Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Midsummer Nights in Midway returns for 2nd season Friday, June 30, and on last Fridays of July and August

Midsummer Nights in Midway will return for a second season at 6 p.m. Friday, June 30, and will be held monthly through August. The events are designed to provide wholesome, family fun and serve as a platform for local businesses, artists, and non-profits to reach new audiences, as well as "highlight the historic, small-town warmth of Midway," says Midway Renaissance, the event's originator and coordinator.

The Twiggenburys, a Lexington-based band that plays rock and pop from British artists from the '70s through today, will provide live music from 7 to 10 p.m.

Local restaurants will be selling food and beverages, local shops and street vendors will be open late, and local non-profits will be selling food, soft drinks and water.

There will be activities for children, including Tiny Tallman from 6 to 8 p.m., and a Bearded Brothers photo booth. Free parking will be available.

Midway Renaissance is offering a sponsorship level called Friends of Midsummer Nights. For $25 sponsors get a t-shirt and their names in a drawing to win a gift certificate to local restaurants and stores. People can sign up at the Midway Renaissance t-shirt booth at the event.

The presenting sponsors of Midsummer Nights in Midway are Grey Goose Restaurants and Graviss McDonald's Restaurants. Other sponsors are Midway Shell and Midway BP (now under the same ownership), Midway University, the Lexington law firm of Sturgill Turner, Amberway Equine, Sporthorse Properties, Mezzo Italian Cafe and Provisions, The Homeplace at Midway, Kennydid Gallery, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Woodford County, Horse Country Cottage, Kentucky Honey Farms, Weisenberger Mills, May & Co., Southern Equine and Holly Hill Inn and the City of Midway.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Council OKs cemetery rules, house demolition bid, purchase of lower speed humps for Stephens Street

The Midway City Council enacted new cemetery regulations and authorized the mayor to buy lower speed humps for East Stephens Street at its meeting Monday evening. It also put some surplus equipment up for sale and awarded a bid to remove the old house in the cemetery.

The cemetery regulations are the first update in 18 years, said Council Member Libby Warfield, chair of the City Property and Cemetery Committee. She said nothing in the new rules (at the end of the council meeting packet, here) conflicts with the cemetery brochure distributed by City Hall, but they impose some new requirements in addition to the cemetery ordinance.

For example, memorials made of concrete, artificial stone, wood, composition, cast plaster, tin or iron are prohibited. Warfield said many graves in the cemetery don't comply with the ordinance, which requires "a suitable memorial identifying each set of remains in a particular lot." Warfield said, "So many of the things that are not in compliance are from what people are leaving there as a marker."

Warfield agreed with a suggestion by Council Member Sara Hicks that the city look for a way to help people who can't afford suitable memorials. Hicks suggested raising the cost of a lot by $50, to $700, and putting the extra money in an assistance fund. Warfield said the ordinance already allows the city to create such a fund, but raising the lot price would require a new ordinance.

The new rules set time periods for artificial decorations, rules for display of flags, and circumstances for the city to remove shrubs. They ban concrete urns, pots and planters; trellises, standards, brackets and shepherd's hooks; new plantings of trees or shrubs; bark mulch, lava rock, stones, glass pebbles and similar products; edging, curbing or fencing; benches, unless used in place of a headstone; toys, shells, balloons, decorative stones, wooden items, statuary, mirrors or other glass items, eternal flames, solar lights, photographs, paper articles, lawn stakes, tree ornaments, wind chimes, sun catchers, birdhouses, feeders and several other items. Warfield said newly prohibited man-made items in the cemetery will be removed.

In other cemetery business, the council accepted a $7,200 bid by Grubbs Excavating of Versailles to remove the old house in the cemetery and restore the site to a mowable condition. Vandegrift said the work will be done after June 28, because the Versailles Police Department will be using the house in a special-weapons-and-tactics exercise that day. He said windows will be broken.

The mayor gave the council a copy of this ad for the replacement
speed humps he wants to buy. Click on it to view a larger version.
The council spent much more time discussing the removable speed humps that were installed in early May on East Stephens Street, upsetting some residents. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the 3-inch-high humps need to be replaced by 2-inchers, mainly because of concerns by emergency medical services and The Homeplace at Midway. He said the 3-inchers could be used on streets with lower speed limits.

Several council members wanted Vandegrift to check with EMS, traffic engineers and others before making the purchase. "These questions you're asking now weren't asked the first time," he said. "You all want to be 100 percent certain that these are going to work. I can't give you that." But he said "I'm going to do a lot of homework" before buying the replacements.

The council declared as surplus property, to be sold by sealed bid, to vehicles and several pieces of equipment: A 1990 Ford Ranger pickup, a 1994 Jeep Cherokee 4x4, a set of 6-foot side toolboxes, a 5x10-foot trailer;, a 50-gallon sprayer on a trailer, a Honda push mower, two Stihl blowers, an Echo hedge trimmer, two Shindaiwa weed eaters, a Meyer salt spreader, a SnowEx salt spreader, and an unspecified number of DeWalt and Skil battery-powered tools.

The council agreed to cancel its meeting scheduled for July 3 because the "Sparks in the Park" event will be held that evening, starting at 6. He said the proposed ordinance with a big pay increase for the mayor and council elected in November 2018 will probably be ready for first reading at the July 17 meeting.

Hicks informed the council that Woodford Forward and Kentucky Utilities will have a meeting Friday at 10 a.m. in the parking lot behind City Hall to discuss installation of a charging station for electric cars. "It's exciting," she said.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Council to consider new cemetery rules and regulations

The agenda for Monday evening's Midway City Council meeting includes a new set of Midway Cemetery rules and regulations, on which a council committee has been meeting for several weeks. A copy of the proposal is in the packet sent today to council members as a PDF, available here; the current regulations are in a brochure, available here.

The council will also consider a bid to remove the old house in the cemetery, a resolution to sell several items as surplus property, and discuss the nagging issue of the removable speed humps on East Stephens Street. The council packet has an advertisement for humps that are two inches high, one inch less than those recently installed.

The agenda includes a usual subhead, "First Reading of Ordinances," but no ordinances are specified. The council recently asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance with a big pay increase for the mayor and council that will be elected in November 2018.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

City council discusses pay raise, adopts new budget

The Midway City Council agreed informally last night to draft an ordinance that would greatly increase the salaries of the mayor and council elected next year. If the council adopts the recommendation of the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, members of the next council would get $400 a month, up from $50; and the mayor would get $1,000, up from $100.

Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the committee, said she had "received favorable feedback. Many people approached me and said they thought it was a good idea," in light of the increased workload of city officials, especially with the Midway Station project. But Council Member Libby Warfield said she's having difficulty with her own opinion.

"It is a touchy subject," Warfield said. "This is a larger increase than I think anybody I talked to ever would have expected, and I'm trying to work on my own to justify it, but I'm not having a whole lot of luck."

"I'm torn as well," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

Warfield said she has less problem with raising the mayor's salary because the office has a four-year term and council members' terms are two years. For them, "You could increase it some and then watch that workload and the increase it some more after two years," she said. "We wouldn't have that luxury with the mayor's position."

Hicks said she had recommended to her committee that the mayor's salary be $20,000, but the committee "encouraged us to be more prudent. . . . Given the amount of the work the mayor's doing, twenty thousand would just be a beginning ... and could be raised as the job becomes more demanding. . . . I'm real concerned with the burden on our mayor."

Council Member Steve Simoff said a recent email from Warfield about her work as chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee showed council members need to be paid more. But Warfield replied, "It just feels like it's a really big leap."

Hicks said that as a member of the council and other boards related to her council work, she attends five to eight meetings a month and also spends time preparing for the meetings. "The good thing is, we're all like excited about our town," she said. "That's really a good problem to have, but I don't think there's a problem with us being reimbursed for that."

McDaniel noted that the committee used other cities in the Bluegrass as a guideline, but Warfield said the average 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 that's not the whole story. "The difference is how active these towns are in their regions and how active their regions are in the state," she said "We are in one of the most active regions in the state and for the size of our town we're one of the most active towns."

Joseph Coleman, research director for the Kentucky League of Cities, said in an email to the Midway Messenger last month that in "cities of similar size to Midway (1,000-2,999 population), the median annual pay for mayors was $6,600 and for legislative body members was $1,200 in Fiscal Year 2016," which ended last June 30.

Vandegrift ended the discussion by saying he had wanted to get "a straw-poll consensus" from the council, and said he would ask City Attorney Phil Moloney to draft an ordinance with the raises.

In other business, the council adopted the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Vandegrift said that was the end of "the smoothest budget process I've ever seen." For a copy of the budget, click here.

Vandegrift said the removable speed bumps recently installed on East Stephens Street need to be smaller, and promised to tell the council that "every two weeks" because "It's only a matter of time before they cause some injury to somebody." The council meets on first and third Mondays.

The mayor said most of the city's first subsidized sidewalk repairs have been completed, but work at the corner of Bruen and Winter streets will require removal of trees, which will need approval from the state Transportation Cabinet because Winter is a state right of way.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Top officials of Japanese firm speak at grand opening of American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant

Tatsuro Ito, president of Howa Textile Industry Ltd., spoke at today's grand opening of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant in Midway Station, which has been operating for several months. "We hope this plant will become a role-model plant among our American facilities," Ito said, after noting that the Japanese company has 36 plants in 13 countries.

American Howa Kentucky President Mizuhiro Toki said "AHK is committed to being a good neighbor and building strong relationships in the community." He expressed thanks to "the people of Woodford County for welcoming us into the community."

The plant is building headliners, the inside roof covering, for automobiles produced at the Toyota plant in Georgetown. It has about 70 workers now and will have 83 by August, plant manager Chris Fortino (at far left in photo) said in an interview. He said he lives in Frankfort, is a native of Cleveland, and has worked for Howa for 11 years and at all the company's U.S. facilities.

Lindsey Ransdell of the state Economic Development Cabinet (seated next to the lectern) told the crowd, "Our automotive industry is what really drives our state," and said 100,000 Kentuckians work for foreign-owned businesses. She said AHK's decision to locate in Midway Station spurred more growth, alluding to the larger Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center that is under construction next door.

The company's name is pronounced "Ho-wa" and it has a plant in Bowling Green. Here's a 14-second video of the ribbon-cutting, which was followed by a reception and tours of the plant:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sixth print edition of Midway Messenger is available

Margie Stedman, Shirley Davis and Lou Taylor enjoy the
Messenger outside the post office, with Lou's dog Molly.
The latest print edition of the Midway Messenger was distributed to locations around greater Midway this week. It mainly features stories that have appeared online, but also includes an update on the Weisenberger Mill bridge and a story about Heirloom being ranked among the top 100 U.S. restaurants on Open Table.

Stories of lasting interest include Austyn Gaffney's profile of artist Ray Papka, the city council's discussion of goals for the town, concerns of local merchants, the Midway Christian Church's environmental work, the recent study about agricultural jobs, and the denial of a request for another bed-and-breakfast.

The Messenger began publishing a print edition twice a year three years ago in response to requests from Midway citizens. Its major distribution points are City Hall, United Bank and Midway Grocery, but many other businesses also have copies. If you can't find one, email al.cross@uky.edu or download a 16-page PDF of the newspaper here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ellen and Eric Gregory win Kentucky Heritage Council award for their restoration of five old homes

Eric and Ellen Gregory on the porch of their Midway home, at 304 South Winter Street. (Photo submitted)
Ellen and Eric Gregory of Midway are being honored with a Service to Preservation Award from the Kentucky Heritage Council "for their hands-on rehabilitation of multiple family homes, notably The Bell House in Metcalfe County; for engaging their children to help with these projects; and for utilizing and promoting the use of historic rehabilitation tax credits," the council says in a news release.

The Bell House in Metcalfe County (photo by Eric Gregory)
The Gregorys bought and restored a Victorian-era home at the southeast corner of Winter and Stephens streets, a key intersection in Midway. The house in Metcalfe County has been in Ellen Gregory's family for generations; Alex Hein of Setzer's Chandelier and Restoration Shop on Main Street restored the original gas lights in the house.

The couple also restored homes in Lexington, Georgetown and Winchester. Their latest project was the childhood home of Ellen's father, Richard Duncan, who told them shortly before he died, "I can go in peace knowing that the house is in good hands."

The Gregorys posed with the award at Berry Hill. From
left are Ginny, Eric, Duncan, Sarah James and Ellen.
The presentation of the award at an invitation-only ceremony Tuesday at the Berry Hill Mansion in Frankfort noted that the project also involves the newest generation: "They are also passing along a love of history to their children, whom they have made active participants in their latest venture."

The awards are presented during National Historic Preservation Month to recognize excellence in the preservation of historic buildings and cultural resources through investment, advocacy, volunteerism, building partnerships, public involvement, lifelong commitment or significant achievement. Others receiving the Service to Preservation Award are the Martin Luther King and William Wells Brown Neighborhood Associations for “Gathering Our History: An East End Preservation Project,” documenting Lexington’s East End neighborhood, capturing its stories, and creating an event to publicly celebrate the community’s rich cultural heritage, historic architecture and long-time residents; and the University of Kentucky Historic Preservation Symposium, an annual conference that premiered in 2005 to introduce students and others to innovative work shaping the boundaries of historic preservation practice by bringing together a range of speakers to discuss current topics in an accessible format, the release says.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Big weekend in Midway: First movie night at the park; Horsey Hundred cyclists passing through; block party

Movie Night in the Quarry tonight will kick off a busy weekend in Midway.

The new event, sponsored by the city and Friends of Walter Bradley Park, will be held in the old quarry behind the dog park, in the recently cleared and landscaped area of the park.

A campfire session, with announcements, will begin at 7 p.m. From 7:30 to 8 p.m., the Midway Branch of the library will have a storytelling time.

The movie, the Disney family film "Sing," will begin at 8:15. The temperature at that time is forecast to be 75 degrees. If you go, bring a flashlight, bug spray, a chair or blanket, and a litter bag; and don't bring any alcoholic beverages, because they will not be allowed.

On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds and perhaps thousands of bicyclists will roll through an near Midway on various routes of the annual Horsey Hundred, sponsored by the Bluegrass Cycling Club. That night, the first Block Party sponsored by the Midway Business Association. Larry Corey and the Passport Band will entertain at 7 p.m.

The Memorial Day service at Midway Cemetery will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, May 29. The featured speaker will be Sarah Wilson.

Here's a Google map from the Bluegrass Cycling Club of overlapping Horsey Hundred routes in Midway:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Message from the mayor: New property-maintenance ordinance coming, will be enforced 'to the maximum'

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

I am currently awaiting a draft of a new property maintenance code ordinance from our city attorney, which will be handed to the Blighted Property Committee of the Midway City Council for their review before it goes on to the full council for final passage.

This city has endured for too long a number of property owners who hold in their possession multiple properties that they choose not to properly maintain. While I do not yet have the particular language of the ordinance in my possession, I am partially familiar with its contents, and pending passage by the council I am committed to enforcing it to the maximum extent which the law allows. As a city, we will do everything within our means to ensure that property owners who diligently maintain their properties do not suffer from the blight and abandonment of others.

With that being said, there are some people who own multiple properties and still make the effort and the investments necessary to keep their properties maintained. Some in particular have gone the extra mile to work with the city over the years to bring blighted properties back to code or have demolished uninhabitable abodes. For them I am extremely grateful, and I would remind everyone, as I often remind myself, not to conflate your frustration with some onto others who are doing what is responsible and right.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Parrish-Roach family, Margie Samuels of Maker's Mark are winners of Spotlight Awards from Midway University

A famous Midway family and the co-founder of a famous brand are the winners of Midway University's annual Spotlight Awards, to be presented at a dinner at the university on Thursday, May 25.

The 2017 Legacy Award, for service to the university, goes to the Parrish-Roach family, defined as James Ware Parrish and his descendants.

Parrish worked with Dr. L.L. Pinkerton to establish the Kentucky Female Orphan School, which became Midway College and then Midway University. Parrish raised money to buy land and erect buildings, and the site he chose for the school remains the home of the university, which last year admitted male undergraduates for the first time.

Parrish had two sons who were active trustees of the school, "and their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many in-laws have continued to love, work and dream with the school as it transformed to meet its students’ needs," the awards program says. Margaret Ware Parrish was a coach and teacher for 40 years. Parrish’s son, Thompson Marcus, was patriarch to the Roach family.

Current Roach family supporters of the school include Ben and Ruth’s son, James Parrish Roach, who is a trustee; their daughter, Helen Rentch, who spearheaded efforts to build The Homeplace at Midway, an assisted-living facility and nursing home that collaborates with the school's nursing program. "Helen is also a member of the Midway University Ambassador program," the program says. "Robyn Roach, widow of Ben and Ruth’s son, Tom, established and still helps lead the Ruth Slack Roach Scholars program, in partnership with Mildred Buster and Janie Polk. This scholarship has benefited 20 young leaders on campus, giving selected students a full ride for two years, allowing many to complete their college education."

The Pinkerton Vision Award honors a person or group that has had a direct impact on improving women's lives; a woman who has been an outstanding role model; or a woman who has displayed great leadership, innovative thinking and influence in her career. This year's winner is the late Margie Mattingly Samuels, wife of Bill Samuels Sr. of Bardstown, with whom she conceived and promoted Maker's Mark bourbon in 1953. She died in 1985.

Margie Mattingly Samuels
"While Margie never held an official position or had delineated responsibilities, her contributions were invaluable," the Kentucky Distillers Association says. Not only did she name Maker's Mark, "She discovered a way to help her husband decide which small grain should be selected to replace rye as part of the formula in his new whisky; she baked bread with a variety of alternative grains. Bill blind-tasted the bread and decided on taste. She insisted that all the old buildings at the Victorian-era distillery they had purchased to make their whisky not only be saved but also faithfully restored, even at a time when money was scarce. This resulted in Maker’s Mark becoming America’s first distillery to be designated a National Historic Landmark and earned a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for Maker’s Mark as 'America’s oldest operating distillery on its original site.' By far her most famous contributions were the creation of two of the spirits industry’s most famous symbols for handcrafted quality: the brand name Maker’s Mark, and the distinctive red wax which drips down the neck of every bottle. . . . Margie also designed the shape of the Maker’s Mark bottle, as well as the distinctive lettering on each label that has become an internationally recognized type style."
Below, Rob Samuels, Margie's grandson, accepts the award for her as President John Marsden listens.
Below, Dr. Jim Roach accepted for his family as Donna Moore Campbell, trustees chair, listened.

Monday, May 22, 2017

14th annual Francisco's Farm Arts Festival attracts varied artists and a good crowd to Midway University

The 14th annual Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, with juried artists and craftspeople from several states, drew a good crowd to the campus of Midway University on Saturday and Sunday.

One of the more striking items was an American white pelican made of stainless steel and copper by Scot and Laura Kellersberger of Phoenix Creative Metal Artwork in Salvisa. Scot said the bird “is not quite life size; it has a seven-foot wing span.” He and Laura work on only one piece at a time. Some of their work is on display at Damselfly in Midway, Sincerely Yours in Lexington and Secret Garden in Louisville.

Jean-Marie Havet and wife Juanita, at left, talked with David and Lynn Perron of Lexington, at the festival Sunday. The Havets are owners of JM Havet Jewelry in San Francisco.

Photos by Elizabeth Spencer, University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information

Below, vibrant glass art by Larry Hamilton of Hamilton Glassworks in Winterville, Ga., was on display.

The festival is sponsored by the university and Midway Renaissance.

Right, visitors looked over the menu of food options.

Below is a collection of handmade brooms by Shannon Lewis, owner of Bluegrass Brooms in Ashland.

At bottom, Lewis talked with Fred Thomas of Midway during a broommaking demonstration.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Midway-tied Classic Empire a head short in Preakness; headed to Belmont Stakes in New York June 10

The Preakness finish (Photo by Nick Wass, The Associated Press)
Midway-connected Classic Empire grabbed the lead in the final turn but was overtaken by 13-1 shot Cloud Computing, who won the Preakness Stakes by a head at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore yesterday.

“I got to the lead early, maybe too early,” Classic Empire's jockey, Julien Leparoux, said afterward.

Trainer Mark Casse seemed to agree: “His mind tends to wander. . . . He starts seeing things and stops paying attention. You could see Julien getting after him like, ‘Come on. Come on. We’re not done.’ He thought he was done.”

Cloud Computing did not run in the Kentucky Derby because his trainer, Chad Brown, thought he needed more than three races in preparation. “Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, if we are ever going to beat them, let’s take them on on two weeks’ rest when we have six, and it worked,” Brown said after the Preakness. Always Dreaming, the Derby winner, finished eighth in yesterday's 1 3/16-mile race.

Classic Empire is owned by John and Debby Oxley, who own Fawn Leap Farm just south of Midway. He is a Tulsa oilman who also has homes in Palm Beach and Saratoga; she is a native of Shively. The horse was last year's two-year-old champion and finished fourth in the Derby after being heavily bumped at the start.

UPDATE, May 22: Casse told Jason Frakes of The Courier-Journal that he plans to run Classic Empire in the June 10 Belmont Stakes. He initially was pointing toward the Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 30, but decided against a break because the horse is improving. On Saturday, "He was a better horse than he was two weeks ago." Brown said the mile-and-a-half Belmont may not suit Cloud Computing. Always Dreaming trainer Todd Pletcher also hasn't decided. Senior Investment and Lookin at Lee, third and fourth respectively in the Preakness, are headed to the Belmont. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Council sticks with Stephens speed bumps, hears Soper back officials' pay raise, and helps merchants with signs

The Midway City Council stuck with its new speed bumps for now, helped merchants pay for signage, and heard a strong endorsement of its proposed pay raise Monday evening.

The council also had first reading of the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and passed on second reading an ordinance allowing all nonprofit organizations, not just churches, to get once-a-week trash pickup instead of twice a week.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and council members were expecting comments from guests about the removable speed bumps installed a week ago on East Stephens Street to discourage speeding on the avenue, which becomes Weisenberger Mill Road. They got one complaint and one compliment, and had a lot more discussion among themselves.

Dakota Shaw, who lives in the 200 block of South Gratz Street, said the devices had diverted speeders into her street and others, and "They're speeding more than usual." She added, "There's a lot of kids where I live, so it's pretty dangerous."

Margi Stout, of the 200 block of East Stephens, said she favored the bumps "or whatever mechanism you choose to do," because traffic on the street "has improved immensely."

She said the biggest problem had been from eastbound drivers going downhill out of town. "By the time they get to Gratz, they're going like 55 or more. . . . Something had to be done, and it does seem to be helping."

Vandegrift said, "They're extremely effective, but there have been some concerns brought forth. I'm a little disappointed that, you know, then, some of the voices on social media didn't come to the meeting tonight, because they were invited to. But that's kind of the nature of social media, in some respect."

Vandegrift said he was sorry that he had not checked beforehand with Woodford County Ambulance Director Freeman Bailey, who was concerned that the bumps could cause complications for patients being transported. He acknowledged that they had diverted traffic to other streets, and said the city has ordered a sign to alert motorists that they are approaching the bumps. UPDATE, May 16: Here's a short video of traffic crossing the bumps:

The mayor recommended that the city get bumps "that aren't quite so tall" because "You have to go 5 miles an hour over those" that have been installed. But later he said that if shorter bumps didn't work, the city would "be between a rock and a hard place."

Council Member Bruce Southworth, who lives on East Stephens and spearheaded the purchase, said "I think they're doing exactly what they're designed to do." Later, he said, "We need more of 'em in town."

In response to a question from Council Member Steve Simoff, Southworth said he didn't know the speed rating for the bumps, but "I ordered the tallest ones they had," 3 inches high. The speed limit on the street is 25 miles per hour.

Council Member Libby Warfield said she had received three calls for the bumps and three against, with some suggesting four-way stops at various intersections.

Council Member Sara Hicks suggested using 2-inch bumps on Stephens and moving the 3-inchers to other streets. But when Simoff asked Council Member John McDaniel, a former city policeman, what he thought, McDaniel said "Give it more time," and the council informally agreed.

Pay raise: Hicks reported that the council's Ordinance and Policy Committee had recommended that the mayor and council elected next year be paid $12,000 and $4,800 a year, respectively, instead of the current $1,200 and $600. She gave many of the same reasons that she gave in an interview with the Messenger last week.

"We think that we are going to have a lot more work ahead of us, because of the way Midway Station is developing," Hicks said. "We want the positions to be positions that younger people would be willing to give their time up for, and we think that if we raise the money that maybe we'll get some fresh, new ideas."

John Soper, the paid chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, said "I strongly endorse those concepts."

Soper, who was at the meeting to report on developments at Midway Station, said the mayor and council will have many more decisions to make about the industrial and commercial development in the next few years. He said "the work's there," and so is the revenue, to justify a mayoral salary of $25,000 that could be raised to $40,000.

"Twelve thousand dollars is not enough to put up with me for what's coming at us," said Soper, who had some contentious meetings with Vandegrift and the council last year. "We've got a major project going on out there . . . and it needs to be shaped by the people in this room. . . . It's going to require a lot of time and your effort."

Soper alluded to the county's longstanding conflict between preservation and development interests. He is identified with the former, and Midway has been largely identified with the latter. "There is probably no town in Kentucky that has a better identity than Midway," he said, "and we've got to keep that."

Earlier, Soper said commercial development at Midway Station is about to start, with sale of a big lot for a convenience store. He said an "ag retail" business may buy eight acres and a "high tech
manufacturing" company that serves automobile plants may locate on the remaining 1.5 acres of original industrial land in the development.

Other business: The council voted to give the Midway Business Association $600, the remainder of its donations budget for the fiscal year, to keep signs on Interstate 64 and place a new sign downtown directing motorists to parking, shopping and the city park.

"A lot of people coming into our city don't know where everything is," MBA President Peggy Angel said.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she was more concerned about the interstate signs, the fees for which are due this month. Angel said the group had run short of money to pay the $1,200 bill, and had obtained about $200 in donations from non-member antique stores because one sign in each direction of the road mentions antiques.

In other business, Gallagher stepped down as chair of the Tourism and Outreach Committee, saying she was going to help start a new business. Vandegrift appointed McDaniel to succeed her.

The council granted an event permit for the annual Horsey Hundred bicycle race, which will pass through town May 27 and 28. There will be live music in the Darlin' Jean's parking lot from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 27.

The second reading of the proposed city budget for 2017-18 is scheduled for the council's next meeting, on June 5. The pay raise will also be up for discussion, but it would require drafting of an ordinance, which requires two readings.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

June 4 picnic will celebrate 2nd anniversary of anti-discrimination ordinance, promote passage elsewhere

A group promoting a countywide "fairness ordinance" like the one in Midway will have a picnic Sunday, June 4, from 2 to 5 p.m. in Walter Bradley Park.

The picnic is coordinated and organized by the Woodford Fairness Coalition, which wants Versailles and/or the county government to pass an ordinance banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Midway City Council passed such an ordinance almost two years ago, and the picnic is scheduled for the second anniversary of its effective date.

"The Woodford Fairness Coalition believes it is important and time to organize such an event in order to bring the community together in support of the LGBT community as well as to celebrate the city of Midway," spokesman Dan Brown said in an email. "We are proud of Midway for stepping forward, and taking a prominent stand in the Commonwealth of Kentucky by becoming more welcoming and affirming."

The picnic is sponsored by Woodford Reserve, Ouita Michel's Family of Restaurants, MBS Writing Services and Photography, Homegrown Yoga and individuals in the community. 

"The event is family-oriented," Brown said. "Games, music, food, a rally and good fellowship will be part of the afternoon. The Northside Elementary playground is adjacent to Midway's Walter Bradley Park. The Woodford Fairness Coalition is also providing informational booths for several Central Kentucky organizations. Everyone is invited to attend. Bring a side dish to share, a blanket and/or chair. We are providing all paper products, water, and fried chicken."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Midway University baseball team wins conference; will play in national tournament Monday morning

In its first year, the Midway University baseball team won the River States Conference tournament and is headed to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament.

The Eagles will play the first round in Lima, Ohio, as the No. 5 seed in the bracket hosted by the University of Northwestern Ohio. They will play MidAmerica Nazarene Monday, May 15 at 9 a.m. The winner of that game will meet top-seed, UNOH at 4 p.m.

Live statistics and video will be provided, with audio, by UNOH at www.gomidwayeagles.com. The bracket also includes No. 2 Middle Georgia State University and No. 3 seed Hope International, a California school.

The games will be played on Racers Field at UNOH's St. Rita's Sports Complex. In the case of a postponement due to weather or games needing to be played at night, the event will move to Montgomery Field in Celina, Ohio. Admission per day will be $7 for adults and $5 for students. Tournament passes will also be available at the gate for $12 for adults and $10 for students.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mayor and council elected next year would get much more pay than current ones, under proposal to council

A committee of the Midway City Council plans to recommend that the council raise the salaries of the mayor and council elected in November 2018 to $1,000 and $400 a month, respectively, from the current $100 and $50 a month.

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee decided Monday morning to make the proposal. It would raise the pay of current officials only if they were re-elected next year.

"It won't affect anybody's salary that's on there now," said Council Member Bruce Southworth, a member of the committee.

State Rep. James Kay swore in the current council in January.
Southworth and the committee chair, Council Member Sara Hicks, said in telephone interviews that the salaries had not been raised in 30 years or more, and an increase is overdue.

Hicks said she had discussed the idea with some citizens before the meeting. "People said they thought a raise was warranted, so I'm expecting that the community will support it."

She said council members long ago tended to be people "who were business owners or professionals who worked downtown," but that is less true today. "We would like to expand it to younger people who might have fresher ideas, so we have more representation for all age groups."

Southworth said the increase would be "a huge jump" but the salaries are so low, "There's some argument that you have to be rich or retired to be on the council in Midway."

Mayors and council members have gotten busier in recent years, especially because of developments at Midway Station, said Southworth, who ran Midway's wastewater treatment plant for 11 years and was city administrator and public works director for Versailles before retiring in 2011. 

"With all the development that's going on in the industrial park, there's going to be more and more work added to it," he said. Hicks agreed.

"The city is probably more active than many cities of our population size," she said. "One of our rationales was the development of the industrial park. We think there's going to be an ever-increasing amount of work for the mayor and the city council over the next 10 years."

Hicks said the committee looked at salaries of cities of comparable size and chose to propose salaries that would be "a little bit above the average." Midway's 2010 census population was 1,647.

Joseph Coleman, research director for the Kentucky League of Cities, said in an email to the Midway Messenger that in "cities of similar size to Midway (1,000-2,999 population), the median annual pay for mayors was $6,600 and for legislative body members was $1,200 in Fiscal Year 2016," which ended last June 30.

Under the proposed pay scale, the Midway mayor would make $12,000 a year and council members would make $4,800 a year, starting in January 2019.

Southworth estimated that council members spend an average of 10 to 15 hours a week on city business and mayors spend about 25 hours a week.

The other member of the committee making the recommendation, Council Member Steve Simoff, didn't return an email seeking comment. The other City Council members are Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel and Libby Warfield. The mayor is Grayson Vandegrift.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Message from the mayor: Cub Scouts clean up park; citizens are advised to observe cemetery rules

Scouts posed on the new bridge in the park over Lee Branch.
By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

I want to give a big thanks to the fine young men of Cub Scout Pack #41 for spending the evening of April 25 cleaning up litter in Walter Bradley Park and Lee’s Branch.

Not only did these guys help beautify our city and undo the lazy work of litterbugs, but they then proceeded to donate $50 of their pack’s money to further beautification of the park. I’ve said this many times before, but it’s absolutely true that the future is looking bright.

Scouts and Cubmaster Ken Glass posed with mayor and $50 check.
This is a friendly reminder that artificial flowers are not allowed in the Midway Cemetery this time of year. If you do have artificial flowers in the cemetery, we ask that you remove them, as we will be making a sweep to clear them before our May 29 Memorial Day Service. Any items that are removed for being against cemetery rules are kept for a length of time, if you believe an item of yours has been removed and you wish to retrieve it, please stop by city hall and we’ll let you know how you can.

Our next city council meeting is this Monday, May 15, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. Among the items on the agenda are the first reading of this year’s budget, second reading of an ordinance amendment allowing non-profits to request weekly garbage pick-up, and an update from the Midway Merchants Association. As always, all are welcome and encouraged to attend. UPDATE, May 21: For a copy of the council packet, with the agenda and supporting material including the proposed budget, click here.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mdway-connected Classic Empire had a rough trip in the Derby but is headed for the Preakness

Classic Empire and jockey Julien Leparoux were muddy after
trailing most of the field for most of the Kentucky Derby, but
overcame adversity to place fourth. (Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
This story was updated Tuesday, May 9.

Midway-connected Classic Empire had a bad trip and finished fourth in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, and may not run in was initially questionable for the Preakness due to an injury suffered in the race, his trainers said Sunday.

"A lot of it is just going to be how quickly his eye can come around," chief trainer Mark Case told The Courier-Journal. "He also got cut up quite a bit yesterday. He looks a bit like Muhammad Ali after a rough night."

Casse's son and assistant, Norman Casse, told the Lexington Herald-Leader, "We'll wait a couple of days before deciding what we want to do." But on Twitter Monday, he said, "I'm so excited to take Classic Empire to @PimlicoRC and take our best shot at Kentucky Derby champ Always Dreaming in the @PreaknessStakes."

Classic Empire, last year's 2-year-old champion, is owned by Tulsa oilman John Oxley, who owns Fawn Leap Farm just south of Midway, and his wife Debby, who is from Shively in Jefferson County.

The bay colt was the morning-line favorite at 4-1 but was soon bet up to 7-1, his odds at post time. He started from the No. 14 position, the last hole in Churchill Downs' main gate, and at the start was bumped hard by McCraken, who started from No. 15, the first hole in the auxiliary gate and was forced over by Tapwrit, breaking from No. 16.

"Classic Empire bobbled soon after the break, then was hammered off stride between rivals when forced down," the Daily Racing Form said in its chart of the race. And his bad luck continued as he and jockey Julien Leparoux mounted a stretch run that initially looked like it might repeat his winning drive in the Arkansas Derby.

The horse "regrouped to rate off the inside, picked up steam leaving the far turn, swung five wide for the drive, had his run briefly interrupted when bumped and carried out mid-stretch, regrouped and churned on," the Racing Form said.

"We're just really proud of the way he ran," Norman Casse said.

Always Dreaming as the co-favorite at post time with Irish War Cry, which finished 10th. Longshots Lookin at Lee and Battle of Midway (named for the World War II naval engagement) were second and third, respectively.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Council OKs permit for Midsummer Nights in Midway events June 30, July 28, Aug. 25; budget reading set

The Midway City Council approved a civic-event permit Monday evening for Midway Renaissance to hold three Midsummer Nights in Midway: June 30, July 28 and August 25, all Fridays.

"Those events were a huge success last year," Renaissance Vice President Debra Shockley told the council. She said bands playing "dancy music from the '50s-'60s up to the '80s-'90s" will be hired to entertain between 7 and 10 p.m. each evening, and all nonprofit organizations will have an opportunity to sell items on Main Street.

Unlike last year, the events will not have any outside food or beverage vendors, Shockley said: "We think our restaurants can probably handle all of that." The civic-event permit will allow open containers of alcoholic beverages bought from a vendor with a special license to sell off the regular licensed premises, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift explained.

In other business, the council held first reading of an ordinance to allow nonprofit organizations to choose once-a-week (residential) garbage service. Vandegrift said the second reading and passage will be scheduled for May 15, as will first reading of the city budget on which the council has been working at special meetings.

In response to a citizen complaint at the most recent meeting, Vandegrift said he would propose an ordinance to require distributors of literature to attach it to the front doors of residences rather than toss it into yards. He said he would check into a report by Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher that Frankfort was able to get Cash Express, the object of the complaint, to stop its distributions there.

Vandegrift also reported that removable speed bumps recently authorized by the council will be installed on East Stephens Street next week, and that the radar device on South Winter Street had counted 1,500 cars per day from April 20 to April 26. He said the count might help persuade the state Transportation Cabinet to lower the speed limit on the residential area of Winter Street to 25 miles per hour, but he would like to get more analysis of the numbers.

Council Member Libby Warfield, chair of the cemetery committee, said that with Memorial Day coming up, people need to be reminded that the city will soon start enforcing cemetery regulations from which special exceptions were granted in the previous administration. Warfield said there are different ways to interpret the regulations, and she is working on language for the committee to review "to make sure we clarify everything as much as we possibly can."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Betty Bright, a Midway fixture and the city's first female council member, died Tuesday at 93; mass Friday

Betty Bright
Betty W. Bright, a lifetime fixture in Midway for most of its residents and the first woman on the City Council, died Tuesday afternoon at her home at The Homeplace in Midway. She was 93.

Elizabeth Weisenberger Bright was the daughter of the late Augustus Joseph Weisenberger and Louise Egalite Weisenberger and the widow of William “Billy” Morrison Bright IV. She was preceded in death by a brother, Philip Joseph Weisenberger II, who was the owner and operator of Weisenberger Mills, and three sisters, Edith Woeber, Mary Louise Martin and Ann Bozarth, who was the mother of former mayor Tom Bozarth.

She is survived by two chosen daughters, Elizabeth “Missy” Louise (Mike) Bradley and Patricia “Pattie” Bright (Chuck) Wilson; four grandsons, Charles Schade (Saree) Wilson III, William Mathney (Kimberly) Wilson, Robert Hammond (Melissa) Wilson, and Thomas Joseph (Morgan) Wilson; four great-grandchildren, Lacie, Ellie, Cameron, and Tripp; her sister-in-law, Betty McWilliams Weisenberger; and many nieces and nephews.

She was born in Lexington but was otherwise a lifelong resident of Midway, except during her husband's Air Force career. She was a graduate of Cardome Academy in Georgetown and attended the University of Kentucky. She was a devoted member of St. Leo Catholic Church in Versailles for more than 50 years and served on the Parish Council. She was active with the Woodford County Homemakers and the Midway Woman’s Club.

During her 22 years on the City Council, her passions were the restoration and preservation of the 1917 Model T Ford Fire Truck and the maintenance of the Midway Cemetery. She was known for her love of animals. Her family thanked her care givers who helped her at Daisy Hill and The Homeplace.

Visitation was held Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Leo, followed by a rosary service. The funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the church, with committal and inurnment at 1 p.m. in the Midway Cemetery. Memorial donations are suggested to the St. Leo Building Fund, 295 Huntertown Road, Versailles KY 40383.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cemetery committee to meet at 4 p.m. Thursday; Events, Outreach and Tourism panel at 9 a.m. Friday

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will hold a meeting on  at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss "general cemetery issues," says the meeting notice, which says "No action will be taken."

The council's Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee will meet at 9 a.m. Friday, April 28, at City Hall to have a general discussion on tourism and outreach, and no action will be taken, the meeting notice says.

Message from the mayor: Join inspired citizens to take park to another level; help plant trees Saturday, 10-1

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway
Our society is built from the bottom up, not the top down. This means that cities and communities like ours are the foundation of our civilization. I see no better example of a true community effort than what is happening at Walter Bradley Park. Citizens who want nothing more than to improve their city and its natural beauty so it can be enjoyed by generations to come are working wonders, and this Saturday is a chance to lend your hand.
On April 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Midway Parks Board and the Friends of Walter Bradley Park will be planting 150 pink dogwoods and 150 native shrubs and bushes, weather permitting. You can check walterbradleypark.org for updates if the weather looks questionable.
My budget proposal for fiscal year 2017-2018 includes $17,000 for park improvements because I believe we need to strike while the iron is hot, and while so many citizens are inspired to take our park to another level. I also believe it’s important to give our volunteer labor the funding they need to build and transform a jewel of Midway that improves the quality of life for us now and for those still to come.
Also this Saturday, the Midway Woman’s Club will be having their annual Spring Home and Garden Sale from 8 a.m. to noon at the club’s house at 230 S. Gratz St. Proceeds will benefit the Betty Ann Voigt Memorial Scholarship.
Our next city council meeting will be this Monday, May 1, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. As always, all are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UK study for local groups finds almost 30% of jobs in county are directly or indirectly related to agriculture

Agriculture and businesses that support it account for almost 30 percent of the jobs in Woodford County, according to a study the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and Environment released Monday.

Cover of study report
Alison Davis of the college's Community & Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky did the study for Woodford Forward, the Pisgah Community Historic Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Performance Products of Versailles, which sells horse supplements.

The study found that Woodford County has 9,478 jobs, 1,881 of which (19.8 percent) are directly attributable to agriculture and 2,783 of which (29.4 percent) are directly or indirectly related to agriculture.

"This is a very large number," Davis said at a press conference at the UK farm near Versailles. "It is a small county, but it is a very significant number."

Davis said the figures do not include jobs from industries that serve agriculture but may serve primarily other industries, such as fencing and painting. "We try to be as conservative as possible," she said. Later, she said the study cost about $15,000.

In addition to collecting data from proprietary sources, the researchers interviewed people at 15 varied Woodford County businesses, including the Holly Hill Inn and Heirloom restaurants in Midway, asking them what makes the city or county an attractive place to do business, how the horse industry and other agriculture-related activities influence their business, and how their views of it as a place to do business would change "if the rural landscape declined significantly."

Davis summarized the answers to the last question as: "Woodford County would lose its appeal as a place to do business and a place to live; recruitment and retention of employees would become more difficult; and Woodford County would lose its distinctive identity and brand." The study adds, "While some development is wanted, careful consideration of available labor and the impact of infrastructure is needed in the planning process."

Map from study showing commuters into and out of county
Davis said a significant issue for the county's economic development is a shortage of local labor. She said the study found that 4,400 people come into the county for work. That is outweighed by the 7,070 Woodford residents who work in other counties, but the relatively large inflow helps dispel the notion that the county is just "a bedroom community," state Rep. James Kay said.

Kay was among those who offered comments and questions after Davis's presentation. Another was Hampton "Hoppy" Henton, who said "what's missing in this audience" are people from the towns and the planning office, because there needs to be discussion about development, roads and so forth.

Davis replied, alluding to the study's sponsors, "There's a pretty significant divide between the two groups, and it's hard to get them in the same room together." She said one person from CEDIK is trying to get such conversations going.

Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Greg Kocher, who recently wrote a profile of Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper, asked why Soper wasn't intervewed. (Soper told the Midway Messenger that he wasn't invited to the event.)

Davis said the interviews were limited to businesses, but "That would be the next step. . . . I think that's a conversation that needs to occur." Earlier, she noted that interviewees called for “stronger communication between the ag and non-ag sectors.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

City council to meet on budget at 10 a.m. Wednesday

The Midway City Council will continue its deliberations on the budget at a special workshop meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The meeting notice says no action will be taken. However, preliminary decisions may be made. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

The council held its first budget workshop last Wednesday and must pass a budget before the next fiscal year begins July 1. For a copy of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's proposed budget, click here

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Midway commencement May 13 will include first men to receive bachelor's degrees; Legends owner will speak

Susan Martinelli Shea
Lexington Legends owner Susan Martinelli Shea will be the keynote speaker at Midway University's May 13 commencement ceremony, which will be the first to award bachelor's degrees to male students.

Shea, a teacher by trade, left the profession in 2004 after a family tragedy and "devoted the last thirteen years of her life to working within the inner city of Philadelphia, specifically reorganizing the learning-support program in The Gesu School, where she is chair of the Faculty Support Committee and board member," the university said in a press release. "She also founded Dancing with the Students, a non-profit organization continuing to teach ballroom dancing to students, grades four through high school, in 17 under-served schools within the Philadelphia system. In 2017, she introduced this successful program to the students of the Crawford Middle School in Lexington."

Shea owns, and her son Andy operates, the Lexington Legends, a minor league baseball club affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 13, in the Graves Amphitheater. Receiving degrees will be 257 graduates, including 12 who transferred from recently closed St. Catharine College near Springfield and completed their degree at Midway. Among them are the first male undergrads to earn their degree since Midway became fully co-educational last fall.

"It's an honor for us to welcome Susan Martinelli Shea to campus for what will be an historic commencement ceremony," Midway President John P. Marsden said. "She has dedicated her entire professional life to working with under-served students as a teacher and nonprofit leader. I have no doubt that Susan will inspire Midway's graduates as they prepare for the next chapter in their lives."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Council hears about brewery or distillery recruitment, hotel/motel prospects, cemetery regulation enforcement

Economic development was the main theme of the Midway City Council meeting Monday evening.

Brewery-distillery task force chair Steve Morgan gave a report.
The council heard a detailed report from a task force trying to recruit a brewery or distillery, heard the executive of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce say he was surprised Midway doesn't have a motel or hotel yet, and approved the temporary appointment of Katie Vandegrift, wife of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, to the county Economic Development Authority.

Steve Morgan of Kentucky Honey Farms, chair of the task force, told the council it has focused on existing breweries or distilleries that might be interested in placing a satellite location in Midway. He said it would be a riskier proposition for a new, stand-alone operation.

Morgan mentioned two prospective locations: the area at the north end of Gratz Street, which was home to distilleries during Midway's distilling era (1852-1959), and the Leslie Mitchell farm on the northwest quadrant of the I-64 interchange.

Morgan said being visible from the interstate would be an advantage, but he and the mayor said there is more potential in the downtown location. "Our main goal is there," Morgan said, "because Midway needs something that brings traffic into Midway every day." He added, "The whole dynamic . . . would change, of the businesses in Midway," with new shops.

Vandegrift said, "It's all about diversifying your economy." He said the state economic-development employee who helps with brewery and distillery projects was the state's officer on the Lakeshore Learning Materials project, and "She's very excited to work on this."

For now, Midway's economy is becoming more industrial, with opening of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant and construction of the huge Lakeshore distribution center next to it in Midway Station.
The Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center is under roof and apparently still set to open in the fall.
Those developments should lead to a hotel or motel in Midway Station or the Green Gables development across the interstate, said Don Vizi, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce, who asked the council for financial support of the chamber.

Vizi spoke about lodging prospects when Council Member Sara Hicks asked him how Midway could have lodging beyond bed-and-breakfasts and noted that the Board of Zoning Adjustments recently denied a permit for a new one in the residential area of South Winter Street.

Vizi said several hotel operators have contacted the chamber. "You have the ideal location for it," he said. "I don't know why that has not happened." He said he had thought Midway would get a hotel or motel before Versailles, which is getting a Holiday Inn Express.

Midway interests have sometimes been concerned that the chamber and the county tourism commission, which the chamber staffs, have not done right by the smaller town near the county's northern edge. But the city gave the chamber $1,000 last year and $1,500 the year before, and Vizi asked for $1,500. The council indicated that it would decide during the budget process that is just beginning.

Vizi said chamber staff always ask people who stop at the visitor center in Versailles if they have been to Midway. "Three of four that come in there don't know Midway exists," he said. "I think we've helped that quite a bit."

Replying to a question from Hicks, Vizi said 22 of the 68 businesses in Midway are members of the chamber, a greater percentage than the chamber has among Versailles businesses.

Vizi said he attends monthly meetings of the Midway Business Association and works with merchants to promote the town. He noted that the chamber board will meet at Midway University on the morning of April 27.

Chamber Chair Bob Gibson said the chamber board has been pushing for Midway and better connections between the two towns, and will have a Midway update on every monthly agenda.

Appointments: Vandegrift said he had searched for some time to someone to fill the city's vacancy on the Economic Development Authority who is "willing and able, and who understands the balance we're trying to strike." Until he can find that person, he said, he wants his wife to hold the position.

Katie Vandegrift works in risk management for United Bank, which does not want her to hold the unpaid position on a permanent basis, her husband said. "She can hit the ground running," he said, because they have discussed EDA matters since he became mayor more than two years ago.

Council Member John McDaniel moved to appoint the mayor's wife on an interim basis. Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded and all other members approved the appointment.

The council also unanimously approved the mayor's nomination of Julie Morgan, wife of Steve Morgan, to a vacancy on the park board.

Cemetery issues: Council Member Libby Warfield said 55 letters will go out soon, notifying owners of lots in the Midway Cemetery that items on their lots are in violation of cemetery regulations. The council and Vandegrift decided recently to enforce all regulations, negating special exemptions that had been granted before he became mayor.

Warfield, chair of the Cemetery and City Property committee, said she has been removing names from the letter list as she sees cemetery lots brought into compliance with the regulations.

Garbage pickup: Hicks offered a recommendation from the Ordinance and Policy Committee, which she chairs, that all nonprofit organizations, not just churches, be allowed to have once-a-week pickup at residential rates rather than twice a week at the commercial rate. Vandegrift said he would have an ordinance drafted for the council to make the change.

Pool-filling adjustments: Hicks reported that she had received two calls Monday from people who want the city to return to its old policy of one-time discounts of sewer charges for people who fill their swimming pools with city water. The sewer charge is based on water usage; the exemption was based on the fact that pool water doesn't enter the sewer system.

The council abolished the exemption on a 3-1 vote in 2012, after it couldn’t agree on an adjustment plan that would include things like turning on sprinklers and watering gardens. Vandegrift said Hicks's committee should discuss the issue and make a recommendation to the full council, which has none of the members it had in 2012.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Proposed 2017-18 city budget has big increase in payroll-tax collections, more appropriations for park

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's proposed city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 shows a big increase in payroll taxes, mainly reflecting increased and anticipated employment in Midway Station, and increased expenses for parks and recreation.

The proposed budget includes $500,000 in occupational taxes. The current year's budget anticipated $400,000, but that estimate was low; through December, $331,000 had been collected. Vandegrift said last month that the council had been conservative in its budgeting, construction work on plants in Midway Station was bringing in unexpected revenue, local restaurants were doing better, and Midway University had increased its payroll.

Under the mayor's proposal, the main beneficiary of the extra money would be Walter Bradley Park. It would get $17,000 for improvements, up from $10,000 this year, plus $8,000 to replace the roof of the park's pavilion. Another $20,000 would be allocated for a softball field.

The budget would raise street maintenance expenses to $38,000 from the current $33,000, but would provide much less than this year for paving: $32,000. This year's paving budget is $80,000, reflecting the repaving of Northside Drive last fall.

Similarly, $10,000 would be allocated for sidewalks, down from $27,000 in the current budget, which includes the city's first subsidies to property owners to repair dangerous sidewalks.

Vandegrift's budget includes $12,546 for the city's contribution to the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, up from $5,000, as agreed with EDA, Versailles and the county government earlier this year.

The council is to discuss the budget at a workshop meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Vandegrift distributed his budget proposal to the City Council at its meeting Monday evening. A story on the meeting will appear later. For a copy of the budget click here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ray Papka, mixed-media artist at Wallace Station, has a long and varied life of inspiration for his work

Ray Papka's "Tree of Life" is in Honeywood, the new restaurant of his daughter, chef Ouita Michel, in Lexington.
Story and photographs by Austyn Gaffney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Ray Papka, a Midway resident for the past seven years, claims most people know him as the father of one of his three kids: Ouita Michel, Perry Papka, or Paige Walker. When I met Papka at a community dinner at Midway Christian Church he told me he was famous for nothing.

“Most people call me OF or PF,” Papka joked, “Ouita’s Father or Paige or Perry’s Father.”

But in fact, Papka has a long legacy of accomplishments, including more than 30 years as a Ph.D. and educator in the field of brain and nerve sciences, and his current work as a mixed-media artist.

Papka in his studio on Old Frankfort Pike at Wallace Station
Unless he’s traveling, Papka can be found laboring in his two basement studios at his house on Old Frankfort Pike at Wallace Station. When I visited, the first piece he showed me was created for his daughter Ouita Michel’s new restaurant, Honeywood, at the Fritz Farm shopping center at the corner of Nicholasville Road and Man O’ War Boulevard.

“Ouita was very attached to her mother and her mother’s favorite birds were cardinals, which is also the Kentucky state bird. So I added some cardinals for that reason and to add some color to the background,” said Papka. “It represents the family coming together, and then reaping the benefits of the family’s hard work.”

The restaurant is named after the late Honeywood Parrish, a neighbor of the Holly Hill Inn, Ouita Michel’s first restaurant. Keeping to the theme of family, Papka incorporated photographs of letters from her family on the border of the wood panels. In the middle, separated from the letters by a thin line of red metal, a large tree branches out across a yellow background, the cardinals resting on its limbs.

“It’s the tree of life,” Michel explained. “My father’s creativity really knows no bounds. He is a woodworker. He’s made bedroom furniture, lamps, candlesticks, and ashtrays. He’s re-roofed our home, paneled our kitchen out of scavenged barnwood, and hand-painted Native American symbols on the walls. He’s made shutters, picture frames, and sandwich boards and utensil caddies for my other restaurants. He grew up in a time when people had to be more self-reliant.”

Papka’s upbringing strongly influences his art. He grew up in Thermopolis, the largest town (population 3,000) and seat of Hot Springs County in Wyoming. His family, originally from South Dakota, earned their living as sod farmers and then carpenters as oil towns boomed in the early 20th century. His father continued that legacy by moving his family around the country for the first few years of Papka’s life. 

“Basically, my family was a mess,” said Papka, laughing. “My dad had the wanderlust. He did not want to sit down and do a job. He wanted us to live in a trailer house and be pulled all over the country and my mother finally had to put her foot down and say, no way, Thermopolis is the last stop.”

His father ended up doing ironwork on railroad bridges and building missile silos in South Dakota. But eventually, he abandoned the family, following construction work to Los Angeles. His mother supported Papka and his three siblings as a motel maid, and the kids had paper routes, lawn-mowing jobs in the summer and snow-shoveling jobs in the winter to help support the family.

“We became very independent and survivalist,” Papka said. “My childhood was as close as I can possibly imagine to a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn life. We built rafts to float down the river, and we ran through the hills and sagebrush to shoot rabbits for dinner. Mom would kick us out of the house early in the morning, and we had this laundry whistle they would ring at noon and five o’clock. My mom would say come home when the whistle blows for dinner, and in the meantime get out of here.”

Papka with his "Semper Femina," or "always women"
Papka’s upbringing shows in his work.

“I like old things like rustic maps. I mean, when I was a kid I probably spent more time reading maps then I did books because they were like stories to me, and in a sense, I wanted to know how everything was connected.”

Much of his artwork features embellishments of old, dusty objects he finds at flea markets and digging through scraps. When I visited his studio, Papka showed me rusty pieces of an old radio he was using to create jewelry that he found in a burn pile in Santorini, Greece.  The jewelry is for a series of female characters called "Semper Femina," a name he borrowed from the title of musician Laura Marling’s album. "Semper Femina" is taken from the Marines motto, Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful, and repurposed into always women. The series is a tribute to the strong women in Papka’s life.

The collection, consisting of 11 unique pieces, was created with one of Papka’s favorite mediums, old books. A corner of his large studio is dedicated to floor-to-ceiling bookshelves towering with old encyclopedias and hundreds of salvaged books once fated to be thrown into landfills or fires. The Woodford County Public Library has learned to call Papka before it disposes of any literature. Along with books and found objects, Papka uses an ancient form of painting called encaustic to create the restored feeling of his mixed media work. Encaustic painting takes hot wax and sometimes adds pigment to create protective layers of coating over paper, photographs, found media, and other objects of Papka’s work.

Papka's bookshelves also hold "found objects" for his work.
Michel calls her father’s studio the work of a “scientifically organized hoarder,” and like many artists, Papka is heavily influenced by his life as a scientist. Leaving Thermopolis to attend the University of Wyoming, he  wanted to become a forest ranger.

“You’d never know it from the way I talk now,” said Papka, “but growing up I was extremely shy and introverted, and becoming a game warden all by myself would have been just perfect.”

Pretty soon though, his intellect outpaced his plans. His advisor in the zoology department convinced him to go to graduate school for anatomy at Tulane University. The program came with a full tuition reimbursement, money for travel and research, and a living stipend. These scholarships reflected Papka’s work ethic and were also the only way he could support his growing family. He had married his first wife, Pam, right out of high school after she became pregnant with Ouita. He was 19, she was 18.

Michel, who was between three and five at the time, has a vague memory of their car catching on fire in Louisiana on the way to New Orleans.

“Sharecroppers along the side of the road came up and helped us empty our trailer,” Michel recalled. “But I never felt afraid. My father was always confident. When I decided to buy the Holly Hill Inn, my mother’s reaction was fear-based. She thought the prices were too high and I would go out of business. But my dad said, ‘You got this,’ and came down to help put padding on the tables. He’s always been super pragmatic. His response to stress is to work hard, and when our car was burning, he was a blur of activity emptying that trailer.”

Papka’s hard work led to a long and successful career as a neuroscientist. His first job was at the University of Kentucky, where he spent more than a decade teaching and growing his family to three children. It also led to the splintering of his family when Pam Papka became involved with a close friend and co-worker, Robert Sexton, a history professor at UK.

“I had a sabbatical coming up in Australia,” Papka recalled, “so I told my former spouse, we can go down there and work things out together away from all the trappings of home, or you can stay here and figure it out for yourself, but when I come back you need to know what you want to do.”

Pam decided to stay in Kentucky, and Papka took Michel, then 16, to Adelaide, South Australia, for a year instead.

“It was really upsetting at first, because we were so homesick,” Michel recalled. “But it was a fantastic experience. Australia brought us closer and it was a real confidence builder. He just dropped me off at school in a foreign country half-way around the world and expected me to figure it out.”

"Time Piece," one of several Papka works dealing with the topic
Papka’s life continued to be a series of moves. He left UK for the University of Oklahoma, where he spent a decade. His last teaching position was at the Northeast Ohio University College of Medicine, where he was chairman of neurobiology and ended up as vice president of research. He also traveled extensively, and held positions in Europe, including Hungary and Denmark. One of his pieces features a subway map of London in the background, and much of his work revolves around time, travel, and navigation. When I visited his studio, he was working on creating compasses out of discarded objects.

“Doing artwork is kind of like doing lab work to me because in my scientific career I’d set up a hypothesis and go into the lab and do the research and test it,” he said. “Now in my artwork, I set up a title first, and I go into the studio and working on that piece becomes an experiment because the story is coming out of me as I’m working on it. So I’m doing the same thing,” Papka reasoned, “using the same neurological pathways in my brain.”

People who see Papka’s work at New Editions Gallery in Lexington are always intrigued by his process, said owner Frankie York.

Papka had several works in progress during our visit.
“I think his [scientific] background and his intellectual process really influence how he composes things,” York said. “There’s so much involved in each piece, and we asked him to turn in a short paragraph, that he actually turned into two paragraphs, so we could tell people what’s going on in each piece. It’s actually fairly complex and not random at all.”

The complexity of Papka’s life may be what comes through most in his art. He is a deep thinker, and works through his own thoughts, memories, hopes and fears when he creates his pieces. For now, this life is centered in Kentucky. He moved to Midway in 2010 to be near his family. He has considered moving back to the mountain west, a place he misses from his childhood. During his academic career he applied for jobs there, but ultimately chose not to return, even when his second wife returned to Wyoming in 2011. He said the divorce was amicable, and he helped her pack up her things and drove the U-Haul to set up her new life. Three years later, Pam Sexton’s obituary included him among the survivors, as the father of her children.

Ray Papka’s life has been full of changes, but it seems he has found what he wants in his basement studio, his prolific artwork, and his family. Spending time with his kids and his grandkids in between his travels keeps him rooted in the Bluegrass. But he is always looking for where to go next, and says he will soon start research to visit C√≥rdoba, Spain, a major Islamic center during the Middle Ages, or take a road trip down historic U.S. Route 66 through America’s arid southwest. With a full life and a full schedule, it doesn’t seem like his art will run out of inspiration anytime soon.