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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Mayor bans open burning in city due to dry conditions

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said this morning that he has issued an executive order temporarily banning open burning in the city limits. "The especially wet 2018 followed by this very dry season make conditions worse than usual for potential danger," he aid in an email to the city council and the news media. "Cooking on grills is still permitted, but recreational fire pits and any other burning normally permitted is being temporarily suspended until further notice. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Midway Univ. ranked among Top 75 regional universities in South, No. 3 in the region in students' social mobility

This photo was taken for The Lane Report before the university began construction on a new athletic field and fieldhouse.
By Grant Wheeler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University is excited about new regional rankings, and dealing with the pains of growth that helped it get recognition.

After opening its doors to a record class of 274 new undergraduates this fall, the university learned that has made U.S. News and World Report’s list of Top 75 Regional Universities in the South, at No. 73. Among such schools, the university is ranked No. 3 in a category new to the rankings: social mobility, which reflects how it helps students with lower incomes.

The rankings are based on several factors, including student retention, graduation rates, class sizes and faculty resources. Social mobility rankings are measured by the graduation rate of students from households with less than $50,000 income who receive federal Pell grants. The private university’s annual tuition and fees are $24,850, according to U.S. News.

“We try to keep our education affordable,” while offering a personalized learning environment to all students, President John Marsden said. “It happens in the classroom with faculty, it’s happening with coaches, it’s happening with student affairs, but it also happens in ways you might not think about such as with the financial aid counselor or the business office staff who work close to families to help them navigate a very complicated process that is paying for one’s education.”

Student athlete Lynsey Doles, president of the Student Government Association, is a junior from Ripley, Tennessee. Doles is a scholarship student who said she was attracted by Midway’s personalized learning environment. “When I made the decision to come to Midway I was looking for something small where I was a name and not just a number,” she said. “Since then I have fallen in love with Midway University.”

The university decided to go co-ed to sustain itself, President John Marsden said, citing “tight budgets, decreased interest in single-sex education, and a national trend in declining enrollments."

Since going co-educational in 2016, the university has enjoyed record breaking enrollment every year, and is ahead of the timetable in its three-year strategic plan, which calls for 650 daytime students on campus by fall 2021.

With a daytime enrollment of 643, “We only have seven more students to go!” said Vice President of Marketing and Communications Ellen Gregory.

The spike in enrollment has been warmly welcomed by faculty, but the rapid growth has posed some new issues, such as accommodating incoming students.

Housing and dining are the pressing issues. Pinkerton Hall, the first building on campus, which dates to 1847, was renovated for housing just in time this summer to meet the growing demand.

“We did not anticipate such rapid growth,” said Marsden. “The university must be willing to act very quickly and adjust with the times. . . . We certainly don’t want any obstacles that will curtail our momentum moving forward.”

Gregory described this year as being a study in time flow, explaining “some things you have to think about internally are things like food service. How many people can you feed when you only have one dining hall?”

Logistics of class schedules, capacity, and smaller issues such as the proximity of waste containers to residence halls, are all operational obstacles the administration is looking to address.

The university is proud of its strong sense of community, and some students say they feel part of the larger community of Midway, the town.

“I do feel a sense of community,” said Logan Conn, a member of the golf team and a transfer student from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. “The school is surrounded by a variety of small shops and restaurants, and given the small class sizes I really get to know my professors in a much more intimate environment.”

The university is adding a baseball field and fieldhouse to serve the needs of its athletic teams. “We’re not building so that students will come – they are already here,” Marsden said. “We’re building so that students will stay.”

U.S. News and World Report’s rankings are available online and are to be printed in October in the Best Colleges 2020 guidebook. Find out more about Midway University at www.Midway.edu

Council advances incentive package for Lakeshore expansion, readies new franchise for cable and internet

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift talks with Helen Rentch, a major supporter of The Homeplace at Midway, in front of the van that the city helped the nursing home and assisted-living facility buy. The rear of the van has donors' logos. The Homeplace brought the van to the City Council meeting. (Photo by Kennedy Sabharwal, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media)
By Kennedy Sabharwal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council approved some incentives for Lakeshore Learning Materials’ expansion, and held first reading on others, at its meeting Monday evening. It also approved a franchise for a new telecommunications company to serve the city.

Lakeshore: One reason Lakeshore chose Midway to house its Eastern U.S. distribution center in 2016 was the incentives offered by the city, Woodford County and the state. Now that the company has decided to build a warehouse and add 100 jobs, the same incentives are at work, with a new one.

One incentive was that the occupational tax on the company payroll would be decreased from 2% to 1.5% for 10 years once the company had reached its goal of employing 262 people. The city will grant a similar decrease once the warehouse has reached 100 employees, make a similar reduction in the occupational tax on the company’s additional net profits for five years.

“I thought it was a fair but reasonable offer to make,” as the city competed with Beaumont, Texas, for the facility, said Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. He said Midway collected only $5,000 a year in net-profits tax until Lakeshore arrived, and the company pays “about six times that.”

The net-profits incentive is in an ordinance, which will require a second reading before passage. The other incentives were in resolutions that the council passed unanimously and without debate.

Another incentive is industrial revenue bonds, which the city will issue to give Lakeshore a lower interest rate for financing construction of the warehouse. “The city’s not pledging its credit,” said Timothy Eifler of Louisville, an attorney for Lakeshore.

Since the city will own the land and lease it back to Lakeshore, it will not be taxed, but part of the agreement is that Lakeshore will pay Woodford County Schools the same amount that it would pay in taxes if it owned the property.
              
TV and internet service: Though the city of Midway already has a cable television and internet provider, Spectrum, many residents have voiced discontent with it. A proposed ordinance hat got first reading Monday would grant a non-exclusive franchise to MetroNet so it can use city streets and property to build its service.

Vandegrift said second reading and likely passage of the proposed ordinances will be on Oct. 7. In June, when a MetroNet representative spoke to the council, the mayor said "I've been very impressed" with the company and agreed with the representative's statements that the firm has "the best technology available in the world" for internet, television and telephone."

The representative said the company is coming to Midway because it recently got a contract to serve the county schools, and would be seeking a similar non-exclusive franchise from the Woodford County Fiscal Court.

Softball shenanigans: Kim Wilson of Elkton Place, a short street at the south end of the city, asked to buy a small piece of land between her home and the Midway softball field, which is used by Midway University.

“No offense to the Midway softball team, but they’re just outrageously slobs,” by littering and urinating on the wooded tract, Wilson said, adding that she has voiced her concerns to the university, but the issues persist.

University spokeswoman Ellen Gregory told the Messenger in an email, “The comment on those urinating on property was in reference to umpires. . . . When we were first notified of this issue by the property owner, our head of security spoke directly to an umpire, who was an offender. And our softball coach has also spoken to the umpires to correct the improper behavior and will communicate this again to the conference assignor. The university pays for two Portalets at the field during the school year; those were delivered again Aug. 29 for this year. We also have trash cans onsite; our grounds crew mows the area and our security monitors the field daily.”

The presumption at the meeting was that the city owns the land, but Vandegrift said in an email after the meeting that “the bulk of the property” belongs to the owner of an adjacent farm, whom the city will send “a letter notifying her that she will need to maintain the property from here on out.”

Flooding: James and Sandy Reynolds asked for help with the flooding of the basement of a church in the Loft Apartments building they own on Dudley Street, next to the a sloped parking lot for The Brown Barrel & Blind Harry’s..

Vandegrift said the issue needs to be fixed but it is on private property, and “I’m not going to spend taxpayer’s money on what is not a taxpayers’ problem.” Reynolds said he didn’t want that, just advice and approval to take the problem into his own hands.

Tuesday, Vandegrift emailed the council and news media saying a consulting engineer from the city “looked at the area today and determined the problems they are experiencing are not due to city issues. I encourage the property owners to hire their own engineers to alleviate their flooding issues.”

Other business: Last fall, a wagon selling pumpkins was forced to relocate because it lacked a temporary encroachment permit for the parking space it occupied. Farmers Michael Greathouse and Carissa Arnold asked for a permit to set up at 112 S. Gratz St., saying they would set up the wagon immediately after the Fall Festival until Nov. 1. The council granted the permit.

The city recently aided The Homeplace at Midway by donating $5,000 a 12-passenger van that cost $25,000. The van made an appearance at the meeting, and smiles were shared between council members and Homeplace employees and supporters.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Saturday sunset casts a glow on Weisenberger Mill

Jesse Hurt of New Washington, Ind., used a drone for this photo of the Weisenberger Mill Saturday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Lakeshore Learning Materials will expand Midway distribution center, add 100 jobs, for a total of 340

By Megan Parsons, Garrett Burton, Kennedy Sabharwal, Grant Wheeler and Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway seems to have hit the employment and tax-revenue lottery. Lakeshore Learning Materials, which came to town in 2016, has announced it will expand its distribution center and employ 100 more people. Lakeshore currently employs 240 in the Midway Station industrial park. It is also expected to provide around 150 seasonal jobs.

“This means longer term financial stability for the city,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email. “With this expansion, our city will likely see over $1 million in annual occupational tax revenue overall; it was around $300,000 per year in 2015.”

As a result, Vandegrift said, the citizens of Midway can expect more infrastructure improvements and better overall services. “Our residents can expect us to be able to continue improving our water and sewer lines, our roads, our sidewalks, and to be able to continue investing in other quality of life initiatives as well,” he said.

Lakeshore is the largest job provider in Midway history. Vandergrift said that construction will most likely start in the winter and finish up in spring of 2020, costing the company an estimated $27 million. The first center cost it $47.7 million.

Labels on Google map show new Lakeshore Learning property,
which the city recently annexed; the red line is the former city limit.

Road at top goes to new Brown-Forman whiskey warehouses.
The addition will be close to the current distribution center, next to Georgetown Road on property being bought from Homer Freeny Jr., which the city recently annexed and zoned industrial. An adjoining tract could be used for future expansion, Vandegrift said.

The mayor said the company, based in the Los Angeles area, chose to expand eastern distribution center in in Midway rather than open a third center in Beaumont, Texas, a city of about 120,000 east of Houston.

“I believe their existing distribution center and our excellent logistics played a key role,” Vandegrift said. “I was also told by a Lakeshore executive that our relationship with them as a city was a big reason they decided on Midway.” He noted that Midway is within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population.

The mayor said he “worried Beaumont could provide a better tax incentive package.” In addition to incentives from the state, he also tentatively offered a five-year abatement of the occupational tax on Lakeshore’s net profits.

“This seems like a very reasonable thing to do since Lakeshore currently contributes five times what was being generated in the entire city before they arrived,” he wrote. “They contribute about $30,000 a year in net-profit tax. But, the company contributes over $200,000 dollars per year in occupational tax revenue already, and in the long run the city comes out far in the black.” Before this offer can be solidified, it must be approved by the City Council.
The rest of the incentive package is the same as the one for Lakeshore's initial plant, to rebate 0.5 percent of their occupational-tax payments for 10 years once their promised job threshold is met.

Asked if Lakeshore will seek local employees to fill the 100 jobs, Vandegrift said, “A lot of their employees come from Midway and Woodford County, but the majority travel from other counties, and I expect that to be even more the case with this new facility.”

As for construction work, since the distribution center was built by Central Kentucky companies, Vandegrift said they are likely to build the new distribution center.

Traffic should not be of concern to Midway residents, according to the mayor. With the current distribution center, traffic has been minimal. During the end of the day shift, there can be more traffic on the Interstate 64 interchange, but much less than in Lexington.

Lakeshore is a developer and retailer of educational materials for early-childhood programs, elementary schools and homes nationwide. The company has 60 retail locations across the country. It recently opened offices in Asia.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Council cuts real-estate taxes, approves open-carry area, targets volunteer ordinance, ponders water cutoffs

By Megan Parsons, Grant Wheeler and Garrett Burton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A host of previous agenda items made their rounds at the Midway City Council meeting Monday night: taxes, water bills, a new entertainment destination center, and an ordinance from a decade ago about volunteer work on city property.

Taxes: Perhaps the most important decision of the night got the least discussion. The council lowered the tax rate on real property to 7 cents per $100, from 7.5 cents. The median value of a house and lot in Midway in 2017 was $165,700; at that value, a homeowner will pay $115.99 in taxes this year. The council kept the rate on personal property, including vehicles and watercraft, at 7.5 cents.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said both rates would produce the same revenue as last year. The 7 percent reduction in the real-estate tax follows a 25 percent reduction in the rate last year, driven by increased occupational taxes from business expansions.

Water: Reversing course, Vandegrift announced that he doesn’t plan to raise water rates "anytime soon" despite the state Public Service Commission's recent approval of a rate increase by the city's supplier, Kentucky American Water Co. The city did not pass along the previous increase, either, and Vandegrift had initially said he did not think the water system would be able to absorb another one.

In the usual roundtable that ends meetings, Council Member Logan Nance said shutting off someone’s water for not paying their bill “does not need to be a policy of ours.” He called such action “draconian” and said “Clean water is a basic human right; this policy only effects those who are impoverished.”

Vandegrift said he would refer the matter to the Public Works Committee, headed by Council Member Bruce Southworth, who was noncommittal about it in an interview afterward.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher, a member of the committee, did not seem fond of the idea. “I personally think they should cut off” non-paying customers in order to look out for customers who do pay, she said in an interview. “How far are you going to let them get behind?”

Council Member Stacy Thurman said in an interview, “I do agree it’s something we should look into, as it does seem harsh to shut someone’s water off if they simply cannot afford it. . . . I believe we must balance effectively running the city with some grace for people who are having a hard time, as there are some people who truly need help.”

Vandegrift said after the meeting that customers who haven't paid receive a delinquent notice five business days after the due date, telling them the last day to pay and the cutoff day if payment is not received by then. "Generally, the cutoff day is the 26th of each month and last day to pay is one day before," he said. "There is a reconnect fee of $25 for turning water back on."

Xs mark limits of entertainment center on adapted Google map
Entertainment: The council passed an ordinance designating parts of downtown as an "entertainment destination center," in which drinkers can take alcoholic beverages in and out of licensed premises within the center’s boundaries from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., as long as they have their beverage in a cup with the logo or name of the restaurant that served it.

Thurman said she would “like to strongly encourage licensed restaurants to use biodegradable cups or to recycle,” to keep waste to a minimum.

Vandegrift said “a couple of people” had expressed concern about the change, but he predicted it will “not be incredibly noticeable,” saying “I don't think there's going to be a New Orleans-type look.” The ordinance is written so that if problems arise, the mayor can suspend it.

The process for getting the state permit and notifying the public will delay the ordinance's effective date until probably Oct. 4, the day before the start of the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course.

The licensed restaurants inside the entertainment destination center will receive packets laying out what the ordinance entails, and there will be signs on sidewalks at the limits of the area, letting visitors know they cannot take their beverages outside the edge of the premises.

Volunteer ordinance: Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the City Property Committee, said the three-member panel thinks the rest of the council should repeal a 2009 ordinance requiring volunteers to register, give details and file a waiver of liability before doing volunteer work on city property. She called the ordinance “unneeded, antiquated, and an obstacle for volunteers.”

Those who opposed the ordinance in 2009 feared it targeted groups who frequently volunteered in the community and saw it as an obstacle. Council members, none of whom are still on the council, said it was in the interests of the volunteers, giving them the same insurance protection as city workers.

The ordinance was passed in the first mayoral term of Tom Bozarth, on the advice of Phil Moloney, who remains the city's attorney. Bozarth retired in 2014 and was succeeded by Vandegrift, who said he never enforced it.

“I felt it was established to stop volunteerism in Midway,” he said. “I agree it needs to be repealed, to stop future administrations from enforcing it.” Repeal will require two readings at council meetings. The next meeting is Sept. 16.

Other business: The council appointed Cortney Neikirk to fill the city's vacancy on the Woodford County Tourism Commission, succeeding Cynthia Bohn, who resigned, citing time constraints. The commission, which is now getting much more revenue from the new hotel in Versailles, recently voted to hire an executive director and stop paying the Chamber of Commerce to staff it.

Vandegrift said the sewer and paving work on Stephens Street is "going as well as you could imagine," and when paying is competed, double yellow center lines and white edge lines will be painted on the street, to make it seem narrower and slow down speeders. He said curb work is scheduled to be concluded by Sept.9, followed by milling and paving Sept. 10-13.

The council approved an event permit for the fourth annual “Ernie’s Bacon Run” on the morning of Nov. 9, beginning in Walter Bradley Park and looping through Midway University with 5K and 15K routes. Midway Renaissance will share in the proceeds, and Soles4Souls will take donations of gently worn shoes. The event is named for Ernie Peel, a Central Kentuckian who helped hundreds of people discover their love of running. Peel had a love for bacon, and all finishers will get bacon.

Nance asked if the music that will be played by a DJ at the park will be contained to the park, since runners will start gathering at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. A Renaissance representative said the music would not be heard beyond the park.

All the votes were 5-0. Council Member John Holloway was absent.

Midway University breaks enrollment records again

Students pose for a photo provided by Midway University.
The new blacktop being laid on East Stephens Street comes at a good time for increased traffic to and from Midway University, which announced new enrollment records this week.

The university said its daytime undergraduate enrollment is 643, up from 571 last year, and so is its incoming class of 274, up from 267 last year. This marked the fourth straight year of enrollment increases since the school admitted its first male undergraduates in 2016.

Counting all undergraduate and graduate students, and dual-credit students, total enrollment is 1,702, compared to 1,668 in 2018 and 1,217 in 2017, the university said in a news release. Not including dual credit, enrollment is 1,343, up from 1,259 last year, the release said.

“Our strategic plan includes a goal of enrollment of 1,300 by fall 2019, not including dual-credit enrollment, President Dr. John P. Marsden said in the release. “I want to congratulate our enrollment leaders Rusty Kennedy and Dr. Salah Shakir, their staff, and our coaches and faculty members who worked together to help us exceed this goal.”

Marsden, president since 2013, added, “This type of rapid growth is unusual in higher education, especially at this time. There is a new excitement on campus.”

Because enrollment is still relatively small, the school is able to keep class sizes around 15 students and offer personalized education, Marsden told The Woodford Sun. "Although we are growing, our university is still able to provide what students are looking for – a small nurturing campus atmosphere, great location – rural but easy access to larger cities, career-focused degree programs, the ability to work closely with faculty and coaches, and our built-in support system from advising to financial aid counseling to tutoring to career services to help them succeed," Marsden said in the release. "In addition, we have kept our tuition at an affordable level and remain competitive.”

To accommodate growth, the university rushed to convert its most historic building, Pinkerton Hall, into a residence hall to house 58 students. It was the original building of the Kentucky Female Orphan School, founded in 1847, where the students both lived and attended classes.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

More videos and photos from the 'pick' of the Weisenberger Mill bridge

This video was taken from just above the mill dam. For the completion of the "pick," as the move was called, go to Midway Messenger reporter Dalton Stokes' story, below or here.
Crane operator Joe Fisher (yes, really) of Taylorsville fished as he waited for other workers to finish preparations for the pick. He said he had fished in all manner of waters, never in Elkhorn Creek, but when he visited the site the day before, he said to himself, "I'm going to make a few casts." In ideal conditions, he caught five largemouth and one smallmouth bass, all too small to keep.
Jay Weisenberger waited at his vantage point for the work to begin. His family has operated a mill at the site since 1865; the current building was erected in 1913, partly with stone from the original mill. It is no longer directly powered by water; water flowing from the creek behind the dam drives a generator that contributes to the electric power used to run the mill.
Below, a wider shot taken at about the same time, showing the crane, the mill, the dam and the creek.


Friday, August 30, 2019

After 84 years, there is no bridge across South Elkhorn Creek at Weisenberger Mill; new one to be done by May

Story and Vimeo video by Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

After six years of debates and preparations, the Weisenberger Mill bridge was removed from its moorings with a 550-ton crane at around 11 a.m. Friday.

A handful of spectators gathered to watch the crane lift the 84-year-old bridge over the corner of the mill and onto a trailer bed. Many spectators were part of the Weisenberger family who had come to see the bridge that they had known all their lives to be lifted and hauled away.

Among them was Phil Weisenberger, who manages the family-owned mill. He said the bridge “had always been there, and it was strange to leave, but time marches on.”

Doug Elam, a neighbor to the bridge on the Woodford County side of South Elkhorn Creek, said  “It Looked like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with a balloon” as the crane slowly swung the bridge through the air on a sunny morning.

Crane operator Joe Fisher visits with Kristey and Susan
Weisenberger after "picking" the bridge. (Photo by Al Cross)
The crane that "picked" the bridge, as engineers say, was from Sterett Crane and Rigging, based in Owensboro, and manned by crane operator Joe Fisher of Taylorsville, who caught a few bass in the creek before his part of the job began.

He said the crane measured the bridge’s weight at 52,300 pounds,  much heavier the 37,000-pound estimate given by Roger Wade, a structural engineer for Louisville Paving and Construction, the main contractor on the project. He said there were more asphalt and probably less rusted steel than he estimated.

The job wasn’t as easy as just picking up the bridge with the crane, putting on the truck bed and hauling it off. The tractor-trailer was too long to turn around, so the tractor and trailer were separated, and while the tractor turned around, Fisher and workers flipped the trailer around. Kentucky Utilities also had to de-energize overhead power lines for safety.

The bridge is to be rebuilt by May 2020 as most in the community requested, as a pony truss one-lane bridge much like the original. It was argued by some of the community in the decision-making process that the bridge should stay a one-lane bridge as opposed to a two-lane bridge to force southbound drivers to slow down for the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

The bridge has been marked for either renovation or replacement since 2010, and required public meetings and studies because it is a state project. Woodford County is responsible for the bridge, but the state assumed control in return for the county doing some work for the state several years ago. Before any decision could be made, the damage from heavy trucks forced state engineers to close the bridge on July 1, 2016.
When the work was done, the view from above the mill dam looked very different than it had since 1935. (Photo by Al Cross)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Removal of Weisenberger Mill bridge is set for Friday

Thursday evening, the crane was in place for Friday's work. (Photo by Al Cross, Midway Messenger)
The steel structure of the Weisenberger Mill bridge will be removed by a crane Friday to make way for the new bridge, the state Transportation Cabinet announced in a press release.

"Louisville Paving Co. Inc. will take out the steel truss between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. tomorrow. The time frame for lifting by crane to transfer truck is approximate," the release says. "Kentucky Utilities will de-energize the overhead power lines pending appropriate weather and temperature conditions." The weather is forecast to be sunny in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon, with temperatures rising from 66 degrees at 8 a.m. to 87 degrees in late afternoon.

Louisville Paving will move the bridge, which was built in 1935, to its yard. The new bridge will be built in a similar "pony truss" style because the State Historic Preservation Office deemed the site to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge has been closed since July 1, 2016 because of damage caused by heavy trucks. Its replacement was delayed by required hearings, historical and environmental studies, and right-of-way acquisition.
A Transportation Cabinet photo earlier in the day shows the lifting supports installed across the top of the bridge.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mayor: Stephens Street sewer work, followed by paving there and elsewhere, is to be done in time for festival

Street paving on and near Stephens Street, following storm-sewer work on the street, is expected to be completed by Sept. 20, just in time for the Midway Fall Festival, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email this morning. He gave this schedule:
  • 8/26-9/1: Storm sewer pipe work on East Stephens Street
  • 9/2-9/9: Concrete curb work on North Winter Street (near City Hall) and E. Stephens
  • 9/10-9/13: Milling and paving on E. and W. Stephens, Starks Alley, N. Winter (near 421)
  • 9/13-9/20: Clean up and finish
"This is obviously tentative," the mayor wrote. "Weather and unforeseen circumstances could delay this schedule, but this should be wrapped up by Fall Festival," which will be held Sept. 21-22. "Each of these areas is going to be much improved with more functional storm sewers, better storm-water flow, and better roadways."

Vandegrift said workers ruptured a gas line last Friday "due to the 'spaghetti' nature of lines that were buried a long long time ago without adequate mapping. That is all fixed up now, though, and the project is off to an otherwise smooth start. I’ll keep you apprised if anything changes or new developments occur."

Monday, August 26, 2019

Supplier says Midway water tastes different because it switched sources, and maybe for seasonal reasons

Midway's water has tasted differently lately because Kentucky American Water switched sources, and perhaps due to seasonal factors, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email today.

"In response to some residents questions about an 'earthy' taste and odor in our water in the last week, Kentucky American Water has advised us that the water is safe to drink, but two issues are causing the difference in taste and smell," Vandegrift writes. "One reason relates to a source change last week when the Owenton plant went down and KAW began pumping to us from a different reservoir. That source apparently is known to have a different taste, but the water is still safe to drink."

Also, KAW told the city in an email, “Changing weather conditions can lead to earthy or musty tastes and odors. This occurs seasonally, typically during the warmer weather from spring thru fall. The perception of tastes or odors in water varies widely between individuals. Some customers are more sensitive and may perceive minor differences in the water. The water remains safe to consume and continues to meet all water quality standards. When variations in our source water occur, we adjust our treatment processes accordingly.”

Vandegrift added, "If you have any questions please feel free to holler as usual."

Friday, August 23, 2019

Weather forecast for last Midsummer Nights in Midway of 2019 says rain will end just in time, bring cool temps

This year's final edition of Midsummer Nights in Midway will start at 6 p.m. this evening and run to 10 p.m. Temperatures are forecast to be 71 to 67 degrees, with the chances of rain ending by 6.

The Midway Renaissance event includes live music from Superfecta, stores open longer hours, and a long list of vendors, including Wagon Bones barbecue, Deaner’s Wieners, West Sixth Brewery, Rooster’s Whistle Coffee Co., Ashley Curtis (baked goods), My Creator’s Hands (vinyl lettered crafts), Midway Makers (crafts of all sorts), Whither Wander (handmade jewelry), Horsefeathers (fabric crafts), Two Ladies & A Kettle (kettle corn).

Restaurants will have specials, and the Railroad Drug & Old Time Soda Fountain will have ice cream. The St. Matthew's AME Church will have a fish fry.

The Midway Presbyterian Church Backpack Program will have face painting for kids; the Midway Community Garden volunteers will be on hand with information; and the Midway Branch Library will have crafts for children. The Versailles Lions Club will sell Woodford County throws.

Council to have special meeting for first reading of open-carry ordinance so it can take effect for fall meet

Google map adapted by Midway Messenger uses Xs to show
the limits of the proposed entertainment destination center.
Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has called a special meeting of the City Council for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall to hold first reading of the proposed "entertainment destination center" ordinance that would allow open containers of alcoholic beverages in a designated area at certain times.

"No action will be taken," the mayor said in an email, adding that second reading will be at the next regular meeting on Sept. 3 (a Tuesday due to Labor Day). An ordinance can pass after two readings.

Vandegrift said the special meeting is needed because state law requires a 30-day notice before the law can take effect, and he wants to have it in effect by Oct. 5 for the beginning of the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, to justify the $2,800 cost of the special permit. "Otherwise the permit application price seems imprudent until we could get a pro-rated price in January," he wrote.

All council meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

City plans lower real-estate tax, online water-bill payments; council delays open-carry ordinance

Midway citizens would pay a slightly lower tax on their real estate, and be able to pay their water bills online, under plans laid out at the City Council meeting Monday evening.

The council heard first reading of an ordinance to set the real-estate tax at 7 cents per $100, down from the 7.5 cents levied last year. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the lower rate would generate the same amount of money, because real-estate values are up, including demand for property.

"I don't see why we should punish poorer folks because we don't have enough housing," Vandegrift said. The council has an Affordable Housing Committee looking at the issue.

The tax rate on personal property would remain 7.5 cents per $100, under a separate ordinance. Second readings and passage of both ordinances are scheduled for Sept. 3, a Tuesday because of Labor Day.

Last year the council reduced property-tax rates 25 percent because the city is receiving so much more from its occupational taxes on payrolls and net profits as a result of business expansions, mainly in Midway Station.

Water bills: The mayor can institute optional electronic payment of water bills without council approval, but Vandegrift said he wanted to make sure the members had no objections. The fee for electronic payment is expected to be 3 to 4 percent of a bill. The mayor said he would move forward as long as the change could be smoothly integrated into the city's software.

While there was no dissent about online payments, Council Member Logan Nance said he didn't think the city should assess a penalty for late payment of water bills. Council Member Bruce Southworth said the late fee is an incentive to pay. Council Member John Holloway said he thought more time could be allowed before the penalty is charged.

Vandegrift said he had no objection to giving customers more time to pay. He said the penalty was probably adopted "when the city didn't have any money . . . so the city could pay the water bill" from Kentucky American Water Co., its wholesale supplier.

Open-carry law: The council delayed first reading of an ordinance for an "entertainment destination center," which would allow drinkers to go in and out of licensed premises with alcoholic beverages as long as they stay within the designated boundaries of the EDC.

Vandegrift said he delayed the reading until Sept. 3 because city attorney Phil Moloney didn't think the ordinance should specify the hours, in case the "open carry" ordinance presents a security problem and a quick change is needed without waiting for two readings of a revised ordinance. The council had informally agreed to make the hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"His concern was, we may get into this and realize that we don't have adequate security to truly man this," because at any given time the Versailles Police Department has no more than one officer assigned to the Midway area at any given time, and "We need to have the ability to pull this back quickly," Vandegrift said. The ordinance would allow the mayor to do that without council action.

Second reading and passage of the ordinance would be Sept. 16. Vandegrift said it wouldn't take effect until Oct. 1. "It would be ideal," he said, to start it before the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, which runs Oct. 5-26.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Midway University invites local businesses and non-profits to campus to get acquainted with students Wed.

Midway University is hosting its annual "Meet Me at MidwayU" event Wednesday, Aug. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the McManis Student Center.

The event is open to all students, faculty and staff at the university, and is held to connect students with local businesses and to make connections with organizations that might need volunteers or will be looking to hire part-time employees.

Interested businesses and organizations are asked to register at secure.qgiv.come/for/mmmubrf/. The cost is $20 per organization, $15 for non-profits. All registrants will get a table to distribute information, coupons, educational materials, and job descriptions.

Questions can be directed to MacKenzie Hanes at (859)846-5385 or Tracy Spots at (859)846-5399.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Funeral for Donna Booth Farmer set for 2:30 today in Lexington; reception 4 p.m. at Midway Presbyterian

Donna Booth Farmer
Funeral services in Lexington today for Donna Booth Farmer of Midway will be followed by a reception for family and friends at 4 p.m. in the Midway Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall.

Farmer, 65, died Aug. 6, 2019 at The Homeplace in Midway. She was the first president of Midway Renaissance, organizing the committee that wrote its bylaws and helping it incorporate as a non-profit, Renaissance said in a Facebook post: "Her ability to lead a large group, keep them focused and moving forward was inspiring to watch and learn from."

Farmer was a graduate of the University of Kentucky. After her retirement from Lexmark International she pursued her lifelong love of photography and art. She was a member of the Creative Camera Club and Midway Presbyterian Church. Survivors include her husband, Doug; a daughter, Katie Farmer; a brother, Jamie Booth of Virginia; and a niece, Taylor Booth. The full obituary is here.

Funeral services will be held 2:30 p.m. today at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Road in Lexington, with Midway Presbyterian Church Pastor Pastor Mary Weese officiating. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Women’s March, https://womensmarch.com, or the American Cancer Society, 1504 College Way, Lexington, KY 40502.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Work starts on new Weisenberger Mill bridge

Work began this week on the new bridge over South Elkhorn Creek at Weisenberger Mill. This photo, looking south from the mill side, shows construction of a temporary road for a crane that will be used to remove the 1935 bridge for replacement with one of a similar style. The state Transportation Cabinet says the work by Louisville Paving Co. is expected to be completed by May 2020. The bridge has been closed for safety reasons since July 1, 2016, and its replacement was delayed mainly by required historical and environmental studies.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Holly Hill Inn spotlights Silas House in fourth installment of Poetry Dinners; buffet with live music Saturday

House (Berea College photo)
Appalachian poet and award-winning author Silas House gets the spotlight in the fourth installment of Holly Hill Inn's Poetry Dinner series, which runs through Oct. 5.

House is the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College and the author of six novels: Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, Eli the Good, Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani), and most recently Southernmost, which was listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. He has co-written a book of creative nonfiction, Something's Rising, with his husband Jason Howard; and three plays: "The Hurting Part," "This Is My Heart for You," and "In These Fields," with Sam Gleaves.

The dinner series will spotlight "Hazel Dickens," House's poem about how he cooked a meal and reflected on the 2011 death of the iconic bluegrass musician from West Virginia who was a feminist and labor-union advocate. The dinner, which does not include any poetry readings, is $35 for a three-course menu and $50 for a six-course tasting menu.

Menu for Saturday outdoor buffet
The menu, taken partly from the poem, includes sweet-potato biscuits and skillet cornbread; Whitley County soup beans with sweet onion and chow chow; pickled cucumber, onion and sliced-tomato salad; a house-smoked salmon patty; hand-pinched tomato pie; pork belly with roasted chiles, creamed corn and redeye gravy; and for dessert, "Smudge This," made of cake, peanut-butter fudge and marshmallow cream; or Alice's apple dumpling.

On Saturday, Aug. 17, the restaurant will host a special celebration of House's poetry and the music of Dickens with an outdoor buffet from 6 to 9 p.m. The Local Honeys will perform on the front porch beginning at 6:30 p.m. The price is $50. Wine and cocktails will be available. Outdoor seating is available for up to 100 people. In case of rain, it will move inside. Make a reservation by calling (859) 846-4732 or going online.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Joint meeting of councils and Fiscal Court creates Youth Council and committee for an 'age-friendly community'

The officials are pictured just before the start of the meeting. The Midway City Council and half of the Fiscal Court sat on the left; the Versailles council and the other magistrates sat on the right. The executives and clerks sat at the middle table.
The first joint meeting of the Midway and Versailles city councils and the Woodford County Fiscal Court had a short agenda but longer-than-expected discussions Tuesday evening.

Mayors Grayson Vandegrift and Brian Traugott, and County Judge-Executive James Kay, had drafted resolutions creating a committee for an "age-friendly community" and a Youth Council with members from each jurisdiction. Each governing body passed the resolutions, but on the Fiscal Court there was dissent from its two Republicans. (City offices are nonpartisan.)

The age-friendly initiative was explained by Bill Frederick, who said he was a semi-retired workforce and economic-development consultant who moved to Versailles with his wife Jane from northern New Jersey two years ago. He said having a committee would make the county part of a network that has 363 members, including Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro and Berea.

One goal of the network is to help people live in their own private homes as long as possible. "Aging in place is an alternative preferred by many to living in a retirement community," he said.

Mary Crowley Schmidt of the Bluegrass Area Development District told the officials that a 55-question survey in Lexington got 1,048 responses and more than 800 written comments, and resulted in construction of a 32,000-square-foot senior center with 225 participants per day, age-friendly language in the comprehensive plan that guides local planning and zoning, and a current effort to allow accessory dwelling units, sometimes called "granny pods" or "granny flats." She called the work "the most exciting" she has done in her 33 years with the regional planning agency.

"The Bluegrass is turning gray," she said, but added that making communities livable for the aging can also help younger people: "What's good for a wheelchair is also good for a stroller."

Frederick said the committee would assess local seniors' needs in eight "domains of interest" (housing, transportation, communication, health services, responsiveness and inclusiveness, outdoor recreation, social participation and civic participation) and develop a three-year action plan, using "flexible guidelines" by AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.

AARP's Kentucky lobbyist, Scott Wegenast, said the organization provides technical assistance, research, training and consultants to communities in the network.

The involvement of AARP was questioned by Magistrate Mary Anne Gill, who called it "an insurance company" and suggested that it was seeking "more opportunities to sell insurance."

Wegenast said the group does not sell insurance but does advertise for insurance companies with which it negotiates, and has "a significant firewall" between its business activities and its "social outreach." The group does not make political contributions or endorse candidates, but has been supportive of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare."

The other Republican magistrate, Matt Merrill, said the work could be done without the involvement of an outside group, and he objected to creating "an entity beyond the voters and ultimately past the elected," and asked the names of the 121 stakeholders identified by the advocates. He was handed a list, which Frederick called "a draft, provisional list." Frederick said names could be added or deleted at the advice of the three governing bodies, which would have representation on the committee.

Kay told Merrill and Gill that the committee "is designed to answer the questions you're bringing up," and couldn't spend any taxpayer money without Fiscal Court's approval. "I believe your concerns are valid," he told Merrill, "but any concerns will be resolved through this committee."

Magistrate Liles Taylor of Midway said the process "is about self-awareness of needs for seniors, not a new layer of government." His motion to approve the resolution creating the committee passed the Fiscal Court 5-3, with Magistrate Jackie Brown also voting no; the councils approved it unanimously.

Taylor also made the motion to create the Youth Council, which Merrill, a retired teacher, said is vague ("youth" is not defined) and "fortifies a culture of the power elite . . . that is causing so much problems in our country today," with appointments coming from groups such as 4-H and FFA.

Kay said Merrill's remarks were "over the top," adding, "I don't know when 4-H and FFA have been considered the power elite."

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, whose youth council is the model for the new one, said "I resent a little bit the 'elite' comments," adding that the adjective isn't appropriate for high-school students. "If the structure doesn't work, we can change it."

The resolution passed with one clarifying amendment. Merrill cast the only vote against it.

In their final piece of business, the three governing bodies recognized the efforts of firefighters and other first responders who dealt with the fire at the Jim Beam warehouse in Millville.

The meeting was a victory for Vandegrift, who had sought regular such meetings soon after he was elected mayor in 2014 but was spurned by John Coyle, then the judge-executive.

Vandegrift called the meeting "an important steppingstone. . . . I think our working relationships are great." The three governing bodies held a joint town hall in February at the Kentucky Community and Technical College system headquarters, where the joint meeting was held.

Kay said, "Our cities are not our rivals. They are not our political enemies, They are our people. And we seek every chance to work together to make us all better for the people of Woodford County."

The 77-minute meeting included some good-natured jibes. Traugott joked that the meeting "almost didn't take place for a couple of reasons," including that "We had to schedule it real quick before Mayor Vandegrift changed his mind."

Vandegrift, who ran for state representative for a week last month before dropping out, countered, "How late were you up last night with that joke?"

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

New Weisenberger Mill bridge set for completion by May

A new Weisenberger Mill bridge should be open by May 2020, the state Transportation Cabinet announced today after meeting with the contractor on the project.

"Preliminary operations begin Monday, August 12," the cabinet said in a news release. "The public will be informed of progress toward the replacement bridge through advisories furnished to media outlets." The first step will be removal of the old bridge, which has been closed for more than three years, blocking a popular tourist and commuter route and delaying emergency responses.

Louisville Paving Co. Inc. was the sole bidder for the project through two rounds of bidding. Its latest bid of $877,000 was almost 42 percent above the state engineers' estimate, but that was a big improvement over the first bid of $1.95 million, 2¾ times a somewhat higher estimate.

The cabinet decided Friday to accept the bid; it will spend an additional sum for "soil nailing," insertion of reinforcing bars into the banks of South Elkhorn Creek. That part of the work was removed from the bid documents and made part of an overall contract the state has issued for such work.

1935 photo of the bridge (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet)
The bridge was closed July 1, 2016, after state inspectors found advanced deterioration in the lower chord of the truss. The new bridge will be a "pony truss" style like the current one, which is 72 feet long and 12 feet wide. The truss spans about 40 feet. 

Replacing the one-lane span, which dates to 1935, has been complicated. The first plan, in 2013, was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to a one-lane pony truss in response to public concern that a modern concrete span would detract from the scenic nature of the site and encourage speeding, causing accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

"The newly constructed bridge will fit within the context of the environment," the news release said. "It will also provide a solution for safe travel to be utilized by citizens and emergency management vehicles."

Since the bridge has historical significance and is a state responsibility, the project had to undergo review by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council, as well as an environmental impact report to federal officials. Initial bidding on the project was delayed a month by negotiations over construction easements.

The bridge links Woodford and Scott counties. It is nominally Woodford's responsibility, under a longstanding agreement between the counties, but the state agreed to take responsibility for it several years ago.

The bridge's closure has further isolated the largely African American community of Zion Hill, at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Pop-up market and movie set for Friday evening

The pop-up market and movie will be held in this greenspace between East Main and Martin streets.
About 15 artists, crafters and commercial vendors will be part of a "pop-up market" in the greenspace behind the Historic Midway Museum Store and Damselfly Gallery Friday from 6 to 10 p.m.

There will be food trucks, drinks and music, and the movie "Captain Marvel" will be screened, beginning around dusk. Seating will NOT be provided, but the Museum Store rest room will be open to the public, co-owner Leslie Penn said. The event is sponsored by Sporthorse Properties.

"I really think it'll be fun," Midway Business Association President Cortney Neikirk said at today's MBA meeting. But she advised, "Bring your Off," to repel mosquitoes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A photograph of the Weisenberger Mill, by Jesse Hurt, that looks more like a painting than a photo

Eleven months ago today, after a late-afternoon storm, Jesse Hurt of New Washington, Ind., took this photograph of the Weisenberger Mill on South Elkhorn Creek. We publish it with his permission.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Council plans to allow open containers of alcoholic drinks outdoors until 10 p.m. in downtown area

Google map, with Xs added by Midway Messenger to show limits
of the proposed "entertainment destination center," where the city
would post signs banning open containers beyond those points.
The Midway City Council tentatively decided Monday night the boundaries and rules of a proposed "entertainment destination center," in which drinkers can go in and out of licensed premises with alcoholic beverages as long as they stay within the center's boundaries.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift called the proposal, which the council heard July 15, an "open container ordinance." It is possible under a recent state regulation that allows cities to buy a license for $2,800. The rationale stated by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is to reduce the enforcement load on ABC agents and police, and to help localities promote tourism and economic growth.

The Versailles City Council recently adopted the idea, allowing the mayor to set and change the dates when its center will be effective. Vandegrift said Midway council members "seem to be more in favor a permanent, set time" that the council would establish with an ordinance.

"The point of the ordinance is to allow people to walk around and shop," Vandegrift said, but later asked how many shops are open at night, saying he was "playing devil's advocate." Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher mentioned a couple of shops, adding later that even if shops were not open, they would still attract window shoppers.

Council Member Logan Nance asked if more stores might stay open later if the council passed the ordinance, which he said would give the city "kind of a unique feel." Council Member John Holloway said, "If it turns out badly, we could just stop doing it."

The council agreed to end the open-container hours at 10 p.m., the discussed what the containers would look like. Versailles requires beverages to be in an unbreakable, "non-clear" container, such as a plastic Solo cup, perhaps in a style all the restaurants could use.

Council Member Stacy Thurman said her husband Ian, an ABC agent, said one reason for such a rule is that it is "kind of tacky" to see what someone is drinking. Council Member Sara Hicks said, "I kind of like the idea of a special cup; it could be a collector's item."

Vandegrift, a former restaurateur, called it "a great idea" but ultimately "untenable" because use of the cups would likely be inconsistent. The mayor said he would leave the "non-clear" provision out of the ordinance that he would present to the council Aug. 19, but "You all can put it in."

If the ordinance is enacted and the city buys the license, it would have to post signs marking the limits of the "entertainment destination center."

Vandegrift presented a map of the proposed boundary where open containers would be allowed, and the council made one adjustment, to allow them on Dudley Street in front of The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's. The other limits would be the corner of Gratz and Martin streets, Winter Street and the end of East Main Street. In response to a question, Vandegrift said the parking lot at the end of East Main is private property and cannot be included in the boundary.

Midway Station: John Soper, chair of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, reported that recent closings of property sales in Midway Station had enabled EDA to make the annual interest payment on the bonds used to build the industrial and commercial park, relieving the city and county of the responsibility, and that if sales continue as expected and the bonds are refinanced this year, EDA will no longer need an appropriation from the city, which was $15,000 last year and is budgeted at $12,000 this year.

The most recent closing was on 9 acres sold to Journey Ministries, which plans to build a church and other facilities, including a day-care center that will be open to anyone. "I feel very encouraged about where we're heading," he said, adding later, "I think we've got a great location, and in the real-estate business, that's what matters."

Soper did not mention something he reported at last month's EDA meeting, that Barnhill Chimney had decided not to buy a lot for a factory to make chimney caps.
Receiving certificates of appreciation from the Midway Veterans Committee were, from left to right, City Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee; city employees James Downs, Terry Agee, Tim Agee and  Tim Spencer; and Sonya Conner, assistant city clerk. Retired clerk-treasurer Phyllis Hudson also received a certificate.
Good works: The Midway Veterans Committee, created 20 years ago to establish a monument to veterans in the Midway Cemetery, presented certificates of appreciation to several city employees as it prepared to disband, having accomplished its purpose and turning its functions over to the city.

One of those workers, Assistant City Clerk Sonya Conner, received an award for her recent completion of three years of municipal-clerk training. Vandegrift read a letter of recognition that said she had "sincere dedication to her work and the people of Midway," demonstrated "consistent, sound judgment and fairness to all" and "in the face of adversity" often did the jobs of two people, as recently retired clerk-treasurer Phyllis Hudson had health issues.

Vandegrift also recognized the contributions of Mark Roberts, a retired employee who continues to work for the city as a contract laborer, and Wastewater Superintendent Jack Blevins, who "has done a great job bringing our sewer plant back up to specifications," probably extending its useful life by 10 to 15 years. The city recently paid off the bonds it sold to build the plant almost 20 years ago.

Later in the meeting, Holloway said it was time to buy a $1,700 monument-moving machine for the cemetery. Vandegrift said he had already told city employee Terry Agee to order it.

Mayor breaks a tie: The council turned down a request from Midway University's tennis program to sponsor a regional tournament to be held at the school Aug. 9-11. The request was for $600, but Hicks moved to give $300, the sum the council provided last year, and Gallagher seconded the motion, noting that this year's event is expected to be larger.

Holloway said "I kind of feel iffy" about the sponsorship because the city recently gave the university $5,000 for improvements at the baseball field that is owned by the city but is "pretty much" exclusively used by the school. Nance, noting that the council had exhausted its donations budget by giving $5,000 toward a van for The Homeplace at Midway, said it would be irresponsible to go beyond the budget.

On the roll call, Council Member Bruce Southworth voted yes with Hicks and Gallagher, and Council Member Stacy Thurman voted no with Holloway and Nance -- who, like her, were elected for the first time last November. Vandegrift, who was elected to his second four-year term as mayor in November, voted no, denying the request. The mayor votes only in case of a tie.

In other business, the council:
  • Approved paying $1,100 for extra police during the Midway Fall Festival, the amount that the city is saving because the Iron Horse Marathon is providing portable toilets for the newly combined events. The Midway Business Association, which runs the festival, will pay the rest of the cost, estimated by coordinator Elisha Holt to be a maximum of $1,560.
  • Voiced no objections to Vandegrift's plan to allow electronic payment of water bills, with a fee of 3 to 4 percent for the vendor, which would be paid by those who choose the electronic option. "Three to four percent is still less than a late fee," Nance noted.
  • Heard Vandegrift report that the sidewalk work is almost done and street work is expected to start in a week or two.
  • Heard Assistant Police Chief Rob Young report that in July, Versailles police "definitely stepped up a lot of the traffic enforcement . . . at the request of the city."
  • Appointed Assistant Fire Chief Joe Campbell to the county's 911 board.

Friday, August 2, 2019

State accepts sole bid for Weisenberger Mill bridge; job to take 6 to 9 months but starting date is not set yet

The bridge, the historic mill and the creek in June
The state Transportation Cabinet decided Friday to accept the sole bid of $877,000 for the long-delayed replacement of the Weisenberger Mill Bridge.

Louisville Paving Co. was again the sole bidder. Its bid was almost 42 percent above the state engineers' estimate of $618,959, but that was much closer than its first bid: $1.95 million, 2¾ times the estimate of $709,889. The estimate was lowered because part of the project was made part of an overall contract the state has issued for certain work.

Construction is expected to take six to nine months, but a starting date has not been set. That will be discussed at a pre-construction meeting at the cabinet's District 7 office in Lexington, said Natasha Lacy, public information officer for the district.

The bridge across South Elkhorn Creek, the border of Woodford and Scott counties, is nominally Woodford's responsibility, under a longstanding agreement between the counties, but the state agreed to take responsibility for it several years ago.

Heavy trucks taking shortcuts have been blamed for wearing down the bridge. The state closed it July 1, 2016, after inspectors found it was not safe for a load of three tons.

Replacing the one-lane span, built in the early 1930s, has been complicated. The first plan was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to one lane, with the pony-truss style of the old bridge, to assuage public concern that a modern concrete span would detract from the scenic nature of the site and encourage speeding, causing accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

Since the bridge has historical significance and is a state responsibility, the project had to undergo review by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council, as well as an environmental impact report to federal officials. The project was delayed at least a month by negotiations over construction easements.

The bridge's closure has further isolated the largely African American community of Zion Hill, at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Winchester columnist tells the story of the Grants and their model railroad of Midway, recently restored

Laurine Grant and daughter Jeanine Lister watched the trains run.
By Bill McCann
The Winchester Sun

I grew up with a limited view of the arts—theatre, dance, art, music, and writing, each in their various forms. But I am coming to realize that the arts are actually much wider—from painting a sermon to building a scale-model railroad layout.

Heritage Day, July 27, in Midway honored Laurine Grant of and her late husband Bill for their construction and donation to Midway of an N-scale (9mm track width) model railroad of the town.

Grant, 83, moved to Winchester in August 2018. Before that she lived in Vermont for 15 years. And before that, from about 1997 to 2000, she was a citizen of Midway.

Laurine was married for more than 50 years to William Grant. Bill Grant was a heavy equipment operator in Connecticut for more than three decades, a union member who was able to provide well for his family—particularly during the period from March to November of each year. But during the long Northeast winters, when he was laid off, he was a model railroader.

Bill and Laurine Grant raised four daughters—Shannon, Lisa, Jeanine, and Anne—who after high school mostly scattered to the four winds: Connecticut (Shannon); Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado (Anne); Kentucky (Lisa); Arizona and Kentucky (Jeanine). In the course of time grandchildren came, Bill retired, and the couple followed—not the swallows to Capistrano, but visited or lived near their daughters and grandchildren.

During the 1980s, while Bill still worked, Lisa and her family lived in Midway and Bill and Laurine came south for visits. And almost immediately, the model railroader was hooked: Midway, the city a railroad runs through. Suddenly he had a vision: of an N-scale model of Midway for his trains.

After retiring from his construction job, Bill and Laurine moved to North Carolina to be near Anne, her husband and children. Still, Bill was a model railroader. And in 1997, they moved to Midway to be near Lisa and her family; Jeanine and her family lived in Lexington, but the pull of Midway’s trains and ongoing work on the train layout was in their minds when choosing where to live.

By 2000 the layout was complete. So before Bill and Laurine hit the road full-time in an RV camper, they donated their N-scale model of Midway to the town.

In the years since, the layout was stored away. However, this year the Midway Community Model Railroad Project’s plan to restore and expand the layout generated a lot of local support.

Finally, on Saturday at high noon, Mayor Grayson Vandergrift had a dedication ceremony where he began by saying that the community of Midway “embraces its history” as a railroad town. Then he thanked Mrs. Grant for the hard work of she and her husband and the donation of the layout to the community of Midway, before thanking the many local people and businesses that had helped restore and expand the model.

That’s the story of what happened. And as a story, it’s a pretty interesting one.

But by now you must surely have the same question I had when going to the dedication of the layout: Why is this art? You buy some plywood, paint it green, add some tracks, buy plastic buildings and trees and tape or tack them down and you have a model train set. Not so!

Truly, great art, and a large amount of time, was involved in this effort.

Jeanine Grant Lister, who now lives in Winchester, explained that tiny little spikes—“You have to use tweezers and a tiny hammer” to put the spikes in—hold down the rails. “And the buildings were made and painted by my parents, though I did make trees and helped paint the silo.” The silo, she said, was made from “part of a toilet paper roll.”

Pictures of the layout which accompany the article may give you some sense of the artistry involved in painting objects that are scaled between 1:148 and 1:160, so a 6-foot man would be roughly 1/3 of an inch tall! A train car in this scale is only a bit more than an inch tall and a few inches long. The buildings require a delicate touch and great care. Building and painting such people, buildings and scenery is truly an artistic undertaking.

Mayor Vandergrift finished speaking by saying that the Midway railroad layout would have a permanent place of honor in the town “soon.” Then he asked Mrs. Grant to speak.

“Thank you” was all she said, to great applause.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Former Messenger intern explores communication in Midway; social-media posts can drive news events

Sarah Ladd discussed her research on April 29.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

For a town of 1,800 and a ZIP code of about 3,000, Midway is well covered by news and information media. The Midway Messenger provides continuous online coverage of events and issues, with a print edition about twice a year; The Woodford Sun regularly covers City Council meetings and other events in the town; and the Midway Musings social-media site has a large following.

All that was ideal grist for the mill of Sarah Ladd, who interned as a Messenger reporter last summer, recently graduated with honors from UK, then joined the Louisville Courier Journal as a reporter.

For her honors capstone course, she studied mass communication in Midway. The town is a good test bed for “The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism” defined by Steve Outing of The Poynter Institute in 2005, Ladd said in presenting her study after the monthly community dinner at Midway Christian Church on April 29.

For Midway residents, some of her more interesting findings were the results of an online survey she conducted. It had 62 respondents. Asked where they get daily news, 22 said the Midway Messenger and 22 said Midway Musings, a “secret” Facebook group that has almost 700 members and has become an important communication platform for the town.

Chart by Sarah Ladd; for a larger, clearer version, click on it
After the top two, at 35 percent, came The Woodford Sun’s print edition, at 16.1% (10 people); the Residents of Northridge Estates closed Facebook group, 6.45% (four people); other social media, 3.23% (two people) and the Sun online, 1.6% (one person).

The impact of Midway Musings was illustrated in late July when Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he would appoint a City Council committee to study changing the official name of Main Street to Railroad Street, which it was once called and is still called by some people. The idea was proposed on Midway Musings by local historian and merchant Bill Penn.

Vandegrift told the Messenger, "I hesitated to bring something from Midway Musings straight into potential policy without appearance by an individual at a council meeting, but this really isn’t the first time the idea has come up, and the Musings post helped show how much support this might have."

He told Ladd for her paper that he primarily gets news from the Messenger and The Woodford Sun. “I follow Musings and Northridge as well, but consider it communication more than news.” Ladd put it this way: "It’s a nice platform that people are using to facilitate news."

In her paper, she noted that the Northridge site spread word of a burglary and the official response, "breaking news." Midway Musings discourages political content, but a posting encouraging members to attend a City Council meeting to support resolution welcoming refugees to Kentucky stirred such controversy that city leaders delayed action until they could hold a public forum on the issue.

Ladd told the after-dinner crowd, “It was really interesting that a social-media group and a newspaper tied for first place,” she said. Anticipating that, she included in her survey this question: “If you used social media more than five years ago for any reason, how has it affected your knowledge of what goes on in the Midway area?” The result: 82 percent said it had increased their knowledge.

Musings founder Blake Jones said, "I want to always support forums where people can disagree without being disagreeable. I love Midway so much, and I think it is a town of exceptional people. Our diversity is our strength. "Social media gives people an anonymity at times that is not healthy, in my opinion. . . . We must all remember to measure our words, and remember that they can have consequences. Even online."

Midway Musings’ competitive impact, at least among people who voluntarily took the online survey, has been greatest on the Sun. Asked whether they had paid more or less attention to the Sun in the last five years, 39% said they paid less attention, 43% said they paid the same amount of attention, and 18 percent said they paid more attention.

Asked the same question about the Messenger, 68% said they paid more attention to it than five years ago. Ladd didn’t provide exact figures for the other respondents, but had a chart showing that by far, most of the rest said they paid the same amount of attention.

Ladd's paper noted that Sun Editor John McGary used "open sourcing" through social media to get sources for a story. "It’s so much different than having a straight, pre-approved list of experts you might call for something," she told the dinner crowd.

Ladd concluded in her paper, "The success of Midway’s current communication systems seems to be largely thanks to its size. The education levels and the sense of community trust cause the level of quality communication the small town enjoys."