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.

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