Saturday, October 29, 2016

Candidates for state representative disagree on Versailles bypass, state pensions, backgrounds

By Claire Johnson and Elizabeth Allen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The candidates for state representative from Woodford County in the Nov. 8 election disagree on building another Versailles bypass, and on the incumbent’s background and his work on the state pension problem.

Fister and Kay appeared at a Frankfort forum. (State Journal photo)
Democratic Rep. James Kay and Republican challenger Dan Fister are both from Versailles. The 56th District also includes much of Franklin County and part of Fayette County.

Fister recently endorsed a northwest Versailles bypass that could funnel traffic toward Midway, which opposes the project.

“I think a lot of the fear Midway has about traffic is – I don’t want to say is unfounded, but I think they’re a little too worried about it,” Fister said. “I don’t think it’s going to be what they think it is.”

Much of the concern is about truck traffic. “I don’t see a lot of that heavy traffic going that direction,” Fister said. “Now they will maybe say they’re headed towards [Interstate] 64 at that point, but I think they would tend to go to Lexington if they’re going south or further east and go towards Frankfort if they’re going back the other direction.”

Kay says the state does not have the money for the estimated $30 million project, especially when Woodford County has so many other infrastructure problems, including potholes and crumbling shoulders on Midway Road.

“I want to have as many citizens on board to support the project before we move ahead and spend money that we don’t have,” Kay said. “My challenge to my opponent is to tell me which taxes he would raise so that we can afford a bypass.” Taxes on motor fuels support the Road Fund.

Fister, who manages rental property on Main Street in Versailles, said his tenants are having trouble making payments due to lack of business.

“We are systematically destroyed downtown,” Fister said. “We have a lot of big trucks and a lot of heavy traffic that should not be there.” He fears heavy traffic is damaging old buildings, “built in a time when the heaviest things on the road were a horse-drawn wagon.”

While the bypass is a key issue for Midway voters, Kentucky’s pension problem is also a prominent issue for both Fister and his opponent. The 56th District includes a small part of Fayette County and a large part of Franklin County, and includes many state employees.

The 56th House District is in blue.
Kentucky has the worst funded pension system in the nation.

Kay pre-filed two bills in September to address the issue. One would fund legislators’ retirement through state employees’ retirement system; the other would create more transparency in the system’s finances.

Fister said the bill does not provide enough transparency, and said Kay opposed Republicans’ 2016 Senate Bill 2, but drew from it for the new legislation. “He cut and pasted little parts of that out and copied it over,” Fister said.

Kay passed on the bill when a House committee approved it. House Democratic leaders did not allow a floor vote on it. He told the Midway Messenger that he passed because it “gave the governor total control over the retirement systems.” His bill would have added a board member elected by retirees in addition to those named by the governor.

“I’m the only member of the House of Representatives, Democrat or Republican, who proposed a compromise to Senate Bill 2 which would protect state employees and provide transparency,” Kay asserted. “Dan Fister is misleading, if not outright lying.”

Kay said, “State employees and retirees know that the number one issue with our pensions is the underfunding. The secondary issue, which is also important, is transparency. I have been a leader in the House of Representatives on working on measures to make our pension investments more transparent so that we’re not getting ripped off by hedge funds and Wall Street, who have been making money off the backs of hard-working Americans and Kentuckians for decades.”

Fister has challenged Kay to sign the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solution’s “Legislative Pension Transparency Pledge,” to “support and vote for making the Commonwealth’s legislative pension system fully transparent, including requiring the disclosure of the name, status and projected actual retirement benefits . . . of all current and former members of the General Assembly.”

Kay had not signed the pledge as of Oct. 28, but said, “I’m happy to sign any pledge that provides for transparency.”

Fister also says the district needs a representative who is more involved in the community. “He’s my representative and I’ve never met him,” Fister said. “I’ve never seen him at anything that I’m at until I started running for office.”

Kay replied, “I’m one of the most community-minded and civic-engaged individuals that is an elected official across all three counties.”

Fister said Kay’s perspective is limited because he has not raised a family or started his own business. Kay said he does have a business, his law firm, and his fatherhood of a 10-month-old brings a needed perspective to the House.

“I’m raising my child. The future has never been more important to me than it is right now,” Kay said. “I know the issues of this community and the people of this community better than anyone in this race, and I will challenge my opponent to prove otherwise.”

Fister said in an interview in September that he was confident that he has the election “pretty well won.” He added, “That may sound arrogant, but everybody I’ve talked to is tired of the status quo. They want something different, and I think I’m that.”

Kay replied, “I’ll give Dan Fister the benefit of the doubt that he thinks he’s won the election, but no one is working harder than me to meet the voters of Woodford County, of Midway and my district . . . If I do lose, it won’t be because I got outworked.”

For short biographical profiles of the candidates (and those for Midway City Council), click here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Print edition of the Midway Messenger features comprehensive election coverage

The Fall 2016 print edition of the Midway Messenger is being circulated this weekend at stores, restaurants and other locations in the Midway area.

The edition is the largest ever, with 20 pages, 12 of them in a pull-out section with comprehensive coverage of candidates and issues in the Nov. 8 election: profiles of each candidate for state representative and the City Council, a story about issues in the legislative race, and a story about the council candidates' two forums.

The edition includes many stories that have not been published online but will be posted in the next few days. The profiles of City Council candidates appear on a special page, here.

The Messenger, a project of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, has a print edition once a semester. Each edition's printing is has one or more sponsors; this one is sponsored by former Gov. Brereton Jones and his wife, Libby Jones. It was printed at the Georgetown News-Graphic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Four city council candidates discuss issues at forum

By Marjorie Kirk
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Four of the seven Midway City Council candidates debated the effects of economic development on housing costs, relations with other local governments, and several other issues Monday night at a forum sponsored by Woodford Forward and Spark Versailles, a youth group interested in downtown development.

The first question, about a hiring a full-time director of economic development for Versailles, Midway and Woodford County, brought Council Member Sarah Hicks to a momentary standstill. “I really wasn’t anticipating that question,” she said, adding later, “I’m not sure we need to constantly fuel development.”

John McDaniel said, “I’m for Midway having their own people. . . . Versailles has a totally different vision,” seeking large stores, for example. He said it would be difficult for an economic developer to serve both towns. Steve Simoff, the other non-incumbent in the race, agreed. So did Council Member Libby Warfield, who said her sister held such a job when Warfield’s son was on the council, and “That had very, very, very limited success.”

After that question, most of the discussion focused on how future economic developments would affect Midway residents, beginning with the possible expansion of the urban services boundary to include the Brown-Forman warehouse property near Midway Station.

All four candidates called for caution. Simoff said the current development of Midway Station is appropriate, but “We have to be very careful when It comes to expansion.” Warfield agreed. Hicks questioned why the company would have located outside the boundary, in an agricultural zone, instead of Midway Station, which she said should be developed first.

The warehouses will be built under a conditional use permit on the idea that they will house an agricultural product, whiskey made from grains. Billy Van Pelt, CEO of Woodford Forward, explained after the forum that the boundary expansion would qualify the property to be assessed as light industrial land, a characterization that would “more accurately reflect the use of the land.”

The moderators and audience member Helen Rentch raised concerns that housing costs will increase with the development of Midway Station. McDaniel said arrangements should be made for workers at the plants.

Simoff said he was no longer sure how to define affordable housing, and the council will need to look at options for these workers. He said Anderson Communities, the developers of Midway Station, could build affordable homes.

Warfield agreed that affordable housing is hard to define, and said more rental property is needed. But she said she opposes government housing developments, letting the free market accommodate housing needs.

Hicks said improvements could be made to existing houses in Midway, which could be repurposed for affordable housing. She said she would like to see a “multi-directional approach” to reduce utility costs.

Many Midway residents complain about the amount of their water and sewer bills. The candidates were asked if they would support sale of the city’s water and sewage system, which was debated by Midway’s Water and Sewer Task Force in 2011.

Simoff said he did not support a sale because owning the system gives the city options in negotiating with Kentucky American Water Co., its wholesale water supplier. He said Midway could buy water from Versailles or Frankfort. A pipeline would be required for that.

Hicks and Warfield said they were not in favor of selling even if it meant Kentucky American would improve the water system, because the city would lose its negotiating power the company, from which it buys its water.

McDaniel said he opposed a sale “in concept,” but there are “lots of unknowns” and more information is needed.

Simoff, Warfield and Hicks said they oppose the proposed Versailles bypass, which could funnel traffic onto Midway Road, but McDaniel said the project would have to be evaluated in six years, when he said it could be revived.

The four were asked if they would support a study of merging local governments into an urban county government. Warfield said she would not even consider a study, because Midway’s small size would always put it at a disadvantage. Simoff said he would be fine with a study but against merger. McDaniel said he would be OK with a study but “It would be a no, no and no for a merger at this point.”

Hicks said she would support a study as a way to help understand issues the governments face. Asked a yes-or-no question about merger in an earlier forum, she said she opposed merger but would like to see more cooperation on projects between the governments.

The last question solicited the candidates’ thoughts on balancing the county’s rural character with residential and economic development.

McDaniel said his opinion on that wouldn’t matter, but Simoff said “There has to be a balance.” He said he does not fear the sort of expansion in Midway that is being debated in Versailles. Warfield said the traffic south of Lexington shows the need to “be as extra cautious as we can be,” and Hicks said farmland is a precious, income generating-asset and should be protected.

Council Members Steven Craig, Kaye Nita Gallagher and Bruce Southworth did not attend the forum, which was held at Midway University. Woodford Forward plans to post video of it on its site.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Council OKs revised resolution for Lakeshore incentives

Grading began Wednesday on the site, next to the American Howa auto-parts plant nearing completion.
The Midway City Council held a special meeting this afternoon to pass a revised resolution for incentives needed to bring the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center and its 262 jobs to Midway Station.

The changes correct a corporate name and the mechanics of the financing, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the council. He said the state will give the city the proceeds of a $1.35 million economic-development grant, and the city will then give the money to Lakeshore.

The resolution also confirms that the city will pay Lakeshore $450,000 in five annual installments as an additional incentive. Both incentives are to help cover most of the cost of a $2.8 million natural-gas line to serve the plant. The city will get much more than that in payroll taxes from the plant, even though the tax rate will be reduced by 25 percent for 10 years after employment reaches 262.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

City Council candidates explain platforms and priorities

Bruce Southworth, Steve Simoff, Libby Warfield, Sara Hicks, Steven Craig, John McDaniel; Kaye Nita Gallagher was absent.
By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway residents heard how six of the seven city council candidates would handle community issues Thursday evening at a candidate forum at Midway University.

The city council has six seats, and seven candidates are running. Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she was unable to attend the forum because of a prior charitable commitment. The other incumbents – Bruce Southworth, Libby Warfield, Sarah Hicks, and Steven Craig – were present, as were non-incumbents John McDaniel II and Steve Simoff.

The forum began with candidates explaining their platforms and priorities and identifying the city’s main issues. Simoff said, “I see a lot of growth ahead for Midway, and I’d like to see it stay the same but have the opportunity to grow.” Later, he said, “I don’t want to . . . lose the ambience this community has.”

McDaniel discussed his long history of being involved in Midway, and after the first round of answers said the city needs “a five-year comprehensive plan which would include all the items mentioned in the last few minutes.”

McDaniel, who has been close to former Mayor Tom Bozarth, said “I have worked hand-in-hand with Mayor Grayson Vandergrift during my time as Midway merchants association president, so I am no stranger to his ways.”

Warfield said if she were re-elected she would dedicate her time to finding funding to accomplish more projects, such as a visitors’ center, public restrooms downtown, improving dilapidated properties and the city’s infrastructure, and creating walking paths to encourage healthier lifestyles.

Hicks said the city needs infrastructure improvements to operate efficiently, but the council should determine priorities after going door to door and asking citizens.  Asked to name the city’s largest immediate problem, she said speeding on Winter Street.

Craig noted that the city has taken steps to make the case for a lower speed limit on Winter, and blamed the problem on outsiders. He said he hopes to use his skills from his work experience to help update Midway’s infrastructure, and would concentrate on generating jobs.

Southworth, in giving the first answer to the first question, said the city “has made some real progress” – he later mentioned bringing in industry and passing a fairness ordinance – and his first priority is to be “a good steward of the city’s money.” He said speeding, water and sewer improvements and storm water are major problems.

Southworth said he would like to see the town save the payroll-tax money from new plants at Midway Station to help fix more of the town’s problems, such as dangerous sidewalks.

Simoff said that as Midway grows, it will need to expand fire and police services, have long-range plans and fix problems with the sewer and water systems, which have been “neglected for a long time.” 

McDaniel said, “We’re going to have to spend a lot of money on replacement of sewer lines and water lines.”

Warfield said she would try to seek funding through grant writers, which could bring the town extra funds without raising taxes.

The candidates disagreed on one topic, creating public bathrooms in the city hall building or elsewhere downtown.  Craig said businesses downtown have an obligation to provide restrooms for their visitors.

Warfield said she started thinking about restrooms two years ago, before she was a council member.

“You can have the greatest destination in the world, but if you take a 6- or 7- or 8-year-old little girl somewhere and you can’t find a public restroom, that’s something that you don’t forget, and I wouldn’t want to go back again,” she said.

The candidates were asked how the city could be more transparent and create more community involvement. Simoff and Southworth said they would like to see the city council’s agenda and supporting documents made available for all to see online. Warfield said the agenda should be posted online the day before the meeting. Hicks said council members should “go out to the populace, not just have them come to us.”

Craig said the city is “very transparent” and invited residents to ask him questions at any time. “We’re all neighbors,” he said. “Let’s be good neighbors and have an open line of communication.”

The candidates were united in opposing merger with county government, but Hicks said she would like to see more cooperation on projects with Woodford County and Versailles, such as a Midway health center. “In a perfect world we would be joining for the best of all the citizens in all of Woodford County,” she said.

Hicks said the current council “has been a great team,” and McDaniel agreed, saying it “has been very progressive. It’s amazing the chemistry that they have. . . . They actually smile when they leave City Hall.”

The Midway Woman’s Club and the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum, which lasted about an hour and half. Each candidate was given a maximum of two minutes to answer each question, with the sequence of answers rotated among them.

About 25 people attended the forum. Midway residents will have another chance to see the candidates Monday at 7 p.m. in another forum at Midway University, sponsored by Woodford Forward and SPARK Versailles. A reception with food from Ouita Michel will begin at 6:30.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Council OKs deal to secure 262 jobs at Midway Station

By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council approved a deal Monday night that will bring a natural-gas line to Midway Station, securing the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center to be built there.

The permit to grade the site was issued Tuesday.
The council voted unanimously for Midway to pay $450,000 toward the $2.8 million needed to build the line. Columbia Gas will pay $700,000 of the cost, the state will pay $1,350,000, and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority will pay $300,000, which it already promised to use for gas.

“Lakeshore Learning Materials said that they could not come to Midway without gas at Midway Station,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. “In order to save the project, which would be the largest employer in the city’s history, and get much needed gas to Midway Station we began to work out some deals. . . . The initial request to Midway was far more than I thought was fair to ask Midway. I think what we’ve come up with is a very good solution.” He said the state “really, really stepped up, big time.”

Midway will pay the $450,000 over five years. The payments will began on December 31, 2017 and the first payment will be $64,933. Midway would get this money back if EDA sells the remaining 22 acres optioned from the Roach family at the industrial park.

“You can make a very good argument that once Midway Station has gas, the entire property is much more marketable,” Vandergrift said. “Had we not done this, we would have had an empty 43 acres of land and no gas – and no jobs coming in.”

Vandegrift also told the council that as Lakeshore hires more employees, the money from the occupational tax revenue will more than cover the city’s expense to pay for gas to Midway Station.

Data from the state Economic Development Cabinet show that in the first 13 years Lakeshore will generate $1,585,025 in occupational tax revenue. An auto-parts  factory being built in Midway Station, the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant, will generate $381,628 in occupational tax in its first 13 years. Together the two factories will generate $1,966,653 in payroll taxes during the period.

For the next three years, until Lakeshore’s payroll reaches at least 262 employees, they will have to pay the full 2 percent payroll tax.  After the company employs at least 262 people they will pay only 1.5 percent, for 10 years, as part of the incentive package to bring the plant to Kentucky.

The council passed on second reading an ordinance that authorizes $50 million in industrial revenue bonds for the plant. This part of the incentive package will exempt Lakeshore from property taxes, but it will pay the Woodford County Schools an amount equal to what it would pay in taxes.

John Soper, chairman of the Economic Development Authority, said the closing on the property was held Tuesday afternoon and Lakeshore could break ground on the property as early as Wednesday.

Park business

With the council’s approval, Vandergrift appointed five members to the park board that the council recently created: John Holloway, Cecelia Gass, Council Member Sara Hicks, Regina Morris, and Liles Taylor. Up to two more members can be appointed to the board.

Vandergrift thanked the members of the Walter Bradley Park citizen advisory committee, which he created a year ago to help make the park more attractive to visitors.  Vandergrift issued individual proclamations for each committee members to celebrate all of their hard work. Chair Cecelia Gass and members Dottie Cordray, Steve Simoff and Milan Hamilton and Holloway were on hand.

“They achieved far more than anyone expected them to achieve,” Vandegrift said. “It’s really an incredible accomplishment that I think we will remember for years to come.” A ribbon-cutting was held Sunday for the pedestrian bridge across Lee Branch, built by Holloway, other volunteers and city employees.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Midway part of proposed deal to build gas line to Midway Station, to ensure Lakeshore plant comes

The Midway City Council will be asked to put $450,000 toward a natural-gas line to Midway Station to keep Lakeshore Learning Materials from backing out of its plan to build a distribution center that would employ 262 full-time workers.

Columbia Gas estimates the line will cost $2.8 million and has promised to pay $700,000 toward it. The state will pay $1,350,000 and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority will pay $300,000, money that it was saving to bring gas to the industrial zone anyway.

Midway is expected to get about $200,000 more per year in payroll taxes from the plant and the American Howa auto-parts plant under construction, but in return for its gas-line contribution the EDA has agreed to give the city any profits from the sale of the remaining 22 acres of land it bought from Jim and Marilyn Roach.

"Midway has stepped up to the plate," EDA Chair John Soper said. Lakeshore would be the city's largest employer by far.

Midway apparently won't have to come up with the $450,000 all at once, because Lakeshore is expected to advance $2.1 million to Columbia Gas and be repaid by the state and Midway as long as it provides the promised jobs. Soper said the deal works because "The payroll taxes will always exceed what the expenditures are to bring the gas in."

Chair John Soper, left, and other EDA board members listened as EDA
attorney Bill Moore, right, explained the proposed deal Friday morning.
Soper spoke after meeting Friday morning at which the EDA approved several measures to accomplish a deal that it thought was done in August, when Lakeshore and the state announced the plant was coming.

Soper said Lakeshore's consultants were told that only a 2-inch gas line would be available, from the other side of Interstate 64, and that American Howa was meeting its gas needs with propane. But he said Lakeshore didn't express a need for gas until "after they had made the announcement." He added, "I guess . . . they realized it was critical for them to have it."

That prompted a flurry of activity, including a special and largely confidential City Council meeting, at which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift was authorized to take actions designed to bring Lakeshore to Midway.

"It's taken more than a few 180-degree turns, but they're a good company, and it's a good thing for the community," Soper said. "It's been a booger, but it's a $49 million project."

Now the council will be asked to approve the deal, which EDA attorney Bill Moore said is scheduled be closed on Tuesday. "Lakeshore is anxious to get an agreement signed," he told the EDA board.

Soper said Lakeshore has agreed to buy another 18 acres and take an option on 15 more acres owned by the Homer Michael Freeney Jr. Trust, which is selling Brown-Forman Corp. 117 acres for whiskey warehouses near South Elkhorn Creek. He said Brown-Forman will use the gas line, making construction of more warehouses more likely.

Soper said EDA has agreed to ask that the 33 acres now owned by Freeney be rezoned industrial, and that Midway's urban services boundary be expanded to include it. Plans also call for the city to annex the property.

Soper said the gas line will make the property more salable for industrial development. "We've got to get this burden of not having gas in Midway Station out of the way," he said.

Friday, October 14, 2016

New trail from Northside leads the way to the new bridge; ribbon-cutting is set for 2 p.m. Saturday

Walter Bradley Park has a new entrance, along newly paved Northside Drive, at the head of the new trail that leads to the new pedestrian bridge over Lee Branch. A temporary sign at the trailhead advertises the formal ribbon-cutting for the bridge, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday. (The rain date is 2 p.m. Sunday.)

The trail is lined with small logs and stones, and its mulching was mostly complete when these photos were taken Friday afternoon. It's a two-minute walk from the bridge to trailhead.

The photo below shows the trail leading to the north end of the bridge and its intersection with another new trail that runs along the north side of the creek. The foot of Gratz Street is just visible at the left.

Iron Horse Half Marathon to be run Sunday morning

Map shows mileages, water stations and direction of travel. First half of course is purple; second half is red.
The annual Iron Horse Half Marathon will be run through and near Midway, starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. Spring Station Road, Stephens Street and Weisenberger Mill Road will be closed, except for local traffic access, along the marked route from 7:30 to 11:30. The start and finish will be on North Brand Street. Organizers say all activities should be over by 12:30 p.m.

The increasingly popular race primarily benefits the Woodford Humane Society, which provides most of the volunteers along the 13.1-mile route. It is sponsored by John's Run/Walk Shop and Saul Good Restaurant and Pub of Lexington. Questions about the race can be directed to coordinator Chuck Griffis at chuck@johnsrunwalk.com or (859) 335-1818.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Forum for City Council candidates tomorrow night at 7

Candidates for the Midway City Council in the Nov. 8 election will participate in a forum at Midway University at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13.

The six council seats are being sought by seven people, all of whom have agreed to participate: Council Members Steven Craig, Kaye Nita Gallagher, Sara Hicks, Bruce Southworth and Libby Warfield, and non-incumbents Steve Simoff and John McDaniel II. Council Member Dan Roller is not seeking re-election.

The forum will be held in the Duthie Auditorium in the Anne Hart Raymond Building. It is sponsored by the Midway Women’s Club and the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce. A reception for candidates and the public will be held in the lobby from 6 to 7 p.m.

Each candidate will get three minutes to introduce themselves, then all candidates will have two minutes to answer questions submitted by community members. Questions for the candidates can be emailed to Don Vizi at the Chamber of Commerce: woodforddirector@gmail.com.

Another forum with the same schedule and format will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, for higher offices. Invited are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his Democratic challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray; U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper, state Rep. James Kay and Republican challenger Daniel Fister. Those who had responded favorably as of Oct. 1 were Kemper, Kay and Fister.

Intergovernmental panel recommends removing Versailles bypass from planning objectives, but not plan

By Marjorie Kirk
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Representatives from Midway, Versailles and the Woodford County Fiscal Court have proposed changes to goals and objectives approved by the county Planning Commission, including removing the Versailles bypass project.

State Department of Highways map
Midway City Council members Daniel Roller, Libby Warfield and Sara Hicks met with three members of the Versailles City Council and three Fiscal Court magistrates Oct. 4 to discuss contentious items in the goals and objectives for the county’s comprehensive plan, which the planning commission approved Sept. 8 by a vote of 5-3.

The intergovernmental group proposed that the objective specifying the bypass expansion read more generally: “Pursue projects that minimize traffic on main streets and narrow residential streets including, but not limited to an alternative route,” which could be the bypass.

References to the bypass remain in the details of the plan, Council Member Dan Roller noted after the meeting when asked why Versailles representatives were willing to accept the change.

Traffic congestion in Versailles has been the impetus for the bypass project, which Gov. Matt Bevin removed from the state’s road plan during budget cuts early this year.

The planning commission has one member from Midway, Rich Schein, who argued during its September meeting that the bypass, as well as other projects, should be left out of the goals and objectives. He said building the bypass was not the desire of people in Woodford County, and that it would bisect the county’s main parks.

Schein reiterated his objections Monday as the Midway City Council held a public forum on the commission’s plan, which it had sent to the local legislative bodies for approval.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift commended Schein and the other dissenters. “It is bizarre to me that the commission passed these goals and objectives when all three bodies immediately realized there was a problem and they would have to come back and fix it,” he said. “That leaves me scratching my head.”

If the bypass is built, traffic would be diverted from Versailles, but at the risk of increasing traffic on Midway Road, US 62. Possible northern ends of the bypass include going directly into Midway Road, a bit farther north on Frankfort Road (US 60) or the intersection of the existing bypass and US 62. Representatives from Midway object to putting more traffic on narrow Midway Road. 

“I don’t support doing so without trying other sound suggestions which to date have been ignored and which might avoid dumping the problem on their next-door neighbor,” Vandegrift said.

One transportation objective proposed by the commission calls for planned to “discourage thru tractor-trailer traffic from certain routes, including downtown Versailles and Midway Road.” The intergovernmental panel proposed that the objective be to “discourage and divert” big trucks from both roads.

The panel also found issue with one of the objectives for general land use and development, which called for “justified expansions” of cities’ urban services areas rather than the current “some limited adjustments.” In its written report, the panel said that “was replacing one unclear term with another.”

Magistrate Mary Ann Gill proposed that the objective be “Manage the location of the urban services boundaries to meet the needs of the cities, considering the community as a whole.” The panel reported that it did not reach a consensus on that point, and Vandegrift said it will need to meet again.

Vandegrift said the creation and success of the intergovernmental panel would be a step toward his goal of collaborating and meeting with the Versailles City Council and the Fiscal Court on a regular basis. The panel included half of each city council and three of the nine Fiscal Court members. He said Versailles officials like the idea but at least some magistrates do not. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

John Holloway, bridge builder, leads the way for improvements at Walter Bradley Park

Story by Marissa Beucler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

John Holloway isn’t even Midway’s park manager yet, but has already made his mark with the construction of a pedestrian bridge and otherimprovements in in Walter Bradley Park. The bridge is complete and a ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Many people kept saying they would love to have a bridge to connect the north and south sides of town,” Holloway noted.

The community has wanted this bridge over Lee Branch for a very long time, and Holloway brought a full skill set to the project.

As a theatre professor at the University of Kentucky for 33 years, he has design, layout and carpentry skills that helped him design and reshape areas of the park as well as establishing Friends of the Park, a committee to help with the work.

Holloway and his bride of five years, Patty Holloway, relocated from Lexington to Midway because it was equidistant between their two workplaces. Both have volunteered in Midway, which brought the couple into helping with the park, starting with cleanup jobs about a year and a half ago.

“He is very valuable and represents great qualities about Midway,” said Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. He said Friends of the Park is an efficient team that completes tasks to benefit the community.

Vandegrift said he and his Citizens Advisory Committee came up with the idea of a park board that would include an unpaid manager to look after the park, and “John was sort of the obvious choice.” Vandegrift said he will appoint the board soon.

Estimates for a bridge had run as high as $60,000, but Holloway said it could be done for $7,000 to $8,000 and the city council budgeted $10,000 for park improvements. Friends of the Park has raised another $4,000 through private donations and grants. The materials cost half of the estimated budget, and the labor was done by city employees already on the payroll.

Holloway’s eagerness for the project helped him connect with other beneficial volunteers. Consulting geologist Gina Morris was able to get very quickly the Army Corps of Engineers permit to build in a flood plain and span the creek. Morris said working with Holloway has been a tremendous experience for her. University of Kentucky students and Jayoung Koo, assistant professor of landscape architecture, also helped by creating designs for park improvements.

The community members who contributed to the project have all volunteered at the Walter Bradley Park for several years, Morris said. “I have been around the park for 15 years now and I walk my dog everyday there. I can’t wait to walk my dog across the bridge rather than the corner street.”
The entrance at the foot of Gratz Street has its first sign. Paths built by Holloway and volunteers are visible.
A long-neglected cemetery near the creek got a cleanup, a sign and a low rock fence to protect it. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Merchants raise booth fees, hire a festival coordinator

By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Fall Festival will see some changes next year despite this year’s success.

According to Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store and treasurer of the Midway Business Association, the festival brought in $15,000 from booth rentals this year, which a gain of $3,000 from last year.

Elisha Riddle (Facebook photo)
Kenny Smith, president of the association, has been in charge of the Fall Festival the past two years. Smith has decided to step down from this position.

Elisha Riddle, a social-media marketing consultant, was chosen to take over the festival by the three members of the association who attended its regular monthly meeting Wednesday. Smith said that he would assist Riddle with the job.

“I don’t know how anyone could fight this since it is not going to cost us anything. It’s really a no-brainer to me,” MBA member Steve Simoff said.

The money to pay Riddle will come from a $25 increase in booth prices for the next year, to $200 per space. Food vendors will see a $50 increase, to $225. Smith said these prices are similar to those charged by the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival which charges $225.

Smith also suggested that Riddle get a percentage of the money that she raises from sponsorships.

Riddle said she is excited to take over the festival next year, but does not think she will be making any major changes.

“We;ll stick to all the same basics, and Kenny is going to be coaching me so I make sure it’s done the way that the merchants want it done,” said Riddle. “It’s been successful in the past so I want to keep it that way, obviously.”

Friday, October 7, 2016

Midway University's four-year nursing degree program is re-accredited through 2024

By Matthew Hunter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University’s baccalaureate nursing program recently won re-accreditation through 2024.

This followed a visit in February from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, which granted the accreditation. According to ACEN, one of the factors nursing programs need to uphold in order to be accredited is exhibiting a “quality program.”

“Accreditation through ACEN is voluntary and recognizes educational institutions or programs that have been found to meet or exceed standards and criteria for educational quality,” said the dean of Midway’s School of Health and Sciences, Dr. Barbara Kitchen.

Midway’s RN-BSN program, which has been accredited since 1992, is for registered nurses who want to earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing. The program, one of just five accredited baccalaureate programs across Kentucky, provides graduates a smooth transition into more advanced course work.

According to Midway’s nursing site, the curriculum combines general-education classes with professional nursing theory, critical thinking and practicum experiences all while preparing students for the job market.

“Students receive classroom theory, learn skills in the nursing skills/laboratory and must pass ‘check-off’ evaluation of skills,” Kitchen said when asked how Midway’s nursing students are prepared for the field. “Then [they] have extensive clinical experience in hospitals throughout the program.” 

Midway’s nursing program, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last spring, prepares students for nursing careers immediately following graduation. According to Kitchen, 97 to 100 percent of graduates in the program receive appropriate jobs with their nursing degrees. There are 18 students in the RN-BSN program now.

In the ACEN findings, Kitchen was noted as a strength of the program.

Kitchen has approximately 50 years of nursing experience and has been at Midway for 15 years. In 2004 she was named the chair of nursing and in 2015 she was named dean. She was also recognized as one of 50 distinguished graduates at the University of Kentucky’s celebration of National Nurse Practitioners Week.

“The experience of the nurse administrator and respect that college administrators and faculty campus-wide expressed for her are reflective of her commitment to quality and excellence, which has resulted in a culture of faculty availability and service to students," ACEN said.

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Stivers, vice president of academic affairs at Midway, said commended the nursing faculty and staff for their work: “Reaccreditation from ACEN affirms that our student-centered approach to nursing produces outstanding clinicians and leaders who are sought after by employers.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Council moving on trap issue, but devil may be in details

By Evan Merrill
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council inched closer to an agreement on lethal trapping, agreed to apply for the old Weisenberger Mill bridge and approved a time for trick-or-treating in Midway at its meeting Monday night.

The council has agreed to not outlaw lethal traps despite the pleas of South Turner street resident Sarah Gilbert made following the death of her cat, Bunny Kitty, in a trap set for groundhogs.

“We felt that could lead to people using poison,” said Council Member Dan Roller, reporting on deliberations of the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, which he chairs.

“The research we did on poison is, animals that are poisoned often then leave the location,” causing the death of additional animals who eat them, Roller said. “Most the research we found determined the legislation that relates to this came about because of animals that were killed in illegal traps, many of which were on leashes at the time.”

Roller said the committee recommended enforcing responsible trapping, in which homeowners or businesses can be held liable for the harming or death of resident animal. He proposed an ordinance that would say, “The removal or eviction of any animal from a property in the City of Midway shall not result in the harming or death of a domestic animal.”

This recommendation would not apply to government animal-control authorities, and a copy of the regulation would be provided to individuals and businesses applying for city business licenses when they indicate their business deals with the removal or eviction of animals. The trapper who killed Bunny Kitty did not have such a license.

Roller said the proposal specifies domestic animals because not doing so would disallow a mousetrap. The specifics of the ordinance, such as punishment for violation, are still up for debate.

Council Member Libby Warfield asked Roller what the penalty for violation would be. Roller said none is proposed, since “pets are priceless,” and people who lose them would still have “legal recourse.”

Council Member Steven Craig argued it’s difficult to hold homeowners responsible for a pet getting into a trap on their own property.  “So if a homeowner sets a trap for a rodent and a domesticated cat comes on to their property and gets into the trap, why is the property owner responsible for the domesticated cat when the cat came onto his property?” Craig asked.

“It’s not quite time for the debate yet,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. At Vandegrift’s suggestion, Craig moved that the proposal be put into ordinance form by city attorney Phil Moloney.

Bonds, bridges, Halloween and more

The council heard first reading of an ordinance to issue bonds totaling up to $50 million for the building of the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center, which is expected to bring 262 new workers to the city.

The council also passed on second reading an ordinance for refinancing of bonds for the Providence Montessori school of Lexington. The refinancing is strictly for a better rate on the bonds and the city has no liability, Vandegrift said. The council held a public hearing on the bonds just before the meeting, and no one attended, Vandegrift said.

The bridge over Lee’s Branch in Walter Bradley Park is complete except for some minor work, Vandegrift said. The city will hold a ribbon cutting event on Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. If it’s rained out, it’ll be held the next day at 2 p.m.

The council agreed to apply to the state for the Weisenberger Mill bridge, which the state is replacing. “If we apply for the bridge, we’ll get it,” said Vandegrift. The favored location is over a marshy area in the park.

The council approved Vandegrift’s suggestion that trick-or-treat in Midway be held Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The council also granted an encroachment permit for a driveway to be built at 212 South Turner St.