Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Council 'goes fishing' at old treatment plant, talks about generating jobs, hears reports, ordinances

By Taylor Moak, Courtney Kincaid, Denny Densford & Melody Bailiff
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council voted last night to enter into a joint project with Kentucky State University for an aquaculture demonstration center at the city’s old sewage-treatment plant.

The council also discussed creating employment for residents, financing for The Homeplace at Midway retirement community, and utility inspections for the new convenience store and restaurant on Interstate 64, and gave first reading to ordinances creating rules for "tourist destinations" in Woodford County's agricultural and industrial areas.

The pending agreement with Kentucky State would let the university use the large circular tanks at the old plant on Leestown Road to grow food-quality fish and shellfish. "It's a great opportunity for use of a piece of property . . . that's been sitting there for a long time," Mayor Tom Bozarth said. The city has tried without success to sell or lease the plant.

Answering a question by Council Member Daniel Roller, KSU aquaculture professor Steve Mims said the university is not interested in leasing or purchasing the land, but a private individual might like to do that in the future. Mims told the council that the site is too small for large-scale production like KSU has at Winchester's old plant, but could be used for experiments and demonstration projects, including organic gardening and algae biofuel production.

Council member Sharon Turner asked if using the plant for aquaculture would keep it from being used for other purposes, such as a joint city-county fire station or a staging area for the city's snow-removal contractor. Bozarth said the site is too small for a fire station, and the city and Kentucky State could adjust the uses of the plant to “make it all work.”

Mims said the program at KSU has funding for fish, feed, labor and an aeration tank at the plant but is seeking a $300,000, three-year grant that would include money to route the new plant's effluent across the road to the old plant so it could use non-chlorinated water, and recycle the aquaculture wastewater back to the new plant.

This year, the city's cost would be for the water and electrcity, which Mims estimated at $300 for the five-month project. He said a permanent project would save Midway the cost of demolishing the plant, and be an attraction for school groups and tourists. The I-64 location, he said, would provide high visibility.

“It brings another side of tourism to the town,” Council Member Sarah Hicks said, “around environmental issues, sustainability, reduced water use, bio-energy, and those are certainly very promising pathways for the future.”

The theme of creating employment continued as Craig McAnelly, consultant for the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, discussed the EDA's first annual report and said 2012 was “a great year with five company expansions, representing 157 manufacturing jobs.” All were in Versailles, and Bozarth asked McAnelly to focus on small business jobs, specifically for Midway.

“We don’t have the big areas,” Bozarth said. “What we need to focus on is the smaller jobs, the greener jobs.” He said the council should look into a suggestion of a business incubator to help inspire growth in the town.

McAnelly said he has had four prospects that would affect Midway within the past week. Responding to a question from Turner, he declined to discuss details, but said, "I think our economy's turning around."

McAnelly, who works for the Bluegrass Area Development District, was accompanied by Brad McLean of Midway, EDA's board chairman. They noted that the agency's board is almost completely new and has reorganized significantly in the past year.

The council voted to appoint Ed Crowley as an EDA board member, replacing Jon Dodds, who the mayor said had accepted a new job elsewhere and resigned. The board will come to City Hall Friday at 8 a.m. for its regular monthly meeting.

The council also heard from Anderson Communities engineer Mike Craft about construction of the Shell station-convenience store and a Subway restaurant on the old Weems property owned by Anderson. Craft said inspections were up to date and all work is monitored around the clock by a geotechncial engineering firm. Craft acknowledged that he had never done an installation in Midway, but said he was confident that he would meet all necessary guidelines. He said the Shell store is expected to open in May, and the Subway would be in a separate building.

The council passed a resolution authorizing Bozarth to make a final agreement with The Homeplace at Midway regarding the $500,000 community development block grant the city will receive from the state, mainly for architectural and engineering services for the project.

The tourist-destination ordinances were recommended by the county Planning Commission and have been given initial approval by the Fiscal Court, with Midway Magistrate Larry Craig casting the only "no" votes. Bozarth noted that the change would have little effect in the city, since it applies to A-1 and I-2 zones, and a tourist destination must have at least 30 acres. If the council does not approve the ordinances, they would not take effect inside the city limits, but if Fiscal Court approves them, they would apply to the unincorporated area surrounding Midway.

Like Craig, Roller said he was concerned that some of the ordinances' definitions are too loose. Bozarth said those concerns need to go to the Fiscal Court, which is scheduled to have second reading and passage of the ordinances at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12.

Bozarth distributed a list of his committee appointments for council members and specific items that he wants them to work on during the two-year term that began Jan. 1. He discussed several of the ideas at the end of this month's first meeting.

The mayor asked Roller and Hicks to attend EDA meetings on a regular basis and Grayson Vandegrift to work with two business owners on “Destination Midway,” his working theme for a Midway Chamber of Commerce and tourism commission separate from the county's.

Turner and new members Hicks and Vandegrift were placed in charge of the Memorial Day Program and a tree grant for the Midway Cemetery, as well as repairing broken stones and foundations. The same three were assigned to the Ordinance, Policy and Property Committee, and asked to look at enhancing Walter Bradley Park.

Roller, Aaron Hamilton, and new member Bruce Southworth were assigned to the Water and Sewer, Garbage and Recycling, and Streets and Sidewalks committees.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, at City Hall. A public hearing on the future of the water and sewer system is tentatively scheduled for the evening of Feb. 7

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