Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Council hears traffic light and Weisenberger bridge work coming; new ambulance may lead to a station in Midway

By Bridget Slone, Caleb Oakley, Dylan Russell and Kristen Sekinger
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Everything from road projects to ambulances to the water-bill adjustment ordinance was discussed at the Midway City Council meeting Monday evening. (For a video of the meeting, click here.)

Larry Craig, Woodford County Fiscal Court magistrate for the Midway district, discussed several projects. He informed the council that Midway is likely to get a traffic signal at the KY 341 and Leestown Road (US 421) intersection next to Interstate 64.

Craig said James Ballinger, chief engineer for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's District 7 office, told him at a meeting last Friday at the district office in Lexington, “It’s not in writing yet, but I feel very confident you will get the traffic light you requested.”

Craig said the intersection averages 12 to 13 accidents a year. One of the most recent, in early November, killed two teenage girls and sent another to the hospital. Although the victims were not local, it had an impact on the community because of their ages, the location and the length of time it took to extract them.

Craig also reported that the state plans to improve the one-lane bridge over South Elkhorn Creek by the Weisenberger Mill. He said the state, after two public hearings, has decided to use the existing headwalls, strengthen them and widen the existing bridge to two narrow lanes, rather than build a new span, because it is the only historic substandard bridge in the state.

After the meeting, Craig estimated that the bridge would need more work after 10 years because its weight limit would still be less than some traffic crossing it, including fire trucks. The bridge is on a county road, but he said the state would pay for the work in return for the county doing work on a state bridge in Millville. The bridge connects Woodford and Scott counties but the state has assigned responsibility for it to Woodford.

Craig briefly discussed a much larger and more controversial project, the proposed bypass around Versailles, which has been added to the pending six-year road plan but only with funds for design over the next two years, not construction. He said he expressed his concern to state officials that it would put heavier traffic on US 62, a narrow, 1800s-era route with steep shoulders. “It’s hard enough to get a fire truck through,” Craig said.

He said the state is working to get Old Frankfort Pike declared a national historic route, which would make it more likely to get federal money for improvements, and recently improved weak shoulders and culverts on the road in preparation for the extra traffic state engineers expect when Leestown Road traffic is hindered by construction of Citation Boulevard and later by a new interchange between Leestown Road and New Circle Road.

Ambulance a step closer

Craig also informed the council that the fiscal court had advertised for bids on a sixth ambulance,“which will move us one step closer to getting us a station over here,” with faster response times, he said. “My goal ever since I got elected was to build an ambulance station here.”

He said building the station would be the simplest and most financially feasible part of the project. The more costly and difficult part, he said, would be personnel. Nine full-time and three half-time employees would be necessary for the station to operate smoothly, he said.

Mayor Tom Bozarth noted the longstanding desire to build a new fire station in conjunction with the ambulance station. Midway has two fire stations, one for the city department, another for the county department, which is supported by a special taxing district. The city station is cramped and the county station floods.

In an interview after the meeting, Craig said the stations couldn't be in the same building because they are governed separately, but having them adjacent would help because most of the volunteer firefighters are emergency medical technicians and would be available to drive the ambulance while others work with the patient.

Other business

The council decided to have a special meeting next week to discuss a problem with adjustment of water bills. By city ordinance, a customer must be on the sewer system to get an adjustment, but some farms are on city water but not sewer. The meeting was set for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The council also decided to give the American Cancer Society $500 for the annual Relay for Life, but agreed that people who want such donations need to make their requests in time to get them into the annual city budget. Council Member Bruce Southworth's suggestion of March 1 seemed to get general agreement.

Near the end of the meeting, Bozarth announced that Windstream Communications had tripled its earlier offer of $5,000, to $15,000, a fiber-optic installation on a Spring Station Road tract that the city once used as a dump. The council agreed to accept the offer.

When bringing up the topic, Bozarth apologized to The Midway Messenger and The Woodford Sun and for failing to give either news outlet the legally required advance notice that he and a council committee met at the site last week to discuss the matter. “I apologize,” he said. “We had an illegal meeting and didn’t notify the press. I take full responsibility.” The meeting, but not its time, was mentioned in the Messenger's last city council story because the Messenger heard it being discussed after the meeting.

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