By Paige Hobbs
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
After a lively debate, the Midway City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to approve a proposed agreement for emergency management between Versailles, Woodford County, and Midway. The proposed agreement, which Versailles likewise approved Tuesday night, is aimed at resolving an impasse over funding of the program.
The council also heard plans to raise garbage rates slightly and discussed plans for a public forum on the proposed “fairness ordinance” to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The proposed emergency-management agreement would resolve the impasse over funding by bringing into the formula the $30,000 that the county gets each year from the state for the program. It would reduce Midway’s contribution by $1,950 and Versailles’ by $10,320, based on population.
Council Members Steven Craig and Libby Warfield opposed the agreement, noting that the council had no role in preparing it.
Craig and Warfield asked how the document, circulated by Versailles Council Member Ken Kerkhoff, could be considered interlocal if Midway had no part in drafting it. “We didn’t help draft it, so we were left out of the process,” said Craig. He argued for Midway to draft its own interlocal agreement and present it to Versailles and the county.
Vandegrift noted that the county ended the negotiations two weeks ago with a vote of 5-4 in fiscal court. Craig said the court wouldn’t approve the revised agreement, but Vandegrift said four magistrates had “voted to keep talking” and one of the others may have been confused.
The emergency management program prepares for disaster before it occurs and does not include first responders: police, fire and ambulance services. Council Members Sara Hicks and Kaye Nita Gallagher gave scenarios to show how first responders would not be affected in the proposed agreement.
Hicks asked if the Bluegrass Emergency Response Team would still engage with Midway if it were to break away from the county program. Craig said it would still participate with Midway. Gallagher asked if a tornado were to come through Midway in the next two months, if the county first responders would still participate. Council Member Bruce Southworth said they would.
Craig said he agreed with putting the state money in to the formula but deflected Southworth’s question of what other parts of the agreement he disagreed with. He focused on the fact that Midway was not involved in drafting it. He asked, “You’re asking us to vote in what Versailles said?”
Vandegrift said someone needed to draft and propose an agreement, and that a group effort by each governing body, drafting and presenting their own, would take years.
The agreement states that Midway will pay 6.5 percent of the program's $132,000 cost, reflecting its share of the county’s population, minus the $1,950 credit for the county's state funding.
Midway and Versailles have been miffed that county officials did not mention the state funding in earlier years. Then-Mayor Tom Bozarth confirmed and revealed it through an open-records request last year.
Vandegrift said the debate has not been over money: “The argument is that the budget raises every year, it has raised 33 percent in five years. . . . And the question is, are we spending way more money than what we need to spend? We spend more money around us than any other county, besides Fayette” on emergency management.
This is the latest in a series of conflicts between Midway and the county, and county magistrates raised old issues during the negotiations, said Southworth, who was on the negotiating committee with Craig. He sai the county drafted an agreement, and sent it to the council as a “take it or leave it” offer, after only lowering the per-capita fee by one cent.
If no agreement is passed by the county, it would serve notice that the current agreement will be ended and Midway would have 90 days to draft a “Plan B” with Versailles. Vandegrift explained.
“I would hope it would go before the fiscal court next Tuesday,” he said. “It’s an agreement I think could work for us.”
Council Member Daniel Roller agreed: “I think we have a possible workable solution here and if we try it and it doesn’t work, we go to the next thing.”
The Versailles City Council approved the agreement on a 4-2 vote Tuesday night, after a discussion that was much like Midway’s, with Council Member Ann Miller questioning many parts of the agreement and saying Kerkhoff had no authority to offer it.
In other business at the Midway meeting, Roller reported that his Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee met last Tuesday and made changes to the proposed fairness ordinance. Roller provided copies of the document to the council. It can be downloaded by clicking here.
Vandegrift said a public forum to discuss the ordinance will take place around mid-May. Warfield asked why Vandegrift wanted to have a public forum about this issue before it is formally presented to the full council for action.
“It’s a very controversial topic; it tugs at people’s heart strings,” said Vandegrift. “That’s why I want to have public input first. I think it would be a good idea for you to hear from your community before you vote on it.”
Vandegrift presented an ordinance that would increase garbage rates by 5 cents a month for residential customers, to $12, and by $1.70 for businesses, to $25.50. Businesses get two pickups per week. No action was taken.
The council accepted a bid from Wilson’s Nurseries of Frankfort for the planters and hanging baskets downtown. After receiving only two offers, the second from Simply Garden of Frankfort, Hicks suggested putting the ad for bids out sooner. This could increase the offers received, and give the businesses more time to prepare the baskets, she said.
The council also approved, contingent on proof of insurance, an event permit for the Bluegrass Cycling Club for the Horsey Hundred Bicycle Event to be held Saturday, May 23 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.