandegrift works in risk management for United Bank, which does not want her to hold the unpaid position on a permanent basis, her husband said. "She can hit the ground running," he said, because they have discussed EDA matters since he became mayor more than two years ago.

Council Member John McDaniel moved to appoint the mayor's wife on an interim basis. Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded and all other members approved the appointment.

The council also unanimously approved the mayor's nomination of Julie Morgan, wife of Steve Morgan, to a vacancy on the park board.

Cemetery issues: Council Member Libby Warfield said 55 letters will go out soon, notifying owners of lots in the Midway Cemetery that items on their lots are in violation of cemetery regulations. The council and Vandegrift decided recently to enforce all regulations, negating special exemptions that had been granted before he became mayor.

Warfield, chair of the Cemetery and City Property committee, said she has been removing names from the letter list as she sees cemetery lots brought into compliance with the regulations.

Garbage pickup: Hicks offered a recommendation from the Ordinance and Policy Committee, which she chairs, that all nonprofit organizations, not just churches, be allowed to have once-a-week pickup at residential rates rather than twice a week at the commercial rate. Vandegrift said he would have an ordinance drafted for the council to make the change.

Pool-filling adjustments: Hicks reported that she had received two calls Monday from people who want the city to return to its old policy of one-time discounts of sewer charges for people who fill their swimming pools with city water. The sewer charge is based on water usage; the exemption was based on the fact that pool water doesn't enter the sewer system.

The council abolished the exemption on a 3-1 vote in 2012, after it couldn’t agree on an adjustment plan that would include things like turning on sprinklers and watering gardens. Vandegrift said Hicks's committee should discuss the issue and make a recommendation to the full council, which has none of the members it had in 2012.