Tuesday, January 31, 2012

6 council seats attract 4 incumbents, 8 others

Twelve candidates filed for the six seats on the Midway City Council in the November election, including incumbents Aaron Hamilton, age 62; Doris Leigh, left, 82; Dan Roller, 63; and Sharon Turner, 49.

Council members serve two-year terms; the mayor serves four years. The offices are nonpartisan, but if 13 or more candidates had filed for the six seats, a primary would have been held in May to reduce the field to 12.

Others who filed their candidacy petition and campaign-finance papers with County Clerk Judie Woolums by today's 4 p.m. deadline were:
  • Michael Ashton, 67, 112 Richardson St. Among the three people signing his petition was Assistant City Clerk Diane Shepard, who said she met him only recently. She also signed Hamilton's papers.
  • Steven Craig, 40, 235 S. Brand St., brother of Midway Magistrate Larry Craig. His papers were signed by Lawton and Lisa Foley of the 200 block of Johnson St.
  • Sara Hicks, 60, 208 Wausau Place. Her three signers included Council Member Joy Arnold, who is not seeking re-election.
  • Kevin Locke, 40, 206 N. Gratz St., an architect. He had 20 signers, including former council member Charlann Wombles and her husband Jim, haberdasher Crittenden Rawlings and dentist John Moore, husband of recently resigned council member Becky Moore.
  • Steve Simoff, 61, 424 S. Winter St., whose first two signers were the Moores. Rawlings was among the others.
  • Bruce Southworth, 55, 237 E. Stephens St., former public-works director in Midway and Versailles. He had many signers, including Lisa Foley.
  • Grayson Vandegrift, 29, 23 N. Gratz St., manager of 815 Prime, president of the Midway Business Association and chairman of the county tourism commission. He also had many signers, led by Mayor Tom Bozarth. He said he had decided to run before telling Bozarth, but said the mayor encouraged him.
  • Libby Warfield, 59, 251 W. Cross St.
More information about the candidates will be reported later. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

City, county iron out details of snow removal; formal agreement in the works

By Morgan Rhodes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

City and county officials held a genial meeting today to iron out details of the county’s snow removal work in the city. In stark contrast to the tension between Midway officials and some magistrates at last Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, the atmosphere in County Judge-Executive John Coyle’s office meeting room was cordial and casual.

Meeting with Coyle were Mayor Tom Bozarth and City Councilman Aaron Hamilton, chair of the Streets and Lights Committee; Magistrate Larry Craig; and County Engineer Buan Smith. The meeting focused on finalizing a list of Midway streets to be treated and cleared.

Left to right: Hamilton, Smith, Bozarth, Coyle, Craig (Photo by Morgan Rhodes)
Smith provided a map highlighting Midway streets that will be treated by the county. Due to limited turnaround or backup space, some streets can’t be treated and plowed with couny equipment, Smith said. “There are a few of them we can’t go down,” he said. “A few streets we have tried to do in the past, but we have had problems with backing.”

After a list of streets was agreed on, the cost of treatment and plowing was briefly discussed. Smith explained that the cost will be determined using a formula accounting for equipment, salt, labor, and so on. Coyle and Bozarth agreed earlier this month that the city would reimburse the county for its costs while a formal agreement is worked out.

Coyle, Bozarth and Smith joked about the possibility of not having to worry about any more snow removal this season. Bozarth asked if Midway will be lower on the priority list in snow events. Smith said nothing would change from the way things have been done.

Asked if Smith should consult with him before beginning treatment of any kind, Bozarth replied. “Just do what was done in the past. You have to use your discretion.”

Coyle also asked if Midway wanted to be billed a lump sum at the end of the season or in some other manner. Bozarth suggested a monthly billing. Bozarth also asked if Midway could be notified of account summary information on an event basis, and Coyle agreed.

Coyle said he would send those terms to County Attorney Alan George and have a memorandum of agreement drawn up hand-delivered in time for the next Midway City Council seeting, Feb. 6.

Bozarth asked if Coyle could email the draft memorandum to Midway’s city attorney, Phil Moloney. Coyle agreed. The meeting ended in less than an hour, with handshakes and smiles.

Not mentioned at the meeting was the wish, expressed by some council members at a special meeting this morning, that the city could find a way to have the county resume doing snow removal for free. That now seems unlikely; a state official indicated to the Midway Messenger this afternoon that the county might have been doing the work without legal authority anyway. For that story, click here.

City council will take applications until Feb. 15 to fill Becky Moore's vacancy

By Lauren Conrad
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council voted unanimously in a special meeting today to accept applications until close of business Wednesday, Feb. 15, for the council seat vacated by Becky Moore’s resignation.

The council wants applicants to submit a letter of intent bidding for consideration. The letter should include any criteria the candidate deems relevant, said Council Member Joy Arnold (right, file photo), who made the motion to seek applications.

Moore resigned a week ago, but under state law, a resignation does not take effect until the next council meeting. The law gives the council 30 days from today, or until Feb. 29, to name a replacement. If it does not, the governor would appoint someone to fill the vacancy. The planned selection of the next council member on Feb. 20 will fall nine days before the deadline.

One candidate has already expressed his interest in filling the position. Kevin Locke, an architect who holds a position on the county’s Board of Architectural Review, sent an email to council members requesting consideration. His email also stated his intent to run for council in the next election.

Locke and Grayson Vandegrift were the only two people to file for this year’s council election by the county clerk’s close of business yesterday. Filing papers are due to the clerk by 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Council sets passage of new alcohol ordinance, first reading of parking ordinance for Monday, Feb. 6

The draft agenda for the Feb. 6 Midway City Council meeting includes, in this order:
  • Update on Woodford County Economic Development Authority activity from Chairman Brad McLean of Midway
  • Drug Free Communities Support Program (agenda doesn't specify, lists only M.E. Kobes)
  • Request for event permit for this year's Iron Horse Marathon (Chuck Griffis)
  • First reading of revised parking ordinance (Section 72 of city code; current version available online)
  • Second reading and final passage of revised alcoholic-beverage ordinance (current Section 34.054 and Section 114)
  • Discussion of recycling issues (among those from May 2, 2011 town meeting)
  • Committee reports
The agenda can be revised up to 24 hours before the meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Committee discusses snow-removal options, looks for legal basis for county to provide free service

By Martha Groppo
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The city council’s Streets and Lights Committee weighed options for snow removal and questioned the legality of the county’s decision to stop paying for the service at a meeting this morning.

The agenda included cost of purchasing equipment for the city, the possibility of finding an independent contractor and the various risks and costs associated with the different options, but the three council members decided that their best course of action was to wait for service estimates and further legal advice – and to hope for no more snow and bills from the county in the meantime.

“Before we start incurring that expense,” Dan Roller said, I’d like to know that it’s our legal obligation to do that.”

Roller questioned the legality of the county’s decision to end free snow removal, which city officials learned of on Jan. 11, shortly before a snowfall. At last week’s fiscal court meeting, Judge-Executive John Coyle cited Midway’s new fourth-class status as the reason for ending snow removal services in Midway after 30 years.

“That was really the only argument, he had: the classification,” said Committee Chair Aaron Hamilton, right (file photo).

Roller cited the “fifths formula” used to determine the local use of state highway funds as a possible reason the county might be legally obligated to pay for snow removal with money it receives from the state.

UPDATE: Actually, the money the county gets from the state for local roads must be used on county roads, not city streets, unless the city and county have an interlocal agreement that is approved by the state, said Rick Long, executive director of rural and municipal aid in the state Transportation Cabinet. The two governments have no such agreement.

“There’s nothing in the classification that says if you go to fourth class, the county is going to stop cleaning your roads,” Turner said. She also said Versailles should technically be a third-class city, making the fiscal court’s argument that it needed to treat the county’s two fourth-class cities, Midway and Versailles, the same, problematic.

Technically, fourth-class cities are supposed to have between 3,000 and 8,000 people, but the legislature has often ignored that rule since it and voters approved an amendment that took the population figures out of the state constitution.

Committee members decided to attempt to seek legal advice before Hamilton and Mayor Tom Bozarth’s 2 p.m. meeting with Coyle about the snow removal issue.

This afternoon’s meeting was scheduled via a series of emails after last week’s heated fiscal court meeting. Midway Magistrate Larry Craig and the Woodford County engineer are also scheduled to attend. “We’ll see how this meeting goes this afternoon with Judge Coyle,” Hamilton said.

In the meantime, the council discussed the possibility of purchasing its own equipment for next winter. Though the city owns a dump truck, it does not have four-wheel drive, making a new vehicle a necessity before Midway can do its own snow removal. Jack Kain Ford provided an estimate, pricing a new 4x4 heavy duty pick-up truck at $35,200.

“We don’t have enough roads to hardly justify the cost of having our own equipment,” Roller said, but added that depending on the winter, the equipment could pay for itself in a few years. The county’s initial bill for snow removal on one January day, waived at last week’s fiscal court meeting, totaled $1,233.

“If we had a winter like last winter, what would the bill be?” Hamilton asked. “In five years you could use up $35,000,” Hamilton said.

City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson pointed out one problem with buying new equipment: “If we buy one truck and it breaks down, we have nothing to rely on.”

Commercial driver’s license requirements, potential changes in city insurance costs and liability issues were also discussed. Beyond buying a new truck, the committee discussed the possibility of buying used or surplus equipment or asking local farms with large equipment if they would be interested in getting some additional revenue by removing snow. Local contractors are another option.

Members decided that the summer months were the best time to purchase snow removal equipment. “We need time to work through this,” said Turner, the mayor pro tem.

For now, committee members seemed glad they have the snow removal covered through the county, even if the city has to pay for it.

“We’re going to have to contract with somebody just to get through,” Turner said. “My main goal is to make sure we’re covered.”

Roller said, “I would think contracting with them [the county] would be as cheap as any.”

The possibility of not treating several miles of largely unused roads from Midway Station was discussed as a way to reduce the county’s fee. At last week’s Fiscal Court meeting, there were questions about whether the county serviced all the streets it should have earlier this month and whether Bozarth had provided a complete list of streets to be serviced.

Turner (left, file photo) said she did not know the details, but did know that the county had since been given an updated list, and that the county had missed the Northridge subdivision in its last removal, even though it was on the original list.

Another issue that came up from last week’s fiscal court meeting was Bozarth’s assertion that he thought the county would have stopped paying for snow removal even if Midway’s status had not changed. Coyle denied that after the meeting, saying he couldn't imagine that happening.

“I think regardless of classification, they would have still found a way,” Turner said. When asked why she believed this, Turner said there was a trend in the county charging for services such as recycling and police. “We’re paying for more and more every day,” she said.

Hamilton agreed: “This is just something that gave them more leeway.”

The committee agreed to meet once it gets more information that could help make a decision about long-term removal. “We can’t expect it to be this pretty for the rest of winter,” Hamilton said. “I keep praying we don’t get a big snow.”

Water and Sewer Task Force to meet Feb. 14

The Midway Water and Sewer Task Force will meet at noon Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the Piper Dining Hall at Midway College. As an officially created body of the city, all its meetings are open to the public.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Committee to discuss snow removal at 9 Monday; Bozarth, Coyle, others to meet at 2 p.m.

By Lauren Conrad
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Local officials are moving to resolve questions about snow removal in Midway.

The city council’s streets committee will meet at 9 a.m. Monday at City Hall to discuss the subject, and Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle says he and Mayor Tom Bozarth have agreed to meet that afternoon at 2 at the courthouse.
The meeting was scheduled after several emails between Coyle and Bozarth and will take place in Coyle’s office. Midway Council Member Aaron Hamilton, Midway Magistrate Larry Craig and the Woodford County engineer will also be in attendance.

Coyle said he has a list of roads in Midway that would need snow removal. The county engineer is to bring his mileage estimate and width of the roads to the meeting to discuss appropriate snow removal action.

"We want to make sure the roads are suitable for plowing and that we [Woodford county and Midway] get off on the right foot," Coyle said.

At this week’s Fiscal Court meeting, there were questions about whether the county serviced all the streets earlier this month and whether Bozarth had provided a complete list.

Asked about that Wednesday, Bozarth said, “There is a priority road list that was put together by a previous council and given to the county. It is ranked by priority. This is one of the things that needed to be worked out. If we are going to enter into an agreement all street should be clean. They have missed streets before.”

When Midway officials learned Jan. 11, as snow was forecast, that the county would no longer provide snow removal in Midway, they and Coyle made a temporary agreement that the county would continue the service and the city would cover the county’s costs.

This week the Fiscal Court voted to forgive the initial bill of $1,233 for the county’s service, but called on Coyle to quickly forge a memorandum of understanding with Bozarth, and then an interlocal agreement that would require state approval.

Coyle said his meeting with Midway officials should ensure the county engineer has all of the information he needs to move forward. He said it will not be open to the public. State law requires official meetings to be open only if a quorum of a public agency is present.

The 9 a.m. Streets and Lights Committee meeting at Midway City Hall (see item below) will be open. Bozarth said that the meeting is to discuss how the city moves forward with its future snow removal needs.

“We have three options,” said Bozarth: “Do it ourselves, hire an outside contractor or continue with the county.”

Information for this story was also gathered by Martha Groppo of UK.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Council will meet Monday morning to discuss filling vacancy created by Becky Moore's resignation

Mayor Tom Bozarth has called a special meeting of the Midway City Council for 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at City Hall to discuss and take possible action on steps to fill the vacancy created by Becky Moore’s resignation from the council. All council meetings are open to the public.

Any appointee will fill the 11 months remaining in Moore's unexpired term. The meeting will be held the day before the deadline for filing for council seats in the November election. If more than 12 people file for the six council seats, a primary would be held in May to cut the number to 12. Filing papers are due to the county clerk by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fiscal court waives snow bill, calls for county and city to reach agreement on future removal

By Martha Groppo
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

A discussion that began with the question of snow removal has snowballed into a much larger debate about the responsibilities and privileges of fourth-class cities, whose ranks Midway recently joined.

After over an hour of discussion and some heated debate with representatives from Midway, a divided Woodford County Fiscal Court voted Tuesday night to waive January snow removal fees for Midway while Judge-Executive John Coyle and Mayor Tom Bozarth come to a firm agreement for future salting and plowing by the county at the city’s expense.
Bozarth addresses Coyle and court; Midway Magistrate Larry Craig is behind lectern.
Coyle and the magistrates cited Midway’s June change to a fourth-class city as rationale for charging the city for snow removal after 30 years of providing the service.

“This winter marks the first winter in the history of Woodford County that this county contains two fourth-class cities,” Coyle said in a statement he read to the court before opening the floor for debate. He said the county’s other fourth-class city, Versailles, pays for its snow removal, and he thinks Midway should, too: “I felt—and feel, that we need to be consistent.” For a PDF of the statement, click here.

Coyle presented three options to the court, but said he opposed the third option, to provide free snow removal for the remainder of the season. The others were to bill Midway for all 2012 snow removal or waive the January cost while an agreement is worked out. “We would not harm and have not harmed the citizens of Midway,” Coyle said.

Midway representatives at the meeting argued that the county’s Dec. 15 decision to no longer provide free snow removal for Midway was unfair and left them unable to weigh their options in a timely manner.

“I didn’t know about it until the Wednesday before the snowstorm,” Bozarth said. He referred to communication delays, but did not mention that the major delay appeared to be caused by Midway Magistrate Larry Craig missing Coyle’s email about the decision. Craig acknowledged that at the last city council meeting, when the council voted to continue paying the county’s cost for snow removal in Midway for 30 days.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” Bozarth said. “All I’m saying is notify us. ... I asked for 30 days when we can look at this and explore all of our options.”

Coyle conceded in his opening statement that the late decision was regrettable, but said his initial email to the court was met by no resistance from the magistrates, so he moved ahead.

“In hindsight, perhaps we should have had this discussion we are about to have in the fall,” Coyle said. “However, it wasn’t until winter’s approach that it truly dawned on me. I felt that as judge-executive of all Woodford County that I needed to make my position known and act quickly. … I thought I had the full support of the court. I guess I’m about to find out if, in fact, I do.”

Coyle did have the support of the court, generally, except that of Craig, who said the third option, least expensive for Midway, would be “a good compromise.”

Magistrate Duncan Gardiner broached the subject of what other aspects of the county-city relationship Midway’s change in status might affect, and called on County Attorney Alan George to explain the differences between a fourth- and a fifth- class city.

“I don’t know if the differences are great or small,” George said. It would be nice to have that discussion—which we haven’t had.”

Coyle suggested, and some magistrates agreed, that Midway had sought its status change before fully weighing other changes it could bring.

“It is my sincere belief and understanding that the sole motivating factor for the change by Midway was so that the few thousand dollars Midway it raised in alcohol sales and licenses would go to the Midway city coffers and not to of the Woodford County government,” Coyle said.

“For those who raise the budget concerns, I ask was the budget effect even discussed or rationalized by the leaders who sought reclassification? ... Or was it, as I think it was, simply about getting the alcohol money as quickly as possible without a plan in place to deal with other ramifications of acquiring a fourth-class city classification?”

Magistrate Jackie Brown said, “Y’all need to look into stuff before getting into it.”

Bozarth acknowledged, "The alcohol issue was probably the root" of the classification change, which was done by the legislature at Midway's request. Coyle noted that Midway has fewer than 3,000 people, which he thought was the minimum for fourth class, and noted that another such city's new fourth-class status is being challenged in court.

For Midway citizens, however, the issue had less to do with city classification than with late notification.
“To me, it was totally an issue of timing,” Martha Heckerman told the court. “If that had been done in public, clearly it would have been in the newspaper.”

City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Turner questioned what her county taxes really paid for. “I might be a resident of Midway, but I’m a citizen of Woodford County,” she said.

“We can’t do it for you,” Brown replied. “We don’t’ do it for Versailles.”

On a motion to approve Coyle’s first option, billing Midway for this month’s snow removal and calling for a formal agreement for future work, the vote was 5 to 4 against, with Coyle voting in the minority. Then the court voted 6-2 for the second option, waiving the charge. UPDATE: According to The Woodford Sun, the "no" votes came from Craig and Ken Reed, who sided with Coyle on the first vote.

UPDATE, Jan. 26: To Bozarth's assertion at the meeting that the county would have stopped snow removal in Midway even if it had remained a fifth-class city, Coyle said today that he couldn't imagine that happening.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Becky Moore resigns from City Council, makes several suggestions; filing deadline is Jan. 31

Becky Moore, who preceded Tom Bozarth as mayor of Midway, resigned today from the City Council seat she won in the November 2010 election. Meanwhile, one of her allies, Council Member Joy Arnold, has announced that she will not file for re-election this year. (Photo by Dick Yarmy)

Moore and Bozarth, who was elected mayor in 2006 and again in 2010, have had their difficulties, which are reflected in her resignation letter:

Mayor Bozarth and City Council Members,
I have decided to resign from Midway's City Council. This letter is to officially notify you of this decision. My approach to public service has always been to be inclusive and positive. I encourage and appreciate citizens who want to participate and volunteer in our Community. With this is in mind I make the following suggestions:
1.) Council members vote and should participate in all decisions that will make our Community the best it can be. All council members need all the information to do this. I challenge you to share all e-mails, phone calls and letters among all the Council. Simply put, what the Mayor Pro Tem knows, regarding Midway, all Council members should know.
2.) Vote to remove the city's primary, which would move the filing date to run for office, in an election year, from January to August. According to the Kentucky League of Cities, 90 percent of the fourth through fifth class cities have eliminated their primaries. (Second and third class cities are required to have a primary.) Our January deadline has always come and gone before most people ever think about running for Mayor or Council.
3.) Lighten up. The meetings are oppressive. We are all there because we should want to work together to help our community, we are not antagonists. Rearrange the room so we can see each other and be seen by visitors, reporters and speakers.
4.) Do not underestimate the desire of our citizens to volunteer. This can be a HUGE help to the City if the City appreciates and encourages it.
Becky Moore
The mayor pro tem, Sharon Turner, has been generally an ally of Bozarth. She said in an email that she had not withheld information from other council members, and "I have never had a problem with a lack of communication with anyone. . . . I can't answer a question that hasn't been asked - and frankly, Becky has not asked any question that I haven't answered. Nor do I believe that to be the case with our mayor or city staff."

State law calls for Turner and the other four remaining council members to appoint a replacement to fill the 11-plus months remaining in Moore's unexpired term. Bozarth, who at his request was interviewed by email, said he had no one in mind for a replacement.

In an interview with the Messenger's Cassidy Herrington, Moore said the primary communication problem is between Bozarth and the council. She said Bozarth has not replied to some of her emails.

Asked about that, Bozarth replied, "I have answered the emails and questions. I wish I could say the same about emails from the mayor." He also said, "I have tried to share all information and encouraged ALL council members to ask questions."

Council Member Joy Arnold told reporter Kristen Vinson in an email that the meeting agendas Bozarth prepares "give us very little information about what to expect. Though we are usually given names of people that will be making presentations, we're rarely informed of the subject they will address. . . . I do often feel that the mayor and others seem to think that as long as they know something, that is sufficient." Asked to reply to that, Bozarth did not.

Arnold, who was elected last year on an informal slate with Moore and Dan Roller, said she was sad to see Moore resign, adding, "She's gotten tired and feels she's not accomplishing anything, so she'd rather look at the rest that life has to offer."

Arnold said she will not run for re-election this year, to devote her energies to another cause, and has a letter in tonight's Woodford Sun urging others to run. Council Members Aaron Hamilton and Doris Leigh have been generally aligned with Turner and Bozarth, who as mayor can vote on council issues only to break ties.

The filing deadline for nonpartisan council seats in this year's elections is 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the county clerk's office at the courthouse in Versailles. If more than 12 people file for the six seats, a primary would reduce the general-election ballot to 12. Last year, due to retirements and a withdrawal, only six candidates were on the November ballot.

Moore said that without a primary, there would be an August filing deadline, and "A lot more people might be interested in running." She said next Tuesday's filing deadline influenced the timing of her announcement. "I think people needed to know that I was not going to be on the ballot."

Bozarth, left, replied, "I don't think January compared to August will make a difference if you are interested in running for public office. Every candidate should do their do diligence and attend council meetings to learn the issues if they have a true interest in running. I know before I filed to run I attended council meetings."

Arnold said, "I have not found our meetings to be all that instructive to the public."

The council meeting tables were recently rearranged to put all council members in a row with Bozarth, City Attorney Phil Moloney and City Clerk Phyllis Hudson at a 90-degree angle facing the audience. (See photo in item below.) "The tables were rearranged at Mrs. Moore's request," Bozarth said in his email.

Moore's reference to volunteering reflects difficulties between Bozarth and Midway Renaissance, which have been documented in several Midway Messenger stories. Asked by email to describe his relationship with Moore, Bozarth left that question unanswered.

Efforts to reach other council members for comment were unsuccessful. Arnold said, "Tom has a very different style of communication from Becky. I was not paying much attention when Becky was mayor, but I do understand that their relationship in grounded in history."

UPDATE: In his weekly column in The Woodford Sun this evening Bozarth mentioned the resignation said, "I want to thank Becky for her public service, six years as a council member and eight years as mayor and the things that were accomplished. I wish Becky and John the best of luck in their future endeavors." Moore is married to Midway dentist John Moore.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

County cites city's new fourth-class status in stopping free salting and snow removal in Midway

By Cassidy Herrington, Martha Groppo, Lauren Conrad and Justin Wright
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway’s recently gained status as a fourth-class city might have come at a cost it did not anticipate.

Last night the City Council discussed the startling news that Woodford County would no longer provide snow removal services in Midway, and voted to continue a temporary arrangement in which the city pays the county’s costs for the work.

County Judge-Executive John Coyle told Mayor Tom Bozarth in a Jan. 13 letter that the county made the change because Midway became a fourth-class city in July. Versailles, a fourth-class city, removes its own snow and Coyle said "the consensus of the court" is that the cities should be treated alike.

"The decision to reclassify Midway as a fourth-class city, which, quite frankly, caught me by surprise, prompted this move," Coyle said. For a copy of the letter, and the Jan. 12 letter from Bozarth that prompted it, click here.

After the meeting, Council Member Sharon Turner said she thought retribution was an underlying motive. When Midway gained more control over alcohol restrictions under its fourth-class city status, it shifted about $3,000 in alcohol fees from the county to the city, she said.

Coyle said in a telephone interview this morning, "I think they will receive close to $6,000 [in alcohol license fees] but that wasn't the reason. I wanted to treat both fourth-class cities the same." He said Midway officials should have considered the ramifications of a higher classification.

But last night, the tenor of Coyle’s reply and the nature of his decision had some council members wondering if more factors were at play in the decision than the pursuit of fairness. “There must be some other dynamic,” Council Member Becky Moore said. The population of Versailles is more than four times that of Midway, according to the 2010 census.

Dan Roller, the only council member to vote against continuing the temporary arrangement, cited Coyle’s "consensus of the court" line and suggested the council not pay for the snow removal until it could be determined whether the decision had been made by the fiscal court.

Craig was unable to cite a day or meeting at which consensus had been reached, and apologized for being several days late in reading an email that Coyle had sent the magistrates advising them of the decision. Once he read it, he said, “I fought very passionately to leave things the way they were.”

When asked if the decision may have been made in violation of the state Open Meetings Act, Craig responded, “I will refer you to Judge Coyle.” The law prohibits public agencies from reaching decisions outside open sessions. Coyle said this morning that the decision was his, and that his email to the court was advisory.

Midway became a fourth class city in July 2011. Council members questioned why the county decided to halt assisting Midway with snow removal now, as opposed to months ago. They noted that Midway residents pay county taxes that are to assist in maintaining safe roadways for citizens, including snow removal. City Attorney Phil Moloney said the county is under no legal obligation to provide the city with snow removal.

Bozarth said nothing had been mentioned about the county ending this service prior to the statement last week. Craig said he did not read email for several days during the holidays and was late in learning of the decision. He apologized for that. (Photo: Craig speaks with council)
Midway officials learned last Wednesday, Jan. 11, that the county was no longer going to provide the service to the city, the day before much of Kentucky was predicted to get several inches of snow. In an effort to protect public safety, Coyle and Bozarth agreed that the county would continue to assist the city with salt and snow removal needs at an at-cost charge to Midway.

The cost of three trips made by the county road department to Midway for salting and snow removal from 4:20 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12 through 8:55 a.m. Friday, Jan. 13 was $1,233, according to a written statement from the county engineer.

Craig said that to protect public safety, he assisted in dedicating a county truck to the treatment of Midway roads when winter weather hits until an agreement between the city and county can be reached. He and council members questioned Midway citizens paying county taxes for a service they are no longer going to be provided.

The county decided to stop treating Midway roads during winter snow after doing the work for 30 years, Bozarth said. He said it would be difficult to find a more cost-effective option this late in the season, when salt is more expensive and private contractors already have their assignments.

Water advisories, money and vultures

Other items on last night's agenda included potential emergency alert changes, use of the city’s invested funds and a growing vulture problem.

Community member Phil Burchell attended the meeting, requesting an improved emergency notification system after he did not receive timely notification of a boil-water advisory in effect over the weekend. “It was Sunday before we knew it was out there,” he said.

Burchell’s main concern was whether the advisory meant that the water was not safe to drink. Keith Slugantz, the Woodford County emergency coordinator, said the notice was only an advisory and a preventive, and that if contamination had been found in the water, officials would have taken steps to notify every customer.

Burchell said the city needs a “one call” computerized system that will reach all phones in the city. Slugantz said his department could provide such a system, but that he would have to bill Midway if the number of minutes used exceeded his monthly allotment. The council agreed to discuss the issue further, and also compare costs with another provider.

During a discussion of financial-management issues with city auditor Bob Ryan, Roller said he would like to see the city's two certificates of deposit, totaling $711,000, "transferred into actual, usable accounts." Bozarth and Turner, who is mayor pro tem, disagreed.

"They're being carried for rainy-day funds, for any emergency," Turner said.

Turner called vultures roosting behind Midway Christian Church "a major issue. . . . It's got to be four times the amount of birds it was when we started talking about this." Some efforts were made to roust the birds last winter, but the effect was unclear because the weather soon warmed and the roost is a cold-weather phenomenon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Council to consider alcohol and parking ordinances

The agenda for Tuesday's Midway City Council meeting will be changed to include first reading of two ordinances that cleared a council committee this morning.

The Finance, City Property and Ordinance Committee approved a new alcohol ordinance to conform to Midway's new status as a fourth-class city, which gives it more authority on the subject. "Basically all those changes were just housekeeping to move us from fifth class to fourth class," Committee Chairman Sharon Turner said.

Turner proposed, and the committee agreed, to delete a section of the ordinance that would give the city the power to levy an extra tax on alcohol sales. "None of the cities around us have a tax like that," she said. "There's enough taxes and stuff on our products now . . . and I don't think it would bring in that much."

Turner proposed, and the committee agreed, to add a section requiring training for alcohol servers. She said it was borrowed from the ordinance in Manchester. "I think you're eventually going to see the state mandate training statewide," said Turner, who works for a beer company.

The committee also approved a new ordinance on parking tickets that would mirror the ordinances of the county and Versailles, on the thinking that Versailles police patrol the whole county and the ordinances should be the same to avoid confusion.

In the other item of business, Mayor Tom Bozarth told the committee that the city's certificates of deposit haven't been broken up to get under the federal insurance limit, as recommended by a recent audit. "We could get a lower rate than we're getting now," he said. In response to a question from Council Member Dan Roller, Bozarth said one CD comes up for renewal in June or August.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Midway College pharmacy school in Paintsville would be a branch of University of Charleston

Midway College and the University of Charleston announced today that the West Virginia school would establish and operate the pharmacy school that the college has planned in Paintsville.

On Dec. 28 the schools signed a letter of intent starting a 60-day "due diligence" period, during which they will "explore the feasibility and ramifications of the expansion and seek approval from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education," they said in a press release. "If a final agreement is reached, the University of Charleston would operate the school of pharmacy in Kentucky as a branch campus and deliver its full four-year Pharm.D. program in Paintsville beginning in January 2013."

The Charleston school is accredited and graduated its first class in 2010. Midway started moving toward a pharmacy program in Eastern Kentucky two years ago, and has renovated a 36,000-square-foot building in Paintsville and started recruiting faculty and students. The university will interview Midway faculty and staff for Paintsville positions if a final agreement is reached. Students who have been accepted by Midway will have to re-apply to the university for admission.

"The agreement between the two schools paves the way for an innovative collaboration," the press release said. "It enables Midway College to fulfill the intent of its major donors to train pharmacists in Paintsville and serve the educational needs of the area, while allowing the University of Charleston to expand its footprint and grow its already strong academic program." The campus will be known as the Perry Center for Pharmacy Education, after the late Chad Perry of Paintsville, its major donor.

"Midway College sees this as the most prudent means of bringing pharmacy education to the area and fulfilling all of our goals," Midway President William Drake Jr. said in the release. "Building a school from the ground up takes great effort, time, money and innovation. This collaboration is innovative; we are matching our turnkey facility with UC's existing curriculum to move along the process of realizing the dream of opening a school of pharmacy in Paintsville less expensively for all involved."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Council committee to review alcohol ordinance, parking-ticket policies, money in the bank

The Finance, City Property and Ordinance Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 at 8 a.m. at City Hall to review and make recommendations regarding necessary changes to the alcohol ordinance, review parking-ticket changes and get a certificate-of-deposit update. All meetings of council committees are open to the public.

Christian Church dinner Jan. 30 will be chili cookoff

Midway Christian Church's next free, monthly community dinner will be held Monday, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. as a community chili cook-off. All residents of Midway are invited to enter a pot of chili for judging. First, second and third prizes will be given. Call 846-4102 by Jan. 23 to enter your pot of chili. For more information, contact Minister Heather McColl at the same number.

City council will meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

The Midway City Council will meet Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, a day later than the usual schedule because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The agenda includes a certificate of support for a new business, Homeplace of Midway, and discussion of recycling issues, as a follow-up from the town meeting in May. City auditor Robert Ryan, CPA, is listed as a guest for the meeting.