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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

3 council members will develop plan for sidewalks; grants committee formed; pop-up store coming

The sidewalk at 122 W. Main St. is in bad shape.
Story and photos by Casey Parker-Bell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Soon you might not have to look down when walking the streets of Midway.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift appointed a committee to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the sidewalks of Midway. “We have an issue with sidewalks of disrepair downtown,” Vandegrift said.

City law makes landowners responsible for the upkeep of sidewalks on their property. “Obviously, I think we all agree waiting for owners of these sidewalks is probably going to be a futile effort,” Vandegrift said. But the mayor said he wants to work with homeowners and not force them to fix broken sidewalks.

“Instead of approaching this as ‘We’re coming to get you, you’re going to fix your sidewalks,’ we need to approach this as ‘You have a sidewalk that is in disrepair; it is in the city’s best interest to get it fixed’,” Vandegrift said.

This sidewalk is at 105 S. Winter St.
Part of the city’s concern with bad sidewalks is the city’s liability if someone is injured., Vandegrift said, calling it “a public safety issue.” Even though landowners are responsible for the upkeep of sidewalks, the city is liable if anyone is hurt because of problems with the pathways.

Vandegrift said in an interview that he knows of two cases of people tripping and hurting themselves on cracked sidewalks. “Luckily no one has sued or anything yet,” he said. “The big one was about two years ago; a lady tripped and fell, and busted her face open pretty good.”

After that incident, the city painted yellow stripes on all of the trip hazards around town. “But all that does is make it more discernable to the eye,” Vandegrift said. “It’s not a long-term solution.”

Vandegrift said he has heard complaints from citizens about the condition of the sidewalks, from parents with small children to the members of a local Girl Scout troop who wrote him a letter about the sidewalks on Winter Street near the post office.

A comprehensive sidewalk plan is needed because of the city is limited in the ways it can improve sidewalk conditions, Vandegrift said. “Currently our only recourse is to put a lean on the property, and it’s just not effective,” Vandegrift said. “There are a lot of people who would never sell their properties,” which a lien would prevent.

The mayor said has heard of ideas like cost sharing between property owners and the city to fix sidewalks. “I do suspect we will have to offer something like that to engage people to go ahead and fix them.”

Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the sidewalk committee,  said he believes there are multiple options for Midway to improve sidewalk conditions. He said he wants an approach where homeowners and the city can share burden. “Maybe we can come up with something that can work to both of our benefit.”

Southworth said he thinks the committee will have a plan together by the first of the year, but set no specific timetable.

A tree has heaved this sidewalk at 129 W. Main St. about two inches.
Sidewalks in need of repair are not hard to find in the downtown area. Many if not most have been painted yellow to alert pedestrians of danger, but the damaged sidewalks dip or bulge more than an inch in some places, creating a tripping hazard. Some sidewalks on Winter Street near the post office on have the worst damage.

Kenny Smith, president of the Midway Merchants Association, said he hopes that the city is successful improving the sidewalks. “If it makes the town more likeable, then it helps the whole town,” he said. Smith said he didn’t believe that the quality of sidewalks in residential neighborhoods necessarily affects shoppers from out of town, but he wants to make the city better as a whole.

Vandegrift also appointed Council Members Kaye Nita Gallagher and Steven Craig to the sidewalk committee. He said the issue should have been addressed "yesterday."

Council Member Sara Hicks suggested that sidewalk repairs be coordinated with sewer repairs that the city plans to do when it has the money. "If we’re gonna tear up sidewalks it seems to me, in terms of efficiency, if we needed to do anything on the sewers that would be the time, because we’d be torn up already.”

The mayor also announced the creation of a citizens advisory committee to help the city with grant writing. “We’re behind the eight-ball on this,” he said. Vandergrift said some grants could help pay for improving sidewalks around town. The committee members he appointed are Jo Blease, Diana Ratliff, Debra Shockley and Mark Pitzer.

Vandegrift announced a new citizens advisory committee that will help with city grants.

Vandegrift said he is looking to get grants for “anything and everything”  and a grant committee is needed to be competitive and give Midway a chance at great opportunities. “There’s a lot of money out there, but we lack man power,” he said in an interview. “We need to know where to look and how to write.”

Vandegrift said the last major grant the city of Midway received was back in 2004 for roadwork in downtown Midway on Main Street. “This committee could end up developing into a part-time position or even a part of the city council,” he said.

The council heard that Bob Mickler’s lifestyle and performance-riding apparel store, in Lexington, plans to open a holiday pop-up shop in Midway from Nov. 25 to Dec. 25 at 119 E. Main St. The store will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Situated in the same location as Bourbon Lane Stable and McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, the pop-up shop seeks to supply local residents and holiday tourists alike with riding and casual apparel, said Chief Executive Officer Michael S. Michalisin. “We are going to do our very best to make it representative of the classy look that is prevalent on East Main Street,” Michalisin said as he asked the council for advice and ideas regarding the best way to do business in Midway and answered questions the council had about the new store.

Vandegrift welcomed the pop-up shop, saying, “I think that it’s a great fit for Midway.” Likewise, he expressed a desire for the company to consider opening a permanent location in the town.

The mayor announced that the city Christmas tree lighting will take place Friday, Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the common area across from Steppin’ Out Boutique and the Christmas Open House will be that Saturday with Santa Claus arriving via train provided by R.J. Corman Railroad at 11 a.m.

Information for this story was also gathered by UK students Kelly Brightmore, Mackenzie Clark and Dimitri Silva.

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