Friday, January 15, 2021

City accepting applications for cost-sharing for sidewalk repairs; mayor wants council to make it more generous

By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The City of Midway is taking applications for this year’s sidewalk replacement program, which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wants to make more generous.

For the last three years, the city has shared in the cost of repairing sidewalks around town, first up to $1,000, then $2,000. Now Vandegrift wants the City Council to raise it to $2,500.

“More than half of the projects that year cost less than $4,000, and therefore did not meet the cap,” Vandegrift said in an email to the council and the Messenger.

“Because of the increase in the price of concrete, I am proposing we offer to pay for half of approved repairs up to $2,500,” Vandegrift wrote.

The mayor said he plans to put a put a cost-sharing resolution before the council at its regular meeting Feb. 1. (The council’s next meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 19, a day later than usual due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.)

In April, when the council started to shape the budget for the 2021 fiscal year, it drafted a “bare bones budget” due to the effects of the pandemic, and one cut was the sidewalk program, which the mayor had budgeted at $20,000. In May, after revenue prospects improved, he and the council put together a “middle ground” budget that restored the program.

To apply for the program, property owners fill out a form and return it to City Hall. City employees will inspect the sidewalk to make sure it meets city specifications.

When applications are approved, ”The city will solicit bids from contractors for all projects, with the quality and cost as highest priorities,” the city’s project guide says. The city will notify property owners of the expected time frame for the work and send them invoices, which will state the total projected amount of the project, the city’s cost-sharing amount and the remainder due the city at or before the beginning of the work.

“We plan to leave this application open through February,” Vandegrift said. “If enough applications are submitted that qualify, we will begin the RFP process in March to solicit a contractor to perform the work, just like the last program, which was conducted in summer of 2019.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Midway Renaissance's food drive in lieu of annual membership dues approaching volume triple last year's

Bags of donated food at Midway Christian Church
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

For the second year in a row, Midway Renaissance is conducting a food drive that doubles as a membership drive, and this year’s is much bigger.

Last year, the campaign brought in about 300 food items. So far this year, it has gleaned about 850 with four weeks still to go, President Christy Reaves said: “We are really excited to see the end numbers.”

She said when she initially came up with the idea, “We believe that caring for our community in this way is so much more important than membership dues revenue to Renaissance.”

Members of Renaissance encouraged people to donate 10 non-perishable food items instead of the customary $10 membership dues, by delivering a flyer to every door in town last January. Reaves said 10 food items “seemed so much more important than 10 dollars” and some people “contributed to the food drive anonymously” even if they didn’t join.

Brown bags are provided at each door for filling with food, along with a form to fill out for anyone interested in joining Midway Renaissance. The food is being organized and distributed by Renaissance volunteers to the blessing boxes at Midway Christian Church and Midway Methodist Church, and the food bank at Midway Baptist Church

“I had always attributed the word Renaissance to evolving to something better,” Reaves said. “By changing our membership campaign to a food drive, a new way was created to let Midway Renaissance visibly impact our community in a different way.”

Reaves and Vice President Marcie Christensen said they would like to thank all of those who helped them distribute the bags throughout the community on what were “some pretty chilly days”: Joy Arnold, Rachel and Harvey Couch and sons, Todd Graddy, Sally Gregg, Blythe Jamieson, Sally Kinnaird, Tiffany Marsh, Hank Pinkerton, Myra Prewitt, Helen Rentch, Dee Dee Roach, Pam Thomas and Stacy Thurman. For anyone who didn’t get a bag, or would like to donate more, there are extras in the post office.

“We missed a few homes,” Reaves said, “so we decided to put extra bags in the post office for people to pick up.”

She said they would “deliver the bag to anyone” who may need one, and to let her or Christensen know if they do. She also added that she thought City Hall might “even get us the message.”

Midway Renaissance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization created in 2003 to promote the historic preservation of Midway as well as provide and support activities related to the community.

Renaissance has several other events and projects throughout the year, primarily the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, which will be held in smaller fashion, due to the pandemic, on the Midway University campus in downtown Midway in May.

The group’s Greenspace Committee plans to look at the Street Tree Inventory of 2012 and check on trees involved in that report with help from volunteers. Greenspace also plans on working with the City Council’s Cemetery & Property Committee to look into the possibility of “dedicating a section of Midway Cemetery for ‘green’ burials,” which use do not involve embalming or vaults.

“We want Midway Renaissance to be a responsive community organization,” Christensen said in an email, “and count on the participation of our neighbors to make that happen.”

Christy Reaves
Reaves moved to Midway from Ashland in 2017 and is a model railroad buff who has done several displays for community events.

She is on the board of the rejuvenated Midway Museum and will be president of Renaissance for one more year. she calls herself a “hopeless volunteer.” 

“I have no idea how to say no to an ask for help,” Reaves said in an email. She also added that she has “no plans to ever leave this sweet little town.”

Monday, January 11, 2021

Brenda Rollins dies; graveside service 1 p.m. Wed.

Brenda Rollins
Brenda Renick Rollins of Midway, a former teacher and Realtor, died after a long illness. She was 71. 

She was the wife of Carl Rollins, former Midway mayor, magistrate and state representative; a Realtor for Show Place Realty; and an active member of Midway Christian Church. 

Born May 7, 1949, to Sam and Grace Strode Renick in Barren County, she earned a master's degree at Morehead State University. She taught at Caverna High School, her alma mater; and at Woodford County High School.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Heather Dragan of Indiana; a brother, Tom Renick of Bowling Green; and her grandchildren, Hannah Dragan and Ryan Dragan.

A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Midway Cemetery in Midway, with the Rev. Heather McColl officiating. Ken Rollins, Jim Rollins, Mike Lawson, Brad Lawson, Greg Gresham, and Aubrey Wells will serve as pallbearers. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Woodford County Humane Society.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Midway University and UK announce dean's lists for fall

By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

One student from Midway landed a spot on Midway University’s dean’s list for the fall semester.

Alex Vorhaus
(Photo provided)
Alex Vorhaus met the two requirements of obtaining a semester grade-point average of a 3.6 or above and maintaining a full-time status at the university. He told the Messenger that he moved to Midway after high school in Brentwood, Tennessee, to enter the university’s equestrian program.

The dean's list included 309 students, including six from Versailles: Raegan Gilbert, Amy Hoard, Ava Pitts, Alexandra Todd, Hannah Urbina and Amanda Watts.

Scott County had one from Stamping Ground, Neal Hearn, and 15 from Georgetown: Amber Basham, Laurel Brandenburg, Sydney Coffey, Rachel Cooper, Brittany Davis, Rebecca Galloway, Reagan Golden, Elizabeth Hazlett, Jordan Hopkins, Nyckoletta Martin, Jessica McClain, Elizabeth Morgan, Cheyenne Privett, Madeline Wasson, and Natasha Williams.

Also on the list were 35 students from Lexington and 19 from Frankfort. The list also included many students from out of state: 11 from Tennessee, eight from Indiana, five from Texas, four each from Georgia and North Carolina, three each from Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri, two each from California, Pennsylvania, and Utah, one each from Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

On an international scale, the list included one each from South Africa, Puerto Rico, Germany, France, Peru and Mexico.

10 from Woodford on UK list: On the same day, the University of Kentucky announced its dean’s list for the fall, which included 10 students from Woodford County: Olivia Danielle Arnold, Sarah Elizabeth Arnold, Heidi M. Asher, Jeffrey Michel Bonci, Hayden Kurt Bouren, Walter T. Horn, Noah B. Jones, Olivia La’Trish Morris-Bush, Daryn LaTara Seals, and Trevor Craig South.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Cemetery panel to discuss idea for pedestrian gates

The Cemetery & City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meet via Zoom at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11. It can be viewed on the Midway Government Streaming Meetings Facebook page.

"The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a proposal for two pedestrian gates at the Midway Cemetery and the St. Rose Tabernacle Cemetery. No action will be taken," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email. "The potential project would need to be budgeted for in the upcoming fiscal year that will begin on July 1, and therefore may be including in upcoming budget workshops for more discussion as well."

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Former Messenger reporter is MADD national president

Alex Otte
Alex Otte of Lexington, who was a Midway Messenger reporter just over two years ago, became the new national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on Jan. 1. 

"As president, Otte will serve as a national spokesperson and chief advocate for MADD, which grew from a grassroots movement begun by a grieving mother in 1980," the group said in a news release.

Otte is a graduate of the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky. In her work for the Community Journalism course, she covered Midway in fall 2018, writing stories about the City Council and its election.

"Her family joined MADD in 2010 after she had been severely injured by an intoxicated boater when she was just 13 years old," the release said. "Otte was on a jet ski on a Kentucky lake near her home when a drunk boater crashed into her at nearly 70 mph. The accident caused a severe brain injury, a broken neck and collarbone, a shattered jaw, a lacerated liver, two shattered femurs, and the loss of her right leg below the knee."

Otte started with MADD as a volunteer, and served as a National Teen Influencer for the group in 2014 and won its National Youth Activist of the Year award in 2015 for her efforts to pass ignition interlock legislation in Kentucky.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Wesbanco will close branch Jan. 22; Citizens Commerce says it's interested but needs a location

The bank occupies a prominent place in downtown Midway. (File photo, taken when it was United Bank)
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

By the end of this month, the only bank in town will have closed its Midway branch.

“WesBanco has indicated that they will not make a decision about what they will do with the property until they close the branch,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Messenger in an email. The bank plans on closing the branch Friday, Jan. 22.

In September, Vandegrift said he had heard WesBanco might put a deed restriction on the property to prevent another bank from moving into the building, to reduce the number of customers it would lose to a competitor.

WesBanco spokesman John Iannone said in an email, “There has been no material update since my previous conversation a few months ago” with the Messenger, when he said the bank had made no decision about the property.

If WesBanco does impose the deed restriction, Vandegrift says he still plans on using the strategy that he outlined for the Messenger earlier in November, acquiring the building and converting it into City Hall and a visitor center, “though we would have a long way to go as far as cost, logistics, etc.” He said he would be “perfectly happy” if a local bank was able to purchase the property instead.

Michelle Oxley, president of Versailles-based Citizens Commerce Bank, which says it has the largest share of deposits in Woodford County, told the Messenger, “Should an opportunity arise to branch into Midway, you know, we would certainly consider that. At this point in time, we’re not aware of any specific location that is available in the Midway community.”

She said the bank has looked at the area and “various buildings,” and there was “not a particular opportunity that we can pursue” for them to pursue, but the bank will “continue to assess the area and consider any opportunities.”

Another option for the city, as Vandegrift lined out in November, would be to find a different location for a bank. In November, he said the Rau Building, which houses City Hall, “could work for a bank,” but this week he said “having a drive-thru is likely going to be desired by most” people and it might not be feasible there.

“One obvious location is Midway Station,” he said, “although that would require a new build.”

The City of Midway started banking with Paris-based Kentucky Bank six months before the bank announced its closing in September. The city left only one account with WesBanco, but Vandegrift said in September that he did not think that helped lead to the closing, since other branches are being closed in the region.

Ken Glass, co-owner of the of Railroad Drug and Old Time Soda Fountain, was asked by the Messenger if he would provide any type of check-cashing service. “As of right now,” he said, “that’s not something I would do.”

Glass added that while he does a lot of banking in Versailles already, because that’s where he got his loan 10 years ago to start Railroad Drug, he still uses the bank in Midway. “I utilize them for things like change,” Glass said, “so not having them 150 yards away will be a palatable loss.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

New City Council organizes with new equity committee, including Mary Raglin, first Black member in six years

City Council members signaled their "yes" votes during Monday night's meeting. Also pictured are Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, Versailles Asst. Police Chief Rob Young, Asst. City Clerk Sonya Conner and city attorney Sharon Gold.

By Lauren McCally

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

At its first meeting Monday night, the newly elected Midway City Council approved several appointments and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift appointed committees, including a new Equity and Equality in Policy Committee.

Council Member Stacy Thurman will chair the committee. Its other members are Sara Hicks and Mary Raglin, who is the first African American on the council in six years, and its first Black woman ever.

Vandegrift said the committee will carry out a June 1 resolution sponsored by Thurman, in which the council committed to “an equitable approach to all decision-making.” He said that means the council will consider “who benefits, who doesn’t, who’s excluded, what are we missing.”

The mayor said the committee can develop its own agenda, studying issues from the abstract to “something totally policy-related.” He noted that Thurman also chairs the Affordable Housing Committee, which is an ad hoc committee with non-council members.

The Public Works and Services Committee will be chaired by Logan Nance, with Kaye Nita Gallagher and Steve Simoff, and the Cemetery and City Property Committee will be chaired by Sara Hicks, with Raglin and Simoff, who was on the council in 2017-18 but didn’t seek re-election in 2018.

Appointments: Meeting via Zoom, the council approved several appointments and reappointments proposed by Vandegrift.

To a Parks Board vacancy the council appointed Jeremy Divine, who the mayor said has taken a keen interest in the park, is a good amateur photographer and “comes highly recommended by other park board members.” The council reappointed board Chair Cecelia Gass and recently retired council member John Holloway, who has been the unpaid park manager since the board was created. All Parks Board appointments are for five years.

For Midway’s representative on the county Board of Adjustments, the council appointed Bart Shockley, who had been filling an unexpired term, to a four-year term. Kevin Locke, an architect, was reappointed to a two-year term as Midway’s representative on the Board of Architectural Review, which acts as a board of adjustments for historic districts.

Ambrose Wilson IV honored:
The council also approved a resolution honoring the service of Ambrose Wilson IV, who served as the school board member for Midway and adjoining areas for 28 years, including more than a decade as chairman.

One of Wilson’s accomplishments was the building of Northside Elementary School in Midway. “That was a major accomplishment,” Wilson told the council, “and I’m very proud of that.” He said that he considered the school to be “kind of the heartbeat” of the community.

The resolution also noted that Woodford County High School was named, in 2016, one of the top 10 high schools in Kentucky by U.S. News & World Report. It declared that Tuesday, Jan. 19, which will see the first meeting of the school board in 28 years without Wilson, will be Ambrose Wilson IV Day in Midway.

“Thank you very much for this honor, declaring this day for me,” said Wilson, “It was an absolute pleasure and an honor of a lifetime to serve the citizens of Midway.” Wilson, whose father was mayor, ran for the job in 2018.

Leash law, blighted property: In his report on other topics, Vandegrift said “ I just want to remind everyone” that Midway has an ordinance requiring dogs to be on leashes. He reminded the council of an incident, a couple of weeks ago, where a woman in the 38th week of pregnancy was walking her dog with her husband when an unleashed dog got loose and got into a fight with the dog and she was knocked to the ground, suffering “a bad gash on her head.”

He said 95 percent of people obey the ordinance, but earlier that day, “someone with an open container had dogs off leash. I have contacted that person; they have been warned before, and I’m losing my patience with things like this. . . . The next visit might be from a police officer, and it just feels like that’s such a terrible waste of our great police force.”

The mayor briefly discussed the demolition order for 116 E. Main St. but also shared some good news about one of the properties that the council put on the “abandoned urban property” list recently. “One of the ones that we’ve seen sort of vacant for decades got a new roof last week,” he said, calling it “a wonderful improvement” and “exactly what we were looking for,” owners of dilapidated property putting equity into it rather than paying higher taxes as a result of being on the abandoned list.

Pandemic response: Thurman said she is working on a “phone call check-in system” for people in Midway, during a pandemic winter when many people are isolated. “I have lots of volunteers that are willing to make phone calls,” she said, “but I need help getting a spread sheet of folks who could use a call, and their phone number.”

The council began the meeting with a few moments of silence for two citizens who died recently – Bobby Pittman, who was a police officer and a well-known local figure, and Beverly Wilson, the wife of former council member Johnny Wilson – and for all of those who have dealt with or are dealing with Covid-19.

Nance urged residents to sign up with the health department for a coronavirus vaccine, and when it becomes available and “you get that call, go get it.”

Vandegrift said he expects the council, which began meeting via Zoom last March, will probably not resume in-person meetings until late spring “at the very earliest.”

Owner of 116 E. Main St. ordered to demolish building within 30 days; if he doesn't, city is prepared to do it

The building at 116 E. Main St. was photographed on Oct. 31.
The building as it stood on Jan. 7, 2019
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The building at 116 E. Main St., which has been an eyesore in downtown Midway for several years, has received a demolition order from the county building inspector.

Inspector Joshua Stevens said in his notice that he did the inspection Dec, 14 at the request of the City of Midway, which had received complaints from citizens.

“No one wants to lose a historic building,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email to the City Council and the Midway Messenger, “but public safety is paramount, and this structure keeps me up at night.” He added that it was a “shame it came to this” and the number of times the building owner has worked on it in the last few months can be counted “on two hands.”

In a letter dated Monday, Jan. 4, Stevens told Ness Almadari, the building’s owner for the past four years, that because “a structural tension cable placed on the building during remodel procedures snapped . . . this structure is declared unsafe and is being issued an emergency demolition order.”

The order gives Alamdari 20 days to appeal and 30 days to get a demolition permit. “If a building demolition permit is not obtained . . . the City of Midway is prepared to proceed with demolition and place a lien on the property for their costs.”  UPDATE: The 20- and 30-day periods began running Wednesday, Jan. 7, when Alamdari was served with the order.

This battle is an on-going one, and the building has faced several previous citations and deadlines. Stevens ordered Alamdari to repair the building by Oct. 31, but Alamdari got another building permit on Oct. 28, good for one year. He had removed the building’s fa├žade and done some other work, but activity has slowed since the permit was issued.

Vandegrift told the City Council in its meeting Monday night, “This is demolition by neglect.”

The building, which was erected in 1898 by the Pilgrim Lodge of the Odd Fellows, an African American men’s organization, has had many owners and landed in Almadari’s hands in 2016. The last known occupancy of the building was 15 to 20 years ago, according to local historian Bill Penn, a nearby store owner.