Monday, April 30, 2012

How Midway became a city of the fourth class, and how it points out a statewide problem

By Martha Groppo
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

There’s a new line in the City of Midway’s proposed budget: $30,000 for snow removal. It is there because Midway recently became a fourth-class city, and it took quite a bit of political maneuvering to get that upgrade in classification from fifth class.

The 2011 passage of legislation making Midway a fourth class city took two years, thanks in part to the involvement of representatives of other small towns interested in reclassification. “Once you put a bill out, people will amend it,” said Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway, left, the sponsor of the bill. He said reclassification of one city always brings up the issue with other cities since the classification system has many problems.

Midway’s change drew widespread attention in January 2012, after the Woodford County Fiscal Court stopped removing snow on Midway streets for free. County Judge-Executive John Coyle cited the classification change, saying “it would be unfair” to treat the county’s two fourth class cities differently. Versailles, with a population of roughly 8,000, is also fourth class.

Midway’s population of 1,647 is well below the 3,000 minimum that was required for fourth class – and may still be the minimum, according to one legal theory.

Rollins said he first heard of the class-change idea in 2010 during discussions with Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth and the City Council. The council passed a resolution asking for a change in status just before the deadline for new bills in the legislature.

Council Member Sharon Turner, left, said the council sought the change because “one size doesn’t fit all,” and the fifth class status of Midway was not serving all of its needs. She said the desire to regulate alcohol sales was a primary motivator, but the council knew that the change would allow the city more control over other things, as well.

The resolution cited several reasons Midway merited reclassification, including its “substantially increased population” since the last census, its “unique features” that could attract tourists, its potential for growth and its desire to promote economic development. The resolution said that “Midway’s current classification as a city of the fifth class does not provide a suitable framework for its continued and future economic growth and development.”

“No two cities are alike,” said Turner, who signed the resolution as mayor pro tem. She said that compared to some other fifth class cities, Midway has a much more vibrant downtown with businesses that could benefit from the classification change.

Bozarth and City Clerk Phyllis Hudson signed a statement of their estimate of the population based on the city’s “current and future circumstances.” They said they believed the 2000 census had underestimated Midway’s population and that the city also had the potential for more growth if the classification could be changed.

The change from fifth to fourth class is more commonly requested than some other reclassifications, said J.D. Chaney, director of governmental affairs for the Kentucky League of Cities. He said the current classification system has “naturally created a sort of sweet spot for fourth class cities,” which get benefits like increased income from alcohol fees and taxes, while third-class cities have additional responsibilities, such as supporting a full-time fire department.

Rollins, left, proposed the change in status with an amendment to an unrelated House bill dealing with cities during the 2010 legislative session, but the bill died.

Rollins worked closely with Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville, a fellow Democrat and chair of the House and Local Government Committee. “He was able to give me valuable advice about making it an amendment,” rather than a stand-alone bill, Rollins said. “It was easier to put it in as an amendment.”

Chaney said it is common for cities seeking reclassification to tag onto bills that seem to be moving, “out of legislative ease.” The amendment called for the reclassification of Midway, Guthrie in Todd County, Junction City in Boyle county and Sadieville in Scott County.

Rollins said Junction City’s presence on the bill generated opposition. Rollins said Sen. Tom Buford, a Nicholasville Republican whose district includes Junction City, supported the bill, but Republican Rep. Mike Harmon, right, of nearby Danville did not, so the bill died.

In February 2011, the City Council passed another resolution asking for a change in classification "based on the population, the geography and economic condition of the city," according to a meeting notice from City Hall. Rollins again took the request to the legislature, this time as a floor amendment attached to a Senate bill. The House passed the bill in early March, returning it to the Senate for approval, which followed.

Harmon again opposed the bill and was one of four House members to vote against it, but Rollins said Harmon was running for lieutenant governor and said “He wasn’t going to object this time.” In order to obtain passage of this second bill, Rollins needed support. “I worked to make sure Rep. Steve Riggs was OK with it,” Rollins said.

He also sought the approval of Sen. Damon Thayer, left, the Republican representing Sadieville and the chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Rollins said he thought Thayer and Bozarth’s shared connection to the horse industry and “because he and the mayor were good friends” may have helped get Thayer on board.

Bozarth attributed the bill’s final success to “teamwork” and said, “Without the cooperation between Sen. Thayer and Rep. Rollins, this bill would not have passed. This bill affected other cities as well and it passed for those cities as well.”

Discussion surrounded the bill because Midway did not meet the population requirement for a fourth class city in a constitutional provision that was repealed in a 1994 amendment, but remains in a state law.

Midway’s resolution suggested its population had been underestimated in the 2000 census by not counting students who live most of the year at Midway College, and that since the census the city had developed by rezoning the Midway Station development and building a new wastewater treatment plant.

The mayor and city clerk’s statement cited plans for future growth from the “revitalization of downtown Midway” and the development of a number of new businesses, including a nursing home. The statement said they believed Midway would “substantially attain a population in excess of 3,000 residents.”

On March 17, 2011, right after the bill passed, the 2010 census was released, showing Midway still in the lower half of the range for fifth class cities still in the law. Turner said that did not surprise her, and the council knew Midway would not have the minimum fourth class “population number technically on the books.” She said exceptions can be made “If you can prove that it [the city’s classification] really isn’t working for you.” She said if classification were based on population alone, many cities would need to change their classification from fourth to third class, but that they do not push for this because of the additional expenses they would have to incur.

Some confusion surrounds the system because the 1994 amendment to the constitution allows the legislature to use more flexible parameters of “population, tax base, form of government, geography, or any other reasonable basis.” However, the amendment also says, "The law pertaining to the classifications in effect at the time of adoption of this section shall remain in effect until otherwise provided by law,” and no concrete system was adopted after the amendment’s passage.

Rollins has said that the legislature has inherent power to classify cities without being bound by the old population categories, and a judge recently agreed.

Debate over the population requirement for reclassification led to a lawsuit in Boyle County. The Danville Liquor Mart and a Junction City resident attempted to stop the sale of alcohol in Junction City, on grounds that the city did not meet the population requirement for fourth class. Junction City’s class change made the 198-195 vote in favor of alcohol sales possible, and the resulting beer sales gave Liquor Mart competition.

In early March, Boyle Circuit Judge Darren Peckler granted Junction City’s motion to dismiss the case, saying the legislature had acted within the law when it granted Junction City fourth class status based on factors other than population. The ruling was apparently the first to clarify city-classification powers, though it does not have statewide authority. It has been appealed, so the Court of Appeals could set a clearer standard that would apply statewide.

Rollins said he and Riggs have discussed doing away with city classification altogether. “It’s sort of an outdated system,” Rollins said.

Chaney said the system “made a lot of sense in the late 1800s when it was adopted,” because it let the legislation “deal with like cities in a similar fashion.” This was important before 1980, when cities gained the power make most decisions on their own as long as they didn’t conflict with the constitution. “That largely eliminated a lot of the need for a classification system,” Chaney said.

Bozarth, former chair of the league’s classification committee, agreed. “City classification in Kentucky is an archaic process that needs to be revised,” he said. “I would like to see all cities be able to be treated the same. Only cities of the fourth and fifth class can institute a restaurant tax. This should be an option for all cities in the Commonwealth. We all should be on the same playing field and hopefully in the coming years we will see this change.”

Chaney said the League of Cities has been working on revamping the system, but “This session physically couldn’t get it drafted.” Because of all of the interests involved with city classification such as alcohol, fire, police and taxes, he said that the bill would probably have to be at least 800 pages long to deal with all of the statutes.

Despite the overwhelming nature of drafting comprehensive reorganization legislation, legislators are increasingly dissatisfied with the current system, Chaney said: “A lot of legislators have seen a decreased need for a classification because of home rule. I think they’ll continue to push the league to make a proposal.” He said such a proposal would potentially “pretty much treat all cities the same and eliminate most of the classifications.”

Committee to review garbage and recycling bids

The Water, Sewer and Garbage and Recycling/Street/Sidewalk Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Tuesday, May 1 at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall to review bids for garbage and recycling service.

All committee and council meetings are open to the public.

Friday, April 27, 2012

University of Charleston drops idea of pharmacy school on Midway College's Paintsville site

The idea of a pharmacy school on a site in Paintsville owned by Midway College, the handling of which may have led to the  resignation of William Drake as college president, was killed today by the University of Charleston, which had been asked to take over the project.

The West Virginia school's Board of Trustees made the decision today, according to a press release form the university. “We are very grateful for the way all parties have worked together to explore this possibility,” President Edwin Welch said. “It has been an open and thorough process. Ultimately, we have concluded that it is not in the best interests of the institution to proceed at this time.”

After Midway College withdrew its application for accreditation of the proposed school sometime around the end of last year, it announced that it had signed a letter of intent to explore the idea of handing it over to the university, which has a pharmacy school. "The agreement provided for a due diligence period, which expired in late February," the release said, "and the university has continued to talk with interested parties and run projections as it assessed the costs and benefits of the potential program."

Drake's resignation was announced March 20. He has not replied to a request for comment on the project.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Council, committee to hold special meetings starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday

The Midway City Council and one of its committees will hold special meetings Wednesday morning at City Hall.

The council will meet at 8:30 a.m. to discuss Mayor Tom Bozarth's proposed city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and perhaps to take action on the proposed leash law for dogs.

The Water, Sewer and Garbage and Recycling/Street/Sidewalk Committee will meet immediately following the council meeting to review garbage and recycling bids.

All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Helm replaces Laws in college's top academic job

Midway College Interim President Robert Vogel has named Dr. Marlene M. Helm vice president for academic affairs and made that the new top academic position at the college. That rank had belonged to the position of provost, held by Sarah Laws under William "Butch" Drake, who resigned as president last month. The provost title has been abolished and Laws is "working on accreditation-related projects," college spokeswoman Ellen Gregory said.

Helm, a former state secretary of education, arts and humanities, has been with the college since the spring 2011 semester when she became chair of the Teacher Education Graduate Program, the school's first master's level program in education. Before that, she was social-services commissioner in the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and worked at Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgetown College, the Fayette and Scott county school systems. She was state education secretary in the second term of Gov. Paul Patton, in 1999-2003.

Helm received her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Kentucky and her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Kentucky State University. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's a doggy night at the council; budget proposed

By Cody Porter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Monday’s Midway City Council meeting was one that went to the dogs, so to speak, after council members heard the first reading of a leash law, and heard a complaint that a cemetery entrance had been locked over a dog issue.

Among other business, Mayor Tom Bozarth distributed and briefly discussed his proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Dottie Cordrey, who lives near Gayland Drive, addressed the council during the comment period early in the meeting to discuss the blocking of access to the cemetery through part of her property. Cordrey said in her 27 years living on the property, she often encouraged guests and friends to use her yard to enter the cemetery. But when a group of friends tried to enter for the April 3 graveside service for Katie Coomes, they and Cordrey discovered the gate had been chained and locked shut.

She said she contacted someone at City Hall, but no one returned her call despite being told it would be. That comment brought a questioning look from Bozarth to City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson.

Cordrey said she hasn’t minded having the gate where it is, but tried to get city officials to put another gate at a location near the one on her property for easy access.

Bozarth said the lock “was a Cemetery Committee decision that they wanted that closed because of people bringing dogs in the cemetery and they wanted to close up the access to it.” After the meeting, Cordrey discussed the topic with Bozarth and Cemetery Committee Chair Doris Leigh, left.

After the meeting, Cordrey told the Messenger that the only dog she knows of in the vicinity is a 14-year-old standard poodle owned by her new neighbors. “She’s extremely calm and a real sweet dog,” she said. “I had encouraged them, along with another new neighbor, to be sure to use that (gate) if they wanted to. I didn’t know dogs weren’t allowed in the cemetery. They always have her on a leash. She doesn’t go anywhere. She’s always right beside them.”

Her next step will be looking into Lexington cemetery policies on dogs, because with the size that Midway is, the town needs as many friends as it can have, Cordrey said.

Near the end of the meeting, Bozarth gave the council his proposed budget for the city in 2012-13. Discussion of the budget had been on the agenda, but he told council members in an email before the meeting that it would be discussed at a later meeting.

Bozarth announced at the meeting that the council would hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, to discuss it. The document he distributed does not compare his proposed expenditures with current or past expenditures.

Budget items mentioned by Bozarth included a request from the fire department for a new van; snow removal, which previously had been done free by Woodford County; and raises for emergency management and planning and zoning.

Council Member Dan Roller, who is also chairman of the Property Maintenance Committee, said the committee met at the public library April 10 to review an ordinance from Richmond on deteriorated properties.

Roller said rather than raising accelerated tax rates on blighted properties, as the committee has recommended, the Richmond ordinance details domain procedures for the city to acquire specific property. Roller said the committee voted to recommend the ordinance to the council.

Among other business at Monday’s meeting, former Midway police officer John William McDaniel III was honored for heroism after saving the life of a woman at 815 Prime with the Heimlich maneuver. Before getting a picture made with Midway’s new hero, Bozarth gave him a certificate for his act of heroism, a hat, and a bag of Lifesavers candy.
John McDaniel stands as the council votes unanimously to honor him.
On a request from Ken Tippett of the Woodford County Public School Hall of Fame, the council voted to give the hall $1,000 during each of the next three years. Other local governments are also being asked to give. Questioned by Council Member Sharon Turner, Tippett said the money would go mainly toward awards and a website.

Tippett said the Hall of Fame plans to induct two members in each of six different categories each year. In addition to athletics, which this year will see the induction of the 1937 Midway Blue Jays high school state championship team, other categories include academics and arts. Council Member Doris Leigh made a motion to accept the proposed three-year deal, Aaron Hamilton seconded, and the council voted for it unanimously.

In dealing with minutes from the last meeting, Roller discussed the sponsoring of summer events that had been discussed by Grayson Vandergrift of the Midway Merchants Association. Roller wanted to know if the city is considered a sponsor or co-sponsor of the event. Bozarth informed him the city was among the sponsors, so Roller asked that the minutes be changed to make it a co-sponsor. After a few moments of discussion Bozarth agreed to Roller’s request.

Also during the meeting, Bozarth proclaimed April to be Alcohol Awareness Month.

Citizens disagree about proposed dog-leash law

By Justin Wright
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The dog days of summer are months away, but there was a little heat over dogs at Monday night’s Midway City Council meeting.

The council heard first reading of an ordinance that would require dogs to be on a leash. Community members disagreed about the proposed law.

George Baxter, who is against the ordinance, addressed the council during the citizens’ comments period at the start of the meeting. “Many dog owners will lose the strong bond they have built with their dogs by walking them off a leash,” he said, adding that "contrary to popular belief," dogs can be better controlled and monitored off leash.

Libby Warfield, who was in the audience but did not address the council, spoke up about it to Midway Messenger reporters. “I have been attacked by a dog in the past and think that all dogs should be on a leash because you never know what they are going to do,” she said in an interview.

Warfield, who is running for the council in the November election, went on to say that she has had dogs all of her life and loves the animals, but thinks the city needs the ordinance, and not just for citizens’ safety. She said she had seen many accidents that could have been avoided in instances where dogs ran out in front of vehicles. “I, myself have lost dogs due to this issue and don’t want to see it happen to anyone else’s pet,” she said, “and I feel that the leash law would achieve that.”

Woodford County Animal Control Officer Susan Jones asked for the ordinance because she had been called to Midway with complaints of dogs running at large countless times, Mayor Tom Bozarth said in an interview.

The ordinance says that unleashed dogs are not permitted to run at large and any dog in the city, licensed or unlicensed, is to be kept confined behind a fence or kept on a restraint not less than 10 feet in length and either on a swivel designed to prevent choking or strangling itself, or on a chain run and attached to either a collar or harness.

The ordinance also says, “Any dog found off the premises of the owner or keeper and running at large within the city while not under the constraint of a leash and under control of the owner or keeper and or that is not wearing identifying tags shall be taken up by the animal control officer and held in the county animal control shelter for up to five days. If the owner fails to claim the dog within this time, the animal will thereby be disposed of in a humane manner by the county animal shelter.”

Anyone whose dog is caught violating these rules will be subject to a fine of no less than $25 but no more than $250 for each offense.

With the ordinance expected to get second reading and possibly passage May 7, the people of Midway will have to wait and see what the future holds for the outcome and if every dog will indeed have his day or be confined to a leash in public places.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Greeted by hundreds, Calipari's trophy train stops

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari's tour with the NCAA Championship trophy stopped in Midway today after a crowd of several hundred people gathered without any guarantee that the coach's R.J. Corman Railroad train would stop, only that it would slow down on its way from Lexington to Frankfort.

Calipari addressed the crowd from the back of the train, giving the team credit for the school's eighth basketball championship, and allowed students gathered on Main Street to touch the trophy.

The coach was accompanied on his trip by Joe B. Hall, below, who coached the Wildcats to their fifth championship, in 1978. (Photos and information from City Council Member Dan Roller)

Others on the train included Adolph "Herky" Rupp, son of the coach who won the first four championships.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Calipari, trophy set to roll through at 11:05 Friday

By Cody Porter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

As part of his tour with the NCAA Championship trophy, University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari is scheduled to make an appearance in Midway tomorrow morning at 11:05.

The tour, which begins today in Eastern Kentucky, will have Calipari and his staff boarding a train near Rupp Arena at 10:30 a.m. and head to Frankfort for an 11:45 a.m. appearance. The plan is for the train to slow while it passes through Midway, possibly giving fans a chance to see the trophy, Calipari and some of his staff, according to John Hayden, assistant director of media relations for UK Athletics.

Fans will have the opportunity to take photos with the trophy beginning today in Ashland, Pikeville and Hazard. The same opportunity will be available at Friday’s stops in Frankfort, Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Paducah, but fans will also will get to ask Calipari questions after he addresses the crowds.

This won’t be the first time the UK head coach has visited Midway. Calipari is a customer of Crittenden Rawlings’ clothing store, Crittenden Fine Gentlemen’s Clothing, on Main Street.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New parking ordinance adds details, reduces fines

By Patrick Thompson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

A revised parking ordinance is in effect in Midway as a result of a unanimous vote on second reading at a city council meeting last month.

Parking violations are now listed in more detail and a consistent scheme of fines has been added, according to City Attorney Phil Moloney.

More fines have been added to the ordinance, but existing fines’ costs have been reduced. If a fine is paid within 48 hours of the violation at Midway City Hall, it is reduced by five dollars.

The allotted time frame for a fine to be paid has become more lenient. A person now has 15 days to pay a fine, after which it will be doubled in value. If the fine remains unpaid for 30 days, the city is to institute prosecution with the Woodford County attorney.

The revised sections of the ordinance deal with manner of parking, parking on a parade route, parking with handicapped permits, owner responsibility, restrictions imposed by the city council, parking violations and penalties in the general provisions section.

The council decided to drop a section that would have banned diagonal parking where the space required would be within 10 feet of the center line of the street. The issue was raised because parking on Gratz Street had been a problem. Motorists are hesitant to pull their cars up to the curb because of potential damage to their bumpers, so the back ends of the vehicles sometimes obstruct the narrow street.

Council Member Joy Arnold suggested restricting the spaces to compact cars only, but that was not included in the changes. “Though I expressed doubt as to exactly what Assistant Chief Fugate had been asked, the mayor assured everyone that he had said the language was not needed,” said Arnold.

Versailles police, who have countywide jurisdiction and patrol Midway, asked for the changes to harmonize the city’s ordinance with the one in Versailles.

The revised ordinance gives any authorized law enforcement officer the authority to restrict parking and erect temporary signs to that effect in the event of a procession. Language was added to the section on parking with handicapped permits, to restrict handicapped parking in “No Stopping” or “No Parking” zones.

A new section was added on owner responsibility, stating that if the owner of a vehicle is not apparent or cannot be determined, it will be assumed that the registered owner was the operator of the vehicle at the time of the violation. However, that presumption can be rebutted in court.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Property Maintenance Committee meets 6:30 Tue.

The Property Maintenance Code Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Tuesday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Midway Branch of the Woodford County Library, at 400 Northside Drive.

The meeting has been called to to prepare additional recommendations on proposed legislation, discuss Mayor Tom Bozarth's response to the committee's initial recommendations, and citizen offers of assistance with properties on Main Street.

All council and committee meetings are open to the public, under state law.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

'Affrilachian' poet Frank X Walker to read and discuss his work at Midway College Monday

Frank X Walker, an English professor and teacher in African American and Africana Studies Program at the University of Kentucky, will read and discuss his poetry at 1:30 p.m. Monday, April 9, at Midway College's Anne Hart Raymond Center. The event is sponsored by Chapter F, a local chapter of PEO, an international, philanthropic, educational organization in which women celebrate the advancement of women.

A poet and playwright, Walker provides "an eclectic, powerful mixture of liberating style, profound insight and unwavering organic connection to the intellectual, political and cultural struggles of people," Ricky Jones, professor at the University of Louisville's Department of Pan-African Studies, said in a UK press release, which continued: "Walker’s work captures the profound feelings of love and loss; he embodies the full range of human ability, knowledge, emotion and experience. Through his poetry and writing, readers are treated to both subtle and overt commentaries on subjects such as slavery; environment and exploration experiences of Lewis and Clark; a black jockey, Isaac Murphy; and America searching for truth. . . . His work has earned him many awards, and he has published seven books." Walker coined the word "Affrilachian" to denote African Americans of Appalachia.

This will be the 12th annual Book Event sponsored by PEO's Chapter F. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling (859) 266-6286. For more information, contact Peggy Collins at collins5peggy@yahoo.com or by calling (859) 321-1176.