Monday, October 24, 2016

Council OKs revised resolution for Lakeshore incentives

Grading began Wednesday on the site, next to the American Howa auto-parts plant nearing completion.
The Midway City Council held a special meeting this afternoon to pass a revised resolution for incentives needed to bring the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center and its 262 jobs to Midway Station.

The changes correct a corporate name and the mechanics of the financing, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the council. He said the state will give the city the proceeds of a $1.35 million economic-development grant, and the city will then give the money to Lakeshore.

The resolution also confirms that the city will pay Lakeshore $450,000 in five annual installments as an additional incentive. Both incentives are to help cover most of the cost of a $2.8 million natural-gas line to serve the plant. The city will get much more than that in payroll taxes from the plant, even though the tax rate will be reduced by 25 percent for 10 years after employment reaches 262.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

City Council candidates explain platforms and priorities

Bruce Southworth, Steve Simoff, Libby Warfield, Sara Hicks, Steven Craig, John McDaniel; Kaye Nita Gallagher was absent.
By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway residents heard how six of the seven city council candidates would handle community issues Thursday evening at a candidate forum at Midway University.

The city council has six seats, and seven candidates are running. Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she was unable to attend the forum because of a prior charitable commitment. The other incumbents – Bruce Southworth, Libby Warfield, Sarah Hicks, and Steven Craig – were present, as were non-incumbents John McDaniel II and Steve Simoff.

The forum began with candidates explaining their platforms and priorities and identifying the city’s main issues. Simoff said, “I see a lot of growth ahead for Midway, and I’d like to see it stay the same but have the opportunity to grow.” Later, he said, “I don’t want to . . . lose the ambience this community has.”

McDaniel discussed his long history of being involved in Midway, and after the first round of answers said the city needs “a five-year comprehensive plan which would include all the items mentioned in the last few minutes.”

McDaniel, who has been close to former Mayor Tom Bozarth, said “I have worked hand-in-hand with Mayor Grayson Vandergrift during my time as Midway merchants association president, so I am no stranger to his ways.”

Warfield said if she were re-elected she would dedicate her time to finding funding to accomplish more projects, such as a visitors’ center, public restrooms downtown, improving dilapidated properties and the city’s infrastructure, and creating walking paths to encourage healthier lifestyles.

Hicks said the city needs infrastructure improvements to operate efficiently, but the council should determine priorities after going door to door and asking citizens.  Asked to name the city’s largest immediate problem, she said speeding on Winter Street.

Craig noted that the city has taken steps to make the case for a lower speed limit on Winter, and blamed the problem on outsiders. He said he hopes to use his skills from his work experience to help update Midway’s infrastructure, and would concentrate on generating jobs.

Southworth, in giving the first answer to the first question, said the city “has made some real progress” – he later mentioned bringing in industry and passing a fairness ordinance – and his first priority is to be “a good steward of the city’s money.” He said speeding, water and sewer improvements and storm water are major problems.

Southworth said he would like to see the town save the payroll-tax money from new plants at Midway Station to help fix more of the town’s problems, such as dangerous sidewalks.

Simoff said that as Midway grows, it will need to expand fire and police services, have long-range plans and fix problems with the sewer and water systems, which have been “neglected for a long time.” 

McDaniel said, “We’re going to have to spend a lot of money on replacement of sewer lines and water lines.”

Warfield said said she would try to seek funding through grant writers, which could bring the town extra funds without raising taxes.

The candidates disagreed on one topic, creating public bathrooms in the city hall building or elsewhere downtown.  Craig said businesses downtown have an obligation to provide restrooms for their visitors.

Warfield said she started thinking about restrooms two years ago, before she was a council member.

“You can have the greatest destination in the world, but if you take a 6- or 7- or 8-year-old little girl somewhere and you can’t find a public restroom, that’s something that you don’t forget, and I wouldn’t want to go back again,” she said.

The candidates were asked how the city could be more transparent and create more community involvement. Simoff and Southworth said they would like to see the city council’s agenda and supporting documents made available for all to see online. Warfield said the agenda should be posted online the day before the meeting. Hicks said council members should “go out to the populace, not just have them come to us.”

Craig said the city is “very transparent” and invited residents to ask him questions at any time. “We’re all neighbors,” he said. “Let’s be good neighbors and have an open line of communication.”

The candidates were united in opposing merger with county government, but Hicks said she would like to see more cooperation on projects with Woodford County and Versailles, such as a Midway health center. “In a perfect world we would be joining for the best of all the citizens in all of Woodford County,” she said.

Hicks said the current council “has been a great team,” and McDaniel agreed, saying it “has been very progressive. It’s amazing the chemistry that they have. . . . They actually smile when they leave City Hall.”

The Midway Woman’s Club and the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum, which lasted about an hour and half. Each candidate was given a maximum of two minutes to answer each question, with the sequence of answers rotated among them.

About 25 people attended the forum. Midway residents will have another chance to see the candidates Monday at 7 p.m. in another forum at Midway University, sponsored by Woodford Forward and SPARK Versailles. A reception with food from Ouita Michel will begin at 6:30.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Council OKs deal to secure 262 jobs at Midway Station

By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council approved a deal Monday night that will bring a natural-gas line to Midway Station, securing the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center to be built there.

The permit to grade the site was issued Tuesday.
The council voted unanimously for Midway to pay $450,000 toward the $2.8 million needed to build the line. Columbia Gas will pay $700,000 of the cost, the state will pay $1,350,000, and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority will pay $300,000, which it already promised to use for gas.

“Lakeshore Learning Materials said that they could not come to Midway without gas at Midway Station,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. “In order to save the project, which would be the largest employer in the city’s history, and get much needed gas to Midway Station we began to work out some deals. . . . The initial request to Midway was far more than I thought was fair to ask Midway. I think what we’ve come up with is a very good solution.” He said the state “really, really stepped up, big time.”

Midway will pay the $450,000 over five years. The payments will began on December 31, 2017 and the first payment will be $64,933. Midway would get this money back if EDA sells the remaining 22 acres optioned from the Roach family at the industrial park.

“You can make a very good argument that once Midway Station has gas, the entire property is much more marketable,” Vandergrift said. “Had we not done this, we would have had an empty 43 acres of land and no gas – and no jobs coming in.”

Vandegrift also told the council that as Lakeshore hires more employees, the money from the occupational tax revenue will more than cover the city’s expense to pay for gas to Midway Station.

Data from the state Economic Development Cabinet show that in the first 13 years Lakeshore will generate $1,585,025 in occupational tax revenue. An auto-parts  factory being built in Midway Station, the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant, will generate $381,628 in occupational tax in its first 13 years. Together the two factories will generate $1,966,653 in payroll taxes during the period.

For the next three years, until Lakeshore’s payroll reaches at least 262 employees, they will have to pay the full 2 percent payroll tax.  After the company employs at least 262 people they will pay only 1.5 percent, for 10 years, as part of the incentive package to bring the plant to Kentucky.

The council passed on second reading an ordinance that authorizes $50 million in industrial revenue bonds for the plant. This part of the incentive package will exempt Lakeshore from property taxes, but it will pay the Woodford County Schools an amount equal to what it would pay in taxes.

John Soper, chairman of the Economic Development Authority, said the closing on the property was held Tuesday afternoon and Lakeshore could break ground on the property as early as Wednesday.

Park business

With the council’s approval, Vandergrift appointed five members to the park board that the council recently created: John Holloway, Cecelia Gass, Council Member Sara Hicks, Regina Morris, and Liles Taylor. Up to two more members can be appointed to the board.

Vandergrift thanked the members of the Walter Bradley Park citizen advisory committee, which he created a year ago to help make the park more attractive to visitors.  Vandergrift issued individual proclamations for each committee members to celebrate all of their hard work. Chair Cecelia Gass and members Dottie Cordray, Steve Simoff and Milan Hamilton and Holloway were on hand.

“They achieved far more than anyone expected them to achieve,” Vandegrift said. “It’s really an incredible accomplishment that I think we will remember for years to come.” A ribbon-cutting was held Sunday for the pedestrian bridge across Lee Branch, built by Holloway, other volunteers and city employees.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Midway part of proposed deal to build gas line to Midway Station, to ensure Lakeshore plant comes

The Midway City Council will be asked to put $450,000 toward a natural-gas line to Midway Station to keep Lakeshore Learning Materials from backing out of its plan to build a distribution center that would employ 262 full-time workers.

Columbia Gas estimates the line will cost $2.8 million and has promised to pay $700,000 toward it. The state will pay $1,350,000 and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority will pay $300,000, money that it was saving to bring gas to the industrial zone anyway.

Midway is expected to get about $200,000 more per year in payroll taxes from the plant and the American Howa auto-parts plant under construction, but in return for its gas-line contribution the EDA has agreed to give the city any profits from the sale of the remaining 22 acres of land it bought from Jim and Marilyn Roach.

"Midway has stepped up to the plate," EDA Chair John Soper said. Lakeshore would be the city's largest employer by far.

Midway apparently won't have to come up with the $450,000 all at once, because Lakeshore is expected to advance $2.1 million to Columbia Gas and be repaid by the state and Midway as long as it provides the promised jobs. Soper said the deal works because "The payroll taxes will always exceed what the expenditures are to bring the gas in."

Chair John Soper, left, and other EDA board members listened as EDA
attorney Bill Moore, right, explained the proposed deal Friday morning.
Soper spoke after meeting Friday morning at which the EDA approved several measures to accomplish a deal that it thought was done in August, when Lakeshore and the state announced the plant was coming.

Soper said Lakeshore's consultants were told that only a 2-inch gas line would be available, from the other side of Interstate 64, and that American Howa was meeting its gas needs with propane. But he said Lakeshore didn't express a need for gas until "after they had made the announcement." He added, "I guess . . . they realized it was critical for them to have it."

That prompted a flurry of activity, including a special and largely confidential City Council meeting, at which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift was authorized to take actions designed to bring Lakeshore to Midway.

"It's taken more than a few 180-degree turns, but they're a good company, and it's a good thing for the community," Soper said. "It's been a booger, but it's a $49 million project."

Now the council will be asked to approve the deal, which EDA attorney Bill Moore said is scheduled be closed on Tuesday. "Lakeshore is anxious to get an agreement signed," he told the EDA board.

Soper said Lakeshore has agreed to buy another 18 acres and take an option on 15 more acres owned by the Homer Michael Freeney Jr. Trust, which is selling Brown-Forman Corp. 117 acres for whiskey warehouses near South Elkhorn Creek. He said Brown-Forman will use the gas line, making construction of more warehouses more likely.

Soper said EDA has agreed to ask that the 33 acres now owned by Freeney be rezoned industrial, and that Midway's urban services boundary be expanded to include it. Plans also call for the city to annex the property.

Soper said the gas line will make the property more salable for industrial development. "We've got to get this burden of not having gas in Midway Station out of the way," he said.

Friday, October 14, 2016

New trail from Northside leads the way to the new bridge; ribbon-cutting is set for 2 p.m. Saturday

Walter Bradley Park has a new entrance, along newly paved Northside Drive, at the head of the new trail that leads to the new pedestrian bridge over Lee Branch. A temporary sign at the trailhead advertises the formal ribbon-cutting for the bridge, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday. (The rain date is 2 p.m. Sunday.)

The trail is lined with small logs and stones, and its mulching was mostly complete when these photos were taken Friday afternoon. It's a two-minute walk from the bridge to trailhead.

The photo below shows the trail leading to the north end of the bridge and its intersection with another new trail that runs along the north side of the creek. The foot of Gratz Street is just visible at the left.

Iron Horse Half Marathon to be run Sunday morning

Map shows mileages, water stations and direction of travel. First half of course is purple; second half is red.
The annual Iron Horse Half Marathon will be run through and near Midway, starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. Spring Station Road, Stephens Street and Weisenberger Mill Road will be closed, except for local traffic access, along the marked route from 7:30 to 11:30. The start and finish will be on North Brand Street. Organizers say all activities should be over by 12:30 p.m.

The increasingly popular race primarily benefits the Woodford Humane Society, which provides most of the volunteers along the 13.1-mile route. It is sponsored by John's Run/Walk Shop and Saul Good Restaurant and Pub of Lexington. Questions about the race can be directed to coordinator Chuck Griffis at chuck@johnsrunwalk.com or (859) 335-1818.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Forum for City Council candidates tomorrow night at 7

Candidates for the Midway City Council in the Nov. 8 election will participate in a forum at Midway University at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13.

The six council seats are being sought by seven people, all of whom have agreed to participate: Council Members Steven Craig, Kaye Nita Gallagher, Sara Hicks, Bruce Southworth and Libby Warfield, and non-incumbents Steve Simoff and John McDaniel II. Council Member Dan Roller is not seeking re-election.

The forum will be held in the Duthie Auditorium in the Anne Hart Raymond Building. It is sponsored by the Midway Women’s Club and the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce. A reception for candidates and the public will be held in the lobby from 6 to 7 p.m.

Each candidate will get three minutes to introduce themselves, then all candidates will have two minutes to answer questions submitted by community members. Questions for the candidates can be emailed to Don Vizi at the Chamber of Commerce: woodforddirector@gmail.com.

Another forum with the same schedule and format will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, for higher offices. Invited are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his Democratic challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray; U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper, state Rep. James Kay and Republican challenger Daniel Fister. Those who had responded favorably as of Oct. 1 were Kemper, Kay and Fister.