Thursday, October 19, 2017

'Continuing the Conversation' about race, unity and diversity at 6:30 p.m. Sun. at Midway Christian Church

By Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The public conversation about race, unity and diversity in Midway will continue on Sunday, Oct. 22, as a follow-up to the city’s ‘Peace in the Park’ event in August.

“Continuing the Conversation: A Peaceful Discussion on Race, Unity, and Diversity in Our Community” be held at Midway Christian Church, 123 E. Bruen St., at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting follows an initial gathering on the topic that was held in August. The first ‘Peace in the Park’ event, organized by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, was a response to the violent white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Around 50 citizens attended the first meeting, and several of them spoke their thoughts and concerns to the crowd.

Vandegrift said after the August meeting that he wanted to continue the discussion on diversity, and that he hoped Midway could serve as an example to other communities.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announces for second term more than a year before the election

Grayson Vandegrift
By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

More than a year before the mayoral election, Midway already has its first candidate.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced Tuesday that he would run for re-election next year. The election will be in November 2018; the filing deadline is in August.

“It’s something I probably thought I would do from the get-go,” Vandegrift told Midway Messenger reporters. “I feel we’ve accomplished a lot over the last three years and I feel like there’s a lot left to do.”

Vandegrift, 35, served one two-year term as a council member before being elected mayor in 2014, defeating three-term council member Sharon Turner. He has been Midway’s mayor since Jan. 1, 2015.

“When I ran for mayor originally, one thing I said is that, you know, when it is all said and done, Midway, I think, should be considered the model for small cities,” Vandegrift said. “I think we are on our way there, but I think we still have some work to do. I feel like I’m the right person to keep the ship heading in that direction.”

The filing deadline for city office was once in January, but the council recently moved it to August. Vandegrift was asked why he is announcing now.

“I just figured, I’d made up my mind and there was really just no reason to wait,” he said. “I just figured, no time like the present.” He noted that some countywide offices already have candidates.

“I don’t think it hurts to just remind everybody that I’m going to run for re-election. I’m very proud of my record; I’d put it up against anybody,” he said. “There’s always one or two people who, I think, like to dip their toe in the water and see what people think.” But he said in response to a question that he hadn’t heard of anyone else interested in running. Turner didn’t return a call seeking comment.

On Sept. 18, the city council voted 5-1 to increase the pay for the mayor and council members elected next year. The mayor will get $1,400 a month, not the current $100 a month.

Vandegrift said the big pay raise did not effect his decision to run for mayor again.

“They could’ve lowered it and I would’ve done it,” he said with a laugh. “I put a lot of time into this, and you do make sacrifices. I think it’s fair, to be honest with you, but it didn’t have any bearing on my decision.”

The mayor once ran a restaurant on Main Street. He said he works part-time at Railroad Drug and cares for his son in the mornings. His wife Katie is a banker.

Vandegrift said that if elected, he would continue to work on “paying down the water and sewer debt,” which would lower water and sewer bills for residents. He added that he would like to pay off the debt on the current sewage-treatment plant early.

“I don’t think its fair for a city that is doing well in every respect to have to ever raise rates on citizens just because it has to come from that fund,” Vandegrift said.

Asked to name his biggest achievement in office, he said it was the recruitment of Lakeshore Learning Materials, a supplier of preschool and elementary school educational materials, which says it will employ 262 people, making it by far Midway’s largest employer. “I worked very hard on Lakeshore,” he said, adding later, “I think they will have just as big of a community impact as Midway University does now.”

Vandegrift said in his announcement, “Working together as a community we’ve brought new industry to Midway Station, creating what will eventually be over 350 well-paying jobs. We’ve increased the city’s revenue, lowered property taxes each of the last two years, and absorbed a rate hike by Kentucky American Water so as not to pass it on to the consumer.  We’ve encouraged volunteerism, which among other things has led to the vast improvements of Walter Bradley Park.

“We’ve paved roads and launched a successful public/private sidewalk program. We’ve made upgrades to the Midway Volunteer Fire Department, begun water and sewer upgrades, and improved city properties and city services. We also amended our civil-rights code to include protections in housing, public accommodations, and employment for the LGBT community.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

City council delays action on ordinances to crack down on blighted property, but seems favorably disposed

City officials say this house at the northwest corner of Higgins
and Turner Streets has been abandoned for almost 60 years.
The Midway City Council eased into its crackdown on owners of abandoned and dilapidated property Monday evening, postponing passage of two ordinances but indicating no outright opposition after picking through several provisions.

"There's a whole lot we don't understand," Council Member John McDaniel said at the start, suggesting that the ordinances be tabled and saying he had a majority to do that. But Council Member Libby Warfield said she wanted to discuss the proposals, so the council and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift did just that.

Warfield took issue with the existing language that targets inoperable vehicles left on property for more than 10 days, saying it didn't seem fair to go after people who might be having temporary car trouble and ignore the junk around certain businesses. City Attorney Phil Moloney said he would look into the issue.

Moloney cleared up one bit of confusion by saying that the proposed new ordinance to create a Code Enforcement Board has one section of red, underlined language (which usually indicates an amendment) because it refers to two other ordinances. For a copy of the ordinances, in the previous meeting's packet, click here.

The proposed ordinance says members of the board are not to be compensated, but Moloney suggested that the council consider compensation because "It might be difficult to get people to serve."

The board will have the power to declare a property abandoned, raising its tax rate to 75 cents per $100 from the current rate of approximately 10 cents per $100. Moloney said the tax is a device to encourage people to keep up their property.

The proposal's schedule of fines rage from $10 to $1,000, depending on the nature of the violation and whether it is contested. "Some of those fines look like they're awful light," Council Member Steve Simoff said. To that, McDaniel smiled and gave a thumbs-up. Near the end of the discussion, McDaniel said the council could always change parts of the ordinances that don't work out.

Here are the proposed fines:

In other business, the council approved Vandegrift's reappointment of Rich Schein as the city's representative on the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission. "I think he's done a fantastic job representing us, and often times he's going against the grain," Vandegrift said.

Acting on a suggestion from McDaniel, Vandegrift said he would draft a letter to county and state officials a letter asking for action on the Weisenberger Mill bridge, replacement of which has been delayed for more than a year, forcing detours and loss of business.

The bridge over South Elkhorn Creek connects Woodford and Scott counties. Woodford County had responsibility for it until a few years ago, when the state agreed to take it over in return for the county's work on a state highway. Replacement of the bridge was delayed most recently for reports to the Federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation; now the state is considering whether to go ahead with the replacement or undertake a temporary rehabilitation of the bridge that could open it to traffic sooner than a replacement, Ananias Calvin III, the state engineer for the project, told the Midway Messenger on Tuesday.

US 421 resurfacing from Midway to Franklin County line causing temporary lane closures through Friday

Resurfacing of Leestown Road (US 421) between Midway and the Franklin County line is causing temporary lane closures daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., says the state Department of Highways.

The department says one lane will remain open at all times and flaggers are guiding motorists, and "All work is subject to change depending on weather, emergencies and other factors beyond the control of the Department of Highways."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Midway Woman's Club wins Community Spirit Award from Midway University at annual Day for Midway

L-R: Adele Dickerson, Sara Hicks, Christy Reeves, DeeDee Roach, Tonya Steele (MWC vice president), Janice Holland, Debra Shockley, Mary Devers, Ellen Gregory (university marketing VP), Neisje Spragens, Genie Graf (MWC president), Dr. John Marsden (university president), Amy Perry, Amanda Glass (MWC parliamentarian), Katie Vandegrift (MWC treasurer), Helen Rentch, Lou Taylor. Absent: MWC Corresponding Secretary Kelly Brengelman and Recording Secretary Kelle Sanders.
By Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Woman’s Club is this year’s winner of the Community Spirit Award from Midway University, honoring nearly a century of community involvement.

This is the fourth year the award has been presented as part of the annual Day for Midway celebration to celebrate the close connection between Midway University and Woodford County. The university said it chose the Midway Woman’s Club for its long-term service to the Woodford community.

The Woman’s Club has accomplished many volunteer projects and has supported countless efforts to benefit the county over the years, including the Midway Free Public Library, Northside Elementary School, Woodford County High School, and the Midway Fall Festival.

"There is no other place like Midway and we're fortunate to have neighbors and community partners like the Midway Woman’s Club that are invested in our town and its possibilities," university President John P. Marsden said in a press release for the Oct. 10 event. "We are pleased to be able to honor this worthy group and their giving spirit."

The Woman’s Club was established by a group of 42 Midway women who first met in 1922 and adopted the slogan “For the Good of Our Community.”

“That good over the years has included wrapping surgical dressings during WWII, organizing a health education program for the county, supporting local schools and students, and sponsoring candidate forums for local and national elections,” Woman’s Club President Genie Graf said in an email.

Some of the organization’s most popular recent events include the Not-So-Scary Halloween Haunted House, an annual home and garden sale, and the annual Christmas decorations contest.

The club hosts political forums, staffs the Kids Vote booth at elections, sponsors an annual scholarship for a Midway woman high-school graduate, and has speakers at its monthly meetings, which are open to the public. Some recent speakers have included former Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and minister-columnist-author Paul Prather.

Not only has the club benefited the community, the members gain from their involvement. Today, the club sustains around 30 active members, club treasurer Katie Vandegrift said. Some members are new, and some have stayed with the organization for several decades.

“The Midway Woman’s Club has been a gathering place for Midway women,” Graf explained, “for women affiliated with Midway, where women find commonality, where we find we are not so different, where we can find friendship, where we find purpose in helping to support and build our community into a place that we are humbled to call home.”

What’s next? The Midway Woman’s Club looks forward to hosting a new event, the Midway Historic House Tour, on June 3, 2018, Graf wrote: “We have five houses and a historic church on the tour, which we hope will become an annual event and fund-raiser that will allow the club to create more ‘good for our community’.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Message from the mayor: Thanks to the volunteers who made Midway's summer events possible and successful

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

With summer events wrapped up, I thought it would be a good time to recap the major events of our city and to thank, as a group, all of the many people who make them possible.

The Francisco's Farm Arts Festival has been a welcoming event that showcases Midway University's beautiful campus, as well as a wide array of the arts.

Midsummer Nights in Midway held three successful downtown block parties that celebrated the culture, and fun-loving spirit, of our community. 

Most recently, the Midway Fall Festival presented our city to the entire state, and other parts of the country, and people are clearly taking notice. Saturday's crowd was the biggest single-day crowd ever, and pushed the whole weekend into the record books. 

All of these events, which celebrate art, music, community, and life itself, are only made possible by volunteerism. Such as with the continuing improvements of Walter Bradley Park, it's the spirit of dedicating time, talent and energy that leads to enjoyable results for everyone. 

In a country that can't seem to agree on anything right now, these volunteers are an example of what can happen when people make the conscientious decision to work together. In fact, they exhibit the best of us, and remind us that the only way to achieve results is to collaborate. 

On behalf of the City of Midway, I want to thank every person who has dedicated their time for the betterment of all, and I encourage even more to join a local movement that these good folks have started.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ky. Horse Council seeks applicants by Nov. 15 for scholarship for college students in equine studies

The Kentucky Horse Council says it will award a $1,500 scholarship for the spring semester to a Kentucky college student who has demonstrated academic success, community service and involvement in the equine industry. The scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled in an equine-related major or a horse-related program with a university or college in Kentucky. Applications will be accepted until Nov. 15, and the scholarship will be awarded Dec. 1. The student is required to be a member of the Kentucky Horse Council, but student memberships are free and interested students may sign up at www.kentuckyhorse.org.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Council gets a better price from Versailles for police, starts crackdown on owners of blighted property

By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Versailles has reduced its police budget proposal for Midway, according to Midway officials at Monday’s city council meeting.

Also at the meeting, the council started a crackdown on abandoned property owners with the first reading of a new ordinance that would punish them for not maintaining property.

The council also discussed a community service collaboration with Midway University, possible improvements to North Gratz Street and Warfield Street, and the trick-or-treat schedule; and denied a controversial permit request.

Police Contract: Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, reported to the council that Versailles had lowered its proposed price for police services in Midway, to $165,325 a year, or 4.25 percent of Versailles’ current police budget.

On Sept. 21, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and Police Chief James Fugate proposed a price of $173,674 a year, a 73.7 percent increase from this year.

That figure was 4.5 percent of the budget of the Versailles police, which patrol all of Woodford County.

Midway has 7 percent of the county’s population, but Midway residents also pay county taxes, and that should be taken into account, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said after the meeting. He said county officials have not explained what Midway will get for its county taxes.

“We see less and less services all the time and the county asking us for more and more money,” Vandegrift said.

As for the new proposal, Vandegrift said, “I think that we can agree, I think, something close to that, but we’re gonna have to have some increase in services to come with it, because we were paying $16,000 four years ago, now we’re paying $100,000. I don’t know how we can justify to our citizens that they’ve got this type of increase without some kind of increase in services.”

Vandegrift noted that there is plenty of time to conclude negotiations. The new contract would be for four years and start July 1, 2018. 

Crackdown on blight: The council heard first reading Monday of ordinances to establish a Code Enforcement Board and amend an ordinance requiring owners to maintain their property.

The board would be made up of Midway residents and will work to keep city properties maintained.

“If a property is not being maintained properly, we can go and make those changes and place a lien on the property with an 8 percent interest rate, so it’s not just a lien for our cost, there’s also an interest rate,” Vandegrift said. “Another thing is at some point you can look at eminent domain,” condemnation to take ownership the property.

The ordinance would give property owners notice to remedy the situation, give them seven days to respond, and allow for the police department or a code enforcement officer to initiate removal of abandoned vehicles, among other things. For a copy of the council meeting packet that includes the ordinances, click here.

“The main thing is that we are no longer going to allow the people to take advantage of their neighbors in the sense that they keep the property that has become blighted and deteriorated and abandoned and they’re not fixing it up and they’re just letting it sit there,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift said it’s unfair to residents who take care of their property. “We’re going to uphold that to the highest extent of the law and we’re gonna surprise some people, because a lot of people think that it cant be done.”

The mayor warned in May that he had asked for new ordinances to crack down on property maintenance. Under the previous mayor, Tom Bozarth, the city put pressure on owners of dilapidated property and had some success, but Vandegrift called that "a caretaker administration." He added, "That's not a bad thing."

Vandegrift said he would schedule second reading of the ordinances for Oct. 16, but the council might not vote on them until November because of possible changes.

Aerial photo provided by Nick Bentley shows North Gratz Street
and its extension, Warfield Street, with addresses and property
lines. The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's, a restaurant and bar,
recently opened at 224 N. Gratz. (For a larger photo, click on it.)
Businesses seek improvements:  Nick Bentley and Bryan Lynch, residents and landowners in Midway, proposed integrating North Gratz Street and Warfield Street into downtown now that businesses have opened in the block and they plan to open more businesses.

Bentley suggested putting in streetlights, adding sidewalks, repaving the streets and adding a cul-de-sac on Warfield Street to facilitate turnarounds.

“We get a tremendous amount of traffic that comes down kind of looking and then they run into that dead-end and end up turning around in Bryan’s parking lot,” Bentley said.

Vandegrift said, “I love the idea, it just comes down to what it’s going to cost.”

Bentley also expressed concern over parking. “We have enough parking,” he said. “The biggest issue is how do we fit sidewalks in and not hurt parking.”

Bentley said he might put a full-time farmers' market near the doctor’s office on North Gratz. Lynch, who owns several businesses downtown, said he plans to put in a café on North Gratz with volleyball courts behind it, and a banquet facility will occupy a part of the building.

“I own the building,” Lynch said in an interview. “I’d be leasing it out to a business from Lexington that would open a new restaurant here in town, that will be the banquet facilities as well.” Lynch owns the Eat Drink Breathe bistro and Damselfly Gallery on Main Street.

Permit denied for street entrance: A permit that would have allowed access to East Cross Street from a backyard at 120 S. Winter Street was denied at Monday’s meeting after much discussion on the issue.

The council first discussed the permit Sept. 4, and tabled the issue for 30 days to gather more information.

The property owner had spread gravel, built a fence and gate, and connected the lot to the street, encroaching on the street, before requesting a permit.

While the denial of the permit will force the property owner to remove all gravel from the city’s right of way, she will still be able to keep a gravel lot in the backyard.

Charles Logan of East Higgins Street, a neighbor to the property, expressed concern over the runoff from the gravel at earlier meetings and Monday’s meeting. Vandegrift said the property owner can have the gravel in her backyard, but cannot have the fence or gravel interfering with the city’s right of way. He said he still thinks the fence is in the right of way.

“There’s nothing that stops somebody from going into their yard and putting gravel down,” Vandegrift said. 

According to Vandegrift, if Logan has an issue with the gravel creating runoff on his property, the matter may have to be addressed as a civil matter.

“Had she followed the rules, then it wouldn’t be no civil matter, I wouldn’t have to hire an attorney and so forth,” Logan said.

Midway University athletes' service: Midway University Athletic Director Rusty Kennedy and Women’s Softball Coach Tripp Swisher spoke with the council about collaborating with the city on a service project for student athletes.

“Part of our mandate within the organization we are governed by,” the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, “is an emphasis on character development, something our very school values,” Tripp said. “We try to get each of our student athletes 15 hours a year, at least, in community service, that’s what we strive for.”

The service project would consist of different tasks such as painting, cleaning and junk removal and would be at least one day each semester.

Vandegrift suggested soliciting requests from community members for projects.

“We are thinking more of people who struggle to complete those tasks, either by health or age issues,” he said. “If we get the word out that the university is going to offer this service in conjunction with us, we can get the word and people can basically, sort of, apply.”

According to Tripp, the service project, if permitted, would be considered for sometime between the end of October and mid-November.

There are roughly 340 student athletes at Midway University, according to Kennedy.

Halloween: The council set trick-or-treat hours for Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Versailles asks Midway to pay $173,674 a year for police, up from $100K; committee meets 2:30 Wed.

UPDATE: The committee will meet at 2:30 Wednesday at City Hall for further discussion of the issue.

By Tre Lyerly
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Versailles wants Midway to pay 73.7 percent more for police services next year.

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and Police Chief James Fugate proposed a revision of the cities’ police contract to the Midway City Council’s Public Works and Services Committee at a meeting Thursday. If approved, the new contract would bring Midway’s $100,000 payment up by another $73,674.

The number came as a surprise to the committee, who expected the revised costs to be in the $150,000 range. Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the committee, called the proposal “a hard sell,” saying that he liked the idea of paying $150,000 “a lot better.”

Council Member John McDaniel listened as committee chair Bruce
Southworth, center, talked with Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott.
Traugott told the committee that Midway could not form an independent police force for less than their presented cost, and that relying on the state police “would be a big disappointment” due to the possibility of increased response times.

Southworth agreed, but still felt that the proposed cost would be “a lot for Midway.” He and City Clerk Phyllis Hudson said the city should receive improved service from the police department in return for the higher costs.

“I can’t promise you they’ll be 73 percent better,” Traugott said.

Hudson said after the Versailles officials left, “I could see it if it was a gradual increase per year.” The new contract would go into effect July 1, 2018. It could be for four years or longer.

Versailles’ police budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year is $3.86 million, not including state incentives for salaries. Traugott multiplied this by 4.5 percent to get the $173,674 figure presented to the committee.

Traugott didn’t say why he used that percentage, calling it “semi-arbitrary,” but noted that it was more favorable to Midway than using the city’s share of Woodford County’s population, 7 percent, which would be “overkill;” or 9.5 percent, the share of service calls made to the Midway area between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30.

Later in the meeting, Southworth noted that County Judge-Executive John “Bear” Coyle wanted to require Midway to pay a lot more in the three-way deal among the governments, to help reduce the county’s costs.

“It’s a heck of a lot better than $400,000 … four and a half percent is not bad,” he said.

The other committee member present, Council Member John McDaniel, said, “It’s going to be hard to sell that amount of money, but proportionally . . .” He didn’t finish the thought, but said he thought the percentage would be a bit higher. McDaniel is a former Midway and Versailles police officer.

Beyond the financial part of the contract, the committee considered a renegotiation of the shifts officers would work while providing service to Midway, a possibility Traugott and Fugate were open to.

The current contract calls for the police department to provide “daily, around-the-clock” service to Midway, which it currently fulfills by using two eight-hour shifts and having officers on call for the remaining eight hours.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher, who also serves on the committee, didn’t arrive in time for the committee’s discussions with Traugott and Fugate, but supported the revision of the shift terms if it would result in more comprehensive service for the city.

A view of the lot from above its side fence on Cross Street
Land-use dispute: The committee also discussed a land-use issue at 120 S. Winter Street, continuing a conversation opened during the full council meeting on Sept. 4 about a gravel parking area laid from the lot’s backyard to Cross Street without the city’s permission.

The owner of the lot, Emmajo Pulley Gray, applied for an encroachment permit to allow access to and from Cross Street, but only after the work was completed and she got a letter from the city attorney asking her to.

Gray has not appeared before the council to explain the rationale for the work, but her neighbor Charles Logan speculated at the previous meeting that installation of blacktop on the lot could result in damage to his property from water runoff.

Council Member Steve Simoff, who was present at Thursday’s meeting but does not serve on the committee, passed along heard additional concerns from Gray’s neighbors, and expressed a need on the council’s part to identify what her plans for the lot were before taking further action.

“Are [they] going to have a business operating out of there, or is it just going to be a place for storage?” Simoff asked.

The committee agreed to recommend that the council deny Gray’s encroachment request.

Lights on North Gratz: Southworth and McDaniel briefly discussed the committee’s plans to contact Kentucky Utilities about the cost of installing new streetlights on North Gratz Street.

The lights would be placed to help navigation to and from Walter Bradley Park, which saw a host of improvements last year, as well as the businesses in the area, including the new Brown Barrel restaurant and Darlin Jean’s Apple Cobbler Café.

Southworth asked Deputy Clark Sonya Conner to check with Kentucky Utilities about the cost of lights.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On 5-1 vote, council OKs big pay raises to start after next election; approves Child Care Task Force

By Destiny Butler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

After months of discussion, the Midway City Council voted Monday to increase the pay of council members and the mayor elected next year. It also approved an effort to place a child-care center in Midway.

Effective January 1, 2019, the mayor’s pay will increase from $100 to $1,400 per month while council members’ pay will increase from $50 to $200 per month.

Libby Warfield (file photo)
The ordinance passed 5-1, with Libby Warfield opposing it.

Warfield said after the meeting that the raise is drastic. Comparing Midway to similar towns, she found that Midway officials make much less than their counterparts, but those elected next year will make more than average.

Council members in favor of the raises say Midway is growing and so will the responsibilities of the mayor and council, and the salaries have not been raised for 30 years.

Having discussed the issue several times, the council members had no discussion of it Monday, other than Kaye Nita Gallagher, who said, “I think we’ve already had a discussion.”

Child-care task force: The council approved Mayor Grayson Vandegrift’s proposal to create a task force to study the viability of a privately funded child-care center in Midway and try to attract one to the area. It would serve anyone who lives or works in the area, Vandegrift said.

“There’s been a baby explosion” in Midway, he said, “and with that there have been a lot of comments about how nice it would be to have child care, like there used to be.”

The council approved Vandegrift’s appointees: Amy Bowman, Brittany Ehrlich Jaimie Hogan, Mary Beth Rouse and Katie Vandegrift, the mayor’s wife, who will chair the task force. She and the mayor have an infant son.

The mayor said the Child Care Council of Kentucky will assist the task force: “They were very encouraging and very excited.”

Schools Hall of Fame: The council voted unanimously to keep giving the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame $1,000 a year, after a presentation by Ken Tippett of the organization.

The Hall of Fame recognizes the most accomplished alumni and patrons, and the sixth class of hall-of-famers was inducted Aug. 27, Tippett said. “When we got into looking at this we found that there were a lot of schools that had hall of fame, but they were primarily athletic,” he said. “We wanted to be able to recognize every graduate in every area.”

In response to questions from the council, Tippett said annual expenses for the program are about $6,000. He said the City of Midway is one of the top sponsors, and has been since the inception of the organization six years ago.

Festival: The annual Midway Fall Festival Sept. 17 and 18 had the biggest turnout in its history, Vandegrift told the council. He said the crowd was estimated at 11,000 on Saturday and 6,000 on Sunday.

“The festival was really well-run,” he said. “Elisha Ann Holt, in her first year as coordinator, did a fantastic job; it was promoted well, a great showcase for the city, and I’m so impressed with the clean-up crew.”

The students at Spark Versailles were one of the groups of students helping pick up trash around the area. The city gave them $1,000 for their projects.

Council committee to consider higher-cost police contract, encroachment issue, lights for North Gratz

The Public Works and Services Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at City Hall to discuss changes in the city's police contract with the City of Versailles and other issues.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said after Monday evening's council meeting that Versailles wants Midway to pay $150,000 a year for police protection, up from $100,000.

The committee will also discuss an encroachment permit for the lot at 120 S. Winter St. to have rear access to East Cross Street, an issue discussed at the Sept. 5 council meeting; street lights on North Gratz Street, which leads to the improved section of Walter Bradley Park and where businesses recently opened; and damage to the roadway on North Winter Street.

All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mayor says Midway Fall Festival was the largest ever

Story and photos by Katia Davis, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The 43rd annual Midway Fall Festival may well have been the largest ever.

Festival-goers crowded Main Street on Saturday.
On Saturday the festival had about 10,000 guests, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email around midday Sunday. “Yesterday was far and away the largest single day crowd in festival history,” he wrote.

Monday morning, he said in an email, "I think it's safe to say this was the largest ever. The crowd Sunday remained robust most of the day, and I couldn't find anyone who didn't agree that Saturday was the largest crowd they'd ever seen. The festival itself was the largest ever as well, though, with 160 vendors and the bank parking lot almost completely full of vendors (and customers.)”

Vandegrift speculated Sunday that the large crowd could be because of the good weekend weather and good promotion by the festival committee, “especially on social media.”

The weekend high was 83 degrees, just in time for the festival after several days of cool and rainy weather. Last year’s festival had some rain, but the weather was sunny and clear for this year.

Vandegrift said something larger may be going on. “There's been a great buzz about Midway regionally and across the state it seems, even more so than usual,” he wrote. “Talking to some folks from all over the state this week I heard a lot of words like ‘exciting,’ ‘booming,’ and ‘energetic’ in describing the city, and I think that contributed.”

Lisa Cissell of Versailles resident agreed that the festival was larger than usual.

“Lots of people here today,” she said. “I think it might be one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen.” Cissell said she attends the festival every year.

Another hint of the large number of festival-goers was parking. Cars were parked on the sides of South Winter Street just before Walnut Street, a 10-minute walk from the festival.
A view heading north on South Winter Street shows the shoulder lined with cars of festival-goers.
Cissell said parking is “the only downfall. Because it’s so small and quaint, the parking is horrendous. It’s a little bit of a hike, but we are here because it is worth it.”

Cissell said she parked on West Stephens Street, an eight-minute walk from Main Street.

Vandegrift said in his email that he heard “cars were backed up on the I-64 on-ramps yesterday, trying to get into town.”

The Evans Orchard and Cider Mill train gave rides.
Paid parking was near the event for $5. The Sojourn City Church on Northside Drive, an eight-minute walk from Main Street, opened up its parking lot for free and offered festival guests water and restrooms.

Reece White of Versailles agreed that the event was well worth having to park a short distance away.

White said that between seeing old friends, the atmosphere, friendliness of Midway residents, and seeing what vendors are selling makes the event worthwhile. “It’s fun just to wander around and look,” he said.

Cissell said her favorite vendor was West Sixth Brewery. White said he enjoyed the food trucks and the Crank & Boom ice-cream booth.

“It’s just a lovely atmosphere and small enough that you feel like you can see everything within a day and have a good afternoon,” Cissell said. “We’ve had great weather.”

There were 160 vendors, the largest number ever.
The festival welcomed guests and vendors from surrounding counties and states. About 160 vendors lined the streets, up from 150 last year, also helping make the festival one of the largest yet.

Jim and Nancy Phillips of Jim and Nancy’s Handmade Baskets came from Jacksboro, Tennessee, about 30 miles from the Kentucky line, for what Nancy Phillips thought was the eighth consecutive year. 

“We used to do several shows in Kentucky, but since we’ve gotten older we’ve dropped a lot of our shows, but Midway is one of our favorites, so we keep coming back,” she said. “It’s a nice place and all of the people that put on the shows are always nice to you, that makes you wanna come back.”

Crowds enjoyed musical entertainment from the Southland Drive Bluegrass Band and other performers.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

'Everything Equine' exhibit on Thoroughbred industry scheduled at Midway Branch Library Saturday, Sept. 23

By Destiny Butler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
The Midway Branch Library will host an exhibition to give children and adults the opportunity to learn about the life of a Thoroughbred horse Saturday, Sept. 23. “Everything Equine” will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the library’s parking lot at 400 Northside Dr..

Visitors will be able to understand the way the horse eats, what they wear, and how they are cared for by veterinarians, said Suzanne Conrad, program coordinator at the library.

“We are trying something new in Midway,” Conrad said. “We want to create an opportunity for residents in Woodford County to have contact with people who are in contact with horses daily.” She said the library hopes to make it an annual event.

There to display their talents and professions will be a veterinarian, blacksmith, pharmacist, jockey, and others to teach the attendees what it’s like to have a career revolving around horses. According to the 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the equine industry in Woodford County brings in over $125 million a year.

Conrad said no horses will actually be present for the exhibit, due to liability issues. However, attendees will get the full experience of the life of a horse. The blacksmith will bring tools he uses to trim and shape the foot of a horse, the veterinarian will bring extremely long exam gloves, and there will be a model of the horse digestive system.

The jockey will be there to explain what it’s like to ride a 1,000-pound rocket – better known as a horse. He will talk about what it’s like to encounter a horse the day before riding and controlling them.

Conrad encourages people to call and register for the exhibit, so everyone can be accommodated. Anyone who comes will be entered in a drawing for four one-day admission passes to the Kentucky Horse Park.

The exhibit isn’t only to introduce people to the Thoroughbred industry, but to introduce people to the health-care community of the Bluegrass, Conrad said: “I am excited about the opportunity to have all of the professionals there at the same time and the community to be able to ask questions and dispel some of their fears and mysteries and maybe open their eyes to careers they haven’t thought about.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

43rd annual Midway Fall Festival Saturday and Sunday

Enhanced photo illustration
Excellent weather is expected for the 43rd annual Midway Fall Festival, which will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 to 5 on Sunday. Saturday's forecast from The Weather Channel is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 83; on Sunday the prediction is sunny and 84. The festival usually attracts 10,000 to 15,000 people and is widely regarded as one of the best community festivals in the Bluegrass.

Peggy Angel, president of the Midway Business Association, announced at the last City Council meeting that the festival will have up to 160 vendors, with food, crafts and activities for all ages, making it one of the largest ever. It is staged by the business association, with help from the City of Midway. For more information, see the festival website.
A banner along Leestown Road at the Interstate 64 interchange advertises the festival and its sponsors.

Midway University, in second year with male undergraduates, reports significant gains in enrollment

By Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
               Midway University says it has a record-breaking graduate-student enrollment of 215 for the fall semester, as well as its highest traditional undergraduate enrollment “in recent history,” with 482 students at the school that admitted male undergrads for the first time last year..
               Midway’s graduate enrollment has increased 12 percent over the last year, including students pursuing Master of Business Administration, Master of Education and Master of Science in Nursing degrees, the university said in a news release.
               Enrollment Management Vice President Kelly Gosnell said undergraduate programs at Midway supplement the graduate programs.
               “In addition to our own graduates, other students are also drawn to our programs because they are fully online, affordable and can be completed on an accelerated schedule,” Gosnell said in the release.
               The undergraduate enrollment is up from 432 last fall, the first semester that undergraduate education was co-educational. With 204 incoming freshmen, the university said it has reached a total student body of 1,217. 
               The undergraduate population is now 32 percent male, a 10 percent increase since last fall. Athletics involvement also rose 30 percent, now reaching a total of 340 Midway students.
Midway University President John P. Marsden attributes the increase to a new plan for the institution.
               “Our staff has worked hard this year getting the word out about the university to students, particularly men, who were not a part of our recruitment strategy a little more than a year ago,” Marsden said in the release.
               “To say the old plan is outdated is an understatement,” he said. “It’s time to reassess where we are and plan for our future as a fully co-educational institution.”

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Council making a second try for pay raise; hears about plans for new high school, deals with property complaint

By Tre Lyerly, Sarah Landers, Katia Davis, Destiny Butler and Tanquarae McCadney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council came closer Monday to raising the pay for the council and mayor to be elected next year, giving first reading to an ordinance that would take the salaries from $50 and $100 a month, respectively, to $200 and $1,400 in 2019.

They also heard school officials' plans for a new Woodford County High School and merchants' plans for the upcoming Fall Festival, decided to look into a property owner's complaint that a neighbor's new gravel parking lot could cause water damage to his property, and heard Mayor Grayson Vandegrift say that a committee would consider a large increase in police costs that may be proposed.

In spring, council members proposed salary increases in order to more accurately reflect the duties coming with each position, saying the pay hadn't been raised in 30 years. After several months of negotiations, on Aug. 7, they voted 4-2 against monthly salaries of $1,000 for the mayor and $400 for each council member. Council Member Kay Nita Gallagher suggested then that the council get a lesser increase and the mayor get a larger one.

The council held a special meeting Aug. 24 to discuss the issue, and agreed to consider an ordinance that would pay council members $200 per month and the mayor $1,400 per month. The first reading of the ordinance Monday prompted no discussion, and Vandegrift said he would schedule second reading and passage for the next meeting, on Sept. 18.

No journalists attended the Aug. 24 meeting, but a tape recording of it will be available Thursday at City Hall. Asked after Monday's meeting how they came to agreement, council members and the mayor said it came down to a numerical compromise.

Vandegrift said, “They compared the size of our city, how much we make on an annual basis, how long it takes me to do my job, how long it takes to do their job, and after batting around a few ideas, they settled on those numbers.”

Gallagher said, "Steve [Simoff] and I had one number. Bruce [Southworth] and John [McDaniel] had another set of numbers. Sara [Hicks] agreed with, well, basically we all just decided to meet in the middle. We only had one person that didn’t, I don’t know if she changed her mind or not,” Gallagher said. That was Council Member Libby Warfield, who declined to comment after the meeting.

McDaniel said, “Now the mayor has a whole lot more to do with new developments, it’s time to bring things up to date.” He cited figured gathered by Warfield, showing that six towns in Kentucky similar to the size of Midway average paying their mayors $6,000 and council members $1,900 a year.

New high school, tax proposed: Woodford County School Board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV of Midway introduced Supt. Scott Hawkins to inform the council of the board's goal to build a new high school that is expected to cost a total of $56 million. Local governments have no authority over schools, but school officials are informing all three of the county's governing bodies of their plans.

Hawkins said, “This is my tenth year as superintendent in Woodford County, and probably the question that I have been asked more frequently than any other since I’ve been here is, when are we going to get a new high school?” The current building is 53 years old.

He said the district planning committee made that the number-one need in 2013, and again this year, and bought 61 acres next to Woodford County Middle School in Versailles for that purpose. But a tax increase would be needed, because the district has a bonding capacity of just $13.8 million, less than one-third of the amount the new building is projected to cost.

The district has completed $34 million in projects over the past four years, Hawkins said, and has accumulated $27 million in outstanding debt. Without the required bonding capacity, Hawkins said building a new school wouldn’t be possible until 2028. “We want to act on this opportunity to build now, we don’t want to wait another 20 years,” he said.

Hawkins said the board could levy an occupational tax, but it only levy it on people who work in Woodford County. “That’s only about 40 percent of our population, so that doesn’t generate the revenue that would be needed,” he said.

Hawkins said the board believes the best option is to enact a facilities tax of 6 cents per $100 worth of property, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $60 a year. That would increase the bonding ability to $53 million. The other $3 million could come from the state.

The board could raise its basic tax rate 1.5 cents a year, Hawkins said, but that would take much longer to get the project completed, and the state assistance would not be available. “I know that an increase in taxes is never a popular subject,” he said, “but if we truly want a new high school in our community, that’s the way to get there.”

He said the new school would include an auditorium and a theatre, now lacking in the county's schools, and allow Woodford County children to stay competitive with surrounding county school districts.

If the board agrees to a 6 cent facilities tax, an architect can be hired to do the design work in early 2018. “We could, if everything goes well, begin the 2020-21 school year in a new high school,” said Hawkins.

Homeowner fears damage: Charles Logan, of the 100 block of East Higgins Street, came to the council with concerns of water run-off due to gravel laid on his neighbor's lot. If the gravel stays, and especially if it is blacktopped, there is a higher potential for flooding, Logan said. If the gravel is a dense grade aggregate, "It could be as impervious as concrete over time," said Warfield, who lives at the end of West Cross Street. 

“My main concern is that if at a later date they come along and say we're gonna blacktop this, then it's gonna flood us out down there, probably on both sides of the street,” Logan said. “If you can do nothing else, I would like something in writing that that lot will never be blacktopped.”

The matter was already on the council agenda because the driveway to the parking lot entered Cross Street without an encroachment permit. City Attorney Phil Moloney wrote the property owner, Emmajo Pulley Gray, a letter Aug. 2 saying concern had been expressed about drainage from her lot, and enclosing an encroachment permit for her to file. She did, but did not appear at the meeting.

Vandegrift said the council could decide to reject the encroachment permit or require conditions for it, such as removal of part of the gravel or prohibiting blacktopping. “This is a good example of why people need to realize, it’s not better to ask forgiveness than permission,” he said.

The mayor said Gray's son laid the gravel to store trucks and trailers, which Simoff could possibly devalue the surrounding properties. It’s as if a parking lot has been put into a residential area, Simoff said.

Warfield raised an additional concern, that Gray's fence may be on the city's street easement. She said the street has a 24-foot-wide right of way, but only 12 feet of surface, and the fence is three feet from the blacktop.

Southworth moved to table the matter for at least 30 days while the city gathers more information, and the council agreed. The letter is part of the council's meeting documents, available here.

Public safety: Midway might have to pay the City of Versailles a lot more for its part of countywide police protection.

McDaniel said before the meeting that County Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle wants Midway to pay $400,000 a year for police services instead of the current $100,000, and the magistrates on Fiscal Court "kind of agree with that."

But he said a three-member committee of magistrates, at a meeting Monday morning, rejected Coyle's alternate proposal to return countywide policing to the sheriff's office, which Coyle once headed, and which is now headed by Johnny Wilhoit, recently retired as police chief in Versailles.

"The judge wasn't very happy," McDaniel said. "I was very surprised."

In the council meeting, Vandegrift alluded to the negotiations, saying that when a proposal is made, he will assign it to the council's Public Works and Services Committee, headed by Southworth, who also attended the Monday-morning meeting.

In another public-safety matter, the council authorized Vandegrift to purchase a second radar sign after observing that the first, installed on Northside Drive, had slowed down drivers. The mayor said the first sign cost about $3,200; the limit on price of the second one is $4,000.

Vandegrift said the current sign will be moved from East Stephens Street to Coach Station Road at the request of Northridge Estates residents. He said the sign is taken off of a street, speeding increases again. “It’s like playing whack-a-mole,” he said. “You take one off Winter Street and they speed up there.”

Downtown events: Peggy Angel, president of the Midway Business Association, announced that the Midway Fall Festival Sept. 16-17 will have up to 160 vendors, with food, crafts and activities for all ages, making the festival one of the largest in its 43-year history. The event typically draws a crowd of more than 10,000. 

Angel announced that the merchants will kick off the downtown Christmas season the first weekend of November. The city will continue its tree lighting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the merchants will have Santa Claus visit by train the next day, as usual.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lane of Midway Road to remain closed tomorrow

The lane closure for repairs on Midway Road between Versailles and Nugent's Crossroads will continue tomorrow, the state Transportation Cabinet has announced. A lane will be closed between Frankfort Road (US 60) and Old Frankfort Pike (KY 1681) from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Flaggers will guide and direct motorists.

About 50 attend mayor's 'Peace in the Park' and many offer views on issues of race and diversity

Many in the crowd remained in the park's quarry area to talk after the "Peace in the Park" event concluded.
Story and photo by Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

About 50 Midway residents responded to Mayor Grayson Vandegrift’s call of a meeting Sunday afternoon in the recently opened quarry area at Walter Bradley Park, where the serene nook set the tone for a peaceful and unifying discussion on race and diversity. Many offered their own sentiments on how to make Midway a home to everyone.

Vandegrift said in an interview before “Peace in the Park” that he was inspired by the recent violent white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va. In opening the meeting, he said Midway has an annual unifying celebration for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but race isn’t discussed enough, and he believes it is the duty of political leaders to hold such events, to open the discussion on diversity.

“Race is a moral issue, and I think we all have a moral obligation to do the right thing and to say the right thing,” he said.

During the open discussion, Helen Rentch told the crowd that the number of African Americans in Midway has declined due to the job market and housing availability, a perspective on the issue that many may not have considered.

With hundreds of jobs coming to Midway Station, Rentch said the town could be “in danger of becoming an exclusive little enclave,” instead of a place that all can enjoy. “I think the issue of housing is something we need to talk about if we want to become a diversified community,” she said.

After the meeting, Vandegrift said Rentch’s comments were an interesting point that he would like to address further.

The Rev. Dr. Sheila Harris, one of two scheduled speakers, asked the audience powerful questions in her opening. “When you see me standing here, do you see me as a person? Do you see me as an American? Do you see me as a woman?” she asked. “Or do you put a label on me, and say that I’m an African American female? What do you see?”

Instead of moving forward, she said, it appears time is moving backward in regards to the issues of racism. “The time now is that we stop pushing it under the covers. The time now is that we stop just having the community gatherings and talk about it,” she said, calling for “action behind the words.”

During the open discussion, Sally Kinnard recalled a conversation she had last year with an African American friend, in which they discussed what they could really do about race issues. “We all love each other and that’s fabulous, and then what do we do now?” she asked. “Do we have dinner together?”

Kinnard asked how the community would respond if a hate group visited the town, and offered some entertaining solutions. “I hear things like somebody says, ‘We’re going to throw glitter on them, ’cause it’s really hard to get rid of glitter’,” she said, adding that staying home would be too passive.

Kinnard said she wants community members to think about how they could protect each other if that ever occurred in Midway. “I sort of say let’s leave that to Grayson,” she said, provoking more laughter, “but that we need to have community conversation around that, so that we’re not caught like Charlottesville was caught in a hateful situation that just deteriorated.”

Angela King-Belleville also brought up questions, about how to effectively denounce racism on social media. She also asked how she could be more expressive of her feelings.

Liles Taylor opened a conversation on being an ally to minority communities as a white man. Taylor said that “not being racist” is too low of a bar, and he wants the community to be more proactive and intentional in loving others.

The other scheduled speaker besides Harris, also African American, was state Sen. Reginald Thomas, a Lexington Democrat who is running for Congress. In a two-minute speech, he said of the events in Charlottesville, ”We thought those times were behind us.” But he added, “It’s gatherings like this that help lead us back, to a path forward of togetherness. . . . We all have to have those conversations because we all have to understand that in the end, the only way that we are going to become a stronger, better nation, and a more cohesive community is when we come together as one and realize that fundamentally, we are the same.”

Thomas also said the bounds of diversity can stretch to include language, gender, and LGBTQ populations.

Two pastors from Midway shared stories of inspiration from Dr. Kevin Cosby, senior pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, who visited Midway Baptist Church last year for a “Reconciliation Meal” and spoke about overcoming the culture of conflict from segregation.

Steve Hadden, pastor of Midway Baptist, offered an opportunity for audience members who wondered what they could do to help stand against racism. He said that on Sept. 11 at the Galt House, there will be a meeting with an emphasis on education in black colleges and universities, inspired by Cosby’s position as president of Simmons College of Kentucky. Next year, the meeting will cover economic empowerment.

“What I’m learning is there can be no reconciliation without reparation,” Hadden said.

Pastor Rick Smith of Second Christian Church shared one of his core values with the audience. He referenced Cosby’s eulogy of Muhammad Ali, saying forgiveness, truth, reparations, and reconciliation are all necessary steps to overcome conflict and heal from transgressions. Smith asked that community members raise their children to be “strong advocates for their neighbors.”

Sarah Wilson made a similar request. “I work with children on a fairly regular basis, and you would be shocked to hear some of the things that come out of their mouths,” she said. “They’re just repeating what they heard at home.”

Wilson said that while it is difficult to change the opinion of adults, it is important to teach children to love their neighbors. “When you don’t think about what you’re saying in front of children, you’re going to cause some problems down the road,” she said.

Vandegrift said after the meeting that he hopes to inquire more about ideas and concerns that Midway residents have about their community, and would like to continue the open discussions of diversity. Vandegrift also said he believes Midway could serve as an example to other communities.

Al Cross, editor and publisher of the Midway Messenger, told the crowd that the state’s relatively small African American population means that many Kentuckians do not even know a person of color, so change needs to come “one relationship at a time.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Four from Midway make dean's list at university

The Midway University dean's list for the spring semester includes four students from Midway: Adriana Denington, Andrew Noell, Sarah Stewart and Kristina Thompson. To be on the list, a student must be full time and have a 3.6 grade -point average for the semester.

Students on the list from Versailles are Miriam Gonzalez, Kathryn Gosnell, Carly Guy, Latonya Jones, Savannah Lafoe, Liliya Leskiv, Adam Madara, Isabelle Milburn and Maria Vieyra.

On the list from Georgetown are: Alexandria Allen, Tiffany Beeler, Corey Bevins, Danielle Despard, Kristen Giles, Mary Hamner, Lavina Johnson, Kathryn Lawler, Erica Mason, Nathaniel Rooney, Joseph Shrewsberry and Tiffany Wickline.

Those from Frankfort are Maria Bueno, Lyndsey Coffield, Daniel Cox, Devon Edwards, Amy Mauer, David Merritt, Courtney Murphy, Lindsay Poole, Bailey Preston, Tressa Shaw, Michelle Simons, Cait Smith and Emily Todd. The list also included 35 students from Lexington.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Council sets work session to discuss pay raises

The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting next week to discuss big pay raises for the council and mayor who will be elected in November 2018. After several months of discussing the proposal, the council decided Aug. 7 that it needed more detailed consideration.

The special meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at City Hall. The meeting notice says "The purpose is to have a work session on mayoral/council pay increases. No action will be taken." The notice says action will be taken on a proposed change to the zoning ordinance on industrial signs. All council meetings are open to the public.

The ordinance the council defeated Aug. 7 would have raised the mayor's annual pay to $12,000 from $1,200, and the council members' $600 salary to $4,800 a year, starting in 2019. Proponents have said the current pay is archaically low and the officials will have even more to do as Midway develops, while skeptics say the increases would be too large, especially for the council.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

'Peace in the Park' Sunday, Aug. 27 to 'celebrate diversity and discuss important topics of the day'

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has announced a special event in response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., and related issues. "Peace in the Park" will be held in the newly landscaped quarry area of Walter Bradley Park Sunday, Aug. 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. Here's a poster:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Message from the Mayor: We should, and will, do our part to make the world a better place; stay tuned

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

With the horrific tragedies that occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend I am once again struggling to wrap my mind around the fact that in 2017 there are white supremacists marching in the streets of our cities and towns. Racism is a vile and infectious idea – and completely un-American. The very idea that someone’s value is determined at birth was at the heart of the American Revolution, and the rejection of that notion is our highest principle.

But the division in this country has recently gone from polarizing political speech to violence and death, and so many of us are simply bewildered – and afraid. It’s as if a wheel has been spun that we can’t get to stop turning, and it continues to pick up speed. I’ve long believed that true change and true progress does not happen from the top down, but from the bottom up.

We are so fortunate to live in a wonderful and peaceful community, but we don’t live on an island, and we can and should do our part to make our world a better place. In the spirit of that, we are in the early stages of planning a city event to allow anyone and everyone to share what they’re feeling – regardless of who they are or what they believe. We will make details available as soon as they are ironed out. Perhaps we can even set a good example for other cities by showing how we can come together and enjoy one another, despite our petty differences.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Council wants to think more about pay raises

After months of thinking about it, when the time came to vote, Midway City Council members decided they needed to keep on thinking about paying the mayor and council elected in November 2018 a lot more than the officials make now.

The ordinance the council defeated Monday evening would have raised the mayor's annual pay to $12,000 from $1,200, and the council members' $600 salary to $4,800 a year. In monthly terms, that would take the mayor from $100 to $1,000, and the council from $50 to $400. Proponents said the current pay is archaically low and the officials will have even more to do as Midway develops.

Sarah Hicks moved to adopt the ordinance, and Steve Simoff seconded it. But they were the only council members who voted for it, and Simoff said afterward that he still wanted council members to get only $200 a month.

That sentiment was shared by at least some of the four members who voted no: Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel, Bruce Southworth and Libby Warfield, who had been the only one who publicly expressed significant reservations about the proposal.

Gallagher said, "I think the 400 is way too much," and suggested cutting it to $200 a month and adding another $100 to the pay of the mayor, who "is going to have a hell of a lot more to do." Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that extensive a change would require redrafting of the ordinance and two more readings.

Warfield said in June that data from the Kentucky League of Cities showed that annual salaries in the six Kentucky towns most similar to Midway average $6,000 for the mayor and $1,900 each for council members.

Hicks said at Monday's meeting that there are "significant differences" between Midway and those towns, including income. She said Midway's median income is $53,874, and the next highest income among the group is in Bloomfield, at $39,196. She said Midway's income is "significantly above the state levels, but all the other cities were below the state levels."

Hicks also noted the town's proximity to interstate highways and much larger towns, and said "We are the only city of our size that has a university." She said much of the income in the other comparable towns "comes from manufacturing or extraction."

Southworth, a retired Midway and Versailles city official, said "I don't do this for the money. That's not the reason I'm here. It don't really make any difference to me."

McDaniel suggested that the council vote down the proposed ordinance and have a workshop to learn more about the issue.

Vandegrift said the council pay in the ordinance could be lowered by amendment, without redrafting and extra readings, but no council member moved to do that.

"I'd like to look at it some more," McDaniel said, apparently reflecting a consensus. Hicks acknowledged, "We could do more financial analysis," looking at budgets of comparable towns and the percentage of expenses that go to administration.

Warfield suggested there are intangibles to consider when making comparisons with other towns: "Do they give me the same feeling I get when I'm in Midway?"

After the 2-4 vote, Vandegrift said further action should be initiated by the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, chaired by Hicks. When she asked about a time frame, Vandegrift said he would send out more information on the issue this week.

Speed bumps: The meeting was the first since Vandegrift announced that he was getting rid of the removable speed bumps on East Stephens Street because of deterioration and would seek a refund of $5,300 from the manufacturer.

Gallagher asked about a four-way stop at the intersection of Brand and Stephens streets, but Vandegrift said state traffic engineers have told him that would cause accidents. "I think the answer is enforcement," he said, but added after some discussion, "We need to pursue all options. We're not going to stop working on this."

Southworth, who lives near the intersection, suggested lowering the speed limit, since "It makes the ticket bigger" for a typical speeder.

Tax rates: The council held first reading of an ordinance setting tax rates for bills that will be mailed this fall. The real-estate rate would remain the same, 10.2 cents per $100 of value, but the tax on personal property would be lowered to 12.43 cents from the current 14 cents.

Vandegrift said afterward that the rates are calculated to raise approximately the same amount of money as last year. He told the council that he would schedule second reading and passage of the ordinance for the next meeting, Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Police contract: Vandegrift announced that the City of Versailles, which provides police protection in all of Woodford County, had begun negotiations with the county government on a new police contract without involving Midway.

The mayor said he told Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle that all three governments should be involved in the talks, rather than Versailles approaching Midway after doing a new deal with the county.

"We're going to be asked to pay more money," Vandegrift said.

Other action: The council approved an encroachment permit for Equine Analysis Systems of 107 W. Main St., which has bought the vacant lot that lies behind it and fronts on Winter Street. The permit (and a state permit, because Winter is US 62) will allow EAS to build a driveway and handicapped parking area.

Southworth asked why half of the excavated area would be graveled instead of paved. Deborah Boehler of EAS cited cost. She said part of the driveway had to be paved to keep gravel from sliding into Winter Street, according to the state permit. Hicks said, "I'm glad you're using gravel, because it's permeable and reduces toxic runoff."

The council deferred action on a request for an event permit for Bourbon Country Burn, a proposed bicycling event, because of questions about the route, personnel to help with traffic control and the plan to use Walter Bradley Park, which has the free water supply, as a water stop.

Hicks also voiced concern about the number of races and similar events being routed through Midway: "We could just get so popular that it might not be an asset any longer."

Steve Morgan of the Midway Business Association announced that the next free CPR class for bystanders will be held Aug. 16. He said seven people (four business owners and three council members) attended the class held last month.