Monday, April 29, 2013

Council to meet on new budget at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday

Mayor Tom Bozarth has called a special meeting of the Midway City Council for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 1, at City Hall located to discuss hos proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. "Possible action will be taken," says the notice from City Hall. All council meetings are open to the public. For last week's story on Bozarth's proposals, click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

State Rep. Carl Rollins resigns to head state agency; special election to fill vacancy will be June 25

UPDATE, April 30: Democratic Party officials nominated James Kay of Versailles as their candidate for the election. Republicans nominated Lyen Crews, vice president of business and financial affairs at Midway College, who lost to Rollins by about 5 percentage points in 2010. UPDATE, May 8: Independent John-Mark Hack of Versailles, a former state agriculture-policy director, filed an hour before the deadline. For a story on the race from Ryan Alessi of cn|2's "Pure Politics," click here.

State Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway resigned from the General Assembly today in order to accept a new job: chief executive officer of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Kentucky Student Loan Corp.

“For the past seven sessions of the General Assembly I have had the honor of serving the people of the 56th District in the Kentucky House of Representatives,” Rollins told Gov. Steve Beshear in his resignation letter. “In the last five sessions leadership in the House has allowed me to serve as chairman of the House Education Committee, where we proved that by working in a bipartisan manner we could make significant improvements to public education for the children and citizens of the Commonwealth.”

The last session saw passage of at least two bills that Rollins strongly advocated: one that is expected to result in the dropout age being raised to 18, and the "Districts of Innovation" law that allows waivers from state rules to try new ways to improve learning. He also sponsored a bill to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky; it got nowhere but he was promised a hearing in the legislative interim.

Beshear, a Democrat like Rollins, called a special election for June 25 to fill the 20 months remaining in Rollins's term. Party precinct officials in the district will nominate candidates. McDonald's franchisee Joe Graviss of Versailles, who ran for the state Senate several years ago and has remained active in Democratic politics, has been mentioned as a candidate. Rollins told cn|2 Politics (Channel 2 on Insight and Time Warner cable TV) that county party chair James Kay, who was a legislative aide in this year's session, is interested in running, and Kay acknowledged that. Another legislative aide, Versailles City Council Member Brian Traugott, has also been mentioned as a Democratic candidate.

Carol Rogers, chair of the Fayette County Republican Party, "said the nominee is most likely to come from Woodford County, considering it makes up most of the district," cn|2 reports, noting: "The House must redraw the districts with the 2010 Census figures before the 2014 election. And the map the House put out earlier this year, significantly shifted the 56th District precincts in western Fayette County and instead added precincts from southern Scott County." It also includes much of Franklin County.

Mayor Bozarth proposes spending accumulated city funds on several improvements

By Julia Myers and Nini Edwards
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

In a budget workshop Monday, Mayor Tom Bozarth presented to the city council his plans to spend some of the money the city has been accumulating. 

Bozarth wants to put the money toward community improvement projects – particularly making repairs to the wall on Gratz Street, left.  The project, according to his draft budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, will cost around $75,000.

“Each year we put a lot of time and thought into the budget, and we’ve tried to include projects to improve and provide better services for the city of Midway,” Bozarth told the council at the start of the workshop, noting this is his sixth budget he has proposed as mayor. He previously served on the council.

Other projects on the list include sidewalk repairs and removal of hazardous trees.  A $20,000 handicapped ramp on Main Street is also expected to be completed this year, but the project will be funded by the R.J. Corman Railroad.

In the street department of the budget, Bozarth plans to spend almost $14,000 widening Starks Alley and Dudley Street, and adding parking on West Main Street.

After reminding council members that the drafted budget was just a proposal, Bozarth reviewed each line item of the city’s income and expenses, highlighting the areas that he wants to increase or decreasd significantly.

There would be an $11,000 increase in the professional and technical area of the budget, due in part to contracting with HMB, an engineering firm, an auditor to replace the one who will be leaving, and fees to a consultant who helps identify businesses operating in Midway vendors without a city license.

The fire department would get more money for equipment.  Bozarth would grant its request for $5,000 for a thermal imaging camera.  Also on the list a rescue saw kit, six traffic-control flashlights and a gas-leak detector, which the mayor said is needed because of the large gas station that will be built at the Interstate 64 interchange.

“We’ve tried our best to get the fire department everything they need,” Bozarth said of the volunteers.  “Over the past six years, we’ve really upgraded the fire department.”

The cemetery would get more money for maintenance.  The house on the property needs $15,000 in repairs because the cemetery caretaker left it in poor condition, Bozarth said.   

Salaries in all departments except city hall would decrease .  City Clerk Phyllis Hudsonsaid salaries are down due to most overtime costs being eliminated from the budget, as well as retiring employees being replaced with a younger group earning lower salaries.  

From left: Dan Roller, Bruce Southworth, Aaron Hamilton (Julia Myers photo)
New Council Member Bruce Southworth said he would like overtime listed as a line item in the budget, and also wanted employees’ salary ranges listed. Council Member Sharon Turner said the council should only be concerned with staying in the budget, “and if you go over the line you have to give back.”

As the discussion grew more animated, Bozarth smiled and asked Southworth if this was “the way they do it in Versailles,” referring to the new member’s previous position as director of public works in Versailles. He said Southworth could get a salary list from Hudson.

“I think there needs to be more transparency here,” Southworth said in an interview following the meeting.  “I want to come in here and be able to pick up the budget, and see what’s going on.”

Another area of the budget creating lots of discussion among council members was the issue of donations to chairtable causes.  Bozarth listed two requests, $2,000 from the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce and $500 for Repair Affair, a Rotary Club project in which volunteers fix up homes of elderly, disabled and poor people.

Council Member Dan Roller recommended that they create a way for non-profit organizations to ask for donations.  “My desire is that we have a policy in place for donation requests,” said Roller.

But Roller indicated that he wasn’t incluned to favor such requests. “I don’t see how we can take taxes and them give them away,” he said. “I think the best way for council members to help out non-profit is to get out their checkbooks and write a check.”

Bozarth said, “We don’t need to make a decision today. We can get a policy in place the next few months.”

Bozarth passed out a state attorney general’s opinion saying that a city can make donations, but they must be for a public purpose. He said those receiving donations should be party to an agreement “spelling out what they are going to do with the money.”

The chamber’s requested $2,000 “would go straight to the payroll,” Council Member Sharon Turner said.  Council Member Grayson Vandegrift said, “I hate to say this, but I think that $2,000 is going to a huge hole [the Chamber of Commerce] is trying to fill.” He added, “This is one particular donation that is not a good idea.”

Vandegrift heads a committee that has decided not to pursue the idea of a separate chamber for Midway, but is interested in a city tourism commission that would be separate from the county’s. Most of the commission’s limited funds are given to the chamber for tourist promotion, and Midway interests feel they are often slighted in chamber promotions.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tourism panel drops idea of a Midway chamber of commerce, likes plan to have city tourism agency

By Julia Myers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The new Midway Tourism Committee has decided not to pursue creating a Midway chamber of commerce, but is still looking into the possibility of starting its own tourism commission. 

While a countywide chamber of commerce does exist, it’s a common feeling in Midway that the town is often under-represented and overlooked in favor of its larger neighbor and county seat, Versailles.

Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth, in an effort to reaffirm the city’s presence in Woodford County, asked City Council Member Grayson Vandegrift to look into the idea of creating a separate Midway tourism commission. 

Vandegrift, general manager of his family’s restaurant, 815 Prime, put together a small tourism committee of himself and two other business owners.  The council member says that they are still very much in the research phase of creating a commission.

According to Vandegrift, a Midway tourism commission would “tax visitors to make our community better, and the expenditures would have to be spent on tourism-related things.”  With the prospect of the county’s first hotel coming to Midway, a Midway tourism commission could collect more room-tax revenue than the county commission.

“Theoretically, if funds were raised down the road, the tourism committee could buy a building downtown and turn it into a community center, which could be used for tourism-related things as well as resident-related things,” said Vandegrift.  “It would benefit everybody, and that’s why we’re looking at it.”

In addition to Vandegrift, members include Merchants Association President Kenny Smith and business owner Clare McCarthy.  Smith says his experience in a variety of businesses gives him “expertise in attracting and serving visitors of our fair city.”

Vandegrift and Smith met last month to discuss their options.  McCarthy wasn’t able to attend, but Vandegrift said they would “fill her in on the details.”

The meeting was “definitely a good starting point,” according to Vandegrift, but they ultimately decided that the idea of a chamber of commerce wasn’t something that they should further pursue. 

“We just kind of concluded that the chamber of commerce was not necessary, and it seemed redundant,” said Vandegrift.  “We already have a county chamber, and we also have a merchants association, which is essentially the same thing.”

Smith agreed, saying that a Midway chamber would be repetitive.  He does, however, believe that creating a tourism commission “could be very beneficial in attracting new visitors to the community.”

Smith said that last month’s meeting was mainly for informational purposes.  They are just beginning to understand the available avenues and the guidelines they would need to follow if they pursued the idea. 

Attracting tourists is one responsibility of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, which gets most of the money that the county tourism commission collects in taxes on room rentals because the income isn’t enough to hire someone to work for the commission, Vandegrift said at Monday’s special council meeting.

The chamber recently hired as its executive director Don Vizi, who previously served as executive director of the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce and the chamber in Gulf Breeze, Fla. 

Vizi says he plans on getting the cities together  and wants to avoid having any conflicts with Midway and Versailles events.  “I’ve heard the rumor about trying to split up these two cities in the county,” Vizi said in a recent interview.  “I totally disagree with it.”

The chamber hopes to have events in Midway, such as a chamber expo.  “We’re looking at a location in Midway to host that,” said Vizi.

Putting together a “taste of Woodford County” is also on the chamber’s to-do list.  Vizi says that because Midway has so many restaurants, it would likely host the event.  “It’s a matter of maybe trying to get the restaurants there to get re-active with the chamber,” he said.  “That’s one of my big priorities is to talk with the merchants of Midway.”

Bozarth says he has yet to hear from Vizi, other than a “request for a $2,000 donation” to the chamber, and he and Vandegrift noted that Vizi didn’t make it to the most recent Midway merchants’ meeting.

Both men said they oppose making the donation, and  Bozarth said, “I wouldn’t even consider giving them a dollar until they did and internal audit on their books.”
During the five months prior to Vizi’s hire, the chamber had been inactive.  “I can’t deal with what happened with the chamber before,” he said.  “My plans are that Midway is exactly the same as Versailles; it just happens to be that my office is here.”

Bozarth said, “I don’t think anything will ever change.  “That’s why I think it will be good for us to have a tourism commission.”

Vizi says that would be extremely expensive and time-consuming.  “It is a very extensive proposition to put together a separate tourism commission for Midway, the same if someone were to want to put a separate chamber for Midway,” he said.  “You’d lose out on the community itself – the whole Woodford County.” 

Vandegrift said he could understand why Vizi wouldn’t recommend two chambers of commerce, but that there are several counties that have successfully implemented two tourism commissions. (He said he did not know of any cases in which a city commission exists in a county with a countywide commission. There is at least one: Burnside and Pulaski County, on Lake Cumberland.

“There are a lot of counties that have two cities and each has a tourism commission.  Each one might be able to bring different things to the table,” said Vandegrift.  “And they could still work together in a lot of ways.  Either way, a tourism commission in Midway would also be promoting Woodford County as a whole.”

Vizi acknowledges that he needs to Midway’s faith in the chamber and persuade “everybody to work together.”  He wants Midway to know that it’s part of the community, and that Versailles is not trying to compete with it.

“I have to build up confidence for the chamber in Midway,” he said.  “The only way I can do that is to talk with the members up there, talk with Midway tourism, talk with the Midway Merchants Association, and the mayor, and to let them know that the chamber is not a Versailles chamber. “

Vizi said that he and the chamber are committed to bringing the community together.  “I think it’s just very important,” he said.  “Midway is a very important part of Woodford County.”

Vandegrift said that he has still not spoken with Vizi about the issue.

Although Vandegrift initially wanted to speak to the rest of the city council this month and present a recommendation for a tourism commission, he now says that they’re going to push it back because they need more information and the potential sale of the city water system “needs to be our number one priority.” 

Vandegrift says the committee will continue to meet every month or two to continue researching and planning, but as of now, it’s still a “long term goal.”

Water firm says it needs more data from city to make offer

By Denny Densford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Kentucky-American Water Co. says it is still interested in Midway’s water and sewer system and is aiming to have its purchase proposal finished by May. A town hall meeting to hear Kentucky-American's offer was canceled last week when the company said it wasn't ready.

“The town hall meeting date had been set as a time when a proposal could be presented,” said Kentucky American Water external and government affairs manager Susan Lancho.  “But the due diligence process is still being conducted.”
Lancho said Kentucky American has told Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth that it is still interested in purchasing the system.

Bozarth said Kentucky American called him to inform him of the delay and because of that, the meeting set for Tuesday, April 16, was canceled.

Kentucky American will continue to research the system, said Lancho, so it can present an appropriate proposal. “We are targeting May but do not have a date set,” she said. “We are seeking some additional information from the city of Midway as part of our analysis.”

Lancho said as soon as they get that information they will be in a “better position to know when the proposal will be ready to present.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

'Meet Me in Midway for First Friday' to be later on May 3

By Katie Ledford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunciations

Midway Merchants Association President Kenny Smith has announced that "Meet Me in Midway for First Friday" will extend its hours on May 3 due to the Kentucky Oaks.  First Friday is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 3.  Keeneland will host simulcasting of the Churchill Downs races including the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 and the Kentucky Derby on May 4. People who wish to head out to Keeneland or Churchill Downs on May 3 can still "Meet Me in Midway for First Friday" afterward.

"We are hoping that people from Keeneland and Churchill Downs will find their way to Midway for First Friday," Smith said. "This will be the first time we have had First Friday events in May, so we are keeping our fingers crossed and will hope for the best.”

Shops will have music and provide refreshments such as cheese and crackers, cookies, and soft drinks. Participating shops are Midway Boutique, Kennydid Gallery, LeMarche, Eagle’s Nest Antiques, Damselfly Studio and Gallery, Celtic Trends, Fashion Filly, 815 Prime Restaurant, Darlin’ Jean's Apple Cobbler Café and The Grey Goose restaurant. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Midway Auction Co. set to open Tuesday if council OKs rezoning Monday; city budget talk is also on agenda

Story and photos by Nini Edwards
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

UPDATE, April 22: The City Council unanimously approved the second reading to rezone Clark’s property from industrial to business this morning. His first auction will be tomorrow.

Council Member Grayson Vandegrift said neighbors of Clark’s building are  concerned about parking on auction days. Clark assured Vandegrift that the lot to the left of and behind his building has 32,000 square feet and is ready for parking. He said his people will be out an hour prior to the auction directing traffic and setting out orange cones, and he will hand out a notation flyer to the neighborhood with his cell phone number so people can call him directly if there is a problem.

Clark said he would like residents on the street to park parallel during auctions, because diagonal parking can make the street one lane.  He was firm about protecting his neighbors, saying, “We are going to be onsite and make sure nobody is affected.”

Keith Clark outside the building that is to be his auction house.
Midway's new auction house is one step away from opening after the City Council held first reading this morning of a resolution to change the property’s zoning from industrial to business.

The second reading will be Monday, April 22 at 8:30 a.m. That’s when the council will have another special meeting, mainly to see Mayor Tom Bozarth’s proposed budget, but also just in time for the first auction.

Keith Clark, owner of the business and The Grey Goose restaurant, said he failed to realize the time needed for the required two readings to change the zoning. The council held a brief special meeting this morning on his behalf to give it first reading.

Clark was appreciative of the mayor calling a meeting because he is planning to open Midway Auction Co. for its first auction on Tuesday, April 23 at the corner of Warfield and Gratz streets.

The 24,000-square-foot metal building is already filled with restaurant equipment, furniture and house décor from wall to wall. "There is all kinds of crazy stuff in here," Clark said. "There is a fat belt that makes you shake, and that is in perfect condition."

He is still unsure how often he will hold auctions, but said he would like to hold one every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with inspection starting at noon.
Clark said his auctions will create more business for downtown and is hoping to attract at least 100 people to his first auction. He is enthusiastic about his venture, saying it is "low impact, generates traffic for the city, it's 'green' and it is fun."

Clark has been a business owner since 1986. He owns Clark Communications Consultants, where he works on telephone and equipment systems. He was one of the original owners of Cheapside Bar and Grill in Lexington, and now owns The Grey Goose in Lexington and Midway.

Clark said he and his wife Cheri bought the warehouse in Midway a year ago with hopes to quickly turn it into a business. His partner in the auction venture is auctioneer  Tom Biederman of Biederman Real Estate and Auctioneers of Lexington. "He is putting in the auction expertise and I'm providing the real estate and that is our partnership," Clark said.

Clark has his signs ready for the rezoning to go through Monday.
Though he is a restaurateur, Clark does not intend to involve himself with food service at the auction house, but plans to have a food truck to come to the auctions.

He has never owned an auction house, but Clark is familiar with auctions through buying used restaurant equipment, which he said "is notoriously low in value after it is used for about 15 minutes." He said he bought equipment to grow his Grey Goose restaurants and opened his Midway restaurant in fourteen days. This location was formerly The Black Tulip and Duggan's.

The restaurant shares a name with a vodka, the maker of which has been supportive of Clark’s restaurant, he said. As long as he was selling their product and not making his own, he said, they didn’t mind him using the name. Sending him a box of promotional items and umbrellas for his tables was a way to show their support. Clark says he sells a lot of Grey Goose vodka because people associate it with the restaurant name.

Clark has aspirations to partner with the city clean up the land behind his 1.3-acre property along Lee’s Branch behind the warehouse, saying "The more of this you expose to the public the greater attention is paid to its cleanlineess."

Joking about his drive to start new projects, Clark said, "I am definitely a timeless guy; there is no clock on me at this point."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Council moves to put big water tower into service, OKs moving farmers market, discusses park issues

By Nini Edwards and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The City Council voted Monday night to spend $16,425 to start putting the Midway Station water tower, built 11 years ago, into service.

“We are going to take the Tin Man out of service,” Mayor Tom Bozarth said. The older water tower built in the 1940’s is known as the Tin Man due to its gable roof, which resembles the hat of the Tin Man in the 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”

The towers loom on the horizon on US 62 just south of Midway.
The tower, located just outside downtown on Dudley Street, will no longer hold water, but will not be torn down, Bozarth said after the meeting.

The newer, bigger tower at Midway Station has never been in service because the industrial park never attracted significant development.

The tower is now needed to serve development on the former Weems property across Interstate 64, now owned by Dennis Anderson of Lexington, who has an option to buy Midway Station and turn it into a commercial and residential development.

The initial cost to put the tower in service is for an updated telemetry system, which is used to measure the amount of water in the tower and control the water level.

Council Member Bruce Southworth obtained two proposals from potential vendors and recommended using Rawdon Myers Inc. of Milford, Ohio. Southworth, former public works director and city administrator in Versailles, said the tank would also need to be disinfected, at additional cost. 

"The Tin Man"
Council Member Grayson Vandegrift appeared hesitant to vote on the issue, saying he had not heard about it until Bozarth and Southworth brought it up.

Bozarth said he asked Southworth to handle the matter. “This is something we have to do,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been working on for 10 months, really.”

Vandegrift joined the other members (Aaron Hamilton was absent) in voting for the expense. City Clerk Phyllis Hudson said it will come out of the $32,000 line item in the water-sewer budget for capital improvements.

The council authorized Southworth to see if the circular tank at the old sewage-treatment plant on Leestown Road can be stopped from leaking, so it the plant can be an aquaculture demonstration center for Kentucky State University. 

The council gave second reading and final passage to an ordinance allowing guns in the city park, to conform with a recent state law and federal court rulings.

The ordinance amended the existing park ordinance. Council Member Sara Hicks, reading the full ordinance, asked why it prohibits horses in the park.

“We’re the horse capital of the world,” said Hicks, who has lived in Midway since 2004. “Why would we disallow horses in our park? . . . They’re on a leash, usually.” Because it is next to the Midway College horse area, she said, it would be “a logical place to go during parades and things like that.”

Others at the meeting said it would be too risky to let people ride horses in the park. If a rider fell off, the horse could endanger people, Bozarth said. City attorney Phil Moloney said, “That creates a lot of liability issues and responsibility for the city in terms of overseeing it.” Bozarth said if there a group with a specific reason for bringing a horse into the park it can ask the council for permission.

Council Member Dan Roller said that if guns are going to be allowed in the park, the ordinance should prohibit them from being fired. Moloney said another ordinance bans the discharge of firearms in the entire city.

Continuing talk about park business, the mayor said someone is allowing dogs to jump up and knock down tree branches near the pavilions.

“It is damaging the property and it needs to stop,” Bozarth said. “We need to find who is doing this so we can put it to rest.”

At the request of the Woodford County Farmers Market, the council voted to move the market back to its previous location on Main Street. Last year it was on the Darlin’ Jean’s Apple Cobbler Café parking lot at the east end of downtown.

At the end of last year’s season a market survey showed that “most of our customers’ preferred the wholesomeness of downtown Midway,” market representative Julie Morgan told the council.

This year, the market will be in front of downtown stores from The Fashion Filly to the Heirloom restaurant. Each Monday, parking will be marked off in front of these locations except for handicapped parking.

“In previous years we put the cones around 2:30,” Morgan said. “There was never really a concern.” The market will open May 6 and will be open on Mondays from 3 to 6 p.m.

The council approved a resolution authorizing Community & Economic Development Associates Inc. to be paid for preparing the application for the $500,000 grant that will be used for infrastructure to serve The Homeplace at Midway. At the last council meeting CEDA President Bryan Kirby said he could not find that the council had ever formally authorized the application and the payment, which is called for in the grant.

The council authorized the Veterans Memorial Committee to withdraw $2,500 from the trust fund for the memorial to add 42 names of Midway-area veterans whose names have surfaced through research, according to Sgt. Jeremy Emerson of the committee.

Bozarth issued a proclamation, which the council approved, making April 26 Arbor Day. It cited trees’ beauty and their ability to provide clean air and water.

Council Member Sharon Turner announced that former state Auditor Crit Luallen, a prospective candidate for governor in 2015, will speak at the Memorial Day observance.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Midway College to unveil Athletics Walk of Fame Sat.

Midway College will unveil an Athletics Walk of Fame in the McManis Student Center Saturday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. The display will include retired jerseys of former Midway College Eagles and a section honoring Miss Margaret Ware Parrish and the athletes who have received the award named for her.

The event will include retirement of jerseys of three athletes who will join 17 others in the Walk of Fame: Ashley "A.P." Parker (basketball, 2004-2008), all-time leader in rebounds and only player with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds; Mikeesha Prewitt (tennis, 1996-98), most valuable player both years, Parrish Award 1997 and All-American Scholar-Athlete 1997; and Lisa Warren (cross country/track, 1997-2000), holder of school records in 5K, 800m and 1500m and share of records for 4x400m and 4x800m.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kentucky-American says it won't be ready to make a purchase offer, so Tuesday night meeting is canceled

Kentucky-American Water Co. says it won't be ready to make an offer for Midway's water and/or sewer systems at the town meeting called for that purpose Tuesday evening, April 16. UPDATE, April 13: Mayor Tom Bozarth says the meeting has been canceled.

"The company remains interested in expanding its relationship with Midway through such an acquisition if it makes sense for both parties," Kentucky-American said in a news release today. "The company’s team is working diligently to expedite the due diligence process as quickly -- but also as thoroughly and accurately -- as possible. Such a process requires extensive data gathering and analysis."

The release said the company "looks forward to presenting its proposal to the mayor, Water [and Sewer] Task Force Members and citizens in the near future. It regrets that its work will not be complete by the originally scheduled April 16 meeting."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ceremonial groundbreaking of Homeplace celebrates collaboration of community and others to fulfill dream

By Courtney Kincaid
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Christian Care Communities, public officials and community and business leaders broke ground Tuesday for The Homeplace at Midway, which will be a unique senior living residence in Kentucky.

The ceremonial groundbreaking marked $13.5 million investment and a celebration of collaboration involving about 50 locals and other leaders who worked for 15 years to make the project possible.

Construction is expected to begin in summer 2013, with an anticipated opening in late 2014.

Dr. Keith Knapp, president and CEO of Christian Care Communities, addressed the crowd.
Christian Care Communities Chairman Allan Parsons told the crowd, “This dream could not have been realized without the persistence, vision and the tenacity of the Midway Nursing Home Task Force and the guiding leadership of Helen Rentch. And this would not have been realized without the financial support from the community.”

The project plan called for $2 million to be raised locally. Pledges from several local community members and organizations were key contributors in helping to push this project forward, including Helen Roach Rentch, Hargus Sexton, Betty Ann Voigt, the Mary K. Oxley Foundation, the Woodford Health Foundation, Midway Presbyterian Church, The Keeneland Foundation, the William Stamps Farish Foundation and former Gov. Brereton Jones and his wife, Libby Jones.

In addition to the donations, the project is being financed by an $11.4 million, low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $500,000 grant of federal community-development funds from the state, for infrastructure to serve the facility.

"What a great, beautiful community this is," Tom Fern, head of USDA Rural Development for Kentucky, told the crowd. "Perseverance does pay off."

The Nursing Home Task Force, formed by a group of community members, overcame many obstacles and challenges.  Christian Care Communities President Keith Knapp explained a few of the hurdles the development has had to maneuver around, including its design, financing and location.
The project's complexity was illustrated by the number of shovelers: too many to fit into the photo!
The Homeplace at Midway will be Kentucky’s first Green House senior living community, much different than a traditional nursing home.  The Green House model is intended to deinstitutionalize long-term care by eliminating large nursing facilities and creating habilitative, social settings, according to the Green House Project. The concept emphasizes freedom and flexibility for elders and allows elderly residents to live in small subdivided houses, with nursing and health-care providers proving on-site care.

Audrey Haynes, secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, emphasized the flexibility and freedom the Green House model will give residents, such as the freedom to choose when they eat. Hanes said such things truly make a difference in the type of independence residents will have, and led to administrative actions by her cabinet to clear the way for the project.

Haynes said she told Knapp in their first visit, “This is the most exciting thing I’ve heard about in a long time,” and “We’re going to break rules, but we have to move forward with this.” She told the crowd, “This project will be a catalyst for similar ones in Kentucky.”

Mayor Tom Bozarth said the Homeplace will mean more to Midway than 42 jobs and an annual payroll of $1.7 million. “We now have a facility where our loved ones can continue to live in Midway with the appropriate level of care that they may need for the rest of their lives without leaving Midway,” he said. “Dreams do come true.”

Woodford Sun photo by John McDaniel
Rentch, left, considered by many to be the backbone behind the project, was full of excitement and tears of joy.

“I know I’m one of the happiest people here,” she told the crowd. “It was this time of year in the spring of 1999 when several members of the Midway community met to talk about how to keep our seniors at home. People were having to go as far away as Pike County to get care.  The circumstances were a frightening burden on friends and family and heartbreaking as some would be spending their last days among complete strangers.”
Rentch said a key hurdle was convincing potential lenders that a small facility would be financially viable. She said that was accomplished by an accounting firm’s market survey, financed largely by several $1,000 gifts, started by the Joneses and followed by a number from people who “had never given a  thousand dollars to anything,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

Brereton Jones, the only other major donor to speak, told the crowd, “This shows what can happen when people decide they’re going to work with each other.”

Bozarth said, “This was a dream by a small group of Midway residents that saw a need for a second nursing home in Woodford County.  They seized the opportunity.  This is an epitome of a real grassroots effort put forth by the Nursing Home Task Force, who after 12-plus years continued to be focused on their dreams. This group has always been the little engine that could, and today they became the little engine that did.”

The Homeplace will have five buildings, including two skilled nursing cottages for 23 residents in need of short-term rehabilitation or long-term care; a 12-bed memory/personal-care cottage for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia; and a 12-bed assisted living cottage for residents who need periodic assistance with daily living activities. Future plans include the addition of an adult day-care program and independent living duplexes to complement the initial resident cottages.

The elder community will be built on 31 acres across Stephens Street from the campus of Midway College. This location gives students in the nursing program the opportunity to learn and utilize the Green House model of care.

Midway College President John Marsden said, “We welcome this partnership because it provides a great opportunity for our students to learn about a Green House project through their clinical experiences and their servant leadership projects. It also provides a great opportunity for our students and faculty to collaborate on research and to look at ways to improve the care of older adults.”

Council committee starts to draft a city noise ordinance

By Nini Edwards
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

A Midway City Council committee is discussing what a noise ordinance in the city would look like.

The Cemetery, Ordinance and Policy Committee talked Monday about possibly including restrictions on such things as machinery noise, loud music or barking dogs.

The three-member committee reviewed Versailles and Lexington’s ordinances as examples that could guide Midway’s decisions.

“I don’t think there are many things in the Lexington ordinance that will be amicable to Midway,” said Council Member Grayson Vandegrift. “The Versailles ordinance seems a little closer to us.”

For example, the Lexington ordinance prohibits noises that “disturb a person with normal sensibilities,” while the general part of the Versailles ordinance says “No person shall make, continue, or cause to be made or continued any loud, unnecessary, or unusual noise or any noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of others within the limits of the city.”

Vandegrift said, “I guess the reason behind this is to give police the discretion to reasonably discern” whether someone is violating the ordinance.

Vandegrift showed concern for certain Midway events if the noise limit starts at 10 p.m., and mentioned the possibility of imposing noise limits from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and requiring downtown events to end by 10 p.m.

“Sound can carry pretty far; you can hear a band over on West Higgins,” he said. “That might be something to think about.”

Council Member Sharon Turner said most of the city’s noise problems are from repeat violators, and wondered how the ordinance could address that. “It is not for the first-time offense, it is for the consistent day-in and day-out issues that we don’t have an ordinance to cover.”

Turner, the chair of the committee, is planning to bring the ordinance up again at the next committee meeting, at 9 a.m. on May 13. Turner said she is sending the Lexington and the Versailles ordinances as examples to the city attorney to prepare a draft ordinance for the committee to consider.

Turner said after the meeting that she would like the committee to think about the situation and come up with ideas to present after having a chance to think about the matter.

“Last meeting I had asked them to review the ordinances and come back with ideas and I didn’t hear anything, so sometimes I think it is easier when you see something that is yours,” she said.
The committee also discussed the possibility of a chapel at the Midway Cemetery where people could meet for services.

The chapel would provide a safer environment and would be more comfortable in certain weather conditions when holding a service, funeral director David Clark told the committee. He said that it would be safer and more convenient than graveside services.

Lawsuit over 'tourist destination' zoning echoes 40-year battle in county between preservationists and developers

By Melody Bailiff
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Longstanding tensions between Woodford County preservationists and developers are illustrated by a lawsuit filed by the Woodford Coalition and the Pisgah Historic Association against a new zoning rule that allows commercial activity in agricultural areas.

The suit, filed against the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission, the Woodford County Fiscal Court and the Versailles City Council, echoes the plaintiffs’ arguments against the bodies’ approval of two amendments to the county zoning ordinance.

The amendments added definitions of “tourist destination” and “tourist destination expanded,” to the ordinance. These definitions allow certain properties in the Agricultural (A-1) District and Heavy Industrial (I-2) zones to open restaurants, provide public tours, and hold special events with music.

The proposal was favored by the CastlePost, a luxury bed-and-breakfast east of Versailles, in the A-1 zone.

The suit, filed March 14, alleges that the amendments are special legislation for the CastlePost, in violation of the Kentucky Constitution, and that they conflict with the county's Comprehensive Plan.

The Planning Commission, in a response filed March 27, generally denied the lawsuit's allegations.

As the amendments were approved by each body, preservationists spoke against them.

They argued the definitions were not appropriately phrased to protect the A-1 zone. In the lawsuit, they argue that the lack of protection will leave residential property in this area susceptible to urban development.

The suit contends that the amendments’ definition of “landmark” as “any site, building structure, or natural feature that has visual, historic or cultural significance” is “unconstitutionally vague in that the amendment for not adequately defining 'landmark' such that an ordinary person could determine what locations were within the statutory definition.”

The lawsuit argues that the vagueness would allow “arbitrary or discriminatory decision making.”

It also argues that a more general law, more agreeable with the Comprehensive Plan, could be passed to protect horse farms in the A-1 District.

Generally, the plaintiffs seek to maintain a separation of urban activities from rural activities, a recurring theme of the county’s 40-year battle between preservationists and developers.

They seek a “declaration of rights ... that the action by the Planning Commission, the Fiscal Court and the City Council of Versailles ... was illegal and improper where it was contrary to the existing Kentucky law, Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance.”

The Midway City Council has opted to not pass the amendments, since they do not affect any areas of the city. All areas of Midway that could possibly be affect by the amendments fall short of the 30-acre minimum size tract required by the amendments. For more background, click here.

The suit says the amendments conflct with the mission of Midway and Versailles to aid in the advancement of each city’s restaurant offerings, as laid out in the Comprehensive Plan.

The suit contends that “every existing home (or barn) in Woodford County on at least 30 acres ... now has the right to operate a restaurant of up to 75 seats ... without the need for any further Planning Commission ... or Agricultural Advisory Review Committee review and approval.”

One of the commission's justifications in approving the amendments was that the Comprehensive Plan says “The legislative bodies and appointed agencies of Woodford County should take heed of the public demand for more shopping and dining options and accommodate such projects.”

The lawsuit argues that is a misinterpretation of those goals, which the suit says is applicable to only urban areas, not to agricultural areas.

The suit says the Comprehensive Plan states the that commercial use of land outside the Versailles and Midway urban areas would generally not be allowed under zoning regulations, and those areas is where retail and dining establishments are to be located.

The commission's response generally denied that allegation and the others in the suit.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Children and parents enjoyed Midway Baptist Church's annual Easter egg hunt at city park

Story and photos by Julia Myers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The sun was shining and the kids were smiling last weekend at the annual Midway Baptist Church Easter egg hunt.  Families from the community headed to the city park on Saturday to join in the festivities.

Families arrived at the park at 3 p.m., with excited children, colorful baskets in hand, and ready to hunt for eggs.  The kids ranged in age from 2 to 12.  

The 60-degree-weather was a welcome change from the cold temperatures during the rest of March, one of the coldest on record in the area.  The blue sky and green lawn sprinkled with colorful plastic eggs set the perfect scene for the festivities.  Several parents, who had participated that morning in Lexington’s Run the Bluegrass half marathon, made it just in time to see their little ones set out on the hunt.  

Andrea Ball helps a young egg hunter.
Children’s minister Andrea Ball, right, who oversees programs for children from age 3 to fifth grade, said the egg hunt is a long-standing tradition that predates her time at the church by several years.  She said the former children’s minister remembers attending the egg hunt with her daughters more than 11 years ago.  

Ball, who has been involved with the church since 2007, said she was pleased with how the hunt turned out. “We could not have asked for a more beautiful afternoon,” she said.  “We had a great turnout by our church members and visitors.”  About 30 children participated in the hunt.

After all the coin-filled eggs were collected, kids were able to exchange them for a fun toy or treat of their choice.  Each plastic coin was worth one prize, and each participant could collect up to 20 coins.

The egg hunters camped out on the lawn after their baskets were filled to count their coins and sort their treasures.  One participant found his basket a little lighter after his family’s puppy, Charlie, decided he would take a coin or two for himself.  His mom quickly came to his rescue, recovering the coin from the yellow Labrador retriever’s mouth, and all was forgiven. 

Ball said the event was enjoyable for kids and adults alike. “I love the sense of anticipation as the children wait for the egg hunt to begin and the smiles on their faces when they leave with their baskets full of goodies,” she said.  “The event is for the children, but it's a real treat for the adults to witness their excitement and the joy this tradition brings them.”

Members of the church arrived an hour early to help get tables set up, prizes unwrapped, and eggs hidden.  “Blake Jones, Luke Jones, Justin Ball, and Connor Akers contributed by hiding eggs and staffing the prize tables,” said Ball.  “And Sherry Baylif-Webster was a big help with cleanup after the hunt.” 
Ball said they have learned from experience over the years, and quickly discovered that chocolate candy does in fact melt in the eggs on a hot afternoon, creating a mess for parents.

The children's ministry team has the preparation for the annual egg hunt down to a science, Ball said, but they could always use extra hands to set up. She said church members could help next year by arriving a little bit early to hide the eggs.

In addition to Sunday morning worship services at MBC, Ball said she hopes that families will join the church community on Wednesday evening for their weekly fellowship meal. Small groups for children, youth and adults also meet every Wednesday evening at MBC.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Council debates charitable donations, OKs quarry work, and hears about job prospects and a grant hiccup

By Megan Smiddie
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway Station, missing grant paperwork, requests for charitable donations and fixing up the old quarry at the city park were among topics the Midway’s City Council discussed Monday night.

Brad McLean, the chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, reported that there have been “four or five inquiries” recently on the three available industrial lots in Midway Station.

“I wish I could say more,” said McLean. “There is progress, I promise you.” He said any resulting development on the lots would be small, totaling only five to 10 employees.

Midway Station is a failed industrial park north of Interstate 64 that currently hosts a couple of small businesses, with all other lots empty. It left Midway and the county with a $6 million debt, so they optioned the property to Dennis Anderson of Lexington, whose plans for a residential and commercial development on the site have been stopped by the recession. McLean said EDA is trying to work with Anderson and the banks that hold the debt, since Anderson has an option on the entire property.

Mayor Tom Bozarth said that he would like to see a progress report from EDA on recruitment of “small, little, green jobs” and an agreement for funding of the agency, especially since it has employed a recruiter. “There needs to be an inter-local agreement between Midway, Versailles and the fiscal court about funding for this project,” he said.

The council spent several minutes debating whether it should make a $250 donation to the American Cancer Society as part of the annual Relay for Life fundraiser. The larger question being raised was: Should people who are handling taxpayers' dollars be donating them to charities?

“I think we can all agree that cancer has affected every single one of us,” said Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, who made the motion for the donation, noting (as Bozarth did) that the City of Versailles had given likewise. “I think it is one of those causes that we can make an exception.”

Council Member Daniel Roller countered, “Where do we draw the line?” He added, “Cancer has affected a lot of people, heart disease has affected a lot of people, Alzheimer’s affects a lot of people. . . . I don’t know how we determine which ones we give to.”

Roller moved to table the request until a policy has been put in place on such donations, but his motion lost 4-2, with only Council Member Sara Hicks joining him. The motion for the donation passed 4-1, with Roller opposed and Hicks abstaining.

A citizen at the meeting later emailed Bozarth, the council and the Midway Messenger expressing concern. “This is, I am sure, a worthy cause for donation, by each individual,” Michael Ashton of Midway wrote. “I do not believe it is proper for the city to decide to spend these funds.”

Ashton, who ran for a council seat last year, pointed out that there was “no set aside for donations of this type in the budget.” He added, “It sets a bad precedent; how do you say ‘No’ to the next and other worthy requests?” Ashton requested that the council rethink its decision and that at the next budget meeting set aside a separate allocation for donations.

Near the end of its session, the council agreed to hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. Monday to start discussing the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. “It’s just going to be a preliminary walk-through,” Bozarth said. That meeting will be followed by a meeting of the council’s Cemetery, Ordinance and Policy Committee, which has begun looking at noise ordinances in other cites as it considers whether to enact one in Midway.

Bryan Kirby, president of Community & Economic Development Associates Inc., asked the council to pass a resolution approving preparation of the application for the $500,000 grant given to the city in 2007 for the nursing home soon to be built as The Homeplace at Midway.

Kirby said that in getting ready for the actual release of the money, he could not find that the council had ever formally authorized the application. He said paperwork may have been lost in the merger of CEDA and Will Linder and Associates, which actually prepared the application.

“An action by the council was never taken to formerly hire a firm to write the grant,” Kirby said. Bozarth said City Clerk Phyllis Hudson had been unable to find any evidence of such action. He suggested that the council simply amend its agreement with CEDA to include the authorization, and indicated that documents to that effect would be prepared.

In an update on the project, Kirby said the state Department for Local Government is giving Christian Care Communities a 90-day extension of time to award bids on the project. He said CCC technically met Monday’s deadline by hiring a construction manager instead of a using a traditional bid process, but to get the extension the city will need to submit a letter supporting it.

“It was more of a formality to the council,” Kirby explained afterward. “It grants a 90-day extension on provision of any final documentation needed to release the $500,000.”

The council unanimously to approve Bozarth’s request to spend $3,500 on cleaning up the old quarry at the park. “It will make it nice and make it something we can use in the community and enhance the park,” he said. The quarry site lies between the library on the north and the dog park on the south, and between Lee’s Branch on the west and Northside Elementary School on the east.

An ordinance revising rules for the park was given a first reading. It would remove a ban on firearms that has been invalidated by a state law passed last year. “The presence of firearms shall now be permitted,” substitute city attorney Josh Salsburey said.

Perhaps coincidentally, an unidentified man drew attention at the meeting by wearing an automatic pistol. He left before the meeting was over. Woodford Sun Correspondent John McDaniel, a former policeman, noted that the gun was not loaded: "My guess is that he was waiting for someone to challenge him after the mayor read the no-concealed weapon paragraph before the meeting began."

The council also passed a resolution designating April as Alcohol Awareness Month. “We can help provide hope for today and hope for tomorrow to people facing challenges with alcohol use and abuse,” Salsburey read from part of the resolution. “We can discourage underage drinking throughout our community by giving our young people better things to do than use.” 

Vandegrift presented recent statistics for the city’s Meet Me in Midway website. He is working with the creators of the site to redo it. “We are looking to make it more mobile friendly and add a calendar,” he said. The statistics showed that more than 70 percent of new visitors to the site viewed it on a mobile device, but the site has no special configuration for such devices.

Finally, Council Member Sharon Turner asked for help in reviving the city's monthly newsletter, Midway Matters, which has been produced mainly by volunteers.