Wednesday, March 22, 2017

City council backs mayor and cemetery workers' enforcement of rules; variances won't be grandfathered

By Elizabeth Allen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

At Monday’s Midway City Council meeting, council members unanimously agreed to support Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and cemetery workers in the enforcement of Midway Cemetery regulations. They acknowledged the move would stir some controversy.

“It's going to be bad. . . . We really need to show some solidarity at this table,” said Council Member Libby Warfield, chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee, which discussed possible changes in the regulations but decided that they should be enforced “and not grandfather anybody in.

Vandegrift said his position since taking office in January 2015 has been to enforce the regulations as they are written, but previous administrations granted certain individuals “variances” from some rules.

Examples include benches placed around graves, bushes and flowers that take up too much space, or anything that might encroach on other graves or might be considered inappropriate for a cemetery. Vandegrift said there were probably fewer than 20 cases of such variances.

The council agreed to enforce the rules retroactively. In other words, those who were given special permission by former city officials will no longer be exempt. Vandegrift said he recognized that will be but believes it is the fair thing to do.

The council discussed how to enforce these rules in a strict but reasonable way. Warfield asked if 30 days would be enough time for those in violation of the rules to make corrections after receiving a letter telling them to do so. The other council members agreed, but no definite decisions were made about specific enforcement procedures.

Judy Offutt gestured as she and Joyce Evans discussed their idea
for neighborhood associations with the Midway City Council.
Neighborhood associations: The council also discussed the possibility of creating neighborhood associations in Midway, an idea conceived by Joyce Evans and Judy Offutt.

Evans said the idea was “driven by the need for a little closer communication within the community.”

“I know the idea of having another committee is horrible for everyone,” Offutt joked, but said the potential benefits would be more than worth the inconvenience of initial startup.

“I think it’s about getting to know who your neighbors are and how you can interact with them and help out,” Offutt continued.

Vandegrift said he thinks neighborhood associations would be “a great way to connect city government to the city.”

Council Member John McDaniel questioned the need for neighborhood associations, noting Midway's small size, and said he would prefer "town hall meetings."

Vandegrift said such meetings typically attract about 30 people, and neighborhood associations would probably be more effective because individual leaders within the associations could promote involvement in each community, person to person.

Vandegrift, Evans and Offutt agreed that the first step in creating neighborhood associations would be to establish boundaries. Council member Kaye Nita Gallagher said the Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee that she chairs would meet Wednesday morning, then meet with Evans and Offutt on the idea.

Drew Chandler, director of Woodford County Emergency Management, presented the county hazard-mitigation plan to the council. Chandler said the greatest natural risk to Midway is severe weather.

“Hail actually kills more people than tornadoes each year,” Chandler said.

Following severe weather, the next greatest natural risks to Midway, Chandler said, are flooding, winter storms, drought, wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes. The plan outlines a way to deal with these natural disasters when they occur. Vandegrift said the plan, part of a Bluegrass regional plan, is “very impressive.”

Tourism appointment: The council approved the appointment of Gallagher to the Woodford County Tourism Commission, which manages revenue from the county's 3 percent tax on overnight lodging. The revenue is small because the county has only bed-and-breakfast lodging, but a Holiday Inn Express is to be built in Versailles soon and there are prospects for a hotel on Interstate 64 at Midway.

No comments: