Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finalists for college presidency to meet community starting today at 1:30 at Midway Christian Church

The first of three finalists for the presidency of Midway College arrived in town yesterday, and will have a community meeting at 1:30 p.m. today at Midway Christian Church. Dr. John Marsden is provost, or chief academic officer, of Barton College in Wilson, N.C.

Dr. Anita Bowles, vice president for academic affairs at Methodist College in Spartanburg, S.C., will be in town tomorrow and Thursday and will have a community meeting at the church at 1:30 Thursday.

Dr. Sandra Patterson-Randles, chancellor of Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, will visit Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 29 and 30, with a community meeting at the church at 1:30 Tuesday.

The new president will succeed the Rev. Robert Vogel, who was named interim president after Dr. William Drake resigned in March.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Council hires firm to remove snow from streets

The Midway City Council voted Monday night to have a Richmond firm to remove snow from city streets, a task that Woodford County left in the city's hands after Midway became a fourth-class city last year.

The council also heard complaints from two citizens about the city's policies on business licenses, set Halloween trick-or-treat for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31, accepted $2,500 in proceeds from the Iron Horse Half Marathon run Sunday, and agreed to grant a building permit for reconstruction of a dilapidated house that had been slated for demolition.

On recommendation from the Streets and Lights Committee, the council voted 5-0 (Joy Arnold was absent) to hire Wright's Farm Services Inc. of Richmond for snow removal. The estimated cost is $1,377.50 per event, with unspecified extra payments if the snow is heavy. Phil Moloney, attorney for the city, was directed to draft a contract with details.

Mayor Tom Bozarth said the deal would give the city what is not had before, a service that will make the city a priority and do all the streets. The county's equipment is unable to do narrow streets. The county's bill for one day of snow removal in January was $1,233.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton alluded to the impending need for a snow contract: "The squirrels are gathering nuts."

The council heard complaints from Laura Wolfrom of Bistro La Belle and Anthony Delimpo, representing his wife's home-based business, about the city's business license tax and its enforcement policies. The issues were referred to the council's Ordinance and Policy Committee; Moloney said one point may need clarification, and Bozarth asked Wolfrom to consult with other restaurants about her objection to her local food vendors being required to have a license.

Bozarth said the city would adopt Council Member Dan Roller's suggestion that all holders of business licenses be listed on the city's website, which Roller said might help them get more business.

John Sensenig of John's Run/Walk Shop in Lexington, a sponsor of the half-marathon, said the third-year event was a big success, with 1,000 finishers "from all over the country. . . . I've been doing foot races for 35 years and I can say in all honesty this is the favorite foot race I've ever done." Bozarth, alluding to some past logistical problems, said, "This is the first year where I think it went very, very well."

The council agreed to a building permit for a house on Martin Street, which the Yount family first said it would demolish but now wants to rebuild, but the permit will require construction to begin in six weeks, not the usual 90 days. Bozarth gave a progress report on two other dilapadated Yount houses, and agreed to have a representative of the family give its own update at the next meeting.

Charlann Wombles, who was appointed to the council after not running for re-election, and after city officials began to focus on property-maintenance issues, told her colleagues, "I would really like to commend you all for the work you've done on these properties. This is long, long overdue."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Future of water and sewer systems dominates discussion among city council candidates at forum

By Drew Teague
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Two candidates for Midway City Council said at a forum Thursday night that the issue of whether to sell the city’s water and sewer system or have the city refurbish them was too big for the council to decide itself.

At the forum presented by the Midway Woman’s Club, restaurant manager Grayson Vandegrift, seeking his first term on the council, said the issue "should be voted on by all the people." Council Member Sharon Turner, the mayor pro tem, said after the forum that such an issue can't be put on the ballot, but "We talked about having public forums to let everyone in Midway voice their comments, concerns and thoughts prior to the council making any decision." (An earlier version of this story incorrectly had Turner supporting a referendum.)

Some of the four questions put to the candidates sparked discussion of the water-sewer issue, and several candidates brought it up in their opening remarks.

Turner said there needs to be a lot of research into the questions of selling the systems to a company – probably Kentucky-American Water Co., the city’s raw-water supplier – or the city borrowing millions of dollars to refurbish the current systems. “I don’t think this is anything we can decide yet,” she said. “Even after we prepare the sides, I don’t think it’s for a panel of six people to figure out.”

Vandegrift’s thoughts on the matter were similar to Turner’s, but he added that there may be an opportunity to sell the system at a later date, so there is no rush to sell it now. He said the systems are operating at half capacity.

Turner, who has served on the council since 2005, is looking to take on the systems’ problems during her next term if re-elected, she said in her opening statement. She noted that she is on the council’s Water and Sewer Task Force, “and that’s going to be a lofty task in front of us … but it’s something we’re researching.”

Bruce Southworth noted in his opening statement that he has served Midway, Versailles and Georgetown and their water-treatment systems for 27 years. “What I’ve heard this year while I’ve been running is the water-sewer system is the main issue,” he said. “It’s my time to give something back to Midway.”

He said that once the council sells the water and sewer systems, they are gone, so careful consideration needs to be taken when deciding the solution, after the task force releases its research report on the systems. “Unfortunately, until the task force report is released I cannot make an intelligent response,” Southworth said in his candidate profile in the October issue of Midway Matters, a monthly newsletter for citizens about the goings-on in Midway.

Sara Hicks, a licensed marriage and family therapist, also said there should be a lot of research before a decision is made, and if the systems are sold, that the council should realize  that the company will make a profit and the council will have to make sure the company keeps to the promises they made.

Steven Craig and Council Member Daniel Roller said there is a lot more to know before decisions are made.

Roller said that the city needs to continue the study, through the task force, to find the cost of refurbishing the systems. “For over a year we’ve analyzed the different problems with that. There’s old lines, there is dead lines, there’s pop offs,” said Roller, a member of the task force.

Michael Ashton, Kevin Locke and three-term incumbent Aaron Hamilton did not respond to a question about the systems, but Hamilton was the first to bring up the topic during opening remarks. He is on the task force and said the issue needs to be addressed soon by the council.

Ashton said in his opening statement that he is looking to build a balanced budget and vigilant controlled growth for the city.

Craig said he is a Midway native who believes he can help the council.

Hicks said she “longed to come home” to such a “precious, sweet treasure” while she lived outside the state. She said she has worked with non-profits for over 30 years and knows how to listen and analyze problems. “I want to be a person on the city council that hears the people in Midway,” she said, adding that the city needs to be smart with money and use it to solve problems. “We have to use our taxpayers’ money in the most efficient and effective way possible," she said. "We need to solve any structural issues, such as the water and sewer.”

Vandegrift, who said he has been to every city council meeting his year and is president of the Midway Merchants Association, said he had a deep passion for public service and would bring new energies to the council.

Locke, a member of the Woodford County Board of Architectural Review, said voters should find out the motives of the candidates. His stated reasons for running: responsibility for and pride in Midway.

After opening statements, candidates were asked four questions from the public that had been screened by members of the Midway Woman’s Club, including city Council Member Charlann Wombles, who is not seeking re-election. They answered voluntarily, in no particular order.

Asked to name the council’s first responsibility to citizens of Midway:
  • Locke said he would want to make the council open and available to all citizens of the town.
  • Roller said he wants to work with others on economic development and businesses in the city. Hamilton said he wants to keep the citizens safe and that there is not a bad crime rate in Midway. Turner said the city needs to be fiscally responsible while providing services to its citizens.
  • Vandegrift said the council should work with all organizations, the city and county, making sure there are no breaks between them, adding that political parties should not be brought into the council. Council races are nonpartisan.
  • Southworth said the quality of life in Midway would be one of his big concerns if he was elected.
  • Craig said he would do whatever was best for the whole of the citizenry of Midway.
  • Ashton said participation would be his main focus, and everyone should show up and participate in city council meetings.
Asked if they favored moving the Fire Department to a shared facility with Woodford County:
  • Roller said that as best he knew this would just be a joint facility, not a joint department between Midway and the county.
  • Turner said the city would need to continue researching and see about a joint station saving money, but something else needs to be built on the Midway end of the county, instead of a joint fire station. “We just started research on it, but I see more of a need for an ambulance station on this end of the county,” she said.
  • Craig said the council needs to “dive into it.” He is a brother of Magistrate Larry Craig, who is the captain of the county’s Midway fire unit.
  • Hamilton said they need to explore the options and see the benefit that it will have to Midway. Ashton, Locke, Southworth and Vandegrift did not answer this question.
Asked to identify problems that “haven’t gone so well” for the council:
  • Craig cited the bickering and fighting among the members of the council: “I’d like to see this council come together as a team.”
  • Turner said she feels some items the council has dealt with have been rushed, saying the council has not looked into things as hard as it should. She also said there needs to be research into all sides of an issue before a decision is made.
  • Locke said divisiveness is a good thing and that council needs to talk about items more. He added that Midway needs more engaged citizens. “I like it when people get involved,” he said. “We solve the questions … by being engaged.”
  • Roller pushed Danville, a town 10 times the size of Midway, as the prime example of what Midway can be like.
  • Ashton said money needs to be used better, for all citizens, not just small groups, and he also pushed the new “Uniquely Woodford” brand that the council voted Monday night to support with $1,500 (in conjunction with Versailles and Woodford County) for a video and brand logo.
  • Southworth and Hamilton did not respond to this question.
Nine of the 10 candidates attended the forum. Moderator Steve Wilson said Council Member Doris Leigh was absent due to illness.

Council members are elected to terms of two years. Voters can vote for six candidates, one for each seat available, but are not required to vote for six.

The last day to register to vote in Kentucky is today. Election Day is less than a month away, on Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

State House candidates disagree on education, feelings about expanded gambling

By Drew Teague
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Candidates for the 56th District state House seat in the Nov. 6 election disagreed on expanded gambling and education reform at a forum held Thursday evening in Midway.

The Democratic incumbent, Rep. Carl Rollins II of Midway, is for expanding gaming in the state, while his Republican opponent, Doug Jones of Lexington, says he is against it, but if elected would vote to put the issue on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

The candidates appeared at the Midway Political Forum 2012, presented at Northside Elementary School by the Midway Woman’s Club. Candidates made opening statements then answered written questions from the audience, screened by members of the club.

The clearest difference between the candidates was in their answers to a question about the state’s failure to qualify for $175 million from the federal “Race to the Top” program.

Rollins, chairman of the House Education Committee, disputed the premise of the question, that the state lost out because it does not have a law authorizing charter schools – independently operated schools that set more of their own rules.

“We did not lose $175 million just because of charter schools. We don’t have a decent teacher evaluation system,” Rollins said. “Charter schools don’t work. Research shows they don’t work.” He said charter schools, after a few years, send children with behavioral problems and special needs back to public schools.

Rollins opposes a law authorizing charter schools, but said he allowed such a bill to be heard in the last legislative session, and did not call a committee vote on it “because the sponsor asked me not to vote on it . . . because out of 29 committee members he had two votes.”

Jones, who answered the question first, said, “I agree . . . We need to be able to give parents a choice. . . . In the West End of Louisville we’ve got 50 percent dropout rates. . . . I think they deserve more opportunity.”

Jones, a semi-retired marketing consultant, said in his opening statement that the state needs to focus more on education. He also discussed how bad he felt the Kentucky tax system is because he says neighboring states are taking jobs from Kentucky.

Rollins, who has been mayor, a city council member and a magistrate on the Woodford County Fiscal Court, said in his opening statement that he wants to expand gambling in the state to help the horse industry. “If we focus on the horse business, I think we have to talk about expanding gaming,” he said. “I am in favor of expanding gaming if that provides revenue to the horse business.”

Jones did not mention the issue when the candidates were asked what they would do to help agriculture. He said, “We have got to save our horse industry,” but people in the industry have told him that getting people in the industry to agree on what to do “is like herding cats.”

In a telephone interview, Jones said that he is against expanded gambling, such as casinos, even if all the money were to go to the horse industry. He said racetracks should not have a monopoly on casinos because “That’s the government picking winners and losers.” (The last casino bill would have allowed seven at tracks and two at other locations some distance from tracks.)

However, Jones said that he would vote to put the question on the ballot as a constitutional amendment if voters wanted the opportunity. Polls have shown that about 80 percent say they want to vote on it. He said it should not be passed solely by the General Assembly.

“If the people of Kentucky wanted to vote for a change, and they put it as a referendum, and the people voted to say ‘Yes we want to do it,’ then I would have no problem with that,” Jones said. “It’s not something I would go after and be a champion for.”

Jones said a study showed that in the initial four to five years of operation, casinos may do well, but slack off when competition increases.

Rollins said at the forum that with the losses he sees in the industry, he feels the state needs to step in and help keep the industry alive. He said the average race does not have “the million dollar horses that sell at Keeneland,” but those raised by “horsemen with small operations.”

The candidates were asked their most important reason for running. Jones, running for the first time, was the first to answer, saying the county and the state are falling apart. “I was contacted by the Andy Barr campaign, in fact,” he said of the challenger for the 6th District U.S. House seat. “Andy decided to come back again this time and at the same time I said ‘Andy, if you’re coming back I’ll come back for phase two and we’ll be better.’”

Rollins said he feels people should be more involved in politics, and he is being involved to serve the community.

Top-of-ballot races

The candidates who did not attend, state Sen. Julian Carroll and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, both Democrats, sent a representative and a letter, respectively.

Barr, challenging Chandler for the second time, said the nation is in an emergency, an economic disaster, and jabbed at his opponent for not attending the forum. “Career politicians no longer listen to the American people,” he said, adding that they “are no longer accessible to the American people [and] don’t even show up to listen to the people and to debate.”

Joy Arnold, a member of the Midway City Council and friend of Chandler, read a letter from the Versailles congressman saying that he had a full schedule when invited to the forum, but that Woodford County has a special place in his heart and its people are important to him.

Barr, answering questions from the audience, said that if people were not fighting the coal industry so much in Kentucky, Kentuckians would have more jobs in the state. “For every one coal mining job, three additional jobs are dependent on coal jobs,” he said.

Asked if he views corporations as people and money as being speech, Barr said they are vastly different, but the freedom of speech needs to be protected. “Well, obviously, individuals are different from corporations; people are different from corporations. Corporations are legal entities and free speech is enshrined in our constitution,” he said. “As an instructor of constitutional law I never think that we should restrain political speech; we should never constrain freedom of speech.”

Frank Haynes, the challenger to Carroll in the 7th Senate District, said he got into politics because he was a doorkeeper for state Senate committees, which he recommended everyone go watch for half a day.

David Cobb, a Carroll aide, said the senator and former governor is a supporter of education and health insurance for teachers and has helped balance the state budget.

Haynes said he wants to repeal a bill that raised pensions for former legislators after they work for the executive branch for just three years. Cobb said a new state senator will not be able to get much done, since few bills even get voted on each session.

The last day to register to vote in Kentucky is Oct. 9, with Election Day less than a month away, on Nov. 6. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Legislative and council candidates to attend forum at Northside Elementary School at 7 p.m. Thursday

Candidates in the Nov. 6 election will appear at a forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at Northside Elementary School. Candidates for each office will make platform statements, then answer screened questions submitted from the audience.

The forum will begin with candidates for the state legislature. Rep. Carl Rollins, a Democrat from Midway; his opponent, Doug Jones, a Republican from Lexington; and Frank Haynes of Frankfort, the Republican challenging state Sen. Julian Carroll, a Democrat who has not confirmed that he will attend.

The legislative candidates will be followed by those running for the Midway City Council. Then Andy Barr of Lexington, the Republican nominee for Congress, will speak. Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles. Chandler's campaign said today that he would not attend, due to previously scheduled engagements, said Sarah J. Wilson of the Midway Woman's Club, which is sponsoring the forum.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Council OKs helping pay for video and brand logo, if funders' representatives constitute advisory group

With a little more grumbling, the Midway City Council voted this evening to contribute $1,500 to a project that will produce a four- to six-minute promotional video for Woodford County and a logo for its newly adopted "Uniquely Woodford" brand.

The council voted to pay the money as long as the funding sources -- Midway, Versailles, the county government and the Woodford Tomorrow organization -- each have a representative in a group of four people "who will be providing input" to executive producer Sam Kolintsky of Marvo Entertainment, as phrased in his agreement with the county, which controls the brand.

The agreement requires Kolintsky to "use his best efforts to ensure a cooperative working relationship  among the producers and the four designated individuals," who by Friday, Oct. 5, are to give him a list of up to seven people who could be interviewed on camera for the video, and could agree to extend his deadlines: the logo by April 28 and the video by June 29.

Joy Arnold (file photo)
The county had revised the agreement to resolve concerns of Midway officials, who had tentatively agreed to contribute before seeing the written agreement. Council Member Joy Arnold, the chair of Woodford Tomorrow, said she was disappointed that the provisions for the advisory group were not more specific. Other members and Mayor Tom Bozarth agreed. "It should have been an agreement between all four bodies," Bozarth said.

"At some point we're just gonna have to trust 'em," said Council Member Aaron Hamilton, and Member Charlann Wombles agreed. "This is a really good thing for all of us," she added later.

Bozarth said he had made clear that Midway should have "its own appointment" on the group. "I just wish we would have been approached back in July," when the agreement was first drafted.

Aaron Hamilton (file photo)
Hamilton, as chair of the Streets Committee, reported that the panel is interested in the bid of Wright's Farm Services for snow removal in the city and would like to have the company at the next council meeting. "As I understand it, he would be able to do all the streets in Midway," Hamilton said.

Parts of some narrow streets have not been cleared by the county government, which began charging Midway for snow removal last winter on grounds that the city's classification had been raised to equal that of Versailles, which handles its own snow.

The council also approved a memorandum with the state Division of Forestry for management of trees in the city, primarily in the cemetery; an ordinance confirming that public fire hydrants in the city are to be painted; and a budget amendment, the major difference being money for a previously approved new van for the fire department.

Bozarth reported that three dilapadated homes had been demolished as part of the ongoing effort to reduce blight in the city. "I think we're making progress," he said, adding that he is scheduled to meet this week with county Building & Zoning Inspector Paul Noel to clear up some questions about procedures. Bozarth said he wants reports on each identified property each quarter, "not [every] six months or a year."

Council salutes Midway Nursing Home Task Force

The Midway City Council paid tribute this evening to the Midway Nursing Home Task Force, which 13 years ago began the campaign to bring a nursing home to Midway. "This dream has become a reality because of the dedicated, determined, would-not-take-no-for-an-answer nursing home task force," Mayor Tom Bozarth said, citing the preliminary approval for a federal loan to Christian Care Communities to build a senior residential development that will include nursing facilities. The council passed a resolution naming each of the task-force members, then posed with them for pictures. (Click on image for larger version)
Bozarth (top left in photo) recalled how the task force was asked to raise $12,000 for a feasibility study and raised $16,000; obtained the license for 23 skilled-care beds when the old Versailles hospital closed; obtained a $500,000 community development block grant; made a $160,000 down payment on the site across from Midway College; and donated $10,000 to start the public phase of the fund-raising campaign.

Bozarth said more than $1 million has been raised from more than 600 sources. He said The Homeplace at Midway will employ 42 people and have an annual payroll of $1.7 million, which will generate revenue for the city, but he emphasized that it will enable loved ones and neighbors to have an opportunity for nursing-home care in their home town.