Wednesday, February 26, 2014

City council starts changing policies and procedures regarding bill adjustments for water leaks

By Kayla Pickrell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Several landowners' recent water leaks spiked their bills, and that sparked debate on how to adjust the bill-adjustment ordinance at the Midway City Council’s special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton said one of the bills with a leak on the property was $1,500.

To catch leaks earlier and head off large adjustments, the council decided unanimously to read water meters twice a month, rather than the monthly readings already in effect. That won’t cost more, since meters are now read by radio.

“This is paying attention when there are high readings,” Council Member Sara Hicks said, “and helping people get them fixed as quickly as possible.”

Although nothing was set in stone, the council talked about doing weekly readings during cold weather to proactively catch leaks before they become a bigger problem. “It doesn’t need to be a policy, just a procedure,” Hamilton said.

Along with conducting readings twice a month, Council Member Dan Roller suggested training people to do the readings to make the process faster. Only one city employee now conducts the readings.

Mayor Tom Bozarth said, “We want to have a way where we can work with people the best we can.”

The council is looking to change the water and sewer ordinance of 2003, which allows bill adjustments only to those on the sewer system. Some farms are on city water but not sewer.

“What we’re talking about really is suggesting that we change the policy for those who don’t have sewer,” said Council Member Grayson Vandegrift.

The council appeared to agree that adjustments would be allowed once every 12 months if proper documentation was provided regarding information about the leak on the property. The adjustment would be based upon the average water bill from six months prior to the leak.

“At the very least, you’d want to determine the cause of the leak and the wear of the system,” City Attorney Phil Moloney said.

Roller suggested that the city put the cause of the leak at the top of the list, as long as the leak was fixed. “It would be a nightmare to try to determine why they are having water loss,” he said.

Shepard is looking over figures from the past water bills to bring to the next council meeting to help members make a decision on the ordinance, Bozarth said.

The council will meet again Monday, March 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Here's a video of most of the hour-long meeting, starting about 13 minutes in:

Graduates, faculty, city council member speak up for Midway College nursing program to accreditors

By Bridget Slone
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

More than 20 people gathered in Midway College’s Duthie Auditorium for the accreditation review of the college’s nursing program last Tuesday evening. The meeting was a forum for comment on the program to include in the accreditors’ report.

Attendees included Midway citizens, graduates of Midway College, and faculty and staff members. Eleven people shared comments. Some were graduates of the program and shared testimonies of their experiences as students. Others were citizens of Midway who spoke of important roles the program and the college play in the community.

Marshell Danielson, a graduate of the nursing program and a registered nurse, spoke to the accredtors and the Midway Messenger. She discussed the supportiveness of faculty members, expectations and the foundation the program provides for students.

“What it did was provide the foundation for us to continue with the expectation,” Danielson said in the interview. “We were going to continue on for further education.”

Danielson, who is working on a master’s degree, explained the importance of future nurses furthering their education and obtaining such degrees in nursing in order to help expand the profession: “What Midway does is [provide] a very good foundation so that you can go from one program to the next 
program with the writings, the research and the professional conduct.”

Danielson said she has worked with nurses and undergraduates from other programs and those from the Midway program are far more prepared: “They are more assured in what they’re doing.”

Danielson also agreed with other comments provided during the meeting, saying “I don’t think there’s enough good things that we could say about Midway College. I think it’s a phenomenal program.”

Midway City Council Member Grayson Vandegrift told the accreditors about Midway College’s importance to the community, saying the presence of an institution of higher learning in a town the size of Midway is “incredibly important.”

Vandegrift explained that Midway College is the city’s largest provider of jobs and how the nursing program plays a big part in that, with the addition of the nursing home. Christian Care Communities plans to open a senior living residence, The Homeplace at Midway, across Stephens Street from the college, late this year.

Faculty members of the nursing program also attended. Nancy Barnum, associate professor of nursing, said that what sets Midway’s nursing program apart from others are the relationships established between the faculty and students, advising and high expectations. Barnum explained in an interview that being a smaller school allows faculty and advisers to “build really strong relationships with students.

She said faculty have “high expectations that our students can achieve and they usually do.”
Barnum said afterward that she was “very pleased” with the comments during the meeting. “They’re things that we hear a lot from the community, so it was nice that they were here to say it to the accreditors.”

The accreditors' report will go to the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, whose board of commissioners would meet in July. The school will receive their reports six weeks later, toward the end of August, the accreditors said.

Midway College began a two-year nursing program in 1965, when it was still Midway Junior College. The registered nurse - bachelor of science degree in nursing began in 1989. Since 1991, the program has had 1,991 graduates. Of those, 1,486 obtained an associate degree and 179 received a bachelor's degree, according to Ellen Gregory, the college's vice president for marketing and communications. Over the past three years, the program has an average of 100 graduates a year, Gregory said.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Video of Monday night's Midway City Council meeting

The Midway Messenger has begun video coverage of Midway City Council meetings. The broadcast of Monday night's meeting was an experiment that has now been perfected, with the exception of low audio volume and some technical symbols on the screen, for which we apologize. We'll work on those.

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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pipeline company has recorded only one easement in Woodford, at point where line would cross Ky. River

UPDATE: The pipeline partners announced late Wednesday that the project would be delayed as long as a year. Also, an earlier version of this story contained an incorrect address for the easement.

By Kayla Pickrell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Bluegrass Pipeline project that would carry natural gas liquids through northwestern Woodford County has filed only one easement in the county, but it indicates where the pipeline would cross the Kentucky River.

Opponents of the pipeline have focused much of their criticism on the number of streams that it would cross, with special attention to the river.

On the Bluegrass Pipeline website, a map of Kentucky roughly shows the proposed route for the line. The property with the easement, at 7400 McCracken Pike, lots 8 and 9 of the Shoreacres subdivision, appears to be in the route shown on the site.

The company is seeking easements from landowners in about a dozen counties, and says it has obtained about two-thirds of what it needs. Based on easements recorded with county clerks, it appears to have had more success in Scott and Anderson than in Woodford and Franklin.

Only two easements have been filed in Franklin County. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Monday that 80 had been filed in Anderson County and 57 in Scott County.

The Franklin County easements are for adjoining tracts that are separated from the Kentucky River and the Woodford County tract by two or three other tracts.
Combined property maps of Franklin and Woodford counties (click on image for large version)
Andy McDonald, a director of the Kentucky Conservation Committee, an environmental advocacy group, said that because the river serves as a water source for the area and feeds into the Ohio River, a leak could be “catastrophic to the water supply of millions of people, including Frankfort and Louisville.” He added, “This project really does need a specific environmental evaluation to the location the pipeline would be.”

The Woodford County easement is for property owned by Stephen K. Goodrich, whose address is listed as 7400 McCracken Pike. The Franklin County easements are for properties owned by James Randall Gay and Wanda Gay at 2551 Ninevah Road, Frankfort.

The McCracken Pike easement says Goodrich received “the sum of Ten and No/100 Dollars ($10.00), cash in hand paid and other good and valuable consideration,” Which is not specified.
In some other counties, early easements included a consideration certificate to show how much money changed hands. Such easements in Nelson County range from $5,000 to $48,162.

Goodrich’s easement says the transaction is not subject to the law taxing property transfers, which requires that the actual consideration be revealed so the proper transfer tax can be levied.

Joe Hollier, a pipeline representative, said it has obtained easements in the Midway area but did not explain why they have not been recorded. He said the company was not able to discuss details of the easements. But he said in an email, “So far, Kentuckians have received more than $27 million for easements, much of which will flow through local economies.”

Some landowners have refused to grant easements. Pipeline officials say they have the right to condemn property, with court-ordered compensation, under the state law giving eminent domain to energy pipelines. Opponents argue that the pipeline lacks condemnation power because it would not serve Kentucky customers as a utility.

Bills have been filed in the legislature to clearly prohibit the use of eminent domain by such pipelines. Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, plans to hold held a hearing at noon Wednesday on his House Bill 31, which would allow condemnation with permission of the state Public Service Commission, which would have to solicit input from the public and act in the public interest, considering protection of the environment, including groundwater; “reasonableness” of the route; “promotion of a safe and efficient transportation infrastructure,” and “safety, construction and operational protocols” of the pipeline.

UPDATE: Tilley delayed a vote, saying members of the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, needed more time to study a revised version of his bill, which would bar developers of NGL pipelines from using eminent domain. Industry representatives spoke against the bill; state Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, spoke for it. Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement supporting it.
UPDATE, Feb. 26: The committee approved the bill. It now goes to the Rules Committee, which could send it to the floor or to another committee.

The project sent flyers to homes in the counties along the route saying that 6,000 to 7,000 temporary jobs will be created during construction and around 30 will remain as full-time employees to operate the pipeline.

“Communities along the Bluegrass Pipeline will see millions of dollars in tax revenues and other economic benefits as construction personnel and eventually full-time pipeline personnel spend money on supplies, food and lodging,” the flyer said.

Lorraine Garkovich of Versailles takes issue with these claims, saying the promised jobs will not be in Woodford County.

“Their own representatives say local hiring is limited because they have their own construction crews with pipeline experience,” Garkovich wrote in a letter to the Herald-Leader. She is a rural sociologist who teaches in the Department of Community and Leadership Development in the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Hollier said the pipeline would bring in approximately $620,000 a year in new property taxes in Woodford County, and the construction would take about a year. He noted that the company has also established a grant program that would benefit communities near the pipeline.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas liquids are “used as inputs for petrochemical plants, burned for space heat and cooking, and blended into vehicle fuel.” NGLs can be ethane, propane, butane, isobutane and pentane.

The pipeline would transfer the liquids from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, reversing the flow of a line that runs from Louisiana to Hardinsburg, Ky.

Unlike trucks or railcars, a pipeline wouldn’t be able to contain the liquids if there was a leak, McDonald said. Because of the karst topography in Kentucky, the pipeline could provide a constant flow of NGLs into underground caves and streams until the leak is detected, which could be hundreds of feet or potentially miles, he argued.

The pipeline's developers say it would be constructed with safety in mind and closely monitors. McDonald said the KCC questions whether the Kentucky environmental emergency response budget has enough funds to respond if a leak happens.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It's an Internet night at the council: Plans for faster rural service, problems with website are among agenda items

By Rachel Aretakis and Erin Grigson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council met Monday evening with discussions centering on plans to bring faster Internet service to rural Midway, problems with the city website and a brief review of snow removal.

Windstream Communications has approached the council about obtaining an easement for city property off Spring Station Road near Gate 24. “It’s trying to get customers faster service in areas outside the city,” Mayor Tom Bozarth told the council.

The company has offered $5,000 for the easement, but Bozarth and Council Member Bruce Southworth said Windstream should pay more.

Bozarth referred the matter to a committee comprising Southworth, Aaron Hamilton and Sara Hicks and asked them to “bring back an appropriate number.” The three plan to meet at the site Wednesday with Raymond Tinson, assistant to the resident engineer for EA Technical Services, the engineering company for Windstream, who spoke to the council about securing the easement.

“Anything you all have a concern about, we can discuss the amendments” to the proposed agreement, Tinson told the council after answering questions. He said the company has received a state grant to improve Internet access in rural areas.

The project could bring high-speed Digital Subscriber Line service to as many as 485 households, Tinson said, though there are not nearly that many people living in the area. He estimated the facility would serve about 150 homes and businesses. The project is working on a six-month deadline, he said.

Bozarth said the property is an old landfill that is no longer in use. The land is near Middlebrook and Nuckols farms, according to the water-line easement provided to council members. Windstream has been unable to obtain property rights from local owners, Tinson said.

The property “would provide pull-off access and room to place equipment,” the company told the council in a letter.

Windstream is requesting the rights to a 25-foot-square piece of the property. It cannot install the fiber optic line needed for the project without such facilities along the routes. Tinson said the area could be fenced in, to be only accessible to Windstream employees, but the details could be worked out in the agreement.

Tinson said the company would maintain the gate and access road. In response to a question from Hicks, he said the facility would cause no harm to animals.
Example of Windstream facilities provided by company in document given to Midway City Council
Among other business Monday, the council passed an ordinance to conform with the latest Kentucky building code, reappointed Helen Rentch as the city’s representative on the county Human Rights Commission, and discussed the city’s website and snow removal.

The website host, WordPress, recently updated its format, which caused the city’s page to have minor problems, said Council Member Grayson Vandegrift.  The site and the events calendar still work, he said, but minor improvements need to be made. “The website still functions; it just doesn’t function great,” he said. “We’re very limited right now with what we can do with the website.”

He said the city will likely have to build a new site, and recommended that the council not put more money into the current one and begin thinking about building a new one.  Southworth suggested that estimates be obtained for consideration in drafting the city budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Vandegrift said the site is seven years old and the council might get three more years out of it. “I think the best option is to just keep going forward and keep trying to make steady improvements to it without reinventing the wheel,” Vandegrift said. “It’s not on its last leg or anything, but some day it’s just not going to work anymore.”

Vandegrift said he thought the contractor the city hired for snow removal has been doing a very good job. “I haven’t heard any complaints,” he said.

This is the first winter that the city has had to pay for plowing of streets after snow, because the county fiscal court dropped the service after Midway became a city of the fourth class.

Bozarth originally budgeted for $30,000 for snow removal in the annual budget that ends June 30, but the council lowered it to $20,000. The city has spent roughly $11,700 so far, but that did not include Monday’s large snowfall, Vandegrift said after the meeting. “We’ve had a lot more snow this year. We hardly had any last year. It’s one of those things that, it’s got to be done,” he said. “Even though we’re a little over what we budgeted right now, in the end, it looks like we’re going to be under.”

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Midway College dean’s list includes local students

Two students from Midway and 11 from Versailles students were among 233 to be named to the dean’s list at Midway College for the 2013 fall term.

To qualify, students must be classified as full time and achieve at least a 3.6 grade point average for the semester.

William Walker and Krysta A. Wright of Midway made the list.

Students from Versailles on the list are Irene Alcaraz-Perez, Kristen L. Anderson, Alex Atkins, Tonya Suzanne Cocanougher, Kamille E. Cole, Rachel Leann Cress, Adrianne Lucinda McCann, Lucy D. Morgan, Linda L. Pilcher, Christina Mallory Roberts and Susana Ruvalcaba.

--Bridget Slone, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications