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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Council hears mayor question idea of funding restrooms

By Gage O’Dell 
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council discussed a downtown public restroom, donated to a backpack program for children and heard about a free flu-shot clinic during a 26-minute meeting Monday afternoon.

Council Member Stacy Thurman said Midway Business Association President Cortney Neikirk had reached out to her to explore options for a downtown public restroom. “It’s just to get a plan,” she said. “We really can’t move forward unless they explore the options and see if it’ll work out.”

The issue resurfaced during the online forum for city council candidates in early October put on by the Midway Messenger. Council Member Logan Nance and candidate Mary Raglin opposed using city funding for the project. Thurman called for more research.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said ”The problem is a little more complicated than some people have made it out to be.” He added later, “I’m not against the idea out of hand, but I do have some questions. I don’t want the city one day looking back and saying that’s something we shouldn’t have done.”

Vandegrift said we are hearing more about the issue since City Hall, which has public restrooms, is closed because of the pandemic and “I don’t want City Hall to become a spread point.”

The mayor discussed issues of location and cost.

“People have said ‘Let’s build a little thing by the railroad tracks’,” he said. “There is a water line there, but CSX would never grant permission to build a structure on their property.” He said building onto the back of City Hall could affect the building’s historic nature, and “The cost would be astronomical.”

Vandegrift said the cost of maintaining a public restroom would be a “huge problem” beyond location and construction. “I think we’d have to hire a professional crew to do the ongoing cleaning,” he said, because the city has difficulty attracting employees and bathroom-cleaning duty would make it less attractive.

While the City Hall restroom is closed, Vandegrift said, the restaurants could fill the vacuum: “I think the restaurants could really step up right now and say look, we will be that public restroom.”

Summing up, Vandegrift said Midwegians need to ask themselves, “What public works project would you rather see not worked on than this bathroom?”

Thurman said she did not disagree with anything Vandegrift said, but “I do feel if they want to explore it, let’s explore it and explore all those options.”

Vandegrift said he has proposed to the merchants they use part of their earnings from the fall festival to help pay for the ongoing maintenance. “I think that’s the way to do it if we’re going to do it,” he said.

Free flu shots: Vandegrift said the Midway Christian Church will host a free-flu shot clinic from 12 to 4 p.m. Nov. 12 in its community room, but he urged the public to get a flu shot before then. “That’s kind of late,” he said. “We encourage people strongly to go on down to Railroad Drug tomorrow or any day to get your flu shot.”

Vandegrift said getting vaccinated for the flu this year is “incredibly critical” in avoiding overrunning hospitals with flu and covid-19 patients. “More immunizations mean less hospitalizations.” Covid-19 hospitalizations are increasing in Kentucky.

The mayor said the city has been working with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to “get as many people immunized as possible,” but will have a limited number of immunizations, “about 150 to 200.” He said the shots would be free to people with insurance and “You don’t have to be a Midway citizen . . . If you live in the area, that’s okay.”

Other business: The council donated $500 of the remaining $1,500 in its donations budget to the Midway Baptist Church for its annual backpack program for needy children. The money will be used to buy food from God’s Pantry. Nance said the program is already underway and filling about 10 backpacks a week.

The council approved the donation 4-0 vote, with Nance abstaining since he is a member of the church. Member John Holloway was on vacation and could not access the online meeting, Vandegrift said.

The council also passed an amendment for changes to the bond issue it sponsored in 2018 for the Lexington School, for a new learning center. The changes to the bond were made by the school and Traditional Bank, which lent the money to the school.

The Lexington School uses Midway as a financing tool because state law allows such bonds to be issued only by local governments that issue less than $10 million in bonds in that year, and the Lexington government issues more than that. The financing tool allows a lower interest rate.

Council Member Sara Hicks asked Vandegrift about his recent proclamations. The mayor said he issued proclamations making October Arts and Humanities Month, as well as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He also said he made a proclamation for Betty McLean’s 90th birthday and designated Monday as Betty McLean Day.

Council Member Bruce Southworth asked Vandegrift for an update on the sewer project to replace the main trunk line leading to the wastewater treatment plant.

Vandegrift said “there was a chance” digging could start on the Southern Equine Farm as early as November, with the project being finished some time in December regardless of weather.

On another construction project, Vandegrift said the cemetery pavilion is “for all intents and purposes done” and that they would have a ribbon-cutting ceremony in November.

This story has been corrected, as indicated by the strikethrough above.

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