Thursday, February 17, 2011

Water, Sewer and Garbage Committee to meet

The Water, Sewer and Garbage Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Friday, Feb. 18, at 5:30 p.m in the Community Room upstairs at City Hall to discuss citizen requests for water adjustments. All council committee meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Midway Renaissance leaving Main Street program

Midway Renaissance told the city council tonight that it is withdrawing from the state Main Street program, obviating the need for the group and Mayor Tom Bozarth to agree on a survey to be submitted to the state for recertification by the program by Friday.

The Midway Messenger was unable to cover tonight's special meeting because it coincided with the class that reports and writes for the Messenger, but Renaissance submitted a press release that can be read here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Council to meet at 5:30 Wed. to act on survey Renaissance must submit to be re-certified

The Midway City Council will have a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, at City Hall to act on the survey that Midway Renaissance must submit to the state by Friday, Feb. 18 to be re-certified. The survey and the city's relationship with Renaissance occupied most of the council's time at its last regular meeting. For a story on that meeting, click here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

City again seeking higher status from legislature

The effort to raise Midway's city classification, which would give it more power to control matters such as alcohol licensing, has been revived in the General Assembly. Tomorrow the City Council is scheduled to pass a resolution asking the legislature to raise the city from the fifth to the fourth class "based on the population, the geography and economic condition of the city," according to the meeting notice from City Hall.

The council was already scheduled to meet at the Holly Hill Inn from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a retreat with a facilitator in an effort to set goals for the next two years, with no action to be taken. The meeting for the reclassification resolution is set for 11 a.m. at the restaurant.

An effort to raise Midway's clasification failed in the 2010 General Assembly. For the initial story on that, click here; for the last story, go here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Council to gather for special reasons Fri., Sat.

The Midway City Council will have two unusual meetings Friday and Saturday. The first will be a 9:30 a.m. field trip to the recycling center in Lexington, as part of the city's inquiry into alternatives for recycling. (See story below.) On Saturday from 11:15 to 1, at the Holly Hill Inn, the council will have a retreat with a facilitator in an effort to set goals for the next two years. The official notice from City Hall calls it a "planning session" and says "No action will be taken." All gatherings of a quorum of a public agency are considered official meetings and open to the public.

As city looks to go greener (Lexington?), county plans improvements to recycling service

By Colin Walsh
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

There is a growing demand in Midway for a more comprehensive recycling program. And as city council members prepare to explore different options, Woodford County is planning improvements to its service.

Recycling service in Midway is limited to products the county recycling center in Versailles can accept, which currently excludes glass and fiberboard (i.e. cereal boxes, beer cartons, paper plates etc.). Citizens want a more comprehensive service, Council Member Joy Arnold said.

“We want to be as green as possible,” Arnold said. “I’ll speak for myself, I even stopped putting out recycling (in Midway), I collect it all and take it to Lexington. . . . If I take my cardboard and glass there, I might as well take it all.”

Arnold and the rest of the council are taking a trip to the Lexington recycling center on Manchester Street this Friday to see how it operates. The council and the community’s desire for a better program prompted the trip.

“Sadly, I’ve been aware of people who have stopped recycling cardboard and glass altogether,” Arnold said. “Our dumps don’t need that.”

Meanwhile, the Woodford County recently received a grant from the state for a new horizontal baler that will allow the Versailles center to take fiberboard, hopefully by early March – something that doesn't appear to be common knowledge in Midway, perhaps due to lack of communication between the city and county.

County recycling director Wade Johnson said of Midway's search for alternatives, “The first thing I heard about the situation in Midway was when I read it in the paper,” The Woodford Sun. “Whatever reason, it’s their own reason and I’m not privy to any of the meetings or how they came to this conclusion.”

Johnson also said that the reason that the county can’t take glass is very simple: “We have to sort it by one of three colors, and after you sort it out you have to pay labor costs and the market is currently so flooded and the value (of glass) is so marked down that, instead of making any money, you can’t even cover the labor costs. Essentially you pay for it twice. (In my opinion) it’s not a good stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars.”

But for Johnson and the county government, there don’t seem to be any hard feelings if Midway goes to Lexington. “We will miss having their product but it certainly will won’t put us in any sort of financial bind,” he said. “We really haven’t pursued (accepting glass) for the aforementioned reasons.”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Renaissance bid for recertification prompts frank talk at council about relationship with the city

Story and photographs by Dick Yarmy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

It may have looked like a routine agenda item, but Midway Renaissance’s application for state re-certification met with probing questions and edgy responses Monday night at the Midway City Council meeting.

The two-hour session brought to a head a series of simmering disputes between Renaissance, which now has three members on the six-member council; and the three holdover members and newly re-elected Mayor Tom Bozarth.

In a meeting that crackled with more than the usual discussion, the officials began work on creating closer connections between factions that want to head in the same direction but have appeared to be on different tracks.

“What I really see here is just a lack of communication,” Bozarth, left, said after hearing the council debate various aspects of the state survey response that he and Renaissance must both sign for re-certification, as well as discussion on interaction between the two groups.

Council Member Becky Moore, a Renaissance board member and former mayor, was on the hot seat as she fielded most of the questions from other members and Bozarth. “How do we get past the grudges?” she asked at one point, quickly adding, “Not grudges; let’s back up.” Later, she said of the survey response, “I do want to thank you all for reading all of this.”

Council Member Sharon Turner said council members got the survey response form only a few days ago, and Renaissance’s monthly reports should be sent to council members so questions can be asked as concerns arise. Moore said all the information is on the Renaissance website, but Bozarth said, “How hard would it be to e-mail a set of documents to City Hall?” Moore replied, “No problem,” and later, Arnold said, “I will plead with them to put you all on the list . . . ”

Turner, left, also asked why Renaissance had not adopted the recommenations that state Auditor Crit Luallen made for transparency and accountability of nonprofit boards performing public functions. Moore replied, “That’s a small thing to take care of. . . . If that is something you would like, that’s no skin off our back. . . . I think we’re very comfortable with what she recommended.”

Bozarth pointed out that he and Renaissance had formed a joint committee to work on issues and “develop a good working relationship,” but it stopped meeting after the council approved Renaissance’s latest work plan. Notices of the last two meetings are here and here.

“The dialogue needs to be started, and it needs to continue,” Bozarth said near the end of the discussion, adding that the council and Renaissance must “make this a better relationship than what it has been over the last three and a half years.”

Moore and Council Member Joy Arnold, right, are on the Renaissance board, and the other newly elected council member, Dan Roller, is a past member of the board. Council Member Doris Leigh told Moore and Arnold, “I feel a little bit uncomfortable with you all being on the Renaissance board and on the city council. . . . Don’t you think this is a conflict of interest?”

Arnold said no, because she and Moore have no financial conflict, and noted that she had campaigned on a promise to represent both organizations. (The council election was not contested because three members ended up not seeking re-election.)

It was noted that the mayor was once an ex-officio member of the Renaissance board, but that chair was dissolved in 2009. Marcie Christensen, Main Street manager for Renaissance, said in an e-mail to the Midway Messenger that the board voted to abolish positions filled solely by virtue of an office, including Renaissance’s immediate past president. She said there was consensus “that all Board members should want to be members and not required to be,” and indicated that the change made it easier for the board to have a quorum.

Leigh, above, said she found many shortcomings in the survey prepared by Renaissance; noted that the group has 48 dues-paying members, only 2.4 percent of the city’s population; and questioned why it mentioned its concern about deteriorating buildings, which she said is a city function. (Video clips by Hongchul Yun, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications)

Moore, above, said Renaissance has many more volunteers for its activities than it has dues-paying members who elect its officers, and remains interested in its founding purpose, the improvement and advancement of downtown. “It’s not to usurp anybody’s authority,” she said.

Some downtown merchants have voiced displeasure with Renaissance’s recent relocation of the annual Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival from Midway College to Equus Run Vineyards, three and a half miles from downtown, a topic that Turner brought up. Moore said “That was a very, very, very carefully considered decision,” and Renaissance is committed to keeping the festival “focused on downtown Midway.”

Moore pointed to the $2.4 million in grants that Renaissance has channeled to the city and the recent $15,000 grant for a market study. The grant includes the hiring of consultants to work with merchants in developing strategy.

Turner said “a critical missing point” for Renaissance is participation by merchants. Moore said the group has begged mercants to participate, and “Anybody who wants to serve on the board is welcome, and particularly we want to have merchants.”

Noting that Francisco’s Farm had a $93,000 budget last year, and lost $3,000, Bozarth said he didn’t understand exactly how Renaissance is funded and functions with the festival. “Is Francisco’s Farm becoming Renaissance?” he asked, adding that he had more questions for the group, which he would put in writing.

City attorney Phil Moloney said the council could authorize Bozarth to sign the survey form without holding a special meeting to review additional information. Turner disagreed with that approach, asking, “How can I vote on what’s not there?” and noting the lack of a Renaissance treasurer’s report.

It was agreed to have a special council meeting to review the additional information before the Feb. 18 deadline for submission to the state. Bozarth said he would aim for next Wednesday, Feb. 16, perhaps during the day.

Turner, noting conflicts of the past two years, said the nature of the relationship needs to change. “Nothing personal,” she said. “We need each other.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

City council has long agenda for Monday night

The Midway City Council faces one of its longer agendas in recent memory for its next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall. After comments from citizens and guests, the council is scheduled to discuss, in this order:
  • Reappointment of the city clerk and assistant city clerk
  • Tax collections, with CPA Bob Ryan of Louisville
  • Drug-free community grant
  • Encroachment permit, 124 N. Turner St.
  • Midway Renaissance recertification and letter of commitment
  • Council retreat to set goals for the next two years
  • Update on R.J. Corman Railroad project
  • Interlocal agreement for recycling
  • Event permit for Bluegrass Cycling Club
  • Committee reports
  • Executive session (if needed)
All city council meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thoroughbred Theater announces it is closing

By Al Cross and Dick Yarmy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Managers of the Thoroughbred Community Theater, a key part of Midway's downtown, informed the theater's friends and supporters this week that it is closing.

"Keeping up with the financial challenges of the TCT has long been difficult," wrote brothers John (left) and Jim McDaniel. "Given the economic climate and the increasing costs, continuing is untenable." John McDaniel said in an interview that the theater had never really broken even, but "It could." (Photo from The Woodford Sun)

McDaniel indicated some small hope that the theater, which he and his brother started a decade ago to prevent its conversion, and have run for four years, might reopen. "I would like to see the phoenix rise out of the ashes again, whether it be me or someone else," he said. "I would hate it to be a retail store. It proved it had a place in downtown Midway, and it helped business."

Mayor Tom Bozarth did not sound hopeful. “It’s gone,” he said. “It’s disappointing, I feel for the McDaniel brothers. . . . “Their passion has been second to none in promoting downtown Midway. . . . They’ve put a lot of time and effort into it to make it part of the community. I’m saddened by it, but we live in tough times.”

Bozarth added, “I wish there was something we could do to get it to continue, someway. . . . It’s important that we have a vibrant downtown, and that has been a part of it.”

Two years ago, when the theater formed a not-for-profit corporation to attract donations and volunteer help, and perhaps buy the building from owner Tony Moreno, who had approached city officials about buying the property. At the time, Bozarth said, “With the economy, I don’t think it’s the right time for the city to be buying up property.” For the Midway Messenger story from May 2009, click here.

The McDaniels gave no financial details in their announcement, which was largely a reflection on their four years as managers and, by implication, their initial role as owners of the building.

"We are proud to have presented the thought-provoking Midway Arts Series, the entertaining Bluegrass Nights and the exciting premiere of Etta May's one-woman show," they wrote. "We are also happy to have hosted numerous community events . . . We are sincerely grateful for the support of the community." To read the letter, click here.