Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Renaissance is bouncing back; annual membership meeting brings encouraging reports, new ideas

By Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Renaissance has come through conflict and a two-year lull but the civic group “is alive and well,” President Jim Wombles said at its annual membership meeting Monday night.

The organization has money in the bank, regular committee meetings, ideas for 2016 and a new contract with Midway University for their Francisco’s Farm Art Festival to stay on campus through May 2019.

In 2011, the festival was relocated to Equus Run Vineyeards, which displeased merchants because it would reduce business during that weekend. This was a result of Midway University’s previous administration declining to sign a long-term contract in 2008. That came on top of conflict with the previous city administration.

The festival returned to the campus in 2014 and will be held on May 21 and 22 this year.  Under the new contract, Renaissance will pay the university $5,000 annually and keep the rest of the proceeds from the event.

Renaissance Treasurer Leslie Penn reported that the festival account has $13,971.72, the general account $5,934.69 and the GreenSpace account $3,255.14.

The top of the web page for the annual arts festival
Volunteers will be needed to make the festival a success, Wombles said. The festival committee meets the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the university’s Anne Hart Raymond Center. The Renaissance board meets there at 7 p.m. on second Wednesdays.

Wombles announced that Renaissance is now eligible for federal contracts and grants, and board members have $1 million in liability insurance.

He said that when the group met last year on March 30, it had not filed taxes in two years and risked losing its federal tax exemption. The members elected a board and formed committees that have been meeting regularly. Wombles thanked Penn for her help on the tax exemption, which he said “was not easy.”

The Renaissance board is looking to form other committees and ways of fundraising to continue to make the festival and its GreenSpace efforts successes.

Wombles said he board would like to add four members so not all members’ three-year terms expire at the same time. After three members declined nomination, Katie Vandegrift accepted and was elected. She is the wife of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.

Besides her, Penn and Wombles, the other board members are Kim Skeeter, Kenny Smith, John Holloway, John Maybriar, Jo Blease, Debra Shockley, Joy Arnold and Dee Dee Roach. The board is still looking for three more members.

Wombles said Renaissance needs to focus its efforts on the arts, even if it costs a little money. "Any success that we have had has to do with art," he said. "We have an opportunity to build on the arts."

Kenny Smith, owner of Kennydid Gallery, introduced an idea for public art. He displayed a poster-size photo of a mural in Wilmington, Ohio, that had been seen by Peggy Angel, owner of Steppin’ Out Boutique. Smith said it would be great to have something similar in Midway to help attract tourists. He said he has talked to building owners and has discussed a potential location of City Hall facing Winter Street.
Kenny Smith showed a photo of the Ohio mural as Jim Wombles and other Renaissance members watched.
Smith said the Board of Architectural Review for the Midway Historic District told him that a mural would be approved as long as it is not on the front of the building, has no advertising and has historic qualities.

"I spoke to the artist who did the mural in Wilmington and he charges $50 per square foot, so it will cost some money," said Smith. "We will have to plan for maintenance as well. We have to make sure 
we have enough money to maintain it after it is done."

The group also discussed old ideas, such as creating a trail across the creek leading to Northside Drive and finding money to pay a Main Street manager; and new ones, such as jam sessions that will be held on Sundays starting in May, as well as youth nights and a car show.

Chili cook-off, a much-anticipated local event, draws 17 entries; Burchells win first and third places

Children slurped chili as adults lined up to get their fill at the Christian Church's annual Chili Cook-Off.
There were plenty of "fixins" to go with chili.

Story and photos by Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Christian Church’s annual Chili Cook-Off was a hit Monday night, after the cold, wintry weekend.

This year’s cook-off, part of the church’s monthly free dinner for the community, brought out 17 of Midway’s best pots of chili and a crowd of about 70 people.

Not all were from Midway, such as Judy Jones of Lexington. “I haven’t been in a couple months because I went back to Chicago,” she said, “but I have been coming out to Midway for decades.”

The room was full of laughter and full bellies waiting for the decision of the judges: Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and City Council Members Bruce Southworth and Kaye Nita Gallagher. They sampled each of the recipes and tallied up the scores to pick their winner.

Winner Phil Burchell displays his chili label.
"We all tried them and then rated each one privately, 1 through 10, and whittled them down. Then we narrowed them down to the top three," said Vandegrift.

The winner was Phil Burchell with his “Old Lions Club” specialty. Second place went to Gloria Batts and third went to Sharon Burchell, wife of the winner. The judges gave an honorable mention to Bart Shockley for his super spicy recipe.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” said Vandegrift. “How often can you say you ate 17 different chilis in one night and lived to tell the tale.”

The community dinners are held on the last Monday of each month. Not only do these events bring out a crowd, they are backed by a community effort.

“A lot of the food is donated and some people make donations to the community dinner account,” said chef Ouita Michel. “Sometimes we have fresh vegetables from the community garden.”

The community dinner has become a tradition for those who can attend. For shut-ins, meal deliveries are available. If you or someone you know is in need of a warm meal delivered to their front door you can call the church at 846-4102.

“The Chili Cook-off is always the most fun dinner to come to,” Vandegrift said, “and everyone kind of looks forward to the cook-off in January.”

Roller not running for council seat; McDaniel, Simoff join other incumbents in race; former signed latter's papers

John McDaniel and Steve Simoff in City Hall, where they hope to serve.
Seven people are running for the six seats on the Midway City Council, but the council will have at least one new face because Dan Roller did not join the other council members in filing for re-election.

The non-incumbents running are Steve Simoff, who filed last week, and John McDaniel, who entered on Tuesday, the filing deadline. Incumbents Steven Craig, Sarah Hicks, Bruce Southworth, Libby Warfield and Kaye Nita Gallagher filed last week.

Because fewer than 13 candidates filed for the six council seats, there will be no primary election. The non-partisan election will be held Nov. 8.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift is not up for re-election this year because mayors serve four-year terms. Council members serve two-year terms. Roller told the Messenger that he is not running because three terms is long enough for him.

McDaniel, who lives in the 100 block of West Stephens St., is well known in Midway as the local correspondent for The Woodford Sun and a former police officer. Simoff, who lives in the 400 block of Merrywood Drive, is a racing steward and judge. Both are 66 years old.

McDaniel, on Jan. 12, was the last of 12 people to sign Simoff's nominating petition. The first signer, on Jan. 9, was Helen Rentch, followed by Judy and Crittenden Rawlings on Jan. 11.

McDaniel said in an interview that he had already decided to run when he signed Simoff's petition, and didn't consider that a contradiction because "There's more than one seat."

He said he is running because "I've got ideas [of running] for some other office, not mayor," and wants to see how he can do. He declined to reveal his longer-range plan, but said, "I've probably been to more city council meetings than all of them put together. I started going when I was 10." His father, John William McDaniel Jr, was Midway's sole police officer for years.

McDaniel's brother, Jim, was the first to sign his petition, followed by Amanda and Ken Glass.

Simoff said he and McDaniel are friends, and "I knew that he was going to run," but that had nothing to do with asking him to sign the petition. "I think the people in the town respect him, and I respect him," he said.

Simoff said he moved to Midway in the 1980s and recently opened Horse Country Cottage, a vacation rental, at 424 S. Winter St. He said he has wanted to be on a city council since he was a child in Orient, Iowa, population 400, and his father took him to council meetings.

Asked why he is running, Simoff said, "I don't have any qualms with anybody who's on" the council. "I just want to take my time as a public servant if the public wants me to serve."

Zeb Weese gives advice on how to keep natural areas at church's first Environmental Action Forum

By Leah Sharp
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway resident Zeb Weese, coordinator of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, discussed how to manage Kentucky’s natural areas during the first Environmental Action Forum at the Midway Presbyterian Church on the night of Jan. 21.

Zeb Weese discussed Kentucky's natural areas during the first
Environmental Action Forum Jan. 21. (Photo by Leah Sharp)
Weese, a conservation biologist, told the group that about 727 species are endangered in Kentucky. That appeared to shock the crowd of 23, judging from their facial expressions.

As an example of how an endangered species can become extinct, he cited the American chestnut tree, only a few of which remain due to a blight imported from Asia.

“Chestnuts are gone forever,” Weese said. “No matter what kind of management we do they are not coming back.”

Weese discouraged his audience from using fallen trees for firewood, suggesting that a dead tree should stay put.  “It is meant to rot,” he said, adding that this would help keep natural areas natural without really having to do much.

Weese demonstrated how citizens could work together to manage the natural areas remaining in Kentucky, which is heavily privately owned. “Less than 7.5 percent of Kentucky is state or federally protected,” he said, noting the limited funding for the state to help owners manage woodlands, which cover more than 40 percent of the state.

That is much less than in the 1800s, when Kentucky looked much different than it does today, Weese said. He explained that while driving we see “tons of trees,” but the forests on the roadsides “only last a couple feet. Behind those trees are neighborhoods.”

Weese earnestly suggested that citizens work on small parts at a time. “If you focus on a small area it is easier to keep up rather than a big area to later on give up,” he said.

The church has scheduled four more environmental forums. The next one, on Feb. 18, will be conducted by Dr. Joshua Adkins, whose topic will be “Bugs and Weeds: Invasive Species and Aquatic Systems.”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

This month's community dinner will include annual chili cook-off; Midway Renaissance will meet afterward

The annual chili cook-off will provide food for the monthly community dinner at Midway Christian Church from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday.

The cook-off gives everyone a chance to taste chili and get a free dinner. There is still time to enter your pot of chili and there will be prizes for the winners but if you don't feel like entering a pot you can come out and enjoy the company. For more information call the church at 846-4102.

Midway Renaissance to hold annual membership meeting: Following the community dinner, Midway Renaissance will hold its annual membership meeting. It is open to anyone and residents are encouraged to attend.  --Tiffany Broughton

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kentucky American Water offers grants for protection of source waters or the area's watershed

Kentucky American Water Co., which supplies water to Midway's city system, is accepting applications for American Water environmental grants.

The program offers funds for innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies through partnerships, Kentucky American said in a press release. Last year, the company awarded $9,200 for two projects, bringing to $174,000 the total of awards it has made under the program.

Applications must be postmarked by April 1. To qualify, proposed projects must:
• Address a need for protecting source waters or the watershed
• Be completed between May 1 and Nov. 30, 2016
• Be a new or innovative program for the community, or serve as a significant expansion to an existing program
• Be carried out by a formal or informal partnership between two or more organizations
• Provide evidence of sustainability (continued existence after the grant monies are spent)
• Be located within Kentucky American Water’s service area.

Information and application requirements are at http://www.amwater.com/corporate-responsibility/addressing-climatevariability/environmental-grant-program.html. Recipients will be notified by April 18, 2016.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Midway Presbyterian Church schedules monthly environmental forums through May, starting tonight

By Leah Sharp
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Presbyterian Church is starting an Environmental Action Forum and has scheduled five monthly meetings starting tonight, Thursday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the fellowship hall.

The lead speaker for Thursday’s event will be Zeb Weese of Midway, who will speak about preserving natural areas, which is his job in state government.

The church’s announcement says the forums are for people who care about the world to talk about Mother Nature and what we can do to help keep our world beautiful. 

These meetings are free of charge and include light refreshments and child care.

The other dates and speakers, all at 6:30 p.m., are:
  • Feb. 18: “Invasive Species and our Waterways,” Dr. Joshua Adkins, Transylvania University 
  • March 17: “Homeowner Basics for Healthy Streams: A River of Words,” Dr. Amanda Gumbert, University of Kentucky
  • April 21: “Bat Ecology and Conservation.”  Dr. Luke Dodd, Eastern Kentucky University
  • May 19: “Kentucky’s Rare and Native Plants,” Tara Littlefield, Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Council OKs 7th Iron Horse Half Marathon for Oct. 16; sees plat showing outline of new factory

By Katherine Stach and Stepper Toth
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council approved an event permit for the seventh Iron Horse Half Marathon, to be held Oct. 16, at its meeting Tuesday night.

This year’s race will be the largest ever, with 2,000 signups allowed, race coordinator Chuck Griffis told the council. “We have about a 25 percent no show on race day, so even by adding 200, we probably only increase the number of finishers by 75.” In the first race in 2010, there were 710 finishers. Last year, there were 1,373.

The race has gained popularity in recent years, being named 21st out of Runner’s World Magazine’s top 28 half marathons in the United States. “We do a lot of races and this is by far the most successful,” said John Sensing, owner of John’s Run/Walk Shop in Lexington, the race’s sponsor.

In previous years, the race has prevented some of the city’s residents from making it to church on time, which remains a concern of city officials. However, the race made adjustments a few years ago to avoid traffic blockages, and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he got only one complaint this year, a month after the event.

“I know there’s always going to be people inconvenienced by this,” Vandegrift said, but he told Griffis, “You all do a great job.”

Griffis said his staff will continue with efforts to educate the community on any problems they may encounter concerning the race. “We will continue to make every effort we can to open every channel of communications to let more and more people know exactly what to expect that day,” he said. “We're always looking for more input.”

Griffis said his staff will continue distributing pamphlets twice before the race. “We do this in an effort to let everyone know what exactly is going on that day, including the time frame and the interruptions they can expect,” he said. 

As a token of appreciation for their work with the race, John’s donated $1,250 each to the city, to the Midway Ministerial Association, and to the Versailles police and the Woodford County Sheriff's Department for their “Cops for Kids” program.

The Woodford Humane Society, which provides 75 to 100 volunteers for the race, received $10,000, Griffis said.

“The people of these organizations are some of the best I’ve worked with in 25 years and we truly could not do this without them,” he said at the meeting.

Walkers and runners are welcome, as long as a 14-minute per mile pace is kept. Volunteering is also an option if you would like to participate but do not want to run or walk. If interested, visit info@ironhorsehalfmarathon.com.

Griffis noted that on Saturday, Oct. 15, the day before his event, the annual Bourbon Chase will come through Midway. It's a 200-mile relay race along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with teams and causes fewer traffic issues than the half marathon.

In other business, the council appointed Mary Raglin to the county Human Rights Commission, succeeding Helen Rentch, who had served the limit of two terms; and approved an encroachment permit for the entrances on McKinney Avenue to the lot on Georgetown Road where American Howa Kentucky will build an auto-parts factory.
North is at the top of this plat. Georgetown Road is to the left, just outside the image. The factory is the large rectangle.
The plat for the 15-acre lot revealed the exact location and dimensions of the plant, which will be 102,000 square feet with another 51,764 square feet available for expansion. The entrance nearest Georgetown Road will be a “Y” to avoid covering the vaults where the new Kentucky American Water Co. supply line joins the city system. That will also create a direct intersection for traffic exiting Midway Station to cross McKinney Avenue onto the factory lot.

The council also heard County Clerk Sandy Jones explain that the city would have to pass an ordinance in order to avoid having a primary election if more than 12 people filed for the six council seats, which apparently has ever happened. It's too late to pass an ordinance for this year’s elections, since the filing deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 26, but Vandegrift said it should be done for the next two-year council term.

Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the council's special committee to consider sidewalk policies and improvements, said the panel would meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Justice was the theme of this year's community service on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

Pastor Rick Smith gave a sermon
Story and photos by Anyssa Roberts
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Justice was the theme for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. community service on Monday evening.

Pilgrim Memorial Baptist Church hosted the event organized by the Midway Ministerial Association. The audience was an ethnically diverse mix of about 30 people.

The speaker was Pastor Rick Smith of the Second Christian Church in Midway, who delivered a sermon entitled "With This Faith: Faith in Action." Smith said it was inspired not only by Dr. King, but by the silent cries of underrepresented people in his own community.

“What really drives the heart of the message is justice; people who have no voice, have no face, those living on the outside fringes of our society,” he said, “and to empower people with the power to change the system.”

Smith said in his sermon that Dr. King’s fight for action didn’t end with the dream expressed in his “I Have A Dream” speech. He called on the congregation to continue King’s work, and to take heed of how one man’s faith in action could enact justice in the world.

Smith said that he was inspired by the Black Lives Matters movement across the nation and by the work of the Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-action organization. BUILD is a community organization of 20 religious congregations in Lexington.

According to Smith, the group has a mission to give voices to underrepresented people in the community and to work to solve those problems. Last year the group had been investigating and researching violent crimes in Lexington, Smith said, in order to address the issue in the community.

“That’s what Martin Luther King was about,” Smith said, “He was actually empowering people to change systems.” King was also a strong advocate for building community relationships among various ethnic groups.

A choir sang to conclude the service at Pilgrim Baptist Church
Elder William C. Wright of Pilgrim Baptist said he was pleased by the message of the evening as well as the diversity and togetherness of the many churches involved in the service that he saw that night.

“Even though we worship in different ways and even though we come from different denominations, it gives us a chance to get together and to rejoice in the Lord,” Wright said.

To conclude the service, the congregation stood and sang in unison the lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The lyrics that spoke of perseverance, faith and hope rang within the church walls. The lyrics were representative of the words of Pastor Smith and a reminder of the work of the civil rights movement and the fight for justice.

“Every life matters,” Smith said, “but it’s the lives that don’t have a voice – the voiceless, nameless people – those are the issues that my speech came from.”

Friday, January 15, 2016

MLK Day celebration at Pilgrim Baptist Monday night

The Midway Ministerial Association invites the entire community to remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the annual memorial service at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, at Pilgrim Baptist Church.

For more than 10 years, this service has brought together members of the community from varied ethnic backgrounds to celebrate the impact of Dr. King and the civil rights movement.

The history of race relations in Midway is generally positive, said one community member at the MLK Day service in 2014, even though schools were segregated for nearly a century.

The services involve members of the community and seeks to educate them on the lives of African Americans during that time, said an attendant at the 2014 service.

In keeping with the annual tradition, the service will include performances honoring Dr. King and a word of meditation from participants in the church community.

For more information about the service, contact Pilgrim Baptist Church at 846-4112. --Anyssa Roberts

Monday, January 11, 2016

City Property Committee to meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting notice says the committee will discuss "City Property Goals for 2016" and "No action will be taken." All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Two from Midway, five from Versailles and six from Georgetown on fall dean's list at Midway University

Two students from Midway are among those on the Midway University dean's list for the fall 2015 semester: Raven Rape and Kristina Thompson. The list also includes five from Versailles: Irene Alcaraz-Perez, Sara Fields, Kathryn Gosnell, Tania Orihuela and Michelle Varner. Georgetown had six: Corey Blevins, Courtney Blythe, Rebekah Hamilton, Kayla Palmer, Joseph Shrewsberry and Erica Sims. In order to be named to the list, a student must be classified as full time and have a 3.6 grade point average for the semester. For the complete list, click here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mayor says city needs to invest regularly in water and sewer repairs, but in streets and sidewalks this year

Midway's financial outlook is strong, but the city needs to start investing regularly in replacement of its old water and sewer lines, while making sidewalks and streets this year's top priorities, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the city council Monday evening.

"We have to resist the urge of putting these projects off," Vandegrift said. "I think it’s appropriate that I use a train metaphor: let’s say every project we do is like a train going forward on the tracks, as each project is completed that train gets off at a spur and another train gets on and takes its place. We need to always make sure that there is a parallel track with a water and sewer line train running alongside it. It’s going to be a longer track but we can’t forget about the train that’s on it."

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift
Vandegrift's remarks were part of an annual report that all mayors in cities with the mayor-council form of government are required to make at least annually, according to a Kentucky law that is apparently little known. Vandegrift, who is starting his second year as mayor. said before the meeting that even if he were not required to do it, "It's a good organizing tool."

Vandegrift said the city's recent audit report made clear that it is in good financial condition, "and there is a lot of reason to believe it's going to get even stronger," with the coming of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts factory that will employ 54 people. "AHK is likely to be the first of several light industrial clients at that site, and they are the perfect anchor for industrial development at Midway Station," the mayor said. "With all of this it is very possible that we will begin to experience a sea change in our revenue stream over the next several years."

The prospect of more development also poses challenges, Vandegrift said: "We are going to have to remain vigilant in making sure that all new development is sustainable and at a steady pace so that it never infringes upon what makes Midway special. We also still have water and sewer infrastructure that needs updating, sidewalks that need repair, and roads that need resurfacing."

The mayor said "the cost and difficulty" of replacing some water lines on Higgins Street showed that a "complete overhaul of Midway's oldest water and sewer lines is more than likely to take 10 to 20 years to complete. . . . But in the more immediate future, I think our primary focus this year needs to be on roads and sidewalks. We need to allocate money in the next fiscal year’s budget for paving more roads, with Northside Drive being the first priority. We also need to develop a comprehensive sidewalk plan, which a committee of the council has already begun work on. We need a clear policy on how we will encourage and/or assist property owners in repairing the sidewalks around the city that have become dangerous to public safety."

For Vandegrift's full report, click here.

Among other business, the council voted to waive certain requirements needed for sale of the 15 acres on which AHK will build, with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority posting a bond to be set by the Planning Commission. The tract does not have a final plat or sewer line, which the commission requires for sale of industrially zoned property.

The council also held first reading of an ordinance rezoning a lot at 327 Smith Street, which Vandegrift said had somehow not been properly zoned for decades. He said the property is being sold but the lender won't close until the zoning is residential, and the buyer is facing a possible increase in the mortgage interest rate, so the council agreed to hold a special meeting at 5:30 Thursday to give second reading and final approval to the ordinance.