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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Owner of 116 E. Main St. begins outdoor renovation

Ness Alamdari of Lexington took a rest Tuesday afternoon after helping a worker put up a scaffold in front of his historic but condemned building at 116 E.Main St. Alamdari is under orders to repair the building by Oct. 31 or risk having it torn down as a safety risk. He told the Messenger the outdoor work was preceded by some interior work.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Messenger's latest print edition has several new stories: water quality, features on people and businesses, more

Download a 5 MB PDF by clicking here.
The Midway Messenger is primarily online, but publishes a print edition twice a year, with stories of lasting interest, including some that haven't appeared online yet. The latest one, being distributed in town tonight and Tuesday, has several stories that you haven't seen before.

We covered the Midway mask project at several junctures, but now we wrap it up with a start-to-finish story, aggregated by University of Kentucky student Emmanuel Flemister and boosted by Editor-Publisher Al Cross's interview with Amy Bowman of Midway Makers Market, who came up with the idea.

Also on the front page is an illustration leading you to a story inside about the water quality of the streams of Midway: South Elkhorn Creek and the town tributary, Lee Branch. UK student Lauren McCally looked at the latest water samples and interviewed people about the streams, which are getting cleaner.

UK student Madison Dyment has a knack for feature stories, and the print edition has two new ones: about former Secret Service agent Danny Smith and the Freedman's saddlery shop, which has only one other location: Toronto. As luck would have it, Maddi is a Canadian from near that city.

Some previously published stories have been updated, such as the one on the new Weisenberger Mill bridge (with a drone photo offering a fresh perspective) and UK student Hayley Burris's report on the latest outbreak of the disease that causes Thoroughbred mares to lose their foals.

On the last spread of the print edition, we republish a story and some photos from the Midway Chalk Day for Racial Justice, and recount other examples of how Midway became in the national movement for racial reckoning that has seized much of the nation in the past month.

The print edition is available at the post office tonight and Tuesday morning, and will be distributed to City Hall, retail stores and restaurants on Tuesday. It is free of charge.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

City won't be reimbursed for vouchers, so mayor says council should consider an even bigger grant plan

The vouchers must be spent at local businesses by Tuesday, June 30.
By Aaron Gershon and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

State officials won't reimburse the city the $40,000 in coronavirus relief money it sent residents to spend at local, non-franchised businesses, further opening the way for direct grants to the businesses, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the City Council and the news media Sunday.

"While this does not put us out any for the first round of vouchers, since it was funded by our economic-development surplus, it clearly could reshape your thinking on the second round," the mayor said in an email. (The city did not have to make a $40,000 interest payment this fiscal year on the Midway Station industrial and commercial park, thanks to lot sales there.)

"While I think this decision . . . does not account for the fact that a voucher program can help create new long-term clientele in our own city," Vandegrift wrote, "it does open the door wider for a small-business grant program, where we could conceivably use up to $80,000 to boost our local small businesses."

Vandegrift had suggested a grant program to reach more businesses, but the council informally voted 3-2 this month to use federal relief money to do two more rounds of vouchers. When retailers said they needed grants or many of them would go out of business, the mayor said he would propose grants in place of a third round and named a committee to work out details.

The committee (Council Members Stacy Thurman and John Holloway and City Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Foster) is scheduled to meet online at 5:15 p.m. Monday. Vandegrift said its plan and the options would be discussed at the July 6 council meeting.

To help the council decide, he pressed for an answer on reimbursement from the state Department for Local Government and the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who sponsored the $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief, Aid and Economic Security Act.

"Despite the fact that the language in the CARES Act and the spirit of the law clearly indicate such a program should be eligible," the mayor wrote, "DLG decided after a brief review that it was not eligible." Vandegrift, who earlier said he was 75 percent sure of reimbursement, said he has asked the DLG for an explanation and is waiting for it.

He said DLG's Jennifer Peters wrote, "We appreciate your innovative thinking and applaud your efforts; however, after discussion with the review group, this has been deemed ineligible for reimbursement." McConnell's staff said he favored reimbursement, the mayor wrote, but "They have informed me that the state is the ultimate arbiter of the federal money."

Vandegrift told the council, "I am sorry that I couldn’t present you with the most reliable information sooner than now, but we all know we have to act fast when people are struggling and businesses are threatened. I do hope that if the U.S. Congress decides to add $2 billion more to our staggering national debt, that they hammer out a few details better and create an appeals process that allows imagination to enter the fold."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The John Soper era ends at EDA and Midway Station; mayor calls the last six years 'an incredible turnaround'

Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper discussed
Midway Station at a Midway City Council meeting in October.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The long, down-and-up story of Midway Station entered another chapter Friday as John Soper stepped down as chair of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority and was succeeded by Michael Michalsin of Midway.

Soper, a former banker, has overseen the revitalization of EDA's industrial and commercial park and led the agency into development of an adjacent area, both of which have turned it from the city's main liability into its key source of revenue.

"When I became mayor, Midway Station was pretty much empty," and the city and the county owed more than $5 million on it, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the EDA board in its online meeting. "There was a lot of talk that Midway Station just needed to be sold at the courthouse steps," in foreclosure, which would have been "a disaster."

"Instead, through John's leadership" and the rest of the board, the park has reduced the debt to $2 million, gained seven clients and 10 projects with more than 500 jobs, including the city's largest employer (Lakeshore Learning Materials, which is adding a second building and 100 more jobs) and The Journey, a church that will have a day-care center, which is "a huge get for us," Vandegrift said.

The city's occupational tax on wages and net profits has allowed the city to cut property taxes over 30 percent and reduce sewer rates 25 percent, the mayor noted. And the sale of lots in the park saved the city a $40,000 interest payment this year.

"When John took over as chair, they couldn't pay a bill," Vandegrift said. "And now they're telling us we don't have to pay some of our bills ... because they're paying them for us, like the interest payment on Midway Station. It's an incredible turnaround."

The mayor said he was glad Michalsin is willing to be chair, and told Soper, "I think your legacy will be carried on."

Michalsin said he was willing to take the job on an interim basis, since the board's mission may evolve as it and the three governmental bodies decide how to move on from a paid chairman.

Arranging that role in late 2016 prompted a brief clash between Soper and Vandegrift at a City Council meeting, but the relationship between the pro-development Soper and Vandegrift, who has a large preservationist constituency, evolved into a partnership that worked.

Soper said Vandegrift played a key role in making Midway Station a success by agreeing to borrow $450,000 for a larger natural-gas line to serve the property. He called that "one of the greatest decisions that's ever been made in Woodford County" because it ensured that Lakeshore would come. "That deal was going to evaporate that day if you did not make that decision."

Soper said he is proudest that "We never lost a big deal." He took one last opportunity to promote the Edgewood development in Versailles, which is tied up in court, but after Vandegrift complimented him, Soper said, "We don't have to look like Georgetown; we don't have to look like Jessamine County, and I've never wanted us to do that."

Among the actions the board also took Friday were approval of a deed giving the city ownership of the lot where its only functioning water tower stands, and a deal in which the city will gain control of 38 acres along Interstate 64 to serve as greenspace, "which I think will help us control what the industrial park looks like," Vandegrift said.

The city would get the property in return for forgiving $500,000 to $750,000 of debt owed to it by the EDA, most of which is for the gas line but not all of which is considered collectible. Soper said the city would take over mowing the property next year.

Future development: Renewed interest in property at Midway Station could force the board and the city to decide to allow a larger development than would be allowed under the current property plat and street system.

Kyle Johnson of Lexington, one of the EDA's real-estate agents, said one prospect is looking for 30 to 40 acres for a 100-employee distribution facility, which would require "dealing with roads" and lots that are now zoned for retail business.

"We don't turn any deals down until they don't make sense," Johnson said. "Something big like that, we definitely would want to bring Grayson in." Other prospects include one that is interested in 10 acres but would add only 10 to 15 jobs, and a meatpacking operation that is "probably a longshot."

The Messenger asked the agents about Creech Services, which bales horse-stall muck and ships it out of state. The Lexington firm is looking for a location closer to horse farms but wants assurances that it would be allowed in Midway Station under an anti-composting restriction placed on the property after Bluegrass Stockyards tried to relocate there 13 years ago. Senior real-estate agent Matt Stone said Creech was trying to work out a deal with Keeneland.

Planning and Zoning Director Pattie Wilson reported that White Dog Trading, which is building bourbon warehouses and an office building in Midway Station, will have a permanent pool of water in its necessarily large drainage-detention basin. "It'going to be an amenity," she said. Soper said the firm's office building "will be a compliment to Midway Station," and its four warehouses will produce much revenue, mainly for schools, from taxes on the aging whiskey.

Soper also complimented Wilson and her staff, saying "You guys move at the speed of business . . . You treat everybody fairly who comes into that office . . .Your all's agenda is just good planning."

Friday, June 26, 2020

Water bills can be paid online by credit card Wed.

Midway water customers can pay bills online by credit card for a fee, starting Wednesday, July 1.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift had decided to make the change, but the timing had not been decided. He announced in Friday in an email to the City Council and the Midway Messenger.


"There will be a link on our homepage at meetmeinmidway.com," the mayor wrote. "Once the customer clicks on the link, the portal will guide them through the very simple process."

Online payments of less than $150 will incur a $2.50 service charge from the vendor who is making it possible. Those over $150 will be charged a fee of 2.75 percent. " We as a city collect no fees for this service," Vandegrift said.

Customers can still pay at city hall or by mail, "but we’re very happy to add a new service for our citizens convenience," Vandegrift said.

'Midway to Love' movie airs at 9 tonight on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel (that's a correction)

Boyfriend and girlfriend reunited take a walk through Walter Bradley Park in "Midway to Love."
Railroad Drug and Old Time Soda Fountain closes
at 6 p.m., but not in the movie, featuring Daniel Stine
as Mitchell Sims and Rachel Hendrix as Rachel August.
Many small towns provide settings for motion pictures, but it's rare that one becomes the first word in the title, and "Midway to Love" makes its american debut tonight at 9 on The Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel.

Hallmark originally passed on the independently produced film, directed by Taylor Mill, Ky., native Jeff Day, in early 2019, but about a year later decided to buy it, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. It is playing in Canada, Spain, Italy and France.

The film tells the story of a therapy talk show host who lives in New York City, Rachel August (played by Rachel Hendrix), whose life is turned around when she visits her hometown of Midway to make a big career decision and reconnects with her old boyfriend, Mitchell Sims (Daniel Stine), and is caught between her career and love -- midway, as it were.

Day told the newspaper that Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and the town opened their arms to the movie, and “Midway just was the perfect setting for it.”

Midway Messenger Aaron Gershon, a native of the New York metropolitan area, has been assigned to write a review of the movie.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

McGrath leads Senate primary race in Woodford with last-few-days absentee ballots still to be counted

McConnell, McGrath and Booker (CNN image)
Amy McGrath of Georgetown appears to have won Woodford County in her bid for the Democratic nomination to face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Counting all ballots received through Tuesday, County Clerk Sandy Jones said McGrath has 2,180 votes, just over half the total, to 1,424 for state Rep. Charles Booker of Louisville, 319 for Lincoln County farmer Mike Broihier and 76 for former state auditor Mary Ann Tobin of Irvington, who ran a limited campaign.

Woodford was one of the few counties to report all votes received and counted so far. Fayette and many other counties are not releasing results until Tuesday, June 30, though a state law requires results of each precinct to be posted at the polling place. Most counties had only one place for in-person voting Tuesday, and also offered absentee voting by machine.

"These totals include all absentees that were received through yesterday, June 23, mailed ballots and in-person voting," Jones said in an email. "By order, we are to continue to count all absentee ballots that are postmarked June 23 up to and including Saturday, June 27. There is also a subsequent addition to totals that will be added with a deadline of Monday, June 29 at 4:30 that includes all ballots that have been cured." She said she had issued 7,475 absentees and had counted 6,878 through Wednesday.

The State Board of Elections, chaired by Ben Chandler of Versailles, says it will release the final totals on Tuesday, June 30.

Many counties released Tuesday's in-person vote, some added the early machine absentees and a few, like Woodford, released all votes received and counted. The Associated Press gives McGrath 28,238 votes, or 43.9%; Booker 24,172, or 37.6%; and Broihier 3,981, or 6.2%. AP estimates that one-third of the expected vote has been counted, but that seems unlikely because more than 880,000 absentee ballots were mailed out. The Washington Post estimates that only 10 percent has been counted. Its statewide count has McGrath with 24,837 votes, or 44.7%; Booker with 21,405, or 38.5%; and Broihier with 3,165, 5.7%.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Mayor names committee to design grant program for businesses using covid-19 relief money, as they asked

By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Tuesday that he is setting up an ad hoc City Council committee to design a grant program for small businesses, using covid-19 relief funds, in place of a third round of vouchers that citizens can redeem at the businesses.

The committee will be Council Members Stacy Thurman and John Holloway and City Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Foster.

The move comes after Midway merchants expressed displeasure with last week’s 3-2 council vote to send residents two more rounds of $50 vouchers, at $40,000 per round, rather than making direct grants of up to $2,000 to businesses, as Vandegrift first suggested.

The mayor said restaurants, not retailers, were the main beneficiaries of the vouchers, and Tuesday he cited reports from local businesses of their redemptions to prove his point.

The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's got the most vouchers. (Google photo)
The restaurants are getting far more than retail stores. The report shows that The Brown Barrel ($4,180), Goose and Gander ($2,910) Don Jockey ($2,410) were the only three businesses to get more than $1,000 in "Midway Bucks."

Eleven retail stores redeemed a total of $2,300, an average of $209; the highest was $430.

After the council voted for two more rounds of voucher instead of grants, 19 business people signed a letter warning that "without significant assistance or the lifting of pandemic restrictions . . . by the end of 2020, there will be more closed stores in downtown Midway than would be open."

In response, Vandegrift said he would ask the council to appropriate $40,000 for the grant program. Tuesday, he said the ad hoc committee would work on the exact details. "The committee will propose the details and the parameters as well as the potential paying scale of grants" hopefully for the council’s consideration July 6, he wrote.

"We've all agreed that time is of the essence for these businesses," he said. "We need to move as quickly as we can for them, regardless of what is decided."

The letter from the merchants noted that a grant program was clearly authorized by the relief bill but the voucher program was not. Vandegrift has said he thinks it will be approved.

In his latest statement, he said he is talking with the state Department for Local Government and the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who sponsored the bill, “to get as much guidance as possible” and would report to the council on at the July 6 meeting.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Merchants decry council's rejection of grant idea; mayor says he will ask for it instead of third round of vouchers

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway merchants are upset over the City Council's decision last week to send residents two more rounds of $50 vouchers to spend at local businesses rather than Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's original idea of direct grants of up to $2,000 to any business, to spread pandemic relief to more of them.

Nineteen business people signed a letter warning that "without significant assistance or the lifting of pandemic restrictions . . . by the end of 2020, there will be more closed stores in downtown Midway than would be open."

The merchants said they are "disheartened and confused" by the council's 3-2 vote last week. It noted the possibility that the federal government might not reimburse the city for the vouchers, as it clearly would for direct grants, and Council Member Bruce Southworth's comment that the city could afford it because of its large surplus.

Each water customer has received $50 to spend by June 30.
"If such is the case, why couldn't both programs be implemented?" the letter asked.

Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger in an email that he will suggest the council do just that after the second round of vouchers, which he plans to issue in mid-July, and not do a third round.

"I appreciate their concerns and them bringing these concerns forward," the mayor wrote. "After the second round of vouchers, I am going to suggest to the council that we use the remaining $40,000 of aid money to go to grants for the businesses who do not meet a certain threshold, based on the data we are tracking. That is to say, the businesses who do not receive the lion’s share of the vouchers can then be eligible for direct assistance. This to me is the best compromise, as it shares these funds with both our citizens and our businesses who need it most."

Vandegrift had suggested direct grants, saying restaurants and the Corner Grocery were getting most of the "Midway Bucks" vouchers, which come in $10 denominations without the ability to have change returned from them. But Southworth and Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said the vouchers were popular, and Council Member Logan Nance he didn't think $2,000 would make a difference to a business at risk of closing.

The letter said, "This statement could not be any further from the actual truth of businesses in Midway. . . . This assistance would bridge the expense gap created by the government-forced closure" of retail stores that ran from late March to mid-May.

Nance replied, "Leading up to the City Council meeting, the only feedback I had received was how much citizens and business owners loved the Midway Bucks. I had heard nothing to the contrary or any opinion regarding a different type of stimulus. As a believer in the free market, I think any stimulus that allows taxpayers to have a say and direct where their money goes is more preferable than having a special committee to potentially pick and choose who qualifies for the grant."

He added, "Business owners are struggling and I am empathetic to that. I would fully support a follow up to the second round of Midway Bucks that supports businesses that haven't benefited from them as much as others, and am open to ideas of how we could do that. People are also struggling. The Midway Bucks are a great way to help people and business owners during this time."

The letter, written by Rob Mills of Damselfly Gallery, spoke to the struggle of businesses: "Two businesses have permanently closed, as well as one restaurant modifying its business plan drastically," he said. "I can speak with complete confidence that at least five additional businesses, including myself, are on the precipice of making permanent decisions regarding the future." Then he made the prediction of more businesses closed than open by the end of 2020.

Cortney Neikirk, president of the Midway Business Association, said Kennydid Gallery and Calamity Jane's have closed, though she was not sure the latter was related to covid-19.

Council Member Stacy Thurman, who said she had to leave the meeting before the vote due to a work obligation, wrote in an email, "I was torn during our discussion, but was ready to vote to at least explore the idea of small grants. The voucher program has been great, but I do worry about those shops that aren't seeing any Midway Bucks. If businesses start to close, it changes the character of our town. I want to give them a fighting chance if possible. I appreciate them coming forward with concerns and hope we can come up with a compromise."

Friday, June 19, 2020

Owner of historic building has until Oct. 31 to fix it up

116 E. Main St. in January 2019; little has changed.
By Emmanuel Flemister
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The owner of the condemned building at 116 E. Main St. has until the end of October to fix up the rundown landmark or face the likelihood of the city tearing it down.

Woodford County planning and zoning officials had given Ness Alamdari of Lexington until March 30 to correct 10 issues with the building, as cited by Building Inspector Joshua Stevens on Feb. 10.

The deadline was extended to Oct. 31 after a consulting engineer for Alamdari submitted a letter, dated March 17, saying that the structure was stable. That headed off a possible order of demolition.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the City Council and the news media March 24, “At the end of this extension, he must have the property approved by a certified engineer, who in turn would be taking liability for the structural integrity of the building.” The property has become a “threat to public safety,” Vandergrift said earlier.

If Alamdari fails to meet these requirements, the process becomes “very burdensome for him,” said Vandergrift. “He would essentially have to start the process over with the Board of Architectural Review,” which set conditions for renovation of the property soon after Alamdari bought it in 2016. “If he fails in these obligations, I will be pushing for condemnation.”

Alamdari is still operating under a building permit that was issued in April 2018 and listed the cost of repairs at $20,000.

The property has been a trouble spot since at least 2006, according to Planning and Zoning Commission records. Vandegrift asked for the Feb. 10 inspection. “As a government, we were very patient with him for a long time,” he said in March.

Alamdari told the Messenger Feb. 19 that Vandergrift wants to tear down the building to make it a parking lot for festivals. Vandegrift denied that.

“I think I took the diplomatic route and probably was erring on the side of patience, just trying to make sure we were working with him,” the  mayor said.

The building was erected in 1898 by the Pilgrim Lodge of the Odd Fellows, an African American men's organization. Local historian Bill Penn, a nearby store owner, said it was last occupied 15 to 20 years ago. It is a landmark in Midway’s African American community, but is also one of the most prominent examples of blighted property in Midway, due to its downtown location and severe condition.

The mayor said he would take no pleasure in demolition of a historic stricture, but “I have been inside the building, and like so many others have watched as time and weather continue to deteriorate it . . . I came to believe that condemnation is the only solution.”

Vandegrift said that if the situation isn’t resolved by Oct. 31, one last alternative to demolition could be putting the property the city’s list of abandoned urban properties, which would be done by the city’s new Code Enforcement Board. The list is due to the City Council for review by Jan 1, 2021. Properties on the list are taxed at a much higher rate.

“If this building didn’t have such historical significance, I would likely disagree with this step,” he said. “But if one last-ditch effort to save this structure is what it takes, then we’ll proceed with a keen eye and a stern voice. We will continue to ensure that the citizens of Midway will not be taken advantage of, but we will also willingly follow the letter of the law in both protecting the rights of owners and the safety of our residents and visitors.”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Bradley brothers buy land on Northside to build homes; will seek annexation of enclave that's not in city limits

Google map, with some labels added, shows undeveloped area around Graves home. See map below for correct city limits. 
Seven and a half acres in the middle of Midway, but not actually in the city, have been sold for a residential development.

The purchase was made Wednesday, June 17, by Mike and Scott Bradley, sons of Chuck and Shirley Bradley of Georgetown. Family members owned and operated the Midway Corner Grocery for 41 years, until January, when Scott and his wife Susan sold the business.

The property to be developed lies between the grocery and Northridge Estates. It was the remainder of the Fisher farm, more recently owned by Jack and Debbie Graves, according to a press release from Northside Homes, the limited-liability company formed by Mike and Scott Bradley.

Mike Bradley told the Messenger that the purchase covers 10.5 acres, but almost three acres is unusable because it is a drainage-detention area for Northridge. In addition to the main parcel of 7.3 acres, which includes the Graves home, it includes a small lot next to the grocery, he said.

Bradley, a real-estate agent, said he and his brother will be the developers, and will probably partner with another company once lots are platted, probably in a "about a month or so."

Zoning map shows property isn't in city limits (red line).
For a slightly larger version of this map, click on it.
For the complete city limits map, see below. 
The property is already zoned single-family residential, but it is not in the city limits, although it is surrounded by the city. Bradley said they would seek annexation, and said Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has told him that he favors annexation.

Vandegrift said in an email, "If the development gets through Planning and Zoning and the council passed it, my policy is to annex, or else we would not provide services. If we’re going to be providing the infrastructure we might as well get property taxes and clean up our map as well as make sure those potential future citizens aren’t left to feel like black sheep."

Asked earlier to comment generally on the Bradleys' plans, Vandegrift said, "This is obviously a big and complicated issue that I’m sure many of our citizens will be keenly interested in learning more about and giving feedback. I don’t want to make any statements of support or dissent until I can see the plan specifically, know exactly how many homes we’re talking about, whether more water retention will be necessary, and hear from our citizens as to they want. But we all knew at some point we were going to have this conversation again. Looks like we’re about to start."

The press release said, "One of the more important, broader goals of Mike and Scott Bradley is affordability while ensuring the neighborhood fits the design and feel of the Midway they came to love since their family moved from Los Angeles in 1979" to take over the grocery. "All five of the siblings would eventually work in the store."

Mike Bradley's wife, real-estate agent Missy Bradley, said in the release, “Whatever the final design of the neighborhood is, I want to make it truly a part of Midway, something my mother would be proud of, something young families could afford so they could enjoy growing up in Midway as much as I did.” Her mother was the late Betty Bright, Midway's first female City Council member. 

Mike Bradley said in the release, “We will work hard to come up with a design befitting Midway, and one that will remain as attractive in future years as it will be new; affordable housing designed for individual owners, attractive smaller homes with very nice finishes.”

The residential development will be the largest in Midway since the mid-1990s, when Northridge Estates was completed. There is a great demand for affordable housing in the city, to the extent that the city has an Affordable Housing Committee looking at the issue. 

City Council Member Stacy Thurman, who chairs the Affordable Housing Committee, said in an email, "I am cautiously optimistic about this, but I don’t have enough details yet. I’m anxious to hear about the number of homes and the price range. This could be a good opportunity for modest and manageable growth in Midway. It will be interesting to see!"

Vandegrift provided this map of the city limits:

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Mayor makes Friday, June 19, a city holiday to honor fight for racial justice; says more vouchers in mid-July

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift is making Friday, June 19, a city holiday to honor those who have fought for racial justice, he announced in his regular update today.

Many African Americans observe June 19 as "Juneteenth," the day that a Union general who had just occupied Texas announced that in accordance with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, "All slaves are free."

Vandegrift said, "We have to keep finding ways to remind each other of the racial inequities that still exist. Slavery ended, but oppression and systematic racism did not," even after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. "We're getting better, but we are still so far away, and to honor all those who have struggled in the fight . . . we have to do more.

Vandegrift said the holiday means that city offices will be closed and city employees won't be working but will be paid. He told the Messenger that when June 19 falls on a weekend, the holiday will be the day closest to June 19.

"While this is not an earth-shattering step," he said in the update, "it's important that we remember that just one hundred fifty-five years ago, black Americans were literally held in chains for nothing more than the color of their skin."

Other topics: Vandegrift said the next round of Midway Bucks vouchers that can be spent at local, non-franchised businesses to help them get through the pandemic will probably go out in mid-July. "We need to make sure that the current vouchers get out of circulation, so to speak," he said. "You've got to spend them by June 30."

The mayor asked that residents consider going to a shop, perhaps one they have not visited before, to spend vouchers. "Some shops really haven't had a cut of the pie at all yet, and that's what we were hoping to avoid," he said. "We've had two shops close already during this pandemic. I'm afraid more will follow if we can't help them. Any bit helps, so please spread your money around as best you can."

Vandegrift began weekly updates on the pandemic March 18, and is shifting to every other week, but he said the coronavirus is "a reality that we live with and will be living with for some time."

"We definitely need to disabuse ourselves of the motions of having a normal summer, but that doesn't mean we have to have a bad summer," he said, noting that more relaxations of restrictions are planned for June 29.

He said social distancing and masks are the best way to keep the virus from spreading, and called for special attention to protecting people with underlying medical conditions and over 60. "There are even signs that people in their 40s need to be worried," he said.

Vandegrift opened his update by expressing condolences to the family of U.S. Rep Andy Barr, whose wife Carol died suddenly at their Lexington home Tuesday night. "It reminds us of how precious life truly is, and how important it is that we love one another."

Mailers tell very little of the issues in Republican primary for state Senate; answers to papers' questions tell more

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
               With the pandemic restricting their personal campaigning, and finances keeping them off television, which would be inefficient anyway, the five Republican candidates for the 7th District state Senate seat have relied heavily on mail advertising to reach voters.
               But the messages in the mail, from the candidates and those who support or oppose them, are not always indicative of issues that will face the senator elected in November to replace retiring Democrat Julian Carroll of Frankfort.
Latest U.S. Term Limits mailer; for a larger version, click on it.
               The latest example of that is a card mailed to registered Republicans by U.S. Term Limits, a group that wants the states to call a convention to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution limiting the terms of U.S. representatives and senators.
That would require resolutions from 34 states, and only three states have passed such resolutions. Some opponents of the idea argue that such a convention could not be limited to a single issue, thus making it even more unlikely.
               But U.S. Term Limits presses on, trying to elect state legislators who would support such a convention or defeat candidates who oppose it. First, it mailed a card thanking state Senate candidates Katie Howard of Lawrenceburg and Calen Studler of Frankfort for supporting term limits.
More recently, it mailed a card targeting Cleaver “Kirk” Crawford of Lawrenceburg and Linda Thompson of Frankfort. The other candidate in the Republican primary, Adrienne Southworth of Lawrenceburg, has not been mentioned in the group’s mailers.
               The latest mailer doesn’t expressly urge voters to oppose Thompson and Crawford, but asks them to email Cleaver (giving his address) and to call Thompson (giving her phone number) “and tell them ENOUGH is ENOUGH.”
               Both sides of the card feature President Trump and his endorsement of term limits, in which he says he will push for them. So far, he has not.
               But Trump is a major figure in advertising for the primary, as candidates try to align themselves with a president who has very high approval ratings among registered Republicans. Thompson’s ads use a picture of her with Trump, and a Studler mailer says he will “stand up and support the Trump agenda, not the Beshear agenda,” referring to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
               Asked by The Anderson News what grade he would give Beshear for handling the covid-19 pandemic, Studler said a C, adding, “I don’t doubt the governor’s concern for the people and his intentions to protect the public.”
               Only Southworth gave Beshear a worse grade, a D-minus, saying “He took unconstitutional actions regarding churches, according to several judges.” The U.S. Supreme Court later approved of restrictions like those Beshear placed on mass gatherings without singling out churches.
               Thompson gave Beshear an A, saying “He handled the pandemic in a reassuring and decisive manner.” Crawford gave him a C-plus, saying “His response was quick, but this has gone on far too long.” Howard said, ““I give him an A for controlling the spread,” but a B-minus overall, saying he was “too heavy-handed in his approach to business.”
               The candidates gave the General Assembly covid-19 grades ranging from F (Crawford) to A (Howard, Studler and Thompson).
               In answering questions from the Lawrenceburg newspaper and The State Journal, the candidates laid out more differences among themselves than they have in their advertising, which has emphasized hot-button social issues such as abortion (they’re against it) and guns (they oppose new restrictions).
               Studler has campaigned on his support for a state constitutional amendment that would allow casino gambling. Thompson said she favors such an amendment but hasn’t mentioned it in her mailers. Crawford also favors casinos but says he doesn’t want one on “every corner.”
               Howard and Southworth haven’t taken a stand on the issue. Howard says she wants to see “non-partisan research” before taking a stance and Southworth says she would evaluate such proposals in light of “my basic principles of constitutionality, free markets, transparency, and accountability.”
               Studler also endorsed legalized betting on sports, when asked how he would shore up state pensions. Crawford says he would do that by legalizing marijuana, and Thompson says there are “no good options.”
               Again, Howard and Southworth took the least clear positions. Howard simply said she would fully fund pensions, while Southworth said she would pay down debt and “tighten up the leaks.”
               Howard, Southworth and Studler support medicinal marijuana, while Thompson says it should undergo clinical trials to get approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
               Asked to name one area of spending that should be cut, Thompson and Studler said the focus needs to be on generating more revenue. Southworth targeted state administrative expenses in education, Howard called for eliminating odd-year elections, and Crawford said he would reduce welfare rolls with a financial literacy program.
               Voting in the primary concludes June 23. The district is Anderson, Woodford, Franklin, Owen, Carroll and Gallatin counties. The state Senate primary is only for Republicans. State Rep. Joe Graviss of Versailles is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and independent Ken Carroll will also be on the Nov. 3 ballot.
For a clearer, printable version of the issues table, click on it.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Council prefers two more rounds of Midway Bucks to business-grant program mayor proposed; budget OKd

Leslie Penn of the Midway Museum Gift Store watched as Elisha Holt (facing camera) and Morgan Castle of the Midway Business Association recorded a promotional video for Facebook last month as stores prepared to reopen. (Photo by Al Cross)
By Aaron Gershon and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council voted 3-2 Monday for a second and third round of vouchers for residents to spend at local businesses, rather than give money directly to the businesses for covid-19 relief.

The council also unanimously approved the city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The budget, which the council worked out last month, calls for almost $1.8 million in spending. “It really well serves the city of Midway while preserving the surplus, but it’s not skimpy either,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

Business aid: When Vandegrift learned last week that the city qualified for $129,000 in coronavirus relief funds from the federal government, he proposed that the city apply for $80,000 to give grants of up to $2,000 to as many as 40 businesses to help make up revenue lost to the pandemic.
He told the council that it could issue $80,000 more in vouchers to citizens, on top of the $40,000 that it issued in May, but that would “roll the dice” because there's no assurance that it will be reimbursed. He said the grant program is clearly authorized by the relief law but the voucher program is not.

“We may not know for months,” Vandegrift said. But he added, “I’m confident it would be reimbursed.”

As for the grant program, he said, “Maybe $2,000 isn’t gonna save everybody, but I’ve talked to these shops and restaurants a lot lately, and there are quite a few that are close to having to pack it in.” He said grants would help shops more than vouchers, which he said are being spent mainly at restaurants and the grocery.

Vandegrift said a vote for the grant program would be “a preference vote” that wouldn’t commit the council to it, just start a process in which a council committee would work out details. “The clock is ticking for these businesses,” he said, “and if we’re gonna do a grant project we need to move on it for it to matter.”

Council Member Stacy Thurman said, “I feel we have to be responsible, and I have a hard time trying to make the decision when I don’t know for sure.”

The vouchers come in $10 denominations; no change is given.
Council Member Bruce Southworth said he preferred the vouchers. He said the city could afford to risk not getting reimbursed because it has a big surplus, and “It’s the people’s money to begin with. If we get reimbursed, it’s somebody else’s money. If we use our money, it’s the tax dollars they pay anyway.”

Council Member John Holloway disagreed. “I just don’t think it’s fiscally responsible to give away a bunch of money . . .when we don’t know if we’re gonna get reimbursed for it,” he said.

Council Member Sara Hicks, who had made the motion for the grant program, said the council needs to “prevent a lot of empty storefronts downtown … it can be a snowball reaction; we’ve had that happen before in Midway; if the town doesn’t have enough going on you start to lose more business.”

But no other members favored the grants. Thurman wasn’t present for the 3-2 vote because she had to leave the meeting for a work obligation, Vandegrift said.

Voting with Southworth were Kaye Nita Gallagher, who said earlier, “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from citizens about the vouchers,” and Logan Nance, who said he didn’t think $2,000 would make a difference to a business at risk of closing.

After the vote, Vandegrift said, “This is what I hoped would happen, but I didn’t want to cloud it or make it difficult to have free discussion.”

He said the next round will be conducted exactly like the current one, except that the “Midway Bucks” would be a different color and he might delay before starting again. The current vouchers must be spent by June 30.

“I’m not saying we won’t do them again until August 1,” he said. “I think we’ll probably try to do it in the middle of July.”

St. Matthew AME Church is on South Winter Street.
(Photo by Christopher Riley, via Flickr)
Racial matters: Vandegrift said the St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church wanted people in the city to know that it has put up surveillance cameras to catch someone who is “messing with them.”

“There’s just no way that I can’t believe its not racially motivated at this point,” Vandegrift said. “I’m pretty sure we know who it is. That’s not indicative of the people of Midway; it’s just one jackass.” Addressing the unnamed person, he said, “You should move, because you don’t belong in Midway, in my opinion.” Southworth agreed.

Vandegrift added, “I hope they catch him and we can say his name.”

In a related matter, Vandegrift complimented Versailles police, who patrol the whole county, for their participation in a peaceful demonstration June 3 at their headquarters to honor George Floyd, the African American killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

In a similar vein, Holloway said he is mapping the recently renovated St. Rose Tabernacle cemetery with short biographies of those buried there, and would like to put up an informational history sign about the African American burial ground.

He said he would like to do the same for several sites in town, like the Black History Tour in Washington, D.C., and asked people with information to contact him.

Covid-19 response: ” The virus has kicked into gear again a little bit,” with a recent uptick in Woodford County but no second case reported in Midway, Vandegrift said. He said mask wearing and social distancing should be encouraged.

Midway saw its lone confirmed case on May 22. As of Monday, Woodford County had 58 confirmed cases, with 24 of them recovered, according to the county health department’s Facebook page. One person in the county is hospitalized and with covid-19 and 30 are recovering at home.

During the grant-or-voucher debate, Hicks pitched the idea of having a coronavirus testing site in Midway. Vandegrift said he had talked to county Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler about a mobile site in Midway but had “no luck yet.” He said there is much demand for such services “and we’re small.”

There are two testing sites in the county, including a rapid testing site at Bluegrass Community Hospital in Versailles, where results can be received in less than an hour. The mayor said a Midway resident went there Monday and the test came back negative.

In other business, the council approved a quitclaim deed to Scott Bradley, clearing up some property-line discrepancies at the Midway Corner Grocery, so he can sell the real estate to Nik Patel, who bought the business in January; and approved the addition of Todd Pack’s name to the veterans memorial in the cemetery.

The mayor announced that the city would not have its annual Sparks in Park gathering on July 4 but might come up with “some way of helping to do something.”

Midway University adds degrees, minors to curriculum; students will return Aug. 14-16; classes begin Aug. 17

Midway University has added majors in accounting and public health, and minors in finance, entrepreneurship and leadership for the fall semester, which will begin with in-person classes.

“When we add programs we always look at the market needs and growth potential for jobs for our graduates,” Dr. Mark Gill, dean of the School of Business, Equine and Sport Studies, said in a news release about the new degrees. “Accounting majors and CPAs continue to be needed in a wide variety of business segments.”

Accounting was formerly an area of concentration in the business administration major. It is available online or in person. The bachelor of science in public health degree is only available online.

“The field of public health is broad and offers students a variety of career opportunities such as working with both private and governmental agencies to help stop the spread of disease or prevent such illness from occurring, said Dr. Faith Garrett, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “Those in public health educate the public on improving health both individually and as a community.”

The university stopped in-person classes due to the covid-19 pandemic, but says it will resume them Monday, Aug. 17, as originally scheduled, with a staggered move-in to residence halls Aug. 14-16.

Interested parties can contact its admissions office at 846-5788 or admissions@midway.edu. A form requesting information can be completed at www.midway.edu.

Friday, June 12, 2020

State investigating complaints by Highview Drive residents of damage from herbicide spraying on farm

Photo from corner of Highview and Oak shows the effect of the herbicide on a field that was green. (Photo by Al Cross)
Rebecca Herpick of Highview Drive says her young
tree was damaged by the nearby spraying of paraquat.
Story and photos by Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Residents of the Highview Drive area in southeast Midway found herbicide sprayed on their properties last week. They’re upset, and the state agriculture department is investigating.

“Our garden backyard’s our sanctuary” in the covid-19 pandemic, said Rebecca Herpick of the 100 block of Highview. “That's how we're getting through this thing. It was, but it's my therapy, and just to see all your plants dying is just, like, devastating.”

The herbicide was sprayed on one or more farm fields next to the residential area. That was confirmed after Herpick had a conversation with farm owner Susan Coats, who told her that the spraying was done by Joe Greathouse of Midway, who is leasing the land. Herpick’s partner, Sean McDonald, said he believes wind blew it onto the residential property.

Herpick and her partner, Sean McDonald, say
this damage was caused by the spraying.
Greathouse and Coats could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

McDonald said Coats told him that the herbicide was paraquat, which is commonly used to kill grass before planting crops.

McDonald and Herpick said they noticed spots on their lettuce on Wednesday, June 3. Two days later, when they went to grab lettuce for a weekend camping trip, the spotting looked worse, but they did not think of much of it, they said.

"It just had this ominous dead look to it and we're like ‘Wow’,” McDonald recalled. "We didn't think about a chemical or anything like that." 

The couple still packed the lettuce and ate it while on their trip. When they returned Sunday, however, they realized there was undoubtedly a problem.

“Everything had major damage," McDonald said. "I told Rebecca, man, the whole place looks like we've got a disease."

Eating food contaminated with paraquat “could poison people,” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Herpick shows damage to her garden. (For
a larger version of any photo, click on it.)
Herpick and McDonald reported no symptoms, but Herpick said, "I just kept feeling so violated. We have a small dog . . . he could have died.” A study by Cornell University has found that paraquat is highly toxic to animals by all routes of exposure.

Angry, McDonald posted photos of their garden on the Midway Musings group on Facebook, and others reported similar experiences.

“The leaves in my trees and bushes are dying,” wrote Melissa Scheier, whose yard runs along Highview. “They all have the same spots.”

Warren Carter of Highview wrote, “I complained to Mr. Greathouse a few years ago about this same issue. I lost my garden in my back yard. When he sprays and the wind is coming from the southwest you can smell the chemical is your house. At least in mine. . . . Something must be done about this issue."

The problem isn't just on Highview Drive. Mary Williams Greene of Richardson Street commented on McDonald's social-media post Tuesday: "I noticed this evening that some of my plants on the side of the house nearest Highview had that same spotting."

A closeup of other damage. 
Mayor Grayson Vandegrift encouraged the residents to file complaints with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

 “We are going to keep an open line with the Department of Agriculture as it proceeds, and will do tests of water in Lee's Branch to see if any pesticides show up. We'll look especially for paraquat, unless an investigation leads us to look for any other pesticide as well.”

The Agriculture Department has received two complaints, and “We have two inspectors looking into it,” spokesman Sean Southard said. “Over the course of the next four to six weeks, we should wrap up the investigation which will determine if a violation has occurred.”

Under state law and regulation, the fine for applying herbicide not according to its label is $100.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Mayor: MetroNet crews may be in your backyard soon

Workers locating facilities for the MetroNet fiber-optic service will be returning to Midway in the next few days, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email to the City Council and news media today.

"If you live in a neighborhood with buried utilities (Northridge, Mill Road, Gayland) and have a fence with a lock, please consider removing any padlocks you may have in the mornings so as to allow locate crews to mark the existing utilities for those whose easements run through your back yard," the mayor wrote. "This is most common in Northridge; most will not have anyone in their backyard marking."

Vandegrift said the location crews "will not be on site longer than it takes to mark lines with spray [paint], and MetroNet has assured me they will check on any locate crews if problems arise. After the locates are complete the installation process will begin. Burying utilities where none have been installed for 30 years isn’t always the most fun experience but MetroNet has committed 100 percent to strawing and seeding ditches, and fixing anything that may be damaged to the specifications of the home’s occupants."

Alluding to last month's problems with the contract crews, The mayor added, "After a frank discussion I had today with executives from their company, I do believe MetroNet greatly values our city, and they will work diligently to make this process as smooth as possible. Competition always favors the consumer, and having a third choice of cable, internet and phone provider, this one with high-speed fiber optic, will be a win for us and improve property values simply by having fiber run to each home."

Residents who have issues can report them to MetroNet by calling 859-785-1107 or 1-877-386-3876, Vandegrift said, adding, "If you have any questions, feel free to holler at me. He gave a link to what he called a "very informative" video about utility easements: https://youtu.be/Ca30L1RAMNI.

In-person voting on primary day, June 23, will be at Falling Springs Center or by appointment at courthouse

Falling Springs Center is at 275 Beasley Rd. (Google map)
Woodford County voters who want to cast their ballots in person are being directed to a single countywide polling place at the county's Falling Springs Center in Versailles on primary election day, June 23, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. They can also make appointments to vote at the Woodford County Courthouse during those hours.

“We have had in-person absentee voting at the Courthouse since June 1,” County Clerk Sandy Jones said in a press release. “We want to give Woodford County every option to vote in the primary election and Falling Springs will serve as a centralized polling location for registered voters to cast their ballots on election day.”

Judge/Executive James Kay said in the release, “We want Woodford County to vote. We always have one of the highest voter turnouts in Kentucky, and we want to be umber one. We have never had this many options to vote in any election.”

Kentucky moved its primary election to June 23 under a bipartisan agreement due to the covid-19 pandemic, and expanded the medical excuse for absentee voting to include the risk of infection from the pandemic. All voters were mailed a postcard telling them how to apply for an absentee ballot.

“Voting absentee keeps people safe and saves tax dollars,” Kay said. “The more people that show up on election day, the more risks there are and the more poll workers, cleaning expenses, protective equipment, and county employees we need to run the election.”

Voters have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, June 15, to request an absentee ballot online at GoVoteKy.com or by calling the county clerk’s office at 873-8005. Absentee ballots can be mailed in or dropped off at the courthouse. A return envelope is provided and its postage is prepaid.

Woodford County voters can still vote early in person at the courthouse. There is also the option to drive-up, request a ballot and vote curbside at the courthouse.

“We are working overtime to allow voters every opportunity to vote,” Jones said. “We encourage voters not to wait until election day, because early voting is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the courthouse.”

Jones and Kay said they have worked with Falling Springs Executive Director Rich Pictor for weeks to prepare the polling location. Falling Springs will be closed for recreation and arts June 23 so it can perform the sole purpose of serving as a voting precinct. The center is at 275 Beasley Rd.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Graviss says he favors action against systemic racism

State Rep. Joe Graviss, a Democrat from Versailles, began his latest legislative update with a message about current events. It appears below. See note at bottom.

Before we get into the regular interim update, please allow me to say in short what I’ve been telling dozens and dozens of people, emailers and callers about the traumatic events of late surrounding the assault on basic human dignities by some in power, and the systemic racism and injustices that exist and are perpetuated by some in power.

I agree with so many excellent organizations, and individuals that are expressing anger and frustration at the structural, institutional and individual racism that still exists, and has deadly consequences -- in many ways. One of America’s greatest leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967:

“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? ... It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

He was right then and he’s right now.

I’m committed to helping reform policies and procedures and cultures that can positively affect this systemic problem hurting our country and state, and neighbors. I answered the call to step strongly into the political arena to help all the people, speak truth to power and work very hard for positive change, and will NOT back down now.

Thank you for all you are doing to make a positive difference in the lives around us, our communities, state and world. It matters. And is appreciated. Deb and I continue to pray that God’s will, and love, will be showered on the hearts and minds of all of us as we strive to live our purpose He has designed for us.

The Messenger publishes material from public officials based on newsworthiness, and has a higher threshold when an official is in a contested race. Graviss is unopposed in the June 23 Democratic primary but will have a Republican opponent in the general election.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Midway Chalk Day for Racial Justice leaves messages of support and hope on sidewalks all over town

The title of Sam Cooke's 1964 civil-rights anthem was one of the many messages written in chalk on Midway sidewalks.
(Unless noted, photos are by Herman Daniel Farrell III, as posted on the Midway Musings page on Facebook)
Dozens of adults and young people chalked anti-racism messages on Midway's sidewalks Saturday, in a project that organizers hoped would make the town part of a national movement and strengthen its race relations.

The project was the idea of MJ Farrell, 18, who told the Messenger that she wanted to give an outlet for expression by people who want to join the national protest movement but don't want to attend events "due to fears of covid or fears of danger."

"I knew there was a lot a support throughout Midway and I just didn’t know how to gather that support," she said. Her first idea was "a small, silent protest" downtown, but decided against that because of the pandemic.

She said she thought a chalking project "would be a very covid-friendly means for people to show their support," and one that would last longer than a silent protest. (Rain may come Tuesday.) "It's a way to show each other we’re a very supporting and we're a very strong community." 

She publicized the Midway Chalk Day for Racial Justice on the Midway Musings page on Facebook, and with the help of Jenny Gregory, Jack Rock and Sophie Hill put flyers about it "on almost every doorstep in town."

Farrell said at least 50 people participated in chalking Saturday, led by a group of 15 young adults who did the downtown sidewalks. She said other sidewalks were done primarily by adults and their children.

"A lot of people of color participated in the project, which I was really happy about," said Farrell, who identifies as white; her father, Herman Farrell, identifies as African American, and her grandfather was from Jamaica.

Milan Bush, an African American who lives in Lexington but spent part of her childhood in Midway and still has family here, joined the effort.

"I thought it was an awesome idea," Bush, 36, told the Messenger. She said she brought her sister and her son, 16, and her daughter, 11, who have been involved in protests in Lexington.  

Bush is a teacher. She said that when she saw a piece of chalk art in a hopscotch pattern, reminding her of the children she has worked with, she got emotional, and that's when she encountered Farrell, whom she remembered as a student.

Farrell recalled, "She was sort of in tears and said 'I didn’t think I was going to get so overwhelmed about this.' It showed that were are all making change in people's lives and affecting people."

Bush said the project "evoked some feeling" about a town where she was the only black girl in her kindergarten. "We're making progress," she said. "It goes back to reaching out and relating and knowing your neighbors and that what's Midway has always represented."

Midway's population is 11 percent African American. Farrell said relations between the races in Midway are good, but could be deeper and broader. She said as she rode her bicycle in a predominantly black neighborhood, "I realized I never really come over here very much."

She added, "I really hope people can learn from this and people can come together."

Photo by Marcie Christensen
Photos by Dan Roller, from Midway Musings

Saturday, June 6, 2020

City in line for pandemic relief funds; mayor proposes giving up to 40 businesses $2,000 each for shortfalls

By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The city of Midway can get more than $129,000 in for expenses related to the covid-19 pandemic, and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has proposed funneling the money to small businesses.

The mayor said in an email to city council members Thursday that he plans to apply for over $49,000 to reimburse the city for the $40,000 it spent on the “Midway Bucks” voucher program and $9,000 for expenses such as hand sanitizer,  protective spray in city vehicles, masks and food programs.

Vandegrift said he will apply for $80,000 to “grant 40 businesses in Midway with $2.000 to help make up for the revenue they lost due to being forced to close or partially close. While I feel it is unlikely that more than 40 would apply, should that happen, I propose we award grants first to businesses that were forced to close their doors completely.”

He said that would be “clearly reimbursable,” more so than the voucher program, which “is not specifically spelled out” in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which appropriated the money. “I am very confident the voucher program will be reimbursed . . . because frankly, it’s that cutting edge,” Vandegrift write. “In reading a summary of the act, I do feel that it falls under the eligibility requirements.”

The mayor said the grant application process would be simple and “would likely verify that the business applying are in good standing with the city on taxes and plan to stay open.”

He said he would ask applicants to say how much revenue they normally make in April and May, “though we would not ask them to open their books to us,” and probably require each to report by year’s end how they used the money: “payroll, rent, supplies, debt, etc.”

Vandegrift said the grants “would give a much needed shot in the arm all at once for all Midway businesses, and help them stay open and contribute to our tax base and culture.”

When Council Member Sara Hicks asked if businesses in Midway Station would be eligible, Vandegrift said the grants would be available only to businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Council Member John Holloway endorsed the idea in an email, with a caveat: “I like the idea that they can apply for funds in proportion to how much loss they've actually had rather than giving everyone the same amount, but only if we can determine a way to do that without causing infighting over the amounts.  Not everyone has been impacted in the same way, or to the same degree. Things are generally more complex than they first appear.”

Vandegrift said the council will discuss the plan at its meeting June 15.