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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bridge hearing verdict: Don't replace; rehabilitate

By Nini Edwards
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Weisenberger Mill Bridge may soon meet its destiny. But most people who showed up at a meeting about it said it should be rehabilitated, not replaced.

Built in 1930, the one-lane bridge crosses South Elkhorn Creek near Midway. It is next to the Weisenberger Mill, which is operated by the sixth generation of the Wiesenberger family. The mill, dam and waterfall produce one of the region's iconic scenes.  

Now the state Transportation Cabinet is trying to determine whether the bridge should be replaced with a new two-lane bridge or be preserved and rehabilitated. 

To gather public opinion, the cabinet held an informal meeting Thursday at Midway College. The public meeting was designed for people to casually filter in and out while talking with cabinet staff. About 15 cabinet employees were present and the event drew about 35 guests. No presentations were given, but multiple conversations took place.

Many of the concerns dealt with things people thought a new bridge might bring: a higher speed limit, more tractor-trailers accidents and traffic, and lack of historical preservation.

The mill’s owner, Phil Weisenberger, thinks a two-lane bridge would bring more traffic.

“There is a little bit of traffic that comes through here, but only in the morning and afternoons,” Weisnberger said in an interview after the meeting. “If they put in a larger bridge it would bring more traffic.”

Barbara Phelps owns a house located just before the bridge when coming from Leestown Road.

"I am very concerned," Phelps said. "People coming from Leestown [Road] are not going to have a reason to slow down if the bridge has two lanes."

Some are also concerned with losing the history of the bridge.

"I would like them to rehabilitate the bridge. It is a unique thing and it is part of the history," Wiesenberger said. "I don't see how you can put a new bridge in without destroying that history."

At the meeting, cabinet staff members talked with small groups who voiced their opinion. Highway designer Casey Smith spoke to one group about preserving the bridge and rehabilitating it or completely replacing it with a new design.

"We recognize the historical integrity, which is why we are having this meeting today," Smith said.

Rehabilitating the bridge rather than replacing it would take considerably less time and money. Ananias Calvin III, transportation engineer and project manager, told one group, "If we rehab it we will work on it this summer and get it open before school starts. If we replace it, it might be a year and a half before we start working on it."
 
Calvin estimated that rehabbing the bridge would take $350,000 and replacing it would take about $750,000.

Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth has said that if a new bridge is built, he would like to move the old one to Walter Bradley Park in the city. But some who have lived in the community for a while said they do not believe there is a problem with the bridge.

"I have been driving across this bridge for 30 years and never had a problem. I say they keep it as it is," said local resident Nick Bentley. "People need to slow down anyway."

Weisenberger agrees.

 "There isn't any problem with the bridge, and everyone I talk to wants to keep it," Weisenberger said. "Once you take away a piece of history like that it is gone forever."

Calvin is letting people submit their opinions via mail or email. The deadline for submission is Feb. 9.

"If there is a strong opposition we are not going to go in and change (the bridge)," he said.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Group of local residents making progress in effort to make Old Frankfort Pike a National Scenic Byway

By Denny Densford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Old Frankfort Pike is just short of 17 miles long, but soon may be recognized as one of the nation’s most scenic byways.

Chris Amos, a historic conservation consultant, led an open house Wednesday at Midway College to discuss a plan to certify Old Frankfort Pike through the National Scenic Byway program and what it would mean for the community and residents along the road.  More than 30 residents and interested parties attended the presentation.

Designation as a National Scenic Byway could bring money to preserve and enhance the historic route as well as national attention that would enhance tourism and educational projects in the area. There are only 151 roads recognized by the National Scenic Byway program in the U.S., and only six in Kentucky.

“This one is exceptional,” Amos said of the road.  “We’re in a very urban area.” While the road has a rural character, all of it lies in the Lexington metropolitan area, which includes all of Woodford County.

Old Frankfort Pike gets most of its charm from the gently rolling pastures of historic, pastoral horse farms, often tightly embraced by trees and other native Kentucky greenery and dry-stone and plank fences that give it a very comfortable feel. The drive is short, but the journey has a distinct country feel to it that undeniably says “this is the heart of the Bluegrass.”

Amos is working for Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor Inc., a long-established nonprofit group that is organizing the development of a corridor management plan that will be the next step toward nomination with the National Scenic Byway program.

The project’s advisory committee is Henry Alexander of Sterling Farm and Midway Land & Auction, Susan Atkin of Casa Farm, former state auditor Crit Luallen of Frankfort, Don Ball of Donamire Farm and Ball Homes, Muffy Lyster of Polo Hunt Farm, Robert Clay of Three Chimneys Farm, Sasha Sanan of Padua Stables, Kentucky Horseracing Commission vice chairman Tracy Farmer of Shadowlawm Farm, and former Lexington-Fayette Council Member David Stevens.

In addition to the committee, project volunteers at the meeting included Julie Riesenweber, instructor of historical preservation in the University of Kentucky College of Design, and students from the college.

While many National Scenic Byways showcase lengths of national-forest and Bureau of Land Management roads, Old Frankfort Pike’s beauty comes from scenic farms and private lands, Amos noted.

The state has designated and signed Old Frankfort Pike from Lexington to the railroad crossing near the Franklin County line (right) as a Kentucky Scenic Byway, but that includes no funding to help maintain the road, something Amos said would help both its appeal and safety.

 “Federal funding is an 80 percent federal, 20 percent local match,” Amos noted, “so it’s a nice opportunity.”

As well as money, recognition as a National Scenic Byway would give the road national advertising and opportunities for local businesses or farms to advertise with in association with the new road to increase tourism and activity in the area.

The nomination begins with a corridor management plan that exhibits a road’s scenic, historic, natural, cultural or other intrinsic properties, and includes a detailed plan for tourism, conservation and promotion for the road. It must contain boundaries, points with intrinsic qualities, and current land use.  It must assess the road’s important intrinsic qualities, and offer a detailed plan on how the area will be maintained, enhanced and publicly exposed and connected to the community. All the requirements for the plan are listed here.

Amos said the advisory committee came together in September 2012 and the corridor management plan is scheduled to be completed by June, with a draft available sometime in the spring.   She also said that the money needed to proceed had already been raised.

Alexander, chairman of the advisory committee, said that the initial $20,000 needed to cover the costs necessary to build the plan was acquired entirely through donations.

Amos said more than 200 letters and emails were sent to residents along the pike and other interested parties, and while she was hoping for a larger turnout, she was not discouraged in her efforts to get the word out.

Rex Cecil, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Architects and a resident along Old Frankfort Pike, said he thought it could be an important step for the road and that he was interested in finding out what recognition could do for it.

“I’m surprised we haven’t done more,” said Cecil, adding that he was excited to see that students were getting involved in the efforts.  “Fresh minds are a good thing.”

Amos said that she thought the meeting went well and that she would come prepared to discuss transportation issues in the next meeting that has been roughly scheduled for February before the group moves forward with the corridor management plan.

Below is a MapQuest image with the Kentucky Scenic Byway section of the road marked in blue. Click on the image for a much larger version.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Midway Magistrate Craig votes against 'tourist destination' ordinances; city council defers action

Midway Magistrate Larry Craig was the only member of Woodford County Fiscal Court to vote no last night on zoning ordinances that would allow restaurants, gift shops and other "tourist destination" operations in agricultural and industrial zones, an idea that has stirred opposition in greater Midway.

The 6-1 votes on the two ordinances were for first reading; a final vote and passage is expected Tuesday, Feb. 12. Affirmative votes by the Fiscal Court would establish the new zoning option only in the county's unincorporated area; it would take effect in each of the county's two cities only if approved by the city council.

The Midway City Council was scheduled to give first reading to the ordinances Monday night, but delayed action until its Feb. 22 meeting after Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Turner said "My understanding is the county is going to be asking for some changes on this."

However, at last night's Fiscal Court meeting, Magistrate Gerald Dotson moved to give the ordinances first reading, after confirming some details with County Attorney Alan George. All other magistrates supported the motion except Bruce Gill, who had a conflict because he spoke about the ordinances at a Planning Commission hearing, and Craig, who said their definitions allow too much interpretation.

"I think it's a little too vague, because a tourist destination could be Three Chimneys Farm, it could be 90 percent of the horse farms in the county," Craig said, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. "I could see if a farm changes hands, someone seeing that as an opportunity to go from less agriculture and to more commercialism. If we're going to preserve agriculture in Woodford County, I think it needs to be a working farm more than a tourist destination."

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.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Margaux Farm offering free seminar at Keeneland, 3 to 5 p.m. Sat., on how Thoroughbreds develop

Margaux Farm of Midway will host a free seminar at Keeneland Race Course Saturday, Jan. 5, for horse owners to explain the development of a Thoroughbred from weaning through pre-race training. "Developing a Racehorse,Weaning to Winning" will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Keeneland sales pavilion. "We want to help owners, particularly those new to racing, understand everything that goes into making it to the winners circle," Margaux manager Michael Hardy told The Blood-Horse.

Margaux managing partner Steve Johnson told the magazine, "Many horses do not make it to the starting gate for a variety of reasons, some mental, some physical. The discussion will focus on the steps that a horse must go through to prevent these mental and physical issues from developing, and to help an owner manage their racehorses in the best way possible. Common problems such as refusal to load onto the trailer or into the starting gate can, with good management, be prevented."

The meeting will include a discussion with a panel of experts moderated by Edd Roggenkamp, an owner, breeder and trainer. The panelists will be stakes-winning trainers Kellyn Gorder, Alex Clarkson, and Wayne Mackey; Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron; and veterinary surgeon  Dwayne Rodgerson of the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.