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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Midway Station's would-be developer gets another year to close his purchase of failed industrial park

"Developer Dennis Anderson will have another year to close on purchasing the Midway Station property," the failed industrial park on Interstate 64, Stephen Burnett reports in the lead story in today's edition of The Woodford Sun (not available online).

Anderson got an extension to Dec. 1, 2010, after he cited "lackluster economic conditions" and "the necessary replacement of many utility lines on the property, which will delay the final development plan," Burnett writes, based on discussion at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property.

The fact that Anderson is cutting down dead trees that would be in the way of streets in his development plan shows that he is still serious about the project, EDA board member Malcolm Endicott said at the meeting, "though more details must be worked through," Burnett writes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Only two restaurants serving alcohol on Sunday

By Cassidy Myers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Woodford County recently passed an ordinance to allow Sunday alcohol sales, but you wouldn’t know it if you drove down Midway’s Main Street on a Sunday evening looking for a restaurant serving an adult beverage.

In April, Woodford County Fiscal Court approved Sunday alcohol sales in Midway and the surrounding area outside of Versailles. The law was passed largely at the behest of restaurants in Midway, but most of them have yet to take advantage of it, citing the cost of the license and the restrictions on smaller restaurants.

“I have not applied for the Sunday license because it costs $300 for the county and $300 for the state. That's a lot of money for only Sunday,” said Laura Wolfrom, owner of Bistro La Belle. “And the state requires 100 permanent indoor seats in a restaurant to be considered for a full liquor license. This discriminates against small restaurants that are very worthy of serving liquor.”

Only two restaurants, Quirk Café and Holly Hill Inn, have obtained licenses to sell alcohol on Sundays. Holly Hill Inn only serves alcohol from 1 to their 2 p.m. closing, but says it will probably extend hours at some point, and Quirk serves from 1 to 4 p.m., although the ordinance allows sales until 10 p.m.

However, if you’re looking for a drink after 4 p.m., you’re not out of luck. The Midway Fuels gas station sells beer from noon to 8 p.m.

In addition to the restrictions put on small restaurants, Jimmy Duggan, owner of Duggan’s, says that because Midway is so empty on Sundays, it’s not profitable to open, though he is still contemplating obtaining a license so he can sell alcohol on Sundays during next year’s World Equestrian Games. “Midway is not busy on Sundays and I won't make any money,” he said. “As for the Games, we will see.”

The Games, which will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park for three weeks in late September and early October, were a motivating factor in passing the ordinance. Especially during the Games, Midway needed a way to compete with surrounding areas like Lexington, Lawrenceburg and Frankfort, which allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Grayson Vandegrift, owner of Quirk, thinks it will be a great revenue boost for his restaurant, especially with all of the foreigners expected to be in town for the Games, “It’s going to be great. European customers are more likely to have a beer with lunch. It’s going to be huge. A lot of extra revenue.”

With a struggling economy and the increased cost of food, selling alcohol is one of the most profitable ways for restaurants to make money, and can be the tipping point for many eateries.
“It’s so hard to make money off of food alone,” Vandegrift said, “so most businesses need to sell alcohol in order to keep their doors open.”

Although some restaurants may not be taking advantage of the law yet, the ability to open on Sundays for special occasions is a huge potential bonus, Mayor Tom Bozarth said. “It gives each restaurant the flexibility to open on Sundays for regular business or have special events on a Sunday,” he said. “When New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday they now can be open and serve alcohol.”

Three Chimneys introduces its newest stallion as it cuts his stud fee and most others at the farm

By Will Steffe
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Three Chimneys Farm in Midway held an open house Tuesday to introduce the stallion Red Giant, who will stand at the farm during the 2010 season.

The farm announced lower stud fees for this champion horse and for the 11 other stallions at the farm, in the wake of a decline in Thoroughbred breeding last year.

Three Chimneys, founded as a 100-acre breeding operation in 1972 by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Clay, has grown to more than 1,500 acres. The farm is divided into six divisions to accommodate a wide variety of horses.

Red Giant was foaled Feb. 28, 2004 in Kentucky. This stallion comes from a rich pedigree. His sire is the 2000 European Horse of the Year, Giants Causeway, and his dam is Beyond the Sun.

Red Giant’s most notable wins came in a track-record time at the 2007 Virginia Derby, a win in the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga Race Course, and a world record 1¼-mile time in a win at the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship Stakes. His overall racing record is 6-3-1 in 12 starts.

Three Chimneys posted a stud fee of $6,000 for Red Giant in 2010, a 20 percent discount from the $7,500 charged by his previous owner, Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms of Lexington, in 2009. The stud fees at Three Chimneys for the upcoming breeding season ranged from $150,000 for Dynaformer to $5,000 for Good Reward and Lewis Michael. Compared to the other stallions at the farm, Red Giant’s fees are in the lower quarter.

Three Chimneys reduced fees for all its stallions but Dynaformer and Exchange Rate from 2009 to 2010. According to the farm’s records, Dynaformer has been a Top 5 sire five times since 2001. He sired 80 winners in 2008 with earnings totaling more than $5 million.

These declines in fees can be attributed to the impact of the recent national recession on the Kentucky thoroughbred industry.

“We have reduced most of our fees in recognition of the market,” owner Robert Clay said. “We will continue to limit our [stallion] book sizes, while offering multiple mare packages, breed-back specials and cash discounts.”

The Blood-Horse magazine’s Market Watch predicted that 2010 stud fees would drop because of poor sales of yearlings in 2009 at Keeneland. For a second year, few breeders gained significant profit and many sold their horses at a loss.

Kentucky horse industry economists also worry about declining attendance at horse races and the fact that fewer horses enter the races.

A proposed solution is to install slot machines at the tracks. The idea is that people will come to play the slot machines and the money generated can be used to increase race purses and attendance. Three Chimneys Marketing Director Jen Roytz said the farm doesn’t take a public stand on allowing slot machines at the horse racing tracks.

While they do not take a stand on the slot machine issue, managers of Three Chimneys seek to survive the current economic down turn by finding new ways to make a profit. “We are being very creative with the ways we are saving money for our clients and for the farm,” Roytz said. “We have also expanded our price breaks for those who breed to our stallions in an effort to support our customers.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baptist Church did its second Mission Midway Sat.

By Cassidy Myers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Some churches say they care about their community, but Midway Baptist Church shows it cares.

It is 8:30 on Saturday morning and volunteers of all ages are gathered in the church’s dining area eating biscuits and donuts and cheerfully visiting with other helpers. At this hour, most people are still at home in their warm beds. Not these eager, smiling volunteers! They are up early to participate in Midway Baptist Church’s second annual Mission Midway project. (Photo: Chad Royalty, on roof, and Kash Foster so some exterior work on a home)

Mission Midway is a one-day mission outreach event in which members of the church volunteer for a day of goodwill around their town. Some groups will brave the cold and the rain to do yard work for the elderly; 20 others will give blood; and a group of preschoolers will deliver care packages to the town merchants. Other projects include delivering blankets to shut-ins, administering medical check-ups and distributing appreciation gift bags to first responders such as firemen and policemen.

The purpose of the project is to focus on the needs of the community and provide an opportunity for everyone to help. “We wanted to encourage our members to get really involved in the community,” Senior Minister Tom Allen said. “A lot of times we have these mission projects that involve going overseas or a long-term commitment with a lot of planning and preparation, but we wanted to provide an opportunity that almost anyone could be a part of.”

Volunteer Joy Arnold, who also helped spearhead last year’s Mission Midway, echoed the same sentiment. “It’s very easy to go off somewhere for a week and never see those people again. It’s another thing to serve the people you see on the street,” she said.

The church had plenty of willing volunteers with about 85 members of varying ages stopping in to help throughout the day. The event also inspired Midway Presbyterian Church to participate, which symbolizes the theme for this year’s project, “Making Tracks in Midway.”

The motto represents the goal of longevity and participation that the church has for this project. “We are laying the foundation for mission work in Midway and hopefully after years of doing this, we’ll make tracks in Kentucky and then the United States and then the world,” said Mission Midway coordinator David McCoun.

After a morning of distributing blankets and benevolence, volunteers began filing back into the dining area where the aroma of six homemade soups greeted them. Most of the seven projects had been completed and the day was declared a success, not only by the participants but by the Midway community as well.

Mission Midway beneficiary and longtime church member Joe Fischer was grateful for the volunteers who helped clean up his yard just in time for winter. “They did a great job and trimmed some limbs off the fence and cleaned my gutters out. It was a great thing for me. It helped me out a lot. It was a good day and they couldn’t have done a better job,” he said.

“It went well. We got done what we wanted to do,” said volunteer and resident videographer Zachary Rankin. “It brightened a lot of people’s days to see us out there.”

On an otherwise cold and dreary day, spirits were high and the day was brightened for everyone involved, exemplifying the day’s theme of “Making Tracks in Midway” and increasing expectations for next year’s event. (Photo: Left to right, Kristy Royalty, Khristina Meissner and Catlynn Taylor brave the cold to administer free blood glucose and blood pressure checkups.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Council rezones old sewage-treatment plant to pave way for sale, perhaps to grease recycler

By Mark Wetherington
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council voted last night to zone as industrial the city’s old wastewater treatment plant, which has been proposed as a site for recycling waste oil and grease from Bluegrass restaurants.

The 2-acre tract was rezoned I-2, or Heavy Industrial. It had been zoned in three separate parcels as A-1 (Agricultural), CO-1 (Conservation) and I-1 (Light Industrial). Rezoning the land as I-2 was recommended by the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The city had accepted bids for the property last year and received one bid, from Mike Thornton of Martin’s Sanitation Service, but zoning and surveying issues prevented the bid from being accepted. The property has now been consolidated and rezoned, and surveying revealed that it is a slightly larger parcel than was previously estimated.

“Because the property size has changed, there will have to be a new bid,” Council Member Sharon Turner said after the meeting.

Thornton in a telephone interview Tuesday morning, “I would assume we would still be interested, unless there is a conditional use on it that we can’t meet.” He said that if he purchases the property he intends to use it to process the waste he collects. The solid waste would be separated and sent to a landfill, while the wastewater would be processed by the Midway Wastewater Treatment Plant and a per-gallon fee charged.

Turner noted, “Treating the wastewater will create a revenue stream for Midway.”

Thornton also said that he is planning to eventually use the property as a location for processing used restaurant grease into an alternative energy source.

Although the council voted unanimously to approve the rezoning ordinance, there was some skepticism. Maralyn Burstein, who voiced her opposition to the rezoning at the preceding council meeting, said the rezoning could have negative effects. “There aren’t any restrictions that would prevent it from being used in a harmful way in the future,” she said in an interview.

Other business

The council gave first reading to an ordinance to establish the City of Midway as a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. Final passage would bring Midway into compliance with the federal drug-free workplace policy and will help reduce worker’s compensation insurance premiums, city officials said.

David Collins of the C.I. Thornburg Co. spoke to the council about equipment that would allow Midway’s water meters to be accurately and quickly read through radio frequencies. Radio meter readers are cost-effective and eliminate many of the problems associated with traditional meters, Collins said. The city recently had a problem with meter readings.

Laura Dake and Gale Reece of ITN Bluegrass told the council that their group, a local affiliate of a national non-profit organization that provides transportation to senior citizens, is interested in expanding from Fayette County to Midway and other outlying towns. ITN Bluegrass is funded by membership fees and fares, as well as through local support such as volunteer drivers, car donations and local grants.

Helen Rentch, a Midway citizen who introduced Dake and Reece to the council, said there is a growing need for a transportation service for senior citizens in Midway, and “We don’t have taxis.”

Dake and Reece said providing transportation services to seniors allows them to stay in their home after they no longer feel safe behind the wheel. Rather than entering a nursing home or assisted-living facility, they can remain at home and safely travel by using the service provided by ITN Bluegrass.

The next meeting of the Midway city council is scheduled for Monday, November 2, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

First Midway branch of county library is dedicated

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Twenty-one years ago, a small group of volunteers gathered to establish a volunteer library in Midway, with the ultimate goal of having a full-scale branch of the Woodford County Public Library. This month, the dream came true, and today, as 250 people watched, the library was dedicated.

"This is an incredible, special, remarkable day in Midway, Kentucky," county library board Treasurer Dr. Michael Nichols said as he opened the ceremony. The board chair, Midway City Council Member Charlann Wombles, said the creation of the library was the latest example of Midway's volunteer spirit. Mayor Tom Bozarth noted that construction of a branch library was part of the library board's petition campaign for a tax increase several years ago. "Your promise and commitment to Midway has been fulfilled," he told them.

The new library, built at a cost of just under $1 million, is next to Northside Elementary School on land donated by the city. Laura Bostrom is the manager, and Margaret Smith, who ran the volunteer Midway Free Public Library at 428 S. Winter St., will be a part-time employee of the branch.

The former library was organized in 1988 and established in 1989, originally in the all-purpose room of the Midway Presbyterian Church. It started with 1,000 books donated by the Woodford County Public Library and was staffed by volunteers. Smith suceeded Missy Robertson as librarian in 1992, two years before the library moved to Winter Street, in a building that was once the residence of the janitor for the old Midway High School.

The new building, with many more books and plenty of computers, will be a tool of democracy and a forum of ideas and information, said today's keynote speaker, David Duggan, minister of Troy Presbyterian Church. He said the library should be an information source "free from the biases and prejudice that taint to much of our information flow today."

For the rest of the story, click here.

Noah Jones, 9, of Midway, got a head start, reading before the ceremony. He is the son of Blake Jones, who performed music at the ceremony and told the crowd that his son told him, "Daddy, this is a good place to read."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Governor puts Rollins on national education panel, Jones on one for land stewardship, conservation

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has appointed a Midway resident to a national board and a Midway-area resident to a state board. Both are fellow Democrats.

State Rep. Carl Rollins, a former Midway mayor and magistrate, was named to the Education Commission of the States. Rollins has been director of admissions for Midway College, director of community education for Woodford County and vice president of government relations for The Student Loan People. He completed his Ph.D. In educational policy studies at the University of Kentucky in 2003. For a profile of Rollins, click here.

Elizabeth Lloyd "Libby" Jones, co-owner of Airdrie Stud, was appointed to the state Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force. She is the wife of former Gov. Brereton Jones and has been active in farmland-preservation issues. The task force is studying the strategies that Kentucky and other states have utilized for protection of unique natural areas, farmlands, habitats and forests; and is to propose for the 2009 legislative session a bill creating a Land Stewardship Coordinating Committee to be the focal point for all land and property-rights acquisitions in the state relating to conservation, recreation and preservation. For the 2010 session, it is to produce legislative proposals relating to the funding, assessment, prioritizing and acquisition of conservation, recreation and preservation properties in the state. For the authorizing legislation, click here. For the other members, click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nationally touted Francisco's Farm Arts Festival returns to Midway College campus June 27 and 28

By Meghan Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway will play host to the sixth annual Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival at Midway College, produced by Midway Renaissance, June 27 and 28. The festival is named among the “Top Ten Art Fairs in the U.S.” for the third year in a row by AmericanStyle magazine.

The name of the festival commemorates Col. John Francisco, the original owner of the property on which historic Midway now stands. This year’s festival will display an array of media by 150 artists from 17 states, including Dan Neil Barnes of Lexington, who did this glass sculpture. (Photo by Sarah Wilson; read more)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Council approves budget with effective surplus of about $600,000; 'balance' includes city property

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The budget adopted tonight by the Midway City Council for the fiscal year beginning July 1 contains an effective surplus of about $600,000, not the $1.6 million first reported.

The difference stems from a $500,000 grant for the proposed nursing home, which has been reported, and a major item that was not fully explained until tonight's meeting: $600,000 worth of city property that auditor Robert Ryan said is part of the $1,691,796 "balance" to be carried forward from one fiscal year to the next. The property is commingled with the city's cash assets and is not listed separately in the budget.

The value of property is normally included in final statements dealing with assets and liabilities, but not in government budgets. However, Ryan said in an interview that was the practice when he started working for the city in 2003, and he has continued it. He said the amount varies with the addition, deletion, depreciation and changes in market value of assets, but did not have records with him to specify those amounts.

When asked last month about the large amount to be carried forward, Bozarth referred questions to Ryan, who declined to answer until authorized by Bozarth. Then Bozarth answered a series of written questions submitted by a student reporter, saying that the amount included "all the city's assets," including property, but not saying how much. A recent Midway Messenger story, based on knowledge of standard budgeting procedures, said the budget "will result in $1,691,796 remaining in the city’s bank accounts."

At tonight's meeting, Council Member Charlann Wombles asked if the city "really had that much money." Bozarth and City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson replied in unison, "No." Ryan then explained that part of the "balance" is not money, but property such as "buildings, trucks, things the city can look to [in an emergency] to liquidate." He also mentioned the previously reported "windfall" that the city received in 2007-08 from the tax on two very large insurance premiums. That amount, about $552,000, accounts for most of the effective surplus.

Council Member Diana Queen alluded to the unappropriated money, saying "I hope we would work toward allocating money toward projects." Sharon Turner, chair of the council's Finance Committee, said the city has been laboring under some financial issues, but "We're coming out of those and we're going to have a little but to start building those funds." She said development of the failed Midway Station industrial park would add to the city's tax base.

Queen asked several questions about the budget, then told Bozarth that when next year's budget comes up for dissussion, the council should have "a work session" on it. Bozarth said there was such as session this year, referring to a council meeting at which a proposed budget was circulated but not given a formal first reading. At that meeting, Queen suggested more money should be appropriated for sidewalks, and the first-reading version of the budget had more money for sidewalks: $10,000, up from $5,000 this year.

In response to questions from Queen, Bozarth said the budget has no money for additional paving, much work having been done last year; and $20,000 for attorney's fees, up from $8,000 in this year's budget, based on unexpected expenses this year. He said those included the Midway Station development, "open-records requests that have taken a lot of time," the library and "annexation things we had to take care of." He and city attorney Phil Moloney said the "annexation" was a redefinition of the city's boundaries required by the state. Moloney said he expects some of the issues to recede, but added that there could be more work if the nursing home project starts moving or other issues arise with Midway Station.

Queen also asked about funding for a Main Street program manager, which the city was sharing with Versailles and Woodford County until the county chamber of commerce fired the manager and pulled out of the agreement to fund the position and coordinate local tourism promotion. Bozarth said "We will come up with something," in combination with downtown merchants and the Midway Renaissance organization.

Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce asked the city to pay $2,500 that they said was owed for the two months the Main Street manager was employed. Executive Director Tami Vater said Versailles and the county have paid their shares. Bozarth told them, "We will look into it and get back to you."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

City officials defend big surplus in proposed budget

By Bryan Kennedy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

On Monday, the city council will look to adopt the city’s budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Although the budget will be read for the second time, council members still have no plans for the more than $1 million in money not appropriated.

The budget proposed by Mayor Tom Bozarth will result in $1,691,796 remaining in the city’s bank accounts. The city would start and end the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, with the same amount of unappropriated funds.

Half a million dollars of the apparent surplus is actually a grant that can be spent only to build a nursing home, but even without that amount, the surplus is more than the city expects to receive in tax revenue next year.

Bozarth says the amount left over is not unusual especially in light of the recent economic problems. “The figure represents all of the city’s assets,” he said. “A substantial part of this represents grant money received by the city that is earmarked.”

Council Member Sharon Turner, chair of the council’s Finance Committee, agrees with Bozarth and says the amount left over is not cash sitting in the bank.

Much of the surplus is the $552,000 windfall Midway received in 2007-08 from the tax on two insurance policies. The city has yet to use this money.

Council Member Charlann Wombles says the council has to make sure they stretch money as far as it can go. Now with the extensive amount remaining she hopes the money will be used in new areas.

“We hopefully can address some areas that need to be addressed that we haven’t been able to even consider previously,” said Wombles. Other than sidewalks, which got a more money between the proposal of the budget and its first reading, Wombles didn’t have any other examples of areas that could be focused on.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton says he isn’t sure how long the money has been accumulating, but says it could help in case of a tragedy.

“We have to have money for any surprises,” Hamilton said. “You don’t want any disasters to hit and us not be ready.”

Sandra Cooke is another council member in favor of saving the money in case of an emergency. Having to fill sinkholes as a result of collapsing limestone caverns is one example she said the money could be used for.

“It’s always a good idea to have a surplus going into each year because you always have contingencies,” said Cooke. “Also something you had planned to do in the future may cost more because prices are continuing to go up.”

Cooke also said the leftover money could be used to pay bank loans in the event that housing and commercial development of Midway Station, a failed industrial park, doesn’t begin as scheduled. If Dennis Anderson decides to pull out and no other developers are found, Midway could again be responsible for paying a portion of the interest on debts for the past development. If Anderson doesn’t keep his end of the bargain, the city and county could have to pay more than $185,000 each in yearly interest payments.

For the time being, the city doesn’t have to pay the interest, so it will use that money for other expenses, Turner said. Previously, pots and plants were donated, but now the city has budgeted $1,500 for plants downtown. She said the city has also budgeted to use this money for a new Web site, sidewalks and increased attorney fees.

Bozarth said when the budget was proposed that more attorney fees were included because the city is keeping its lawyer busier than expected. “We are anticipating that there will be additional legal services” in the coming year, he said, “relating to issues involving the development of Midway Station, annexations, open-records requests, the proposed nursing home and the re-writing of ordinances.”

In the proposed budget several programs are allotted more money than in the previous year; one of those was appropriations for equipment and maintenance of streets. Bozarth says the city will buy a new leaf machine and more salt, and Hamilton says a new wood chipper is also will be purchased.

Council Member Doris Leigh was absent from the last meeting. She referred all questions regarding the budget to other members who were present.

Turner says by the time the council meets Monday at 5:30 p.m., members should have all questions regarding the budget answered and be ready to adopt the budget.

For an earlier story on the budget, click here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thoroughbred Theater raising money to stay afloat

By Ashley Trosper and Sarah Livesay
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunicatons

The history of the Thoroughbred Theater is etched in the heart of the Midway community, but its future is unsure.

Though it faces financial uncertainty and the possibility of new ownership, John and Jim McDaniel, the co-managers and former owners, say the theater has some serious staying power and the possibilities for the future are promising.

“There’s a collective conscientiousness in this town” to support the arts, Jim McDaniel said. “Nothing is more important to me than the arts.”

Supporters of the theater have created a non-profit organization to preserve it, give the community a greater sense of ownership, and perhaps purchase it from owner Tony Moreno.

The non-profit's board has already been hard at work with the McDaniels, creating the Cornerstone Fund. Through April, 33 people had pledged $25 per month for six months to the Thoroughbred Theater, according to Jim McDaniel — all through e-mail solicitation. “It says a lot about the community support,” he said.

“I'm not surprised to see Midway folks jump on board the Cornerstone Fund,” said Bob Rouse, a menre of the board. “It's a way to provide much-needed funds to a cool hometown venue. These people are saying to Thoroughbred Theater, ‘We want you here with us.’”

The theater has undergone a facelift under Moreno’s ownership. He restored the theater with the “Thoroughbred” theme, adding green barn doors from Man O’ War Farm and a stairway from Churchill Downs leading up to the stage.

The McDaniels returned as managers of the theater in 2007. Jim McDaniel said their priority was to bring the community into the theater life. They added cinema, live music, stage productions and University of Kentucky basketball games on the big screen.

Moreno said he originally intended to turn the property into retail space, but after learning about the history of the theater, his intentions shifted into creating a space that “when you walk in, you felt like you were in the heart of horse country.”

Records show that Moreno bought the property at 127 E. Main St. from ASG Community Development LLC for $125,000 in October 2003. He sold some connecting property to Robert and Sarah Vandegrift for $320,000 in November 2008. The Vandegrifts used part of the property to create Quirk Café.

John McDaniel said Moreno has made tremendous renovations to all of the adjoining properties, including the theater. The sale of the building to the Vandegrifts required installation of handicapped-accessible bathrooms, which McDaniel said was the reason for the theater's closure this winter.

The theater reopened with a fundraiser March 21, featuring an original comedy-mystery theatre production by the Bluegrass Mystery Theater.

The McDaniels and Moreno said it would be ideal for the non-profit to buy the theater. Moreno said he would sell it for market value, noting that he has invested significant time and money for the renovations.

“He has made generous concessions that reflected his will that the theater continues,” Jim McDaniel said. These concessions include allowing the managers three months to pay a deposit of $1,200 on the theater instead of one, according to Jim McDaniel.

Moreno said the lease payment of $1,200 a month has not been easy on the theater, and he hopes the non-profit will relieve some of the financial stress on the McDaniels. “I’m trying to make it easy,” he said.

Those involved with the theater have brainstormed options to make the purchase possible. Moreno said he’s looked into loan-guarantee programs for the McDaniels and has even approached the City of Midway to purchase the property for the community. On April 29, Moreno met with Mayor Tom Bozarth to discuss the option.

“He was noncommittal, but he’s looking at the options,” Moreno said. “It would be a great, great deal. My job as a developer is to do a development that’s in line with the community’s interest. But, we have to make a profit.”

Bozarth said that while he believes the theater is good for the city, it would ultimately be a city council decision. “With the economy, I don’t think it’s the right time for the city to be buying up property,” he said.

The non-profit’s board is forming committees, setting up fundraising and helping monitor the budget, according to the McDaniels.

“Everybody is feeling out their role,” John McDaniel said. “Each one has an area of expertise. We’ve established a development committee and program committee.” The board includes President Diana Ratliff, Vice President Mary Thoresen, Secretary Bob Rouse, Liz Trontz, Chris Stafford, Lauren Hill, Blake Jones, Cindy Grisolia and Sue Roberts.

Rouse said he’s thrilled to be on the board. “I joined the board because I’m a Midway boy through and through, and this theater presents a unique pathway for bringing Midway people together to enjoy creativity,” he said.

According to John McDaniel, the theater is now doing two to three performances a week on average. He said he hopes to have several different events every week including musical performances, comedians and plays. “We found out how much the community enjoyed it,” he said. “In reality, we’ll do anything to keep this thing going.”

Moreno agreed, saying, “There’s a ton of community interest to do it.”

An application for the theater become a non-profit corporation was filed in mid-January, according to the McDaniels. Jim McDaniel said it will be extremely beneficial to the theater because donations will be tax deductible.

“We’re able to attract sources of money like private foundations, corporations and individuals who believe in what we’re doing,” he said. The brothers are working on reaching non-profit status at the federal level as a non-profit organization under Chapter 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

While the non-profit status will be a life-preserver, Jim McDaniel said it is his brother who is the backbone of the theater. “His average work week is about 90 hours,” he said. “He pours his whole life and life’s blood into this. He’s tireless. Whatever it takes, he will do it to keep this place up and running.”

While John McDaniel is a tireless worker, Jim McDaniel has a significant amount of experience in non-profit management. “It’s been my entire professional career,” Jim said. “I know it like the back of my hand.”

The next fundraiser for the Thoroughbred Theater will be The Helping Hand Fund. According to a letter from the board, the Helping Hand Fund and the Cornerstone Fund were created “to infuse needed revenue for the non-profit Thoroughbred Theater to begin expanding program services beyond our entertainment schedule.”

The McDaniels want the theater to remain a significant piece of history in the Midway community. “It’s not about the number of people filling the chairs, it’s about experiences,” Jim said.

“If Midway truly embraces this theater,” Rouse said, “we can build something extraordinary here.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pageant reading opens a time capsule, gives hope for full reprise of Midway's centennial pageant

By Ashley Trosper
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

It was like opening a time capsule Saturday, April 4 in Midway through a combination of speakers, images and music. The Midway Living History Committee and Midway Renaissance presented a reading of The Midway Centennial Pageant of 1933 at the Thoroughbred Theater.

The reading included actual images and lines from the original pageant, which was put on by over 200 members of the Midway community almost 75 years ago to mark the town’s 100th anniversary. (Photos by John McDaniel)

Lines such as this one told of Midway’s past, including its founding. : “In eighteen hundred thirty three the train made a trip for all to see. It carried the mail and many a man through Mr. John Francisco’s farm it ran.”

According to pageant co-director Herman Farrell, right, Helen Rentch was essential in breathing life into the project. Farrell also said she was the one who found the “treasured” history. “My grandmother was involved in it,” Rentch said. “I came across her script and none of us knew what it was.”

Rentch also found a scrapbook at the Midway Woman’s Club, she said, which really set the Farrell’s project into motion. “If he wanted to try it I was willing to go along,” Rentch said. “Then we found the scrapbook at the Woman’s Club with its wonderful old pictures and it got more exciting.”

Farrell said once the scrapbook was found, “The time had finally arrived to do something about this piece of history.”

Midway Renaissance President Randy Thomas said the public reading was “to let people see images and hear some lines that were said. And to get more people involved.” He said The Thoroughbred Theater was the perfect location for the performance.

“The McDaniels really support things like this,” he said, referring to managers John and Jim McDaniel. “It’s a great venue. It’s an historic theater.”

The original pageant, which told the history of Midway, took place on the Midway College Campus, Thomas said, and at least 2,000 people came to see it. “They came to hear the history of Midway,” Thomas said. “In 1933, that couldn’t have been easy.”

While there weren’t 200 people involved in the reading like in the original, there were almost as many on stage as in the audience. Around 30 community members participated in the reading.

Farrell said Rentch and Becky Moore, chairwoman of the Midway Living History Committee, were instrumental in the casting of the performance. The two women “got folks who are personally connected,” said Farrell, who has been a resident of Midway since 2001.

Many of the readers, according to Rentch, were descendants of the original pageant cast. Others were community members who represented organizations.

“In our generation we came to appreciate the value of the ‘oral tradition’ of passing down history in families and among indigenous peoples,” Rentch said. “In part, because we no longer have those story tellers among us. I see that this could be a similar kind of treasure, a mode for the community to pass down its history.”

The outcome was an hour-long reading filled with history — words and images of the past. “It was fun to get to do something among friends and neighbors and I think Herman did a superb job of staging it so that it felt like something we could be proud of,” Rentch said. “It certainly enhanced a sense of community among some of us who didn't know each other very well before.”

Thomas said he hopes to continue the enhancing this sense of history and community. “The intent is to restage the entire thing,” he said. “This was a great way to get people interested in it.”

Director of chamber and tourism effort tells city council Midway will be promoted more effectively

By Amanda Currier
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The executive director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce told the Midway City Council Monday that the county’s tourism effort, which the Chamber runs, is going to be more pro-active. Tami Vater said she wants to be transparent and to encourage the various interests in the county to work together.

Vater’s visit was planned a month ago, but came in the wake of the chamber’s withdrawal from the inter-local agreement between the county and its two cities for tourism promotion, an agreement the chamber had promoted before Vater arrived. Also, Midway was left out of a recent Woodford County tourism brochure, bringing complaints from some in the town.

For the rest of the story, via an audio report, click here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Proposed city budget keeps $1.6 million surplus; $500,000 of it is grant for proposed nursing home

By Bryan Kennedy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 shows that the City of Midway will continue to have more than $1.6 million remaining in unused money.

At Monday night’s meeting, the council gave first reading of the 2009-2010 budget and appropriations ordinance. The budget lists all appropriations of $1,388,970. After subtracting the appropriations from total resources the city will have an estimated General Fund balance of $1,691,796 – the same amount it expects to have left over at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

The council did not discuss the surplus at last night’s meeting. Two ideas for extra spending have been presented, but none would take as much as even 5 percent of the amount of money that the city has left.

Last night, the council authorized a $419,600 grant application for an emergency generator for the water plant, needed in light of major acts of nature like the ice storms this year and in 2003. The city’s share of the cost would be 13 percent, or about $54,500. Mayor Tom Bozarth said the budget could be amended to include the expense, but he did not mention the surplus during the meeting.

Last year the city budgeted $5,000 for sidewalk restoration, but the original version of the proposed budget called for $3,500. At the last meeting, Council Member Diana Queen suggested $30,000 be used to restore sidewalks, with pilot projects to help property owners improve safety and encourage others to do likewise. The proposed budget now calls for $10,000.

“It’s a start,” City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson told Queen, who indicated that she wanted to talk about raising the appropriation even more.

The sidewalk restoration and generator proposal are the only ideas currently on the table to begin using the money that the city has remaining. Even if the council passed $30,000 along with the money for generators, the city would still have over $1.6 million remaining to be used. The question still remains, what will the city do with the funds left over?

That’s a good question, Queen said after the meeting. She is a proponent of spending the money wisely and keeping a balance between costs and revenue, but also wants the city to start to make a plan on what the money should be used for in the future.

“It is very important that we are meeting community needs,” says Queen, “There needs to be a strategic plan set for the next couple of years.”

Queen, who is in her third year on the council, said the money left over could be a result of conservative spending by the city in recent years, and the city’s obligation to pay the debt on the failed Midway Station industrial park, now slated but not guaranteed to be a residential and commercial development.

Once Midway Station’s fate is known, hopefully in December, “I want to know where the big picture is going,” Queen said. “There are projects that need to be done here in Midway in the future.”

Bozarth and Hudson referred reporters and others to the city auditor to get answers to these questions: How long has the surplus been accumulating? Why has it been allowed to accumulate? How might the city use the money?

UPDATE, May 13: In response to written questions from reporter Sarah Livesay, Bozarth said "a substantial part" of the surplus is earmarked grant money, which can be spent only for the designated purpose. Most or all of that is a $500,000 grant to help build a nursing home. As for the rest of the surplus, he said, "We do not believe it is unusual, especially in light of the economic downturn our country is facing, to have a cash reserve and to be on sound financial ground."

Another reason for the surplus is an unexpected $552,000 windfall that the city received in 2007-08 from the insurance-premium tax. Insurance companies pay such taxes to the state, which sends the money to cities, so city officials know only that the money came from taxes on premiums on just two policies.

In responding to a question about a proposed increase in payments to the city attorney, Bozarth revealed that the city is contenplating annexation. "We are anticipating that there will be additional legal services relating to issues involving the development of Midway Station, annexations, open-records requests, the proposed nursing home and the re-writing of ordinances," he said.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Midway Presbyterian Church celebrates creation

By Emily Rosenberg
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Sunday’s worship at Midway Presbyterian Church was more than just a regular service. The April 26 service was held outside and was the setting for the second annual creation celebration, encouraging the celebration of animals, plants and all of God’s creations.

The creation celebration is tied to Earth Day, April 22. Pastor Mary Seeger Weese (in photo) said, “It’s sort of a submersion of Earth Day and a celebration of God’s creation at the same time.”

Weese said the celebration was also about the church’s community garden, which has grown tremendously. “It’s like twice as big as it was last year and a lot more people other than just people involved in the church that are doing it,” Weese said. “So we’re just excited about this whole thing it’s just kind of grown and grown and grown just like God’s creation tends to do, so that’s exciting.”

This year’s celebration was shorter than last year’s. Weese said last year the event was celebrated over four Sundays during April, during which they discussed God’s creations and how to honor it. This year they decided to make it a one-Sunday event.

It was a beautiful morning for an outdoor service: warm and sunny. There were approximately 50 people in attendance. Most brought their dogs, and a few brought some other interesting things such as two guinea pigs, a potted plant and a stuffed leopard. They were all out to celebrate God’s creation and waiting to be blessed by Weese.

Gay Barnett, a member of the church all her life, said this service is special and one of her family’s favorites to attend. “It’s definitely the children’s favorite service. It’s nice to be able to come and be casual and have our families and our pets with us.” The Barnett family brought their dog Daisy and a potted plant to the celebration to be blessed.

One thing Weese and Youth Minister Brent Giuliani wanted to encourage was the sense of community brought together for the celebration. Giuliani said there were people at the church service he had never seen before. “It’s not like we’re trying to get more numbers, we just want people to come and share in God’s love,” he said. “And we want them to feel accepted by us and feel a sense of community and friendship; we’ll welcome them with open arms.”

Onedia McClure has been a member of the church for 17 years. She said she loves days like Sunday’s celebration when everyone comes together to celebrate and be with one another. “I love the people, I just the love the community in our church the members and just the church in general.”

Bill and Leslie Penn joined Weese in playing music at the service.
The church was founded in 1846 on land deeded from the railroad. The building still stands as it was from when it was founded. Remnants of the historic building can still be seen today. Everyone is welcome to the church anytime. Sunday discipleship is at 9:45 a.m. and worship services begin at 11 a.m. Also, don’t forget to stop by and see the community garden grow!

Monday, April 20, 2009

City officials say county left them no choice but to approve emergency-management agreement

By Tilly Finley and Meg Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

At tonight's City Council meeting, council members and Mayor Tom Bozarth were forced to make a decision that none of them found appealing.

On a 3-2 vote, with Bozarth breaking a tie, the council voted to accept the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with Woodford County and the City of Versailles to establish a countywide disaster emergency preparedness, response and recovery program.

The council's concerns were political and monetary. Bozarth said the two cities should have a say in appointment of the joint emergency-management director, and Council Member Sharon Turner noted, among other things, that money paid by Midway would buy equipment the county would own. “We had fair questions that were asked and not addressed,” she said.

Because the state requires the city to have an emergency director, which would be more expensive than sharing one, and since County Judge-Executive John Coyle had refused to change the proposed agreement, Bozarth said, "We don't have any choice." The proposed city budget for next year, distributed at the meeting, includes $6,480 for the city's share of the director's pay, based on $4 per person counted in the 2000 census.

County Emergency Management Director Keith Slugantz, who presented the agreement to the council, said the city "will have a say in the appoinment" of the joint director, but Bozarth said the actual appointment would be made by the county. He said the disagreement had nothing to do with Slugantz, but told him, "You know how politics are. Politics change." County and city offices are on next year's ballots.

Bozarth made clear to Slugantz that the city would pay its part on a monthly basis, and only if invoiced by the county. “We have had some issues in the past and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” the mayor said.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton made the motion to accept the agreement. Doris Leigh joined him in voting yes, while Turner and Diana Queen voted no. Soon after Bozarth broke the tie, Council Member Sandra Cooke arrived. She said in an interview, “Out of necessity, I would have voted yes. ... Right now we have no other option.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

County gives final approval to Sunday alcohol sales, sought primarily by restaurants in Midway

By Meg Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Woodford County Fiscal Court gave final approval Tuesday night to Sunday alcohol sales in Midway and the rest of the county outside Versailles.

The vote was 6-3, With Magistrates Larry Craig, Ellen Gormley, Geoffrey Reid, Gerald Dotson, Steve Barnett and James Staples voting yes. Charles “Bones” Webber, Jackie Brown and Judge-Executive John Coyle voted no.

Sunday drink licenses will cost restaurants and wineries $300 per year. They will also have to pay a $500 state fee, County Attorney Alan George told The Woodford Sun. Sunday sales are allowed between 1 and 10 p.m.

Sales will not be allowed in Versailles unless the city council reverses a 4-3 vote against them in February. The change was sought mainly by restaurants in Midway, which attract patrons from a wide area. Versailles makes some of its own alcohol rules but Midway is too small to do so, under state law.

The idea of Sunday alcohol sales has been a controversial topic for the past few months. The county deferred action on the restaurants' request until Versailles acted, then passed a motion by Craig to begin drafting the ordinance.

Brown, one of the opponents, said in an interview that personal safety could be at risk. “I just hope that we don’t get someone leaving a restaurant, after drinking, and get in a wreck,” he said, citing unspecified information he said he had found on the Internet about higher accident and crime rates when Sunday sales are allowed.

Coyle said in an interview that the way the ordinance was first presented to him sounded fine, but he didn’t agree with adding retailers to it.

“It was first presented as just restaurants needing the ability to compete with other restaurants and I was fine with that, then they added wineries, and I was fine with that, then they added package stores,” said Coyle.

He said alcohol sales in tourist attractions would help, especially with the World Equestrian Games coming up in 2010, but “I just don’t see package stores as a tourist attraction. It’s not like someone outside of Midway is going to choose to spend their day at a Midway retail store to buy beer.”

Craig said in an interview, ”It’s a good thing. It will make us more competitive with all the other counties, especially in time for the World Equestrian Games.” Frankfort and Lexington have had Sunday sales for some time, and the Georgetown council recently voted to start them.

The question now is: When will alcohol actually be sold on Sundays? Craig said that restaurants, wineries and package stores must apply at the county level, then the license will be sent to Frankfort for approval.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Keeneland meet brings tourists, boosts restaurants

By Tilly Finley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism & Telecommunications

Spring is finally here, and with it come showers, flowers and of course, Keeneland thoroughbred horse racing.

The spring meet at Keeneland Race Course is very important to businesses in Lexington and surrounding areas such as Midway. It is a time when many tourists come to enjoy themselves, spend some money, and see why the Bluegrass is dubbed the horse capital of the world.

Many businesses in Midway look forward to the opening of Keeneland and see it as the kickoff to their busy season. Restaurants prepare extra food and hire extra staff to prepare for the influx of dining customers they expect during the April 3-24 racing season.

“We look at spring Keeneland meets and the horse sales [at Keeneland] as our most productive time,” said Mark Wombles, chef and owner of Heirloom Restaurant, at 125 Main St.

Heirloom can expect a 30 to 40 percent food and alcohol sales increase once Keeneland opens, Wombles said. Much preparation must be done in order to accommodate to the added guests in town for the races.

Heirloom hires more people and buys nicer ingredients for their nightly specials which bring many Keeneland tourists into the restaurant.

“The specials are determined by what I decide I want to eat for dinner,” said Wombles. “I start with my protein and where it ends up is where it ends up. Many changes take place along the way.”

Another Midway restaurant that prepared for an increase in guests is Wallace Station, at 3854 Old Frankfort Pike. Because the restaurant is on a main route to Keeneland from Midway it sees a significant increase in guests and sales.

“We get a lot of people who come for breakfast and return for lunch on their way back from the track,” said three-year employee Ashley Holland.

Wallace Station knows when to expect to get hit with a crowd, said Holland, so preparation is a key factor. Employees help get ready by doubling everything from making bread and desserts, to slicing double the amounts of meats and cheese for lunch sandwiches.

The restaurant offers many items that have names inspired by Keeneland and horse racing to appeal to track patrons . The “Wild Turkey Triple Crown” and the “Santa Anita Club” are two of the most popular selling sandwiches during this time, said Holland.

Summer Cooper, manager of The Black Tulip, at 133 Main St. (in photo), is excited to be able to offer a full bar for the first time under its new full liquor license. The Black Tulip maintains steady numbers throughout the year, said Cooper, but when the patio is opened, beginning with Keeneland, weather permitting, it doubles the restaurant capacity and therefore sales.

To bring Keeneland visitors into the restaurant The Black Tulip will offer a spring version of the wine list which includes lighter, patio-style wines, and will refresh the menu, adding items that incorporate seasonal produce, said Cooper. The Black Tulip also incorporates live music on the patio into its seasonal change.

There is no question that the Keeneland spring meet brings more people to Midway, but not all the businesses there are feeling the track-tourist love.

“Restaurants see a great deal of business,” said Glenn Castle, the owner of Midway Leather, a specialty shop, at 208 Dudley St. “It is more food-oriented as far as Keeneland tourism is concerned.”

The out-of-towners come to Midway to dine and usually do boost the sales of the restaurants in Midway, said Castle. Midway Leather used to be located on Main Street where many restaurants are located, but even in that location, Castle did not see a substantial additional amount of revenue during the Keeneland season.

“They are saving their money for the races,” he said.

Carel Pelzer, owner of Le Marche, a boutique at 104 Main St., shares a similar experience. While she doesn’t need to prepare for the opening of Keeneland, Pelzer says she sees a distinctive difference in her clientele.

“Keeneland brings in people with more money to spend,” said Pelzer. Her higher priced items such as gifts, soaps and food items usually go first when the Keeneland tourists visit the store.

Restaurants also cater to the different clientele that Keeneland brings to Midway. During the spring meet at Bistro La Belle, a restaurant at 121 Main St., the strongest sales come from finer wines, said owner Laura Wolfram.

Bistro La Belle has seen a 30 percent increase in sales during the Keeneland season in the past and is expecting the same in 2009, Wolfram said. She plans on accommodating extra reservations as well as having more staff on hand.

“We will be busy for the whole month,” Wolfram said. “Keeneland kicks off Derby season as well, and leads us into summer.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Council OKs ordinance regulating volunteer work

By Sarah Livesay
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council passed a much-debated ordinance concerning volunteer work on city property Monday night by a vote of 5 to 1.

Sandra Cooke, the only member to oppose the ordinance, said she believed it was offensive to certain groups who volunteer in the community. "I think it hurts the feelings of some of the people who do most of our volunteer work," she said. "I think some of them feel it's aimed specifically at them, and makes them feel powerless in all this, and that bothers me."

Council member Diana Queen said the ordinance seems targeted because it mentions certain types of work, and questioned whether it needed to be so specific.

City attorney Phil Moloney said he didn't write the ordinance to target anyone, and said it would simplify the process of getting volunteer projects approved. Before the ordinance was passed, volunteer groups went before the City Council to be approved, but now approval can be granted via e-mail, he said.

Council Member Charlann Wombles said, “This has absolutely no particular group in mind . . . I’m sorry there is a group taking offense.” The group to which Cooke and Wombles were referring was not disclosed, but at prior meetings people with Midway Renaissance made the most frequent cases against the ordinance as drafted.

Those complaints resulted in some relaxation of the first draft. “We’ve had a lot better ordinance tonight than when we started,” Wombles said.

Moloney said riskier projects, as specified in the ordinance, should be supervised in order to protect the volunteers. The ordinance also says the city may require volunteers to sign a waiver of liability. The original version, proposed in February, would have required waivers in all cases, but was softened after complaints from volunteers.

"From a city attorney approach," Moloney said, "I would say everyone needs to sign a waiver." He said the process would be simple. The head of the volunteer group would sign the waiver and as volunteers show up, their names and addresses would be recorded. Moloney said that would thwart claims by people that they were injured on a project on which they did not work.

Moloney said Midway’s insurance plan covers volunteers like it covers city workers — limited to medical protection, under workers' compensation — and if volunteers don't adhere to the ordinance, they may not get that protection. "This is not to penalize the volunteers but to provide them some sort of insurance protection," he said.

Council Member Doris Leigh said, “More volunteers will come if we have something to protect them.” She said she had received several calls in favor of the ordinance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Council gives first reading to lighter ordinance on volunteer work, but volunteers still object

By Ashley Brooke Trosper
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council heard the first official reading tonight of a controversial ordinance concerning volunteer work on city property. The ordinance has some significant differences from the original draft.

The former draft would have required all volunteers to sign a waiver of liability. The current version would require that volunteers sign a waiver only if using “motorized or mechanized equipment, including, but not limited to, weed eaters, powered pruners and trimmers, wood chippers, chain saws, mowers and tractors,” or if working in isolation or at heights, including ladders, “or in any manner that causes concern of an increased risk of injury of a volunteer because of either the nature of the work or tools to be used.”

The ordinance also says those wishing to volunteer on city property must obtain approval through a written work request. The requests would be approved by the council or its “designee,” who would also have the authority to require supervision, depending on the project.

Council member Charlann Wombles said the council has not decided who the designee would be, but it could be the city clerk or a council member. “We just want to make this as easy as we can,” she said.

Midway Renaissance President Randy Thomas said he still hopes the council will reconsider the need for such an ordinance. “Hopefully by the second reading they will rethink it,” he said after leaving the meeting.

First reading was scheduled for last month but was delayed after Thomas voiced concern about it as the meeting was about to begin. Then the council’s Ordinance and Policy Committee decided to lighten the waiver rule, after some community members raised concerns that if such a requirement was in place, there would be a decrease in volunteerism.

“We don’t want to, and I don’t think you do either, to discourage anyone from volunteering,” Thomas told the council last night. He was the only person to discuss the ordinance during the meeting.
Thomas said after leaving the meeting that he and other Renaissance board members think the volunteer ordinance is not in the best interest of the city and volunteers. “We’ve always had a good system,” he said. “This could negatively impact the volunteers. That’s something we believe.”

Thomas said he understands the needs of the Kentucky League of Cities, Midway’s insurance provider, but feels that the ordinance is not the only way to cover the basis.

“We clearly don’t oppose what the insurance carrier needs to know,” he said. “We’ve not been able to find anyone else who has an ordinance. It’s not the only way. We agree on providing information like how many people, where the volunteering is taking place and what is happening. We are okay with other avenues.”

Midway Station developer gets a Dec. 1 deadline

By Al Cross
Director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The developer who signed a contract to turn Midway Station from a failed industrial park into a housing and commercial development will have until Dec. 1 to close the deal or forfeit some extra money he has put on the table in uncertain economic times.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property, signed a deal in January 2008 to sell the property to Anderson Communities once it was rezoned and its initial construction plans were approved. The city council rezoned it last fall, but Anderson has not filed his construction plans with the county zoning office, leaving the city and county each on the hook for annual interest payments of more than $185,000 a year for a project that has created almost no jobs.

EDA Chair Michael Duckworth told the council last night that with the help of a mediator, EDA and Anderson have reached an agreement that calls for him to advance the authority $250,000 and sign a note for $100,000, payable on the new, proposed closing date of Dec. 1. If the deal does not close, Anderson will lose the money, as well as the $100,000 deposit he paid last year when he first agreed to buy the property.

If the deal does close, and the property changes hands, the $450,000 will be applied to the purchase price of about $6 million. Of that amount, $1 million would not be due until Dec. 1, 2014, as opposed to two years after the closing date, as called for in the original agreement. The $1 million deferred payment is intended to help the city and county recoup their interest and other costs incurred since buying the property in 2000.

That proposed delay drew no objections at the council meeting. Rather, city officials seemed more interested in when EDA would start using Anderson's money to take over the interest payments, which are costing the city $511 a day. "I think it's very important those interest payments are paid, for us," Mayor Tom Bozarth said.

Duckworth said that if the EDA board approves the agreement at its next meeting Friday, it would make the semi-annual interest payment due in June. He said the negotiations with Anderson effectively made the deadline to close the deal six months earlier. "Certainly, it's not as quick as any of us had anticipated," he said, but added that the negotiations showed the good faith of all parties.

"I think you represented us well," Council Member Charlann Wombles told Duckworth.

In addition to the $450,000 Anderson now has on the table, he is also on the hook for $280,000 worth of engineering work to develop the construction plans, which the new agreement requires him to file by Oct. 15, EDA attorney Jim Rouse told the council. The new deal, unlike the old one, is not dependent on approval of the plans by zoning office staff, Rouse said.

While it is a had time for many developers, Rouse and Duckworth said in an interview that Anderson has never used poor economic conditions as an excuse for his lack of progress on the project. Asked if they think Anderson will develop Midway Station, Rouse asked if the questioner knew what the Dow Jones industrial stock average, a key economic barometer, will be on Dec. 1. But "The more investment he has," Rouse said, the more likely the developer is to close the deal.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scores of artists in 'family' of Damselfly gallery

By Ashley Trosper
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

For Eric and Mary Thoreson, artisanship and kinship are one and the same.

As the owners of Damselfly Studio and Gallery in Midway, they say honesty, loyalty and trust are keys to keeping their business going.

Damselfly, which has been around for four years now, has about 150 artists in its family, according to Eric. On any given day, the gallery houses work from 150 to more than 200 artists, mostly Kentuckians or other regional artisans, he said. Anything from pottery or glassware to paintings and jewelry can be found at the quaint shop on Main Street. (Read more)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sunday alcohol sales get first-reading approval

By Meghan Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Woodford County Fiscal Court voted 6-2 in favor Tuesday night on first reading of the ordinance to allow Sunday alcohol sales in Midway and the rest of Woodford County outside Versailles.

Voting for the ordinance were Magistrates Larry Craig of Midway, Ellen Gormley, Geoff Reid, Gerald Dotson, Jim Staples and Steve Barnett, who was absent at the last meeting. Charles “Bones” Webber and Jackie Brown voted no, as they did at the last meeting on Craig’s motion to draft the ordinance.

The ordinance would allow alcohol sales from 1 to 10 p.m. on Sundays and would include sales of packaged alcohol in stores as well as restaurants. Midway restaurants are the leading proponents of the change.

The City Council in Versailles, where three restaurants asked for the change, turned down Sunday sales on a tie vote a few weeks ago. Versailles makes some of its own alcohol rules but Midway’s are governed by Fiscal Court. Midway’s population of 1,620 makes it a fifth-class city, which prohibits its city council from making its own decision on the issue.

“Fiscal Court wanted Versailles to take the first step, but they rejected it,” said Bill Van Den Dool, owner of The Black Tulip, one of five Midway restaurants that have asked for Sunday sales, primarily saying that it would boost tourist business.

“I feel good about it,” Van Den Dool said in an interview. “I believe it’s going to happen and that is going to put the pressure on Versailles.”

Midway restaurants say they need Sunday sales to compete with restaurants in Lexington and Frankfort, especially with the World Equestrian Games coming in 2010. The council in Georgetown, the same distance from Midway as the other two cities, passed a Sunday-sales ordinance Monday night.

According to the Georgetown News-Graphic, the Georgetown ordinance will allow Sunday sales only by the drink. Several council members said approving Sunday sales was not an easy decision, but necessary considering the economic downturn and a $1 million city budget shortfall. It has been estimated that Sunday sales will generate $15,000 in added yearly revenue for the city.

The Woodford County ordinance is also not without opponents, though none spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. Craig said in an earlier interview that regardless of his personal opinion, his job is to represent the people in Midway and this is what they asked him to do. “If we’re going to do it, let’s start now,” he said. “If we’re going to attract people to these restaurants, we’ve got to be competitive with our surrounding cities.”

Brown, who lives on McCowan's Ferry Road between Versailles and Mortonsville, said in an earlier interview, “I have a strong belief that we don’t need it. We don’t need to be selling on Sundays. It’s sabbath day, we already do it six days a week.”

In October, Midway restaurants Bistro La Belle, The Black Tulip, Holly Hill Inn, Darlin’ Jeans and Quirk gave Fiscal Court a petition to allow Sunday sales. The Heirloom restaurant has since joined the bandwagon.

Craig told The Woodford Sun that the ordinance should also allow retail sales, to avoid what he called discrimination between retailers and restaurants. He told the newspaper that if restaurant sales were approved, retailers would ask for the privilege. "Do it all at once, be done with it," he said. "Or turn it down, all at once, and be done with it." The license fee would be $300 for restaurants and $125 for package stores.

Mark Wombles, owner of Heirloom, said in an interview that alcohol sales on Sunday coincide with alcohol sales in general. “They should legalize it or take it away completely,” he said.

To those who oppose the ordinance for religious reasons, Van Den Dool said, “I respect everyone’s opinion, but they can’t push those beliefs on other people. . . . It gives us the opportunity to generate more revenue on Sundays.”

UPDATE, March 25: A second reading was expected to come March 24. Instead, magistrates heard first reading of a revised ordinance, removing fees for retailers, on advice of state officials. A second reading is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Committee writing a softer volunteer ordinance

By Bryan Kennedy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council plans to soften a draft ordinance that would affect the many volunteers in Midway. (From left: Members Sandra Locke, Sharon Turner and Charlann Womblesm and city attorney Phil Moloney)

The first version of the ordinance would have required all who volunteer to fill out a waiver releasing the city from liability for possible injury. The revised version would require waivers only in limited circumstances, such as work with motorized equipment or from heights.

Currently, a volunteer injured while helping out the city could sue the city for lost wages, medical bills and anything else they deem necessary. With the new ordinance the city will provide workers’ compensation, but will not pay for wages lost since the person isn’t technically an employee of the city.

Ned Wertz, an insurance agent for the Kentucky League of Cities Insurance Services, said at the committee's Feb. 23 meeting that the ordinance is vital for the city to comply with its insurance policy. He says the main objective of the ordinance is for volunteers to report to City Hall when they volunteer.

“The waiver can be signed by someone who’s using major equipment,” he said, “so if injury happens they won’t sue Midway and they will only receive worker’s comp.”

The first draft called for the waiver to include the proposed date, starting time and ending time for a project; a description of work being performed and equipment used, location, expected number of volunteers, and an acknowledgement that all volunteers for the project must execute a waiver and release of liability.

Some at the committee meeting on Feb. 23 said they believed that the ordinance would dampen the spirit of volunteerism in Midway.

“The proposed ordinance erodes trust between this small government and its relatively few citizens, and dampens the great spirit of volunteerism that has made this community shine,” Marcie Christensen, who coordinates the Francisco’s Farm Art Fair for Midway Renaissance, said in a comment on the Midway Messenger blog.

Christensen also said the ordinance seems to break the trust between citizen and government. “When we give credence and power to those who would see citizens and their government as adversaries, we give up the precious spirit of trust and goodwill that has been created over generations. Let us keep this spirit.”

The city’s attorney, Phil Moloney, said he hopes citizens aren’t discouraged from volunteering.

“We want you to volunteer,” he told those at the meeting. “We just want to know who’s working, how many hours they’re working, what exactly they’re doing and what equipment they’re using.”

Moloney proposed that waivers could be presented in written form to city hall, or sent by e-mail so volunteers don’t have to present the waiver in person. Committee members indicated that they want to make this process as easy as possible.

Midway Renaissance President Randy Thomas, who attended the meeting, said he is pleased that the committee is meeting with community members, but also says this may hurt volunteering.

“Volunteers contribute a lot in this committee and I think in any community,” said Thomas. “And what you don’t want to do is put hindrances in their way.”

Council Member Charlann Wombles, the committee chair, said the ordinance will be good for all volunteers; including everyone from Boy Scouts to Greenspace, a Midway organization that restores urban forests.

“Previously volunteering has been very casual,” she said. “I think it’s going to be good for us to tighten everything up.”

The City Council’s next meeting will be Monday, March 23, rescheduled from March 16. Until then the old rules will still apply to volunteering, and those in attendance were told to defer scheduled volunteering activities. The Ordinance and Policy Committee agreed to work with Moloney and Wertz in the meantime to revise the ordinance.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Panel meets on volunteer ordinance; arts event coordinator disputes assertions

The Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council met yesterday evening to work on the ordinance dealing with volunteer work in the city. At about 3:30, two hours before the scheduled start of the meeting, a notice went out from City Hall saying that the meeting had been canceled. City employees said later that the notice was supposed to be that a regular meeting of the council had been canceled, but a misunderstanding between them led to the incorrect notice being posted. The notice meant that Midway Messenger reporters who were going to cover the meeting did not.

Tonight, Marcie Christensen, event coordinator of the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival for Midway Renaissance, posted a comment on the blog item the Midway Messenger ran in advance of the committee's last meeting, on Feb. 23. She disputes several assertions or assumptions made at that meeting. For example, she says "The City's insurance policy already covers volunteers if they are injured while working on City property" and "The City's insurance policy does not require that the City pass a law to regulate volunteers, nor does it require volunteers to sign waivers holding the City harmless in the event of an injury."

Her concluding comment: "When we give credence and power to those who would see citizens and their government as adversaries, we give up the precious spirit of trust and goodwill that has been created over generations. Let us keep this spirit." To read her entire comment, click here or go to the original blog item and click on the Comment line.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fiscal court moves toward allowing Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages in restaurants and stores

By Meg Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Woodford County Fiscal Court Tuesday night ordered drafting of an ordinance to allow Sunday sales of alcohol, a move primarily sought by restaurants in Midway to boost tourist business.

The 5-2 vote directed County Attorney Alan George to draft an ordinance allowing sales from 1 to 10 p.m. on Sundays in the county outside the county seat of Versailles, which turned down Sunday sales last week. The ordinance would allow sales of packaged alcohol in stores as well as restaurants.

Versailles makes some of its own alcohol rules but Midway’s are governed by Fiscal Court. Three restaurants in Versailles and five in Midway have asked for Sunday sales.

Midway Magistrate Larry Craig made the motion to draft the ordinance and was supported by Magistrates Ellen Gormley, Geoff Reid, Gerald Dotson and Jim Staples. Charles “Bones” Webber and Jackie Brown voted no, and Steve Barnett was absent.

Craig said in an interview that regardless of his personal opinion, his job is to represent the people in Midway and this is what they asked him to do. “If we’re going to do it, let’s start now,” he said. “If we’re going to attract people to these restaurants, we’ve got to be competitive with our surrounding cities.”

Brown, who lives on McCowan's Ferry Road between Versailles and Mortonsville, said in an interview, “I have a strong belief that we don’t need it. We don’t need to be selling on Sundays, it’s sabbath day, we already do it six days a week.”

Midway restaurants say they need Sunday sales to compete with restaurants in Lexington and Frankfort, especially with the World Equestrian Games coming in 2010. The council in Georgetown, the same distance from Midway as the other two cities, is debating Sunday alcohol and is scheduled to decide the issue next month.

In October, Midway restaurants Bistro La Belle, The Black Tulip, Holly Hill Inn, Darlin’ Jeans and Quirk gave Fiscal Court a petition to allow Sunday sales. The Heirloom restaurant has since joined the bandwagon.

Craig told The Woodford Sun that he wants the ordinance to also allow retail sales, to avoid what he called discrimination between retailers and restaurants. He told the newspaper that if restaurant sales were approved, retailers would ask for the privilege. "Do it all at once, be done with it," he said. "Or turn it down, all at once, and be done with it." The license fee would be $300 for restaurants and $125 for package stores.

Mark Wombles, owner of Heirloom, said in an interview that alcohol sales on Sunday coincide with alcohol sales in general. “They should legalize it or take it away completely,” he said.

Midway’s population of 1,620 makes it a fifth-class city, which prohibits its city council from making its own decision on the issue. A first draft of the ordinance will be presented at the next Fiscal Court meeting March 10. A second reading would come March 24. If the ordinance passes it will take effect as soon as it uis advertised in the Sun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Question of Sunday alcohol sales in Midway likely to be discussed tonight at Fiscal Court meeting

By Meg Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Woodford County Fiscal Court will meet at 7 tonight and the hot topic may be one that is not on the agenda.

Last week, the Versailles City Council declined to amend the city’s ordinance to allow sales of alcoholic beverages in restaurants on Sundays. Three restaurants in Versailles and five in Midway have asked for Sunday sales; Versailles makes some of its own alcohol rules but Midway’s are governed by Fiscal Court.

The Versailles measure failed when Mayor Fred Siegelman broke a tie vote on the council. He told The Woodford Sun that he had received more than 100 calls about the issue, and “I don’t think it’s necessarily the right time to do this.”

Siegelman’s thoughts were much different from Midway restaurant owners. Mark Wombles, owner of Heirloom, said the small-town mentality leaves no room for forward thinking. “It’s time that Kentucky got on the same social scene as the rest of the United States,” he said.

Heirloom has been in business for almost three years and because the restaurant only seats 58, it is only allowed to serve beer and wine. Under Kentucky law, no restaurant that seats fewer than 100 people can serve hard liquor. “Being able to sell alcohol on Sundays would put us on a more level playing field,” said Wombles.

Laura Wolfrom, owner of Bistro La Belle, didn’t stray too far from Wombles’ arguments. “What if a holiday happens to fall on a Sunday? We just want the option to be open and able to sell alcohol,” said Wolfrom. She said Midway is much different than Lexington. “I mean, there is no one here after midnight.”

Wolfrom said she wants the opportunity to compete, especially with the 2010 World Equestrian Games just around the corner. “We need to be able to compete with Lexington and Frankfort when the games start,” she said. The council in Georgetown, the same distance from Midway as the other two cities, is debating Sunday alcohol and is scheduled to decide the issue next month.

Midway’s population of 1,620 makes it a fifth-class city, which prohibits its city council from making its own decision on the issue. That leaves it up to Fiscal Court, which was waiting to see what Versailles did. At tonight’s Fiscal Court meeting at the courthouse, the issue is not on the agenda but is likely to be discussed, County Judge-Executive John Coyle said.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ordinance would create paperwork for volunteers; committee meets on it 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23

By Amanda Currier
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

It was what was not said at the Midway City Council meeting last Monday that is sparking debate this week. Council members had planned to give first reading to a new ordinance, but were asked to take a second look by Midway Renaissance President Randy Thomas.

If passed the ordinance would require all Midway volunteers who intend to work on city property to sign a waiver and be approved by the council. Council Member Charlann Wombles says the ordinance does nothing more but make sure the city complies with insurance standards.

“The city is trying to maintain good insurance coverage and we have been recently looking at the requirements to meet in order to do that, and it has come to our attention that there are strict stipulations about volunteers working on city property,” Wombles said after the meeting.

However, Thomas says some of language in the ordinance should be looked over. He says strict regulations could cause the number of volunteers to decline.

“Volunteers contribute a tremendous amount in this community, I think in any community, and what you don’t want to do is put hindrances in that,” he said.

Wombles says that this is not meant to impair volunteers, but something they have to do. “We do not want to get ourselves into a position of where we’re having questions about whether or not we can be covered,” she said. “We cannot afford to get this community in that situation.”

Today, anyone wanting to volunteer on city property is not fully covered by the city’s insurance plan. Delaying the first reading of the ordinance could delay passage of it until late spring.

The draft of ordinance requires any group wanting to volunteer to complete a request that includes the date, time, and location where volunteers intend to work. Council member Sharon Turner says the request forms will be a good way to keep up with the amount of hours people volunteer in Midway. However, she does understand the hassle of more paperwork.

“It’s more paperwork and that’s what people don’t like,” she said. “People want to go straight to the work. “

After the meeting Wombles reminded Thomas how thankful the council is for everything Midway Renaissance does for the community.

A committee will meet at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 in the community room, upstairs at City Hall, to discuss the draft of the ordinance. Here's a video report with interviews of council members and Thomas:

video

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Task force narrows nursing-home sites to four

By Tilly Finley, Sarah Livesay, Meg Quigley and Ashley Trosper
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The list of potential sites for Midway's first nursing home has been reduced to four.

Helen Rentch of the Nursing Home Task Force told the city council Tuesday night that there are two potential sites north of Interstate 64, one at Midway Station and one just north of Midway Station. The two sites south of I-64 are an unspecified location on or near Midway College’s campus, which would allowing the nursing home to collaborate with nursing students at the school, and a site that has yet to be revealed.

The college and the city pledged in 2007 to donate about 6½ acres near the college and Northside Elementary School for the nursing home, but geologic tests have found the location unsuitable, Rentch said. She said four acres of land is needed, which is hard to find because Midway is "land-locked" by large farms. She said the task force is hoping to have its final assessment by March 15.

This is not the first time Rentch and fellow task force members have set a deadline. They began their journey toward building a nursing home in 1999. They gained a state certificate of need for 23 beds after Woodford Memorial Hospital closed, and two years ago joined forces with Christian Care Communities, which would get the certificate and take over ownership and management of the facility when it opens.

When the effort began, local citizens needing nursing-home or assisted-living care had to travel up to two counties away. Since then, Taylor Manor has opened in Versailles, but does not accept Medicare or Medicaid patients as the Midway nursing home plans to do. The home would not have assisted living upon opening but Rentch hopes it will be added.

The task force envisions a home with a “green-house” concept, which would include 12 to 13 people per building, providing a home-like feel to all residents. Member Doris Nave said it would be a family-style facility where patients would “see familiar faces and eat meals together.”

The task force has received a $500,000 community development block grant, because a nursing home would create jobs -- at least 40 jobs, Rentch said. But she said it would still need to raise $2 million to $2.5 million for construction, depending on the site.

Although it has been a long process, task force members have not given up hope. Rentch said there is a very large demand for this type of care in Midway community and she will continue her 10-year efforts to meet it. Mayor Tom Bozarth said, “The council would like to help this dream become a reality.”