Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bozarth lays plans for water decision, suggests Midway chamber of commerce and tourism agency

By Taylor Moak and Julia Myers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway’s City Council has many items on its agenda for the new two-year term.

The biggest issue for the city, Mayor Tom Bozarth told the new council at its first meeting Monday night, is developing a plan for its aging water and sewer system. Among several other items Bozarth mentioned was the possibility of the city having its own chamber of commerce and tourism commission.

The council is faced with the decision to either sell the city’s water system to Kentucky-American Water Co., or to borrow millions of dollars to restore the system and maintain ownership. A water-sewer task force has been studying the matter.

Bozarth said a public hearing for the issue has been tentatively set for Feb. 7. He said in an interview that he wants information about the issue to be delivered to the people of Midway with their next water bills.

Retired Judge Anthony Wilhoit swore in the
council for its new term. (Photos by Julia Myers)
New Council Member Grayson Vandegrift (right) has taken a particular interest in the issue. “None of us has enough information yet,” he said in an interview. “We need input from the citizens.”

Vandegrift says he has concerns about the potential deal. “You want to own your own water company, to control your own destiny,” he said. “The fear is, how do you pay for it?”

Bozarth gave Vandegrift what the mayor told the council would be "a real project," studying the ideas of a separate Midway chamber of commerce and tourism agency. The Woodford County Chamber of Commerce includes Midway in its promotions, but Bozarth said in response to questions after the meeting that it does not promote Midway, Versailles and the county equally.

Midway is “the northern gateway” to the county and is at the “epicenter of the horse industry,” Bozarth said, adding that Midway’s downtown is an attraction for both locals and visitors, full of restaurants and businesses. “We have something here that enhances the whole county . . . and we want to promote that.”

Should Midway form its own chamber, the city would have to figure out how it would be funded, Bozarth said. He said in the interview that a tourism commission could be funded by a tax on restaurant checks and the local lodging tax that now goes to the county tourism commission. That is a small amount, only from a bed-and-breakfast, but he said one or two motels could be built in the city.

Bozarth said Vandegrift would examine the ideas with others in the Midway Merchants Association. He said he asked Vandegrift to head up the project because the new council member has been chairman of the county tourism commission and operates a visitor-oriented business downtown, his family's restaurant, 815 Prime.

The mayor arrived at the end of the meeting because of work commitments -- he is in the horse business and a sale was on at Keeneland -- but he packed many ideas into a short time. He said in the interview, “I wanted to challenge this council to accomplish things over the next 2 years.”

He told the council that Midway needs to develop its own detailed disaster plan. The city is included in the state and county plans, but he said with an interstate and railroad in town, Midway should have its own.

Bozarth said the city needs to review its cemetery ordinance, look into the possibility of permit fees for events in town, and get every house in Midway a number. The incorrect use of garbage cans has also been a problem, he said, with some users leaving cans on the street too long. He proposed marking cans with names of people or businesses so it is visible to whom the cans belong.

Bozarth also mentioned the possibility of adding a footbridge in the city park, the need to fix sidewalks on Gratz Street and other areas, and the need for making the upstairs back porch of the City Hall building more architecturally appropriate.

Another item the mayor brought to the council for later discussion was the possibility of a noise ordinance, due to several vehicle-related noise complaints. He said he had been approached by community members about such an ordinance, but in the interview said he wasn't sure how such an ordinance could be enforced.

The council meeting was the first of the year and began with the swearing-in of all the members, including three new faces: Sara Hicks and Bruce Southworth (left) and Vandegrift. They join incumbents Sharon Turner, Daniel Roller and Aaron Hamilton. The three new members all participated in the council meeting, with Vandegrift and Southworth making the first motions of the evening for Turner to act in Bozarth’s place until he arrived. Turner was the top vote-getter in the fall council election, and it is traditional for that person to act as mayor pro tem, said city attorney Phil Moloney, who opened the meeting.

Due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 21, the next council meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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