Friday, October 31, 2014

Council members having pleasant race for mayor

Turner and Vandegrift (Tessa Lighty photo)
For detailed profiles of the candidates for mayor and city council, click here.

By Quinn Schwartz
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Nov. 4 Midway mayoral election is a choice between Sharon Turner, running on her longtime City Council and community experience, and one-term Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, offering a fresh vision and a step in a different direction at a potentially historic time for Midway.

The competition has been good natured. The candidates share a mutual respect and find themselves agreeing on most issues the new mayor will have to address.

Those include improvements in water lines, sewers, sidewalks and other infrastructure, which they hope to pay for with an increase in tax income from development at the Interstate 64 interchange – the management of which will be a challenge facing the city.

Turner boasts the most experience, having served on the council since January 2005 and as mayor pro tem since 2007, and for the past 14 years as secretary for the Nursing Home Task Force, which led to the senior living residence under construction in Midway. 

Turner’s record appeals to Midway residents like Alice Jacobs. “I think experience will be important,” Jacobs said.  “I would feel more comfortable with someone who best knows the concerns facing Midway and how to handle them.”

Vandegrift, a restaurateur who was elected to the council in 2012, has less experience than Turner, but expresses a passionate vision for Midway’s future and hopes to give the city a fresh perspective.

He may appeal to residents like Gary Owens, who said, “I don’t necessarily think experience is the most important thing as long as our mayor is able to make decisions that are best for Midway.”

Some of these decisions will deal with Midway Station, a development on the northeast corner of the I-64 interchange that has seen little activity since it was created the 1990s as an industrial park. It was rezoned for residential and commercial development a few years ago, but the recession and other factors thwarted development.

Recently, part of it has been rezoned to industrial on the prospect that a factory will be built there, and an adjoining tract has been recommended for industrial zoning.

Lexington developer Dennis Anderson, who has the Green Gables development on the southeast corner of the interchange, is tasked with redeveloping the rest of Midway Station. Under an agreement with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, he pays the interest on the city and county bonds issued to create the industrial park in return for the right to redevelop it. 

Anderson plans to use tax-increment financing, which would use most of the additional state and local tax revenue from redevelopment to fund $30.7 million in public infrastructure, including parking lots, roads, sidewalks and utilities. 
               Development of the property could encourage local residents to seek employment closer to home by providing more job opportunities.  Many Midway residents commute to work in Lexington, Frankfort, Georgetown or Versailles.  If Midway Station is developed, more locals be able to stay in town for work, and the population of the city could spike with the attraction of new job opportunities.

Not everyone in Midway welcomes the idea of such a boom.  One issue with the development could be difficulty in maintaining Midway’s quaint and historic atmosphere.
“I’m not opposed to change, but if we take this development to the extreme we would destroy what we have worked so hard to preserve,” said Owens.

Turner and Vandegrift said at the Oct. 2 candidates’ forum that they would run an inclusive administration.

Asked what they hoped to be able to say after one term that would earn them a second, Vandegrift said he would want citizens to say “I felt like I had a voice, I felt like I had a seat at the table.”

Turner said she would want citizens to see that she had brought efficiencies, the right policies and procedures, and better services. She added, “It’s important to feel you’ve had a say.”

Both candidates are against the proposed Versailles-Midway-Woodford County government merger.

Turner says she does not want Midway to lose its identity. “Versailles and Woodford County could merge if they wanted to and leave us out of it,” she said. “They can’t force us into it, but we obviously have to be able to self-sustain if that happen. I think we’ve done that a lot, anyway.”

Vandegrift said at the forum that with countywide merger, “We would lose our voice as a city. We’re a small city but we have a big name. We would probably go from having eight representatives to having two, maybe three at best.”

1 comment:

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