Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011-12 city budget, floodplain zoning and closing-hours ordinance on Monday council agenda

Final adoption of the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is on the agenda for the next Midway City Council meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 6.

Other second readings on the agenda are ordinances on closing hours and floodplain zoning. All city council meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mayor says voters should be given options and decide the fate of Midway's water system

By Dick Yarmy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Mayor Tom Bozarth helped shape the fact-finding efforts of the Midway Water and Sewer Task Force last week when he announced he would like to let voters decide the future of the city-owned utilities.

“It’s the proper thing to do,” Bozarth said. “We need to have a referendum, put it on the ballot. "It’s not right for seven people [the city council and mayor] to decide what will ultimately affect the citizens of Midway. They need to be the ones that make the decision.”

The task force is considering options to improve the water system, including a sale to the water supplier, Kentucky American Water Co. The sewer system could also be affected.

Consultant Mark Roberts, Council Member
Dan Roller (Photo by Dick Yarmy)
Mark Roberts, Midway’s public-works consultant, reported on work sessions with Bob Blankenship of HMB Professional Engineers to flesh out Blankenship’s original cost estimate for improvements, reported at last month’s task force meeting.

“The first time we met, I pointed out what I thought were the trouble spots,” said Roberts. “We addressed them as priority projects.” The projects were outlined to the task force and estimated at a cost of $1,423,150. To view his report, click here.

A report on work for the rest of the system, with a total cost of $1,550,000, can be viewed here.

This two-stage solution to updating the system was estimated to have a life of 50 years, Roberts said, but he cautioned that updating the system and switching to PVC pipe “doesn’t mean it’ll all be roses.” He mentioned flushing, normal maintenance and cold-weather problems as possible issues facing even an updated system.

Council Member Sharon Turner asked about benefits of improving the water and sewer systems at the same time. Roberts said there could be savings in paving costs.

“Where are we as far as money is concerned?” asked task force member Danny Smith. Bozarth took the question as an opportunity to explain his detailed vision for the task force's mission.

“This report only covers one part, the water,” the mayor said. “Then we have to tackle the sewer and find the costs for both. That’ll tell us what we need to do. We need to get all the information to know whether to take it on, have a bond issue or apply for grants –– it’s an issue that can’t be dealt with overnight.”

He added, “We need to look under every stone, find out who might be interested in our system, collect all the facts and propose a solution to the people of Midway in a town hall meeting. We hope to have option A, B and C: Sell the assets, partner with someone, or do it ourselves –– we need three clear-cut choices. We aren’t there yet.”

Council member Dan Roller was concerned about language in a letter from the city to American Water, the parent of Kentucky American. “It only talks about American acquiring our system,” he said.

Bozarth said the letter was just the beginning of a process with the company. “We can see if they have other interests, like partnering with us,’’ Bozarth said, “What we want to do as a task force is look at every option. We can talk to them about other agreements like a partnership, where we would be still be eligible for grants; that would help them also.”

Roy Mundy, task force member and former president of Kentucky American, said “I know they prefer to own the system, because it is easier for them. . “But they are flexible and willing to talk about anything within reason.” Mundy added that his opinions were based only on his past knowledge as an officer of the company.

The task force will continue to research options to present to the council; cost estimates are still to come on refurbishing the sewer system. A proposal is expected from Kentucky American, followed by a search for other interested parties to purchase or partner the systems, and exploration the viability of bond issues to finance the repairs. Bozarth said after the meeting that he had not researched how the options could be put on the ballot.

So, the task force still has several steps ahead to provide information that will help Midway make an informed decision. As Bozarth said, “This is an issue that can’t be dealt with overnight.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Budget on Monday's city council agenda

First reading of an ordinance adopting the city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is the major item on agenda for the Midway City Council's next meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Mayor Tom Bozarth gave the council a proposed budget last month, and the council met Monday to work on it. (The Midway Messenger was unable to cover the meeting because no student reporters were available; the spring semester ended last week.)

The agenda also includes first reading of a floodplain zoning ordinance and an event request from the Midway Business Association. All council meetings are open to the public.

Midway keeps city attorney Phil Moloney busy

By Clark Brooks
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

When Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth took office in 2007, he had a difficult decision to make, with City Attorney Joe Hoffman set to retire.

Attorney Phil Moloney sits at the right
of the mayor during council meetings.
(Photo by Hongchul Yun)
Bozarth needed to find a replacement who could help guide and advise the city’s government on legal matters. Enter Phil Moloney, a Lexington-based lawyer who specialized in municipal and public-entity law. “I had known Phil for a very long time,” Bozarth said. “When we discussed the possibility of him being our city attorney, I knew he had a good personality for the job.”

The rest is history, as Moloney was approved by the city council to be the city’s next attorney.

“I had known a fair amount about Midway before I took the job,” Moloney said in a recent interview. “My cousin and mother’s family had lived in Midway so I knew the extent of the community’s interests.”

However, the community didn’t warm up to Moloney as he may have expected, because not only was he the city’s most expensive employee in hourly terms, at $145 per hour, he was also an out-of-towner, and figured in a seminal controversy.

Moloney and some Midway citizens found themselves at odds in 2009 over insurance for volunteer workers on city property. Volunteers who wished to help out around town and operate equipment could simply meet and perform the task they deemed necessary to be done, and if someone was hurt during volunteer work, they couldn’t be compensated by the city’s insurance.

That put the city at risk, warned its insurance carrier, the Kentucky League of Cities. Moloney advised the city council during several meetings to pass an ordinance allowing the city to require volunteers to sign liability waivers, in case an individual might be injured or harmed while volunteering about town. Though the change was subtle and made little change in how volunteers operated, some volunteers, most notably those involved in Midway Renaissance, felt the waivers still were unnecessary and arbitrarily filled the volunteer process with red tape.

“It is easy for people to criticize him,” Bozarth said of Moloney. “But he is a good person with a big heart and tries to always have the city’s best interests at heart. He doesn’t decide how to run Midway; that’s on myself and the rest of the (city) council.”

Moloney said he was prepared for a possible backlash. “I have represented small towns before and I knew the potential polarization some issues would cause,” he said. “I’m just here to advise the council and the mayor on what I feel is the best legal advice for certain situations in order to help the city.”

Moloney is on retainer for his services, meaning when the city needs legal guidance, the mayor, city clerk, or council members contact Moloney, who is then paid for the time he spends helping Midway.
“It’s similar to a cell phone bill,” Bozarth said. “We as a city have a certain amount of allotted time with him before we have to pay him for extra services.”

“I do not initiate the advice,” Moloney said. “I am here to serve as they need my services.”

Over the past few years, Midway has kept its city attorney very busy. From dealing with the such issues as zoning and the failed industrial park of Midway Station, Moloney has spent a great deal of time helping the mayor and city council.

The city has paid Moloney an average of $29,030 over the past four fiscal years for his services compared to the average $15,006 Hoffman was paid over his last two fiscal years on the job.

“He has certainly dealt with a great deal of issues in the last for year for a small town,” Bozarth said. “But, he has handled in all in stride very well.”

Moloney’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed across the state either. Since 2007, he has been named one of Kentucky’s Super Lawyers each year by superlawyers.com.

“He is certainly an asset for us,” Bozarth said. “He is very important and helpful to help guide and direct the council in legal matters.”

Moloney says he has enjoyed his time in Midway and considers it a place with a great deal of potential moving forward, being a great representation of Central Kentucky’s past, present and future. But he did acknowledge there are several challenges for the city on the horizon.

“The issues with the recycling and water system’s future are going to be addressed very soon,” Moloney said. Both have been discussed at council meetings the over the past few months. “Also, if Midway Station gets developed, along with a nursing home and new business to attract people, I feel Midway could be a really special place in the Bluegrass.”

Despite a slight pay decrease for him in the proposed city budget for next fiscal year, Moloney says he is eager to continue working with the mayor and city council.

“Helping the city’s government has absolutely been an enjoyment for me,” he said. “I feel they get along pretty well and always are trying to serve as a unit and make Midway a better place to live.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

Water and Sewer Task Force to hold special meeting at noon tomorrow at college dining hall

A special meeting of the Midway Water and Sewer Task Force will be held at Tuesday, May 10, in the Piper Dining Hall on the Midway College Campus. The agenda on the notice from City Hall: "Water and Sewer Issues." Meetings of the task force are open to the public. For a report on the last meeting, click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Council to consider budget Monday morning; here's a look at the mayor's proposal

By Clark Brooks
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Mayor Tom Bozarth has called a special meeting of the Midway City Council for 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 9, at City Hall for a budget work session and possible action on the budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The most noticeable highlight in Bozarth’s proposed budget would give Midway two newly paved streets. Johnson Street and Stephens Street will receive new blacktop next fiscal year, according to City Council Member Sharon Turner.

Midway is projected to spend $24,525 on street maintenance in the fiscal year that begins July 1, which would be $9,525 more than the $15,000 in the current budget.

The city expects to receive $36,000 from its share of the state’s motor fuels tax, $8,000 more than 2011, probably the result of the improving economy and rising gas prices. Revenue from this tax may only be used for road purposes.

Despite a 63.5 percent increase in street maintenance spending, the entire street department is expected to spend roughly $6,000 less in the next fiscal year. In the department, the city plans to cut spending on Christmas decorations, to $2,500 from $5,000, and on sidewalks and trees, to $5,000 from $10,000. Equipment expenses in the department would also be be cut in half, to $5,000 as opposed to $10,000 in the current budget.

Asked in an email interview why these cuts were being made, Bozarth said the city was “trying to be fiscally responsible.” Bozarth asked that the interview be conducted in writing, and no follow-up questions were asked.

The Rau building, which houses City Hall, will see its expenses rise $7,000, from $15,300 to $22,300, due to an increase in the building’s maintenance and repair costs.

The city’s general fund, which has the most expenses of any department, would see a rise in spending from $336,931 to $345,503 because of increased travel and utility expenses.

On the income side of the ledger, Midway expects to get $4,000 more from business licensing fees, a 45 percent increase, thanks to some increased fees and business growth in the city.

The city also plans to see a $25,000 increase in occupational taxes, its largest source of revenue, projected at $225,000 next year. The increase stems mainly from additional jobs at Midway College.

Midway is also expected to benefit from the recent Social Security tax-cut deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans, saving roughly $21,200 in payroll insurance across the board.
However, the city expects to miss out on $20,000 of insurance tax revenues, which vary from year to year and are dependent on insurance policies bought by local residents and businesses.

At the bottom line, the city expects to see a drop of about $20,000 decrease in the income line that the budget calls “contingency,” which is the money projected to be left over at the end of the year. The current year’s estimate was $47,390; at the end of the next fiscal year it is projected to be $27,378. On the appropriations side, various contingency funds total $18,000.

Amid the juggling of figures, the city’s general, non-utility budget calls for income and appropriations of $931,428, about $3,000 less than this year’s. To view the proposed budget, click here.

Community meeting generates many suggestions for achieving city council's goals

Mayor Tom Bozarth addresses the meeting as moderator Tad Long stands at left. Malcolm Endicott and Magistrates Larry Craig and Bruce Gill stand near the door. (Photos by Dick Yarmy; click on image for larger version)
By Jordan Vilines
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

More than 40 citizens joined together at Midway Baptist Church Monday night to discuss city goals with council members and Mayor Tom Bozarth. The meeting was requested by new members of the council to encourage the community’s involvement in the management of city affairs and explore various ways the community can work together.

At a private retreat in February, the council generated 70 to 80 ideas to improve Midway and announced five major goals. Tad Long of the Kentucky League of Cities, who facilitated the retreat, moderated the town meeting and directed the citizens’ attention toward generating innovative ideas that would help achieve each of the five goals:

Recycling: Explore opportunities that would provide the citizens of Midway with an affordable and sustainable recycling service.
Water and Sewer: Upgrade the city’s infrastructure while taking into account the future needs of the city.
Community Events: Strengthen the citizens’ unity and cohesion by improving the quality and quantity of events.
City Park: Improving the park to make it more accessible and usable.
Full Occupancy of vacant houses or buildings, especially on Railroad Street.

These goals were discussed during five rounds of a sort of musical chairs, in which the six council members and Bozarth took moved among small groups of citizens, in order to talk about particular goals with as many citizens as possible. After the city officials met with each group for five to 10 minutes, they or another group member announced two or more of the group’s ideas that could help achieve those goals.

Long said it was important to structure the meeting this way, since improving communication with and among citizens is a factor in achieving most of the goals. He told the gathering that the primary “challenges in a community are getting people to agree on one or two things and try to make progress.”

In addition to the five major goals, the meeting agenda originally included discussion of an array of secondary goals including a pedestrian bridge, a dog park, and so on, but the 90 minutes allocated for the meeting ran out before the discussion could go beyond the top five.

Council Member Joy Arnold, right, the main advocate of the town meeting, said “The weak point of this meeting was that there was too ambitious of an agenda, but that was outweighed by the generation of ideas and opportunity to talk to elected officials.”

Recycling was the most controversial topic of the evening and included some mildly heated comments from Magistrate Larry Craig, who represents the Midway area on the Woodford County Fiscal Court.

The city recently began exploring the possibility of taking recycled materials to Lexington, where more items are accepted than at the county’s recycling center. Craig said such a move could undermine the county’s service. Magistrate Bruce Gill backed Craig's arguments.

After some back and forth between the magistrates and city officials, and discussion of what can be recycled where, Long said, “Sounds to me like there needs to be more information sharing.” For the Midway Messenger's February story about recycling issues, click here.

Ideas for improving recycling included encouraging young people to recycle, placing attractive recycling bins downtown, starting a program to recycle hazardous liquids such as paint and pesticides, finding a recycling center that will accept glass, and researching how other communities handle recycling.

The goal of updating Midway’s aging water and sewer infrastructure is being handled by the Water and Sewer Task Force. At the regular council meeting that preceded the town meeting, the council signed a confidentiality agreement with its water supplier, Kentucky American Water Co., to do a study of the current system, with an eye to buying it from the city or taking responsibility for operating it.

Suggestions from the crowd regarding such a deal were divided among support, skepticism and opposition. One suggested seeing what Stockton, Calif., had done about the issue. Council Member Aaron Hamilton, left, said Kentucky American seems to be the best option right now. Bozarth concluded the discussion of the topic by saying, “Hopefully in six months we’ll have information to talk about and to decide what will be best for Midway.”

Recommendations for the Community Events category included expanding the Christmas event, establishing a homecoming weekend, holding themed festivals, spotlighting local musicians, partnering with Midway College, starting bingo, and having a Midway family night. Council Member Becky Moore said, “We should figure out how to let people in the community know that there are events to come and enjoy.”

Ideas for achieving Full Occupancy included making rent more affordable, putting higher taxes on unoccupied buildings, marketing the city as a place to live and visit, keeping downtown beautiful, providing entertainment, and advertising Midway at the airport.

The major disagreement on priorities of the council came from Malcolm Endicott, during discussion of the park. Endicott said his small group didn’t “think that the city park ranks high enough to be a city goal. The government shouldn’t be spending money there.” Ideas for the park included building a swimming pool, providing recreational equipment, planting more trees that provide shade, and building a path so people can walk entirely around the park.

At the end of the meeting, Long said that there isn’t an overnight solution for any of the five major goals. But he said “Perseverance will pay off” and urged Midway citizens to “continue to explore all of the ways the community can work together” because “Now is the opportunity to make a difference.”

Council OKs Ky. American survey of water system

By Colin Walsh
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council had a brief but eventful session before its special community meeting Monday, as the mayor took steps toward solving a problem that has been troubling the city for some time.

Tom Bozarth proposed that the council vote to allow Kentucky American Water Co. to conduct a survey of the water system with an eye to its improvement and possible sale. Council member Aaron Hamilton said it would be good to “get the ball rolling” on addressing Midway’s water issues, which include High rates and aged lines that have been causing citizens problems.

The motion passed but not without resistance from the council. Member Dan Roller, the only one to vote against the proposal, said he “doesn’t see the advantage to letting them study the system.” Kentucky American is the city’s water supplier.

“There has been very little discussion about alternative solutions, such as looking into a third party” other than the city or Kentucky American, to own or operate the system, Roller said. “More research needs to be done. We should retain our assets, I mean; we don’t give away our streets when we have someone pave them.”

Representatives from One Alliance Communications, the company that runs the Midway website, were invited to give a presentation to the council..

Lauren Baxter of One Alliance outlined the growth of the Internet and social media, citing the ability of a quality website to “build and improve the credibility” of a town like Midway, while attracting tourism.

Baxter also explained how Google Analytics, a free service offered by Google that generates statistics about website visitors, can help the town with marketing and demographic research.

Lisa Davis of One Alliance explained to the council the difference between a website and other forms of marketing.

“A website is organic,” Davis said. “A website must be fed in order for it to be a viable media entity; you have to constantly keep updating it. It is not something to be looked at as an expense either... It is an investment in Midway’s future. There are people coming to this site from all over the world, there is no way to reach them without it.”

Bozarth said he believes the city’s website is a “work in progress” that is “getting better on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.”

It was also noted that the Midway website was getting more traffic than the Woodford County website.

The council heard a request from Malcolm Endicott, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, to help fund the countywide Planning and Zoning Commission, with which the EDA would like to share some expenses, at least temporarily. Endicott said P & Z has a $48,000 budget shortfall because it is funded by fees, which have slacked off during the recession.

Some council members wondered about possible conflicts of interest between the two agencies, and no action was taken. The council will hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Monday to consider the 2011-12 city budget. The proposed budget calls for paying $24,194 to support P & Z, which is asking for an additional $5,291.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Community garden starts third year; open to all

By Summer Hall
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway's community garden, located on the property of the Midway Presbyterian Church, is starting its third year. John Davis is a member of the church and an active leader for the garden. He explains what it is and how it works.

Davis says hundreds of pounds of produce has come from the garden over the past few years. "It’s an open garden, so anyone can come in and take what they want," he said. "And anyone can come plant what they want." For written details on the garden, click here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Council holding meeting Monday night for citizens to discuss goals council set for the city in Feb.

On Monday, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Ministry Center of Midway Baptist Church, the Midway City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss with the community the five major goals set by the council at a retreat in February:

Recycling: Continue to explore the opportunities to provide recycling services to the citizens of Midway and consider grant opportunities to help make the service affordable and sustainable;
Water and sewer infrastructure: Explore ways to upgrade facilities and carefully consider future expansion and replacement needs;
Community events: Several ideas were generated for improving the quality and quantity of events to build on past success and provide new opportunities for the community to come together as a “family;”
Improve the city park;
Full occupancy of Railroad Street and of empty and abandoned houses and buildings.

The council's secondary goals and priorities include a dog park, a pedestrian bridge, cleanup of the city and yards, focus on environmental issues, a pedestrian walkway through the park and over the creek, a
hotel or other lodging facility, improving the relationship with the community and an increase in community involvement.

Other ideas were generated under the headings of quality of life, infrastructure, jobs, environment, events and safety. Listings of those ideas can be found at http://www.meetmeinmidway.com/.

The meeting at the church at 6:30 will follow the regular council meeting at 5:30 at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public. The community meeting will be facilitated by Tad Long of the Kentucky League of Cities, who facilitated the recent meeting about the post office.