Thursday, April 30, 2015

Old Friends, retirement farm for racehorses, adds near-Triple Crown winner Silver Charm to its list of stallions

Story and photos by Kacie Kelly
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

UPDATE, June 10: Bob Baffert, who won the Triple Crown with American Pharoah on June 6 and trained Silver Charm, has donated $50,000 to Old Friends. The farm is also home to two other horses Baffert trained, Danthebluegrassman and Game On Dude. Baffert visited the farm just before this year's Kentucky Derby, according to a news release from Old Friends.

Silver Charm, named for his light-colored coat
Old Friends, the Thoroughbred horse retirement farm on Paynes Depot Road near Georgetown, about six miles from Midway, has been racing with activity. Its latest resident is 1997 Kentucky Derby winner and near-Triple Crown winner, Silver Charm.

Old Friends occupies about 236 acres and is home to 102 horses. It began with Michael Blowen, a former film critic for The Boston Globe, and a couple of acres in 2003.

Blowen launched Old Friends after the apparent slaughter of 1986 Derby winner Ferdinand, who won the 1987 Breeder's Cup Classic and was retired in 1989. In 1994 he was sold to a Japanese breeding farm and went through several facilities throughout Japan. In 2001 he ended up in the hands of Yoshikazu Watanabe, a horse dealer, and was removed from the Japanese horse registry on Sept. 1, 2002.

Ferdinand's story showed the need for a place like Old Friends, but Blowen was inspired long before that. "I'd always had horses and thought we could treat them better after racing and breeding," he said in an interview.

A gelding (a castrated horse) tends to have more options after racing while stallions get the short straw. "Stallions are considerably more difficult to take care of," Said Cindy Grisolia, an Old Friends director. Stallions are more territorial and headstrong, she said, and "Not everyone has the desire to take that on."

Blowen was more blunt: "At the end of the day, they weren't taking stallions." Saving them has become the mission of Old Friends, which has 14 race-winning stallions.
Another challenge Old Friends has taken on is repatriation, the process of bringing a horse back into the United States from a foreign country. Old Friends has successfully repatriated six horses since its founding and is gaining more momentum.

The newest celebrity staying at Old Friends after being repatriated is Silver Charm.

Blowen has an interesting history involving Silver Charm, foreshadowing his arrival. Silver Charm had always been Blowen's favorite horse to watch race. "He would look other horses in the eye and dare them to try and pass, but he never let them," Blowen said, with the notable exception of the Belmont Stakes. Silver Charm held the lead in the mile-and-a-half race until the just before the end, losing to Touch Gold.

Several years ago Blowen bought a small horse for $40 to save him from slaughter. He named this horse Little Silver Charm. Years later the former owners of Silver Charm wanted to repatriate their horse from Japan, and six years later, in December 2014, Silver Charm arrived at Old Friends.

Silver Charm is just one of many beautiful, prize-winning characters at Old Friends. Game On Dude, a gelding, left, came from California. "He is just the biggest puppy dog of a horse," said Grisolia. He quickly made a friend in Yankee Fourtune, and they now live in the same paddock, Grisolia said: "They lay together, drink and eat together, they play together."

Old Friends allows horses to live together if they exhibit friendship, Grisolia said, "Our farm manager, Tim Wilson, works very hard to create good relationships and safe relationships," and Wilson decided they would be a good match based on their personalities.

Another less likely friendship exists at Old Friends between Eldaafer and his paddock chums. Eldaafer, Arabic for "victorious," is the horse that came with friends: Yahoo and Google, two goats that live with him. "They cannot be separated,” Grisolia said. ”They are just joined at the hip and love each other."

Blowen recalled, "I made arrangements to get the horses and didn't remember anything about any goats! They said, 'We got your horse here, we will bring him in the morning,' and I said, 'great,' and he said, 'We got to bring his pals too."

Blowen said he accepted the goats because they were a package deal and life-long friends of Eldaafer. "He went crazy, literally crazy," Blowen said, when the goats got out one at a time. Yahoo is the only goat to ever attend four Breeder’s Cups to cheer on his friend.

Old Friends does not turn away any horses, Grisolia and Blowen said. "It’s our mission to not only support the all these horses but we support the breeding  industry,” Grisolia said. ”We support the Thoroughbred industry; we are racing fans."

Blowen wants horses to retire with the dignity they have earned. "When they retire they have no Social Security, no 401-K," he said. "We are the last leg.You're bred, you race, you retire.”
"We feel like we created the natural next step," said Grisolia.

Old Friends chaperones tours of the farm three times a day, between spring and early fall, depending on the weather. The farm receives about 20,000 tourists a year. Tourists can receive a tour from Blowen himself and can request to see any horse on the property as long as it is healthy.

"We just like people to come here and have fun," Blowen said.

Old Friends also is involved in community outreach with several schools and women's groups. Blowen is available for speaking engagements several times a year. For more information, visit www.oldfriendsequine.org.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Here is the Midway Fire Department's new engine

The Midway Fire Department is proud of its new $232,000 engine, which was delivered in February.
The engine, shown rolled out into Bruen Street on Tuesday evening, has been on about five runs but no fires, firefighters said.

The engine replaced one that was 43 years old and joined a slightly smaller one that is 11 years old. It was built by Sutphen Fire Apparatus of Dublin, Ohio, which won the bid last year. The current city budget has $125,000 for down payments, and the city has financed the rest for five years at 1.98 percent interest.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fire-hydrant flushing set for week of April 27 - May 1

The Midway Water Works Department will flush fire hydrants Monday, April 27, through Friday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Several fire hydrants in an area will be opened simultaneously to increase water flow, in order to clean out mineral deposits and sediment. Residents may notice cloudy water, but the cloudiness should pass shortly, and the water will be safe to drink. However, the water should be allowed to clear before doing laundry. "The City of Midway is not responsible for laundry being damaged during the hydrant-flushing period," says a notice from City Hall. For more information, call 846- 4413.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Midway and Versailles, on 4-2 votes, OK another try at emergency-management agreement with county

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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Council committee removes religious-freedom and free-speech exceptions from anti-discrimination ordinance

A city council committee decided Tuesday not to include in Midway's proposed "fairness ordinance" language similar to that of Indiana's "restoration of religious freedom" law and a provision that attempted to draw a line between freedom of expression and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee rejected language offered by city attorney Phil Moloney that said "No action taken under or required by this ordinance shall burden a person's freedom of religion" and "The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the government has a compelling interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest."

Moloney said the language, which means that the government can only intervene in disputes involving religious beliefs if it can prove it has a good reason and if it interferes as little as possible, was taken from a Kentucky law and a federal law.

Council Member Dan Roller, the committee chair, said he saw no need to include it. "The way it's written here allows you to discriminate," he said.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, who proposed the ordinance and sat in on the meeting, agreed. "You could never determine what a sincerely held religious belief is," he said. Vandegrift said some people believe that homosexuality is a sin, but "If you do, divorce is also a sin. Living together before you're married is a sin," and both those classes of people would be protected by the ordinance's ban on "familial status" discrimination. "I feel like this sin is being singled out. . . . It's the crux of the issue, to me."

Committee and Council Member Sara Hicks generally agreed, saying that protection of religious beliefs could go too far: "Some religious think you should stone a woman if someone rapes her."

Moloney said Danville's fairness ordinance, one of those from which the committee told him to draw, includes similar language. "This is your-all's decision," he said. "There's a delicate balancing act." He said issues with such ordinances "seem to come up in the service areas, when people are being asked to participate in activities or events or to disseminate a message that they disagree with because of religious beliefs," such as photography, cakes and floral arrangements for weddings.

Roller said, "I don't remember cakes or photography being discussed in the Bible, and I don't see how they're religious issues here, and I don't think we're writing a law to address religious issues. We're dealing with discrimination, is what we're dealing with here. And if there's a state law that is already a protection of religion, then that's a state law and they can go to the state for that. . . . It's the state's burden, not our burden."

Committee and Council Member Bruce Southworth replied, "Well, it would become our burden. If something was filed, the state law would have to come up. I'm just saying if there is a case, this is going to supersede it anyway. . . . It doesn't matter to me."

Roller asked if there has been any court cases involving the state law, and Moloney said he knew of none.

"Put it in or take it out; it doesn't matter," Southworth said. "To me, it's more of a moral issue than it is discrimination or anything else. . . . Everybody ought to be nice to everybody."

The rejected language is similar to part of the original version of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the state's legislature dropped after some state and national business leaders said it would allow businesses to discriminate. The final version of the Indiana law says it does not authorize anyone to refuse to provide services, public accommodations, housing, facilities, goods or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, U.S. military service, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

After the committee dealt with relatively minor corrections and future plans, and moved to adjourn, the Midway Messenger asked Moloney about the grammar and purpose of a section saying the ordinance would not apply "with regards to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity" to "Infringing upon the right of free speech- expression of a provider of goods or services not to be compelled to express a message with which they disagree."

Moloney said of the latter section, "I need to clean that up."

Vandegrift said he read the ungrammatical language to mean that "You don't have to provide services if you disagree with the message." He said it could apply to Ku Klux Klan T-shirts advocating "white power." In 2012, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission determined that a screen-printing firm had violated the city's fairness ordinance by refusing to print T-shirts for a gay pride event.

Moloney said that without such an exception, "basically you're compelling a person to participate in an event and to at least give the impression that they're promoting or advocating an activity that they may disagree with because of their religious beliefs." But he said such people could rely on the state law.

The committee agreed to remove the language.

Moloney said he might be able to complete the redrafting by Friday, in time to include it in the packet of materials for Monday night's council meeting. The committee agreed that action should be delayed until the local Human Rights Commission, which requested the ordinance, could review it, and until Vandegrift's promised public forum on the ordinance can be held.

"It's important that we really know what our Midway residents have to say about it," Hicks said.

If the council passes the ordinance, Midway would be the eighth Kentucky city with such a law, and the first to enact one since controversy about the law in Indiana and a similar one in Arkansas.

City council to begin budget deliberations at 5:30

The Midway City Council will begin consideration this evening of the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public, just like any other council meeting. A copy of the rough draft budget, which has not been balanced, can be downloaded by clicking here.

Committee decides not to recommend further conservation easement for land along Lee's Branch

A city council committee decided Monday evening that Midway should not give up control of seven wooded acres along Lee’s Branch in return for state money that can be used to make the tract usable by the public but maintain its natural state.

Two of the three members of the Cemetery and City Property Committee, Steven Craig and Libby Warfield, opposed the idea suggested by committee chair Sara Hicks and Zeb Weese of the state Land Heritage Conservation Fund, which could provide up to $15,000 for clearing and trailmaking.

Hicks said giving the state a conservation easement would further protect the property and attract tourists. She noted that the state fund has preserved no land in Woodford County, and that few towns have such property inside their borders.

Craig and Warfield said said they did not want to tie the hands of future city councils and mayors, and the property is already protected by a conservation easement that gave the city control of the land in 1991.

It prohibits “industrial and commercial activity” on the land but allows farming and “recreational activities approved by the City of Midway,” subject to certain requirements. It allows the city to build “facilities deemed necessary and appropriate by the City of Midway,” including access roads and “recreational and community facilities, and accessory structures,” including fences, which apparently could not be done under the state easement.

Hicks said that under the previous city administration, city employees mowed grass too close along the creek rather than maintaining the banks in a natural state. Warfield said, "We can stop them from doing those things."

Warfield displayed plans for a trail area, footbridge and Gratz Street improvements that were drawn in 2007, estimating construction costs of $122,000 to $171,000. She said there was no money for it at the time, but said she thought that the city would eventually have money for the project.

College announces new MBA specialties, other degrees

Midway College announced new graduate and undergraduate programs that will be offered beginning this summer.

 “The new programs are specializations within the existing Master of Business Administration in equine studies, health care administration and sport management,” the college said in a press release. A master of education program will also start this summer.

"Midway has offered an undergraduate Equine Studies degree for many years,” Dr. Charles Williams, dean of the School of Business, Equine and Sport Studies, said in the release. “We believe that the specialization of equine studies within our MBA program will be attractive to and beneficial for Kentucky's equine industry.”

Williams added, "Additionally the health care administration concentration within the MBA provides an important industry segment in our region."

The new undergraduate program is a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an area of concentration in alcohol and drug abuse counseling. “This concentration will add specific courses in substance abuse and counseling for graduates to obtain licensing as an alcohol and drug counselor in the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Ellen Gregory, the college's vice president of marketing and communications, said in the release. The psychology program will be offered on weekends in Hamburg at the college’s Lexington location, to better accommodate working students. 

The college said it is working on other areas of concentration for its MBA program, looking at degrees in health care. “These new programs will supplement other majors that were recently added including marketing communication and criminal justice,” the release said.

The College’s three-year strategic plan includes development of new programs. "Each time we add a new degree offering we look at what the regional needs are for employers and try to match those needs with degrees that lead to careers,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Laura Armesto. --Megan Ingros

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fairness ordinance draft has religious exceptions like Indiana law, and provision saying no message shall be compelled; mayor says they would defeat the purpose

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

City attorney Phil Moloney’s draft of an ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity includes language similar to that of Indiana's "restoration of religious freedom" law, which caused a national controversy.

Other language in the ordinance, which advocates call a "fairness ordinance," attempts to draw a line between freedom of expression and discrimination.

Grayson Vandegrift
The Midway Messenger requested a copy of the draft from Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, who proposed the ordinance but expressed strong reservations about the language that reflected the Indiana legislation.

Under Section Five of the draft, it would be illegal to deny "goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations "on the basis of "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation."

However, Section Five says it does not apply "with regards to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity" to such things as restrooms, dormitories and other facilities segregated by sex, and Section Five-E applies that exception to "Infringing upon the right of free speech- expression of a provider of goods or services not to be compelled to express a message with which they disagree." For a PDF of the draft, click here.

This exception means that a person or a business would not have to sell or make something if they disagree with the product's message. For example, Lexington T-shirt company Hands On Originals refused to print shirts for the annual Lexington Pride Festival in 2012. Later that year, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission determined that the company had violated the city's fairness ordinance by discriminating based on sexual orientation. Under Section Five of Midway's ordinance, that would not be a violation.

Phil Moloney (2011 photo)
Section Eight of the draft ordinance says, "No action taken under or required by this ordinance shall burden a person's freedom of religion." It goes on to say that "The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the government has a compelling interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest." This means that the government can only intervene in disputes involving religious beliefs if it can prove it has a good reason and if it interferes as little as possible.

The language in Section Eight is similar to part of the original version of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the Indiana legislature dropped after some business interests said it would allow businesses to discriminate against people in the LGBT community. Angie's List, which is based in Indianapolis, put off plans to expand its headquarters. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is openly gay, criticized the bill in a Washington Post piece, saying "This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings."

The final version of the Indiana law says it does not authorize anyone to refuse to provide services, public accommodations, housing, facilities, goods or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, U.S. military service, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The draft of the Midway ordinance does not include the original Section 9 of RFRA, which stated that "A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding." This would have allowed a person to use religious freedom as a defense in court.

Asked about the source of the language, Moloney said, "It's either language that I composed or it may have come from some other ordinances we had taken a look at."

Asked if any city council members had anything to do with the language, Moloney said, "I've had a committee member express some reservations."

The ordinance is being considered by the council’s Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, chaired by Council Member Dan Roller. Council Members Sara Hicks and Bruce Southworth are also on the committee.

Vandegrift emphasized that the ordinance is still in the draft phase, saying "I suspect the committee is gonna probably pull some things and probably add some things."

Vandegrift said he doesn't agree with all of the language in the two sections. "I don't want to speak for the committee, but in my opinion, [Section Five-E] and the passage in Section Eight kinda defeat the whole purpose of the ordinance."

The committee will meet Tuesday at 2 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the draft.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Flash flood warning issued for Woodford, Scott, Franklin and other counties; followed by flood advisory

UPDATE: The weather service canceled its flood warning at 11 p.m. but issued a flood advisory for eastern Woodford County through 2 a.m.; Paynes Mill Road is closed by high water.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for an area that includes Midway, the rest of Woodford County, Scott and Franklin counties and northern Fayette County.

At 5:52 p.m. Wednesday NWS said its Doppler radar "indicated very heavy rainfall from repeated thunderstorms over the warned area." The warning said the affected areas included Georgetown.

Other parts of the warned area are Harrison and Nicholas counties, southern Shelby County and eastern Spencer County. The warning is in effect until midnight EDT.

The rain is falling on ground already saturated from rains last week, which Woodford Sun correspondent John McDaniel said raised water to record levels in Midway, and more recently. From 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. today, more than four and a half inches of rain fell in a small area along US 421 in Woodford and Franklin counties, an NWS map showed.

"Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches are possible in the warned area over the next few hours," the warning said. "Do not drive your vehicle into areas where the water covers the roadway. The water depth may be too great to allow your car to cross safely. Move to higher ground. Report flooding to local law enforcement. Post your report to the National Weather Service Louisville facebook page or tweet your report using #lmkspotter."

Mayor says he's disheartened by county's ending of emergency-management talks; flood issues discussed

By Paige Hobbs
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council meeting Monday night focused on emergency management. The agency’s budget and the joint mass notification system, Everbridge, were at the top of the list. The council also discussed issues raised by recent flooding.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he was sending the proposed emergency management budget to the council’s finance committee for review before asking the full council members to make a decision. The negotiations between the City of Versailles, Woodford County, and the City of Midway were ended last week by the fiscal court, which wants more money for the program.

Funding for the program has been debated since last summer. Under state law, Midway has until July 1 to establish its own program or form a joint program.

Vandegrift said it was vote of 5-4 last week in fiscal court that ended the negotiations, thus telling Midway it must pay an extra $200 a month or start its own program.

“The five who voted to basically say ‘This is it, take it or leave it,’ they believe they are doing what is right. . . . However, I want to give a special thanks to Magistrate [Linda] Popp, our magistrate . . . Magistrate Gill, Magistrate Dotson, and Magistrate Gardner, who by voting against that meant ‘Let’s keep negotiating’,” said Vandegrift. Popp was at the council meeting.

“So I’m giving a special thanks with the caveat that I do believe that the other five are doing what they believe is right,” Vandegrift said. “But I believe we are trying to form a new relationship with the county and we’re trying to say ‘Let’s negotiate and talk.’ And that vote is a little disheartening. Because what it told me is that we’re going to stop talking. That’s not the way I think the City of Midway wants to do things, personally.”

Vandegrift said the finance committee will review the budget and the options and report back to the full council during a budget workshop on April 14.

System offers alerts about emergencies, weather, community happenings

In a related matter, Vandegrift said the county and Versailles have already signed into the joint agreement for the mass notification system, Everbridge. Midway’s contribution to the program would be $1,430. Versailles has agred to pay $4,390 and the county has agreed to pay $7,842,

Everbridge, for which only 5 percent of Midway residents have signed up, allows citizens to opt in for alerts about emergencies, weather advisories and warnings and other topics via text messages, email, social media, telephone calls and other methods. Citizens have the option to exclude certain alerts and times, except for tornado warnings. They can sign up at www.woodfordalerts.com.

Council Member Libby Warfield asked what could be done to publicize this program more.

Deputy Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler, representing the local Emergency Planning Committee, said the committee had already spent $5,000 on a public service campaign, including newspaper advertising that has not been completed, to get the word out. “We are taking a proactive approach,” he said. 

Vandegrift said, “It is a good program; I get these calls before any other notification. Why we can’t get people to sign up, I don’t know.”

Council Member Sarah Hicks suggested making signups available at the library.

Chandler said the dispatch center has more than 10,000 phone numbers in its 911 database.  Despite the low opt-in rate, Chandler said dispatch can still make emergency notifications to almost all residents, and the opt-in system for additional alerts can reach 200 phones in a matter of minutes.

Vandegrift noted that Midway is not set up for that function. Chandler said, “If we can get the customer data base in an Excel format (a software program used to organize data) . . . that can be done for Midway,” said Chandler.

Assistant City Clerk Diane Shepard expressed concern about sharing citizens’ cell-phone information to fill in the database. “If we take someone’s cell phone number here we promise we won’t give that out and we won’t use it for anything,” she said. “I think they should be the ones that opt in. That’s the reason we haven’t provided that information to you all.” (Shepard was filling in for City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson, who was absent due to the death of her sister.) 

Chandler agreed that if a cell-phone number is given, the confidence in privately sharing that information should not be violated. No cell phone information given in confidence will be shared with the data base unless citizens choose to do so themselves, he said.

Emergency Management Director Keith Slugantz said he wanted to go ahead and build the database so citizens could sign up to get alerts on their cell phones. 333-0046

Flooding raises issues

Vandegrift noted that due to the flooding last week, two fences were knocked down by the debris carried by floodwaters in the dog park. The park, which was privately funded and built through an Eagle Scout project, is owned by the city.

Hicks said the park isn’t in the healthiest location. During heavy rains, “It becomes a muck pool,” she said. ”It’s not the best location because it doesn’t have drainage. I want the dog park to be replaced but would like for us to re-think the location.”

Vandegrift offered the options of putting the park in the city budget or seeking private funding. “We’ll get on it and weigh our options further on down the road,” he said.

Warfield brought up another issue raised by the flooding, asking why the fire department does not help citizens pump water out of their basements when it floods. Council Member Steven Craig said that it could be a liability to do so, and that the fire department does not have the proper equipment.

Council Member Daniel Roller said, “I think it could be great if they could provide safety information.”

Council Member Bruce Southworth suggested having the fire chief and water and sewer superintendent attend council meetings once a month to provide updates.

In other business, the council passed a motion by Southworth that Midway Station developer Dennis Anderson pay for a city inspector to review infrastructure for the housing development he is to begin in part of the failed industrial park this year.

Southworth told the Messenger after the meeting that in Anderson’s development of the Green Gables commercial area on the south side of Interstate 64, some valves were not installed and some of the pipes weren’t three feet deep as required.

The council adopted a motion by Warfield to donate $250 for supplies and staff time for the Main Street Clean Sweep program to be conducted by Bluegrass Greensource on Earth Day, April 22.

The non-profit environmental educational organization is offering the program in 17 cities across Central Kentucky. Environmental Educator and Volunteer Coordinator Ashley Bryant-Cheney said there are 14 staff members working on this event and they are expecting 1,000 participants.

“I think this is a very good program,” said Warfield. “If you get children involved in picking up litter, hopefully, when they become adults they won’t be throwing down litter. . . . They will remember the next time they think of throwing something out of the car.”

The 17 cities participating are Midway, Versailles, Nicholasville, Wilmore, Harrodsburg, Burgin, Frankfort, Cynthiana, Georgetown, Lancaster, Richmond, Stanford, Winchester, Paris, Stamping Ground, Irvine, and Sadieville. More information can be found at bggreensource.org.

The council scheduled four meetings for next week. The Cemetery and City Property Committee will meet Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m., to continue discussions about the wooded area along Lee’s Branch at the foot of Gratz Street.

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee will meet Tuesday, April 14, at 2 p.m. to discuss a draft fairness ordinance with city attorney Phil Moloney.

A budget workshop will be held Tuesday, April 14, at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a progress meeting for the Higgins Street water project Wednesday, April 15, at 10 a.m.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Flash floods raise streams; creek threatens restaurant

South Elkhorn Creek was so high at 11 a.m. that there was only a hint of the Weisenberger Mill dam.

Severe weather dropped a significant amount of water into the Midway area last night and this morning. The rising of South Elkhorn Creek seems have caused the disappearance of the Weisenberger Mill dam. Later in the day, water rise and blocked the road.

The creek covered Old Frankfort Pike (KY 1681) at the Faywood bridge and was threatening Rachel's Kitchen, WKYT-TV reported. The road was also blocked a short distance to the east, just across the Fayette County line. See comments from area residents on this Facebook page. UPDATE: The restaurant prevented flooding with sandbags at its front door.

A man who answered the phone at the Woodford County Road Department at about 12:15 p.m. said he had not heard of any roads closed by high water. The man declined to give his name but said water levels in the area were dropping. However, rain returned and other road closures were reported in the late afternoon, including Leestown Pike (US 421) at the eastern railroad underpass in Fayette County.

The National Weather Service posted a flood warning through 2:45 p.m. and a flash flood watch until 8 p.m. The weather station at the Lexington airport reported that 3.37 inches of rain fell there between 2 and 8 a.m. For further updates, the station webpage is here.

The weather service said thunderstorms are expected in the area well into the afternoon. Some storms could be strong to severe including damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and even hail. --Rashad Bigham

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Committee to continue discussing recreational use of wooded area along Lee's Branch

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13 at City Hall to continue its discussion about improvements to the nature trail along Lee's Branch near the city park, according to a notice from the city, which says no action will be taken.

Advisory committee leans away from ending new Versailles bypass at Midway Road intersection

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Transportation Cabinet chart
The Citizens Advisory Committee for the proposed northwest bypass of Versailles leaned toward ending it at the north end of the existing bypass rather than US 62, Midway Road, at a meeting Thursday night.

Three out of five proposed alternative routes for the Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor would connect directly to U.S. 62, but only one of them got a favorable vote from the committee, and the combined vote on those three alternatives was 12 for and 22 against, with 30 abstentions. Here are the alternative routes:
Leaders in Midway, as well as some in Versailles, are opposed to having the bypass connect to U.S. 62 due to safety concerns.

Committee members voted on each of the five alternatives, as well as two others that would merge two of the alternatives.

Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 would have slightly different south ends but would all connect directly to U.S. 62 on the north end. Alternative 2 received five positive and six negative votes with nine abstentions. Alternative 4 only received one positive vote, along with 10 negative votes and nine abstentions. Alternative 3 did the best of these, receiving six positive and two negative votes with 12 abstentions.

Alternative 1 got eight positive and two negative votes, but also 10 abstentions. It would connect to US 60 at the end of the existing northeastern bypass, just past Woodford County High School.

The only alternative to receive more positive votes than negative votes and abstentions was a combination of the beginning of Alternate 3 and the ending of Alternate 1. Thus, the clearly favored north end was at the northwest end of the existing bypass.

Alternative 5 did the worst of all. It only received one positive vote, along with 16 negative votes and three abstentions. It would run from Falling Springs Boulevard to US 60 northwest of US 62 and about a mile past the existing bypass.

Here is a view looking west with north at the right, with routes and property lines superimposed:
Some leaders support a "no-build" option, in which safety measures would be taken instead of building the bypass. At a Midway City Council meeting on March 2, Council Member Daniel Roller said, "No-build does not mean do nothing. It means do something to improve the volume of traffic flow in Versailles."

Some of the suggested improvements were to make road repairs elsewhere in Woodford County, to increase signage along US 60 near the Bluegrass Parkway exit, and to improve safety by moving the “Federal AAA trucking highway” designation of the Midway Road portion from U.S. 62 to U.S. 60.

Both suggestions were also included in a Feb. 28 letter sent to the committee by the Corridor Study Group, comprising various organizations in Woodford County, listing concerns about the bypass. One read, "There is the probability of increased traffic and reduced safety on Midway Road, and in the town of Midway." The Midway City Council endorsed the letter.

U.S. 62 has only two lanes, has narrow shoulders making it difficult to safely pull over, and is lined by trees, fences, and stone walls along most of the route from Versailles to Midway.

According to The Woodford Sun, committee members present Thursday night included Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift; former mayor Tom Bozarth; Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott; Versailles City Council Member Carl Ellis; Versailles Assistant Police Chief James Fugate; Paul Simmons, Versailles assistant public works director; Woodford County Magistrate C.L. Watts; county Road Engineer Buan Smith; Gene Hornback, Woodford County Economic Development Authority; County School Supt. Scott Hawkins; Billy Van Pelt II, Woodford Forward; Gary T. Priest; Bill Barrows; Thomas R. Brown; Hoppy Henton, and Libby Jones of Midway.

The Transportation Cabinet says it will consider the committee's opinion in choosing three alternatives to be presented at a meeting for the general public in September. The committee will review the public's comments, and the cabinet and the Burgess & Niple engineering firm will choose a preferred alternative for the committee to review, probably in December.

The Transportation Cabinet distributed a questionnaire at the meeting, which must be returned by Nov. 14. To download a PDF of the questionnaire, click here. For a PDF of Burgess & Niple's PowerPoint presentation at the meeting, click here. For the cabinet brochure handed out at the meeting, click here. For the meeting agenda, click here. The cabinet's website for the project is here.