Monday, April 25, 2011

Local experts to discuss future of horse industry at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Midway College

The future of the horse industry will be the topic of a panel discussion at Midway College Wednesday evening. Students from the course Economics of the Horse Industry will talk with local experts, beginning at 6 p.m. in Room 112 of the Anne Hart Raymond Center. The experts will be:

• Chris Stafford, an expert in horse media, who will discuss the role of the media in promoting equine activities to a larger audience.

• Deb Balliet, chief executive officer of the Equine Land Conservation Resource, a non-profit organization founded to promote national awareness of the importance of land and conservation for equestrian sports and activity. She will talk about equine access to land and what we need to do to keep it.

• Ginny Grulke, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to protection and development of the Kentucky equine community. She will speak on the role of leadership and organization in the horse industry.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Corman schedules Lexington-to-Frankfort trains for May 10 and 12; no stop in Midway

By Dick Yarmy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Passengers aboard two dinner trains making R.J. Corman Railroad Group’s first round trips from Lexington to Frankfort and back on May 10 and 12 will get a glimpse of downtown Midway –– if they look quickly. (Corman photo of dining car)

“A special run is just what it is,” said Noel Rush, Corman vice president of strategic planning and development. “We certainly don’t want to raise speculation about any regular scheduled dinner train ... We run special trains from time to time.”

Rush said the company is running a special train from Clarksville, Tenn., to Louisville on May 11, as a treat for freight customers, and "It just makes sense to use it" for another purpose: "to raise the profile of Gil Logan, our new executive chef" for the dinner train that Corman operates from Bardstown to the main Jim Beam Distillery. For Corman's full press release, click here.

Corman will also be running its annual Kentucky Derby group train from Lexington to Churchill Downs. The train is scheduled to pass through Midway at 9:35 a.m., May 7.

History is repeating itself. According to this week's Woodford Sun, the Blue Grass Clipper reported that a train carrying former president Teddy Roosevelt failed to stop at Midway back in 1912, and the trains still aren’t stopping 99 years later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

City council discusses 2011-12 budget proposal; mayor delays public release

By Clark Brooks
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council discussed Mayor Tom Bozarth’s proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year in an open workshop Monday night but largely in terms of percentage increases or decreases in specific items, not specific dollar figures.

Only the council members and Bozarth had copies of the proposal. The Midway Messenger asked for a copy of the proposed budget immediately after the meeting, but Bozarth required the Messenger to file an open-records request, to which the city has three days to respond. The Messenger obtained a copy of the proposal after the meeting from Council Member Becky Moore, who has said materials provided to council members before meetings should be provided to reporters covering the meetings. (Update: The city responded to the open-records request Wednesday morning.)

Bozarth began the discussion by noting percentage changes in some line items, such as a projected 29 percent increase in net profits taxes from last year. That number reflects an increase to $7,000 from $5,000, and the $2,000 difference is only two-tenths of 1 percent of the general, non-utility budget of $931,428, which is about the same as last year.

Bozarth attributed the increase to “better insight from auditors” and a small growth in local businesses. He said revenue from business license fees is projected to rise 45 percent, largely because the council recently increased the fees, and occupational taxes are expected to go up 14 percent. He said the latter increase stems from more jobs at Midway College.

On the spending side of the ledger, the budget estimates that the city will pay $21,199 less in Social Security taxes, which Bozarth attributed to the recent tax-cut deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans. The largest single increase in the draft budget would boost street maintenance by more than three-fifths, to $24,525 from $15,000 in the current budget.

With the city’s current budget coming to an end at the conclusion of the 2010-11 fiscal year on June 30, the budget is in its preliminary stages. “At this point, nothing in the budget is set in stone,” Bozarth said. “We still have to tinker around with the proposed budget over the next few city council meetings.”

The council received a budget request from the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce to help maintain the chamber website that promotes tourism.

Chamber representative Tami Vater said there has been a lot of interest in Midway businesses, according to the website’s traffic, and requested an unspecified amount to help cover the site’s $3,500 yearly expense. “Nearly a fourth of all web traffic the site had in March was solely because of Midway’s businesses,” she said. “This website helps with communication and allows the chamber to be ambassadors not only for Midway, but also Woodford County as a whole.”

Vater also mentioned the Chamber is developing Facebook and Twitter accounts, and potentially a blog, to help with communication at no cost to the community. “The chamber is trying to get more in sync with tech-savvy consumers,” she said. “Communication is key to promote this area’s businesses and tourism potential.”

There was a brief discussion about the need for a small banquet hall in Midway, and Vater said that a hotel feasibility study is currently in progress to see if Midway is a desirable location for a overnight accommodations.

Monday’s meeting included an update from Midway’s Water and Wastewater Task Force. The report said the current water-main flushing program showed that pipes in some parts of town are worse off than others. For example, pipes on the north side had more rust.

The task force is considering the need for the city to replace its water and sewage lines, perhaps by selling the system. Meanwhile, Bozarth said, Midway will apply for a rural development grant for the work.

“This is a process that is going to take awhile into the fall,” he said. “But, this doesn’t mean the city will make a switch in our water provider.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Water and Sewer Task Force looks for (1) buyers and (2) cost estimates for repairing systems

Story and photos by Dick Yarmy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The city of Midway’s Water and Sewer Task Force met Friday, April 8 to share fact-finding studies addressing Midway’s aging water and sewer systems. The committee decided to widen the search for potential purchasers and to expand the effort to quantify the cost of repairing the systems.
The committee is studying two options: Selling the city’s assets to an outside company, such as Kentucky American Water Co., the current supplier, which would own and operate the systems, or having the city refurbish the systems and maintain ownership.

“Whether we do this, or Kentucky American Water does this, it will be costly to the citizens of Midway either way,” Mayor Tom Bozarth said. “We are educating ourselves as to what needs to be done, or has to be done.”

The education began with a presentation by committee member Bob Blankenship of HMB Professional Engineers Inc., left. Blankenship estimated a cost of $1,423,150 to address the “trouble spots” in the water lines of the 70-year old system. The estimate covered replacing the lines in one segment of the city and showed costs based on using today’s technology. As an example, Blankenship mentioned using plastic line to replace the old cast iron sections of the system. To view a map, click here; for a breakdown of costs, here.

“I don’t want to give the false impression that this is all you have to do,” Blankenship said. The report is a good representation of the work that would be needed on the whole water system, he added. Blankenship said the estimate addressed issues like small pipes, dead-ends and hydrants connected to pipes that are too small to provide sufficient water pressure.

Based on the sample covered in the estimate, Blankenship said the cost to do the complete water system could run at least another $900,000. Adding this amount to the “trouble spots” budget yields a total estimate of $2.3 million to refurbish the system.

Blankenship said it would take at least that much, or slightly more, to repair the sewer lines, which are larger and must be laid downhill to drain naturally. A future study will examine costs for refurbishing the sewer lines.

Blankenship offered ideas to increase revenues for the system, mentioning the city’s water hauling station. “It appears you are charging only 5-10 cents more than you pay Kentucky Water,” he said. “Maybe you should raise the price to 40 or 50 cents above your costs.”

Another idea was to ask the Kentucky Rural Water Association to start looking for water loss in the system. “There’s no charge for that,” he said.

“At the end of the day, what we have to deal with is the cost of getting our infrastructure up to speed to compare with what Kentucky American Water might offer us to take the system over,” said Bozarth.

Kentucky American has been supplying water to the city of Midway for the past 25 years, based on a 40-year commitment made in 1985. Residents of Midway received notice last December of a rate hike of $2.69 per 1,000 gal. of water.

“To some people, Kentucky Water is a dirty word,” said James Johnson, task force chairman, left. He asked if there was any other company that might be interested in purchasing Midway’s assets.

Bozarth said the city would have to find someone who would want to buy the assets and be more than just a water re-seller. If an interested party was just a water supplier, he said, a separate agreement would be needed to handle the city’s sewer needs. “How many people would be willing to take over a system that would require more than $2 million to just update?” He asked.

One committee member is in a unique position to evaluate the situation: former Kentucky American president Roy Mundy, vice president of development at Midway College, “Kentucky-American looks at acquisitions like this as a five-year strategic plan,” Mundy said.

“When they are acquiring a system, it’s because of a problem and part of their commitment is to solve the problem.” They can immediately fix the serious liabilities, such as fire hydrants, and spread the cost over 118,000 customers in Central Kentucky, said Mundy, left.

“We tried to buy the system when Becky Moore was mayor,” Mundy recalled, and from recent contacts it appears the company is still interested, he added. “And they won’t do it unless the deal will take the city out of debt –– they understand that.” Mundy said, referring to bond issues and other debts related to a proposed acquisition’s water and sewer system.

Several years ago Kentucky American bought the water system in Owen County, which some members of the task force visited recently.

“When Kentucky-American bought Owenton’s system it eliminated their debt and freed up $900,000 to do other things,” said Johnson.

“Employees were taken care of,” said Aaron Hamilton, right, a member of the task force and city council. Kentucky American hired the city’s workers, who received salary raises and improved benefits, he added.

Danny Smith moved that the committee begin contacting Kentucky-American for more information on their interest to purchase the city’s water and sewer system. After a suggestion by Council Member Joy Arnold, a guest sitting in for Council Member Dan Roller, Smith amended his motion to include Kentucky-American Water and any other prospective prospects.

After the motion passed, Bozarth set goals for more fact finding. He asked Blankenship to “zero in” on cost estimates by extending the initial budget to include the city’s entire water line system. Bozarth expressed interest in arriving at a cost per resident, and exploring any grant money that might be available.

Blankenship suggested that a useable benchmark would be a 30/70 rural development grant/loan mix from the Rural Development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bozarth reminded the committee of the methodical approach he expects in facing this challenge. “This will take a year to gather all this information,” he said. “We’re going to take small bites, and do it a part at a time.”

The committee will meet again at noon May 10 in the dining hall at Midway College. The task force meetings are open to all citizens.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Water flush is coming; you may taste it tomorrow

The water in Midway may taste different tomorrow because the city will be preparing for its annual water-main flushing program. Mains will be flushed Monday, April 18 through Friday, April 22, but tomorrow the city will start using a different form of chlorination to disinfect water, continuing through Sunday, May 8. The notice from City Hall says this temporary change is common practice and the water will still be safe to drink, though users may notice a more significant smell of chlorine, and people who must dechlorinate their water will not need to change their procedures during this period.

Starting April 18, mains will be flushed between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Workers will open several fire hydrants in an area to create increased water flows and clean the distribution system of mineral deposits and sediment. During flushing it is possible that water may be discolored, but the water will clear up after it has run for a few minutes, the City Hall notice says. If any discoloration occurs, customers should run the faucet until the water is clear before washing clothes and so forth, the city advises.

"We apologize for the inconvenience and assure you it is a necessary part of our operation," the notice says. "If you have any questions, please call City Hall at 859-846-4413."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Water and Sewer Task Force to meet at noon Fri.

The Midway Water and Sewer Task Force will meet at noon on Friday, April 8, at the Piper Dining Hall on the Midway College campus, to discuss water and sewer issues. The meeting is open to the public.