Monday, December 29, 2014

Midway student from Georgetown wins her class's clinical award; Austin Bowman gets freshman award

Christina Martin
Christina Martin of Georgetown, who received her nursing degree from Midway College this month, is the winner of her class's Clinical Award. The award is given to a student who maintains a grade-point average above 3.0 and is able to effectively translate classroom theory to safe and competent clinical practice at the bedside, according to a college news release.

"Christina's performance in clinical practice is excellent and demonstrates critical thinking, intuition and utilizes nursing knowledge," said Dr. Barbara Kitchen, dean of the college's School of Health and Sciences. "She also exhibits a high level of integrity, provides relationship-centered care, utilizes clinical judgment and integrates best evidence into practice."

Midway College offers associate and bachelor's degrees in nursing on its campus in traditional daytime and accelerated evening formats that prepare students to become registered nurses in a variety of clinical settings, the news release said.

Austin Bowman of Midway won the college's Outstanding Freshman Award for December 2014. The award is presented to an exceptional freshman nursing student who has embraced the field with a passion. Recipients must maintain a grade-point average above 3.0, exhibit a high level of integrity, demonstrate a spirit of inquiry, be a compassionate and therapeutic communicator, and be professional in attitude behavior and appearance.

Dr. Barbara Kitchen, Dean of Midway's School of Health and Science, says Bowman exhibits these traits and more: "Austin has been outstanding in the clinical area by always being a team player and demonstrating an eagerness to learn. He has a great rapport with his peers and quietly leads by example."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ordinance allowing Midway Station redevelopment with tax-increment financing passes; county action next

The Midway City Council gave final approval Monday morning to the ordinance that will allow redevelopment of Midway Station by paying for public infrastructure improvements with the increased tax revenue from the development.

Approval came quickly, as soon as city attorney Phil Moloney read the lengthy title of the complicated tax-increment financing ordinance. All five council members present voted for it; Sara Hicks was absent.
Council members raise hands to vote for TIF as attorney Moloney, Mayor Bozarth and City Clerk Phyllis Hudson look on.
The TIF ordinance authorizes 80 percent of the new property and payroll taxes generated at Midway Station (not including school and fire taxes) to be used to pay the estimated $31 million cost of redeveloping its public infrastructure: parking areas, streets, sidewalks, utilities and so on, as well as the associated costs of demolishing the existing infrastructure, which was designed for an industrial park.

The park has generated only about 10 jobs, leaving the city and Woodford County with $4.7 million remaining in debt from the $6 million in bonds issued for purchase of the property and its development.

Lexington developer Dennis Anderson is paying the $11,400 monthly interest on the bonds in return for an option to buy and develop the property as commercial and residential, under an agreement with the property owner, the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.

Some of the property, and an adjoining tract on which EDA has an option, was recently rezoned back to industrial to help attract one or more industrial prospects, such as a supplier plant for the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Corp. complex at Georgetown.
Optioned tract recently zoned industrial is white outlined in purple. Area earlier rezoned industrial for prospective factory is mainly yellow outlined in purple. Area in solid purple has been zoned industrial since original development of Midway Station.
County Judge-Executive John Coyle said recently that he expects the county fiscal court to join with the city in applying to the state for approval of the TIF district, which would funnel county taxes to it as well as city taxes and state property taxes.

Anderson has said he has secured private financing for what would be a $126 million project, with development lasting as long as 20 years, the maximum life of a TIF district. His consultants estimate that the project will generate $94 million in tax revenue over 20 years.

Under the ordinance, the mayor will be primarily responsible for overseeing the TIF district and its finances. Midway will get a new mayor on Jan. 1, one-term Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, replacing Mayor Tom Bozarth, who did not seek re-election to a third four-year term.

"Thank you very much," Bozarth said as he adjourned his last meeting as mayor. "It's been a pleasure and a joy. Hallelujah."

Council Member Bruce Southworth told Vandegrift after the ordinance passed, "Here's the ball; it's the handoff."

Vandegrift told reporters after the meeting that TIF appeared to be the only way to get Midway Station off dead center. He said he doubted that a developer would be available without such incentives.

"The only disagreement I heard from people about the TIF [district] was a philosophical disagreement as to whether taxpayer money should be used in this way," he said, adding that was a question for state legislators, who passed the law allowing it.

Asked if the city would have approved TIF if it were not on the hook for half of the bonded indebtedness, he said, "I'm sure it had something to do with it."

He added later, "The fear is, if we let this go down, it is just going to sit there for another 20 years. . . . I don't know of anybody who doesn't want Midway Station to do something . . . especially given the fact of how much money we owe."

Vandegrift concluded, "This whole Midway Station thing has been a long, really, nightmare. We've got a chance to get it moving. . . . This is going to be the kind of slow, sustainable growth that we're looking for."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Council gives first reading to tax-increment financing for redevelopment of Midway Station; passage set Monday

By Nicole Hennard
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council had a special meeting Wednesday morning to give first reading to the tax-increment financing ordinance for Midway Station, after delays in production of documents prevented action at Monday's regular meeting.

Attorney Doug Martin and his law partner, city attorney Phil Moloney, presented a package of documents, some of which are posted online with the proposed ordinance. They included a development area description and map; a development plan; a pending interlocal cooperation agreement with Woodford County, which is expected to participate in the TIF district; a Local Participation Agreement between the city and Anderson Communities Inc., the Lexington developer that is paying the $11,400 monthly interest on the $4.7 million in bonds still outstanding on the property in return for the option to buy it; a master development agreement between the city and the developer; and a report from Anderson's consultant, Commonwealth Economics, forecasting the progress of development and generation of tax revenue.

Eighty percent of the additional property- and payroll-tax revenue created by the development will be dedicated to reimbursing Anderson $31.5 million for development of public infrastructure and payment of fees to create the TIF district.

Martin said the investments in the project will total $126 million and are expected to take place over a 20-year period. The project is expected to support over 4,000 jobs annually and have $7 billion in statewide economic impact.

“Any new taxes that flow from the area will be allocated to infrastructure, administrative costs, and redevelopment assistance related to the development area,” Martin said. “The report estimates that over a 20-year period, the project will generate approximately $93.8 million in tax revenue.”

The documents make clear that the office of the mayor is the agency responsible for oversight, administration and implementation of the ordinance and special fund. The ordinance is being passed shortly before mayor elect Grayson Vandegrift’s term begins at the start of the new year.

The council scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Dec. 22, at 8:30 a.m. to give second reading and passage of the ordinance.

The ordinance was drafted after months of discussion with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority (the land owner) and developer Dennis Anderson, who is paying the interest on the bonds that financed development of the industrial park (which has largely failed).

Included in the ordinance is a requirement that the city receive 2 percent of the fund’s disbursements to cover administrative costs. The council questioned whether that would be enough to cover such expenses as legal and accounting fees. Martin said that if the 2 percent was not adequate, the city would be reimbursed from the special fund.

Council Member Sharon Turner questioned who would establish the special fund. Martin said the office of the mayor would be in charge.

Council Member Bruce Southworth questioned whether the engineering review costs would be considered administrative. Martin and Moloney agreed that it would.

The city council will be responsible for reviewing and analyzing the process of the development from year to year.

The meeting concluded with a statement from Mayor Tom Bozarth: “We’ll meet Monday and move this along.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Midway's new 'boutique' McDonald's is a test for the big corporation, franchisee Joe Graviss says

By Caitlin McPherson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The McDonald’s restaurant opening at 10 a.m. Thursday in Midway is a guinea-pig store, testing out a ‘boutique’ approach for the world’s largest restaurant company, according to franchisee Joe Graviss.

Boutique, in short, means smaller. 

Graviss said Midway is finally ready for a fast food outlet, but this McDonald’s will be different than his eight others. 

The restaurant  has only 54 seats for dining, about half of the number of seats at a typical Graviss McDonald’s location. 

“They tried it years ago.  They kind of got away from it,” Graviss said of the approach. “I asked McDonald’s to come down three times to see if it made sense to put a restaurant at this interchange. . . . Three times I brought them down here and three times they said, ‘No, it’s not a viable market.  There’s not enough rooftops, not enough cars.’”

With the success of the Shell station and convenience store in the Green Gables development, Graviss said he asked the company to take another look. That, and perhaps a change in corporate management, changed McDonald’s mind, Graviss said.

Despite the small dining area, Graviss doesn’t expect drive-through customers account for any greater percentage of sales than a typical Graviss McDonald’s. He said his Nicholasville Road store gets 68 to 70 percents of its sales from drive-through.

Graviss’s ownership of the restaurant came as a surprise to many people in  Midway, partly because Green Gables developer Dennis Anderson spoke only of dealing with McDonald’s, not Graviss.

Graviss explained that McDonald’s had full control of the construction because the store is a test store for future boutique restaurants.

“McDonald’s wanted to keep control of all development cost,” he said. “They know that I like to spruce things up, for lack of a better term, so they wanted to control the spending and the cite and development cost 100 percent.”

Once McDonald’s achieved what they wanted, they handed control over the Graviss, he said, allowing him to make minor changes such as landscaping, locations of electrical outlets and access to USB portals. The restaurant has wi-fi for Internet access.

The manager of the store will be familiar to some in Midway. The manager of the Nicholasville Road store, Mary Husband, is coming home to supervise a staff of 45, about 30 of whom are from the Midway area, Graviss said.

“She is actually one of our younger tenured managers,” Graviss said.  “We are really proud of the fact that a lot of our team will be Midwegians.” 

The golden arches aren’t too far from Husband’s front door in the Northridge subdivision.  She said she hopes that her new job will give her a small role in helping the community.

“I think it will be just as busy as Nicholasville Road was, because there were a lot of other restaurants on Nicholasville that hurt us a little bit,” she said. “Here we have the interstate and all of Midway, so once we get established I think we can be right there with them.”

But is Midway ready for the arches to shine over the city's established, historic dining options? The fine dining options in Midway have made a name for the city. The Holly Hill Inn, the Heirloom and other restaurants downtown are quite the opposite from McDonald’s.

Graviss said his new restaurant will bring more people into Midway, and boost sales for the historic dining options and other downtown businesses.

One thing is for sure: Midway’s new neighbor is ready to serve the community.  The question is, is the community ready to welcome it? The ribbon-cutting for the restaurant will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, with the first meals served at 10. On Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m, a meet-and-greet limited to employees and their families will be held, to create a sense of community.
Left to right: Joe Graviss, Husband, Graviss McDonald's Restaurants Operations Director Jim Young
and Area Director Joe Allison stand on store sign before it was placed. (Photo submitted by Graviss)

Monday, December 15, 2014

TIF ordinance delayed; special meetings needed, starting Wed.; Bozarth hands out honors, recognition

The Midway City Council delayed action on a tax-increment financing ordinance for Midway Station after lawyers worked through the weekend to complete legal documents but didn't get them delivered until the council was adjourning its regular meeting Monday night.

The council scheduled a special meeting for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to give first reading to the ordinance. Mayor Tom Bozarth said another special meeting would be scheduled to give final passage. Bozarth and two council members leave city government at the end of the year.

Doug Martin, a lawyer in city attorney Phil Moloney's firm, said the package of documents also includes a local development agreement, in which the city would agree to pledge its tax revenue from the area to projects and public infrastructure there; a master agreement with developer Dennis Anderson; and "probably an interlocal cooperation agreement" with Woodford County, which is expected to dedicate property- and payroll-tax revenue from the area to reworking its public infrastructure for business and residential development, the cost of which Anderson has estimated at $30.7 million.

John Soper, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the largely failed industrial park, said he executed another extension of EDA's option agreement with Anderson Monday. Anderson is paying $11,400 a month interest on $4.7 million in principal remaining from the bonds that the city and county issued to develop the industrial park.

Soper said of TIF, "We think it's a bright spot, a way out of this thing, and we think it makes all the sense in the world for the stakeholders involved to put that TIF in place."

Since it was the council's last regular meeting of the year and his administration, Bozarth took time to thank and recognize council members and others for their work during the last eight years.

"We don't always agree, but at the end of the day we did agree on what's best for Midway," he said. "We ought to be proud of what we've accomplished." He told the council that was "not about me ... without you all we couldn't have gotten anything done."

Bozarth noted that the city has $35,000 in savings when he became mayor in January 2007, and now has now $600,000, with more than $1.5 million in cash at its last audit. "I challenge you to grow that," he said.

Bozarth will be succeeded by Grayson Vandegrift, who defeated fellow Council Member Sharon Turner in November. "It's good to have new ideas and new direction and I'm looking forward to sitting back and watching," Bozarth said. "It's been a great run for me; the friendships I've developed have been priceless. I want to wish each and every one of you good luck."

Tom Bozarth and Sharon Turner
After receiving a standing ovation from the council and others in attendance, Bozarth had the council adopt resolutions honoring the "sacrifice, hard work and passion" of Turner, retiring Council Member Aaron Hamilton and county Magistrate Larry Craig, who served on the council in 2003-06. "This town and its citizens have given a lot more to me than I've given to them," Craig said.

Turner didn't comment, but Hamilton said of his eight years on the council, "It has been a good run. I've enjoyed it. I'm really glad that I did it, for the friendships I've made and everything and I just want to thank everybody for your support."

Bozarth also gave keys to the city to Moloney, Woodford Sun correspondent and former police officer John McDaniel, and Midway Messenger publisher Al Cross, who lives in Frankfort and directs University of Kentucky students who cover Midway.

Donations to Ky. American Water's H2O (Help2Others) fund can help financially distressed customers pay bills

Kentucky American Water reminds customers of an opportunity to help families in need by donating to its H2O (Help to Others) program. The program is administered for the water company by Dollar Energy Fund in order to assist eligible customers in financial distress with their water bill payments.
The program is funded by donations from American Water shareholders and individuals.

To make a donation, customers check off the H2O box on the back of their bill, or donate directly to the program via Dollar Energy Fund’s website at www.dollarenergy.org.

To be eligible for H2O assistance, customers must have a total gross household income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level for that size household. Customers may apply for assistance at social service agencies in the region, including the Woodford County Community Development Office, 285 Beasley Rd., Versailles (873-8182); Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Lexington, Inc. 1310 West Main St., Lexington (253-1993) or United Way of the Bluegrass, 100 Midland Ave., Suite 300, Lexington (233-4460).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

State's plans for Weisenberger Mill Road bridge are back up in the air after public objects to two-lane option

By Jackson Reams
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The rebuilding of the one-lane bridge on Weisenberger Mill Road has again been delayed due to the public’s opposition to a completely new bridge.

The bridge was built in 1930. (2013 photo by Nini Edwards)
The road winds its narrow way through farmland in Scott and Woodford counties with its namesake just inside Scott County. The 101-year-old Weisenberger Mill building sits on Elkhorn Creek, which is crossed by an old one-lane bridge with an almost 90-degree curve on the Woodford County approach.

The bridge has been marked for renovation or replacement since 2010, and a meeting was held in January 2013 to see what the public wanted done. The public preferred renovation, not replacement, so the state studied whether that was possible.

Ananias Calvin, the project manager, said in a recent interview that a crew was sent out to examine the bridge and found “extensive work” was needed, so only one solution made sense.

“We came to the conclusion that this bridge will probably be better if we just put in a new bridge,” Calvin said. The next step was to decide if the city wanted to go with the public’s preference of a one-lane or a two-lane bridge. “You have a two-lane road; why would you put a one-lane bridge back?” Calvin asked.

That question was answered, to state officials' dismay, at a second public meeting at Midway College Oct. 21 – a meeting that Calvin said the Transportation Cabinet wasn’t required to hold, but did to inform the public of the new direction they were taking.

“We wanted their response and we got it; they didn’t like it at all,” Calvin recalled. The answer to his question was: a one-lane bridge slows down traffic, a need on the narrow, curving road.

Debra Instone stands at her often-smashed fence in the curve.
Debra Instone’s Mill Creek Farm is on the outside of the 90-degree curve, where vehicles have repeatedly crashed through a wooden fence.

“If they make that two-lane and people know they don’t have to stop [for oncoming traffic that reaches the bridge first], the traffic’s gonna get faster,” Instone said in an interview at the site.

Instone said she has lived on the property for 11 years and someone has hit her fence “every year and this year three times.” She said, “It’s a huge responsibility if one of my horses get on this road. They don’t care if someone took my fence out, your horse is on here and someone hit it and got hurt; that’s my fault.”

Calvin said he agrees with Instone that there is a problem: “If you put in a two-lane bridge the speed will increase . . . because you don’t have to slow down to allow whoever was at the bridge across first.”

However he said a two-lane bridge would be as safe as a one-lane. “One was a traffic calmer,” he said. “The other one made it where two cars can go across at the same time.”

Instone and Philip Weisenberger III, son of mill owner Mac Weisenberger, said trucks trying to cross the 15-ton-limit bridge are also a concern. “There are trucks that get down here and realize they can’t get across the bridge,” he said. Instone said, “It takes them about 35 minutes to get turned around and get back to where they came.”

Weisenberger added, “All the trucks that come to our place turn around and back out, they never even cross. But I do see lots of trucks going through here.”

Instone and her husband Giles Instone said in a letter to Calvin that if a two-lane bridge goes in, they had four requests: “The current weight limit for vehicles remain in place… A blinking light be added to the 15mph sign… The existing metal guard rail be extended to the west to the width of the road… Raised bump strips [rumble strips] similar to those located on Old Frankfort Pike be installed on the road.”

Calvin said the new bridge, one-lane or two, will not deter traffic because the weight limit will no longer exist.  “If it goes any lower than that, it might be closed.”

Calvin said in a reply letter to the Instones that the blinking light and rumble strips are possibilities, but “Since this is a county road, we would have to work with the County Agencies concerning a blinking light, rumble strips (raised bump strips), and the extension of the guardrail around the curve.”

Woodford County had an agreement with Scott County to be responsible for the bridge, but got the state to take responsibility in return for the county working on a state bridge in Millville, according to outgoing Midway Magistrate Larry Craig.

The Kentucky General Assembly appropriated $500,000 for replacement of the bridge. That would not be enough to pay for a solution that has been suggested by several members of the public: move the bridge slightly downstream, to get the road away from the mill and line up the road with Paynes Depot Road, which intersects Weisenberger Mill Road on the other side of the curve from the bridge.
Likewise, Philip Weisenberger suggested in a letter to Calvin that “a small curve be added into the road.”

The mill attracts customers, tourists, photographers and fishers.
Calvin replied, “We have already looked at your idea of implementing a curve on the Scott County side but since it would have increased our construction cost beyond the amount budgeted, we decided not to.”

The Rev. Earl Raglin also lives just around the corner from the curve on Paynes Depot Road. He said in an interview he supports “ripping the bridge out and putting in a two-lane bridge” because “Quite a bit of traffic is flowing across that bridge and I’m afraid a one-lane bridge won’t accommodate that.”

But the views expressed at the meeting, and afterward, were strongly against a two-lane bridge, according to the state’s file on the matter. To download a 104-page PDF of the file, click here.

“After the public meeting my supervisor/branch manager, Robert Nunley, told us to step back and take another look,” Calvin said. “My timetable just changed; I have no idea what it is. I had one until the public meeting.”

Calvin said no ideas have been taken off the table, but the state is making sure that they are absolutely positive what they want to do before they move forward. Calvin said he doesn’t “know which way we are going to go but we are going to reevaluate it.”

The announcement that of the reevaluation pleased both Instone and Phil Weisenberger, who are fine with the current situation. “It wouldn’t bother me if they kept what’s here now,” Weisenberger said.

Calvin, however, says the damage done to the bridge and its supports means something must be done, but he is unsure of when that decision will come: “It would be really hard to give a schedule because we have been going back and forth so much.”

The next step could be putting more money for the bridge into the state’s six-year road plan, but that plan is adopted in even-numbered years and changing the state budget in odd-numbered years requires a 60 percent vote in each house of the General Assembly.

Several Midway leaders attended the meeting including Tom Mayor Bozarth, Mayor-elect and Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, outgoing Council Member and then-mayoral candidate Sharon Turner, and Council Member-elect Libby Warfield. In written comments, Warfield said she was “convinced that [a] 2 lane would be a mistake” and “create many new problems for this area.”

UPDATE: In a Dec. 10 letter to Calvin, Patrick Hagan of Weisenberger Mill Road asked that the bridge be restored to its original condition and said, "All you are doing is ruining our quiet, peaceful community."

Council irons out details of tax-financing plan for Midway Station, sets first reading of ordinance for Monday

By Paige Mullen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council decided Tuesday to move forward on the tax-increment financing project for redevelopment of Midway Station. TIF uses most of the new revenue from development to pay for the public infrastructure and some other costs of the development.

At a special meeting to clarify details about a TIF ordinance, the council directed city attorney Phil Moloney to draft the ordinance for first reading at its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday. It would come up for final passage at a special meeting before year’s end.

Moloney and his law partner, Doug Martin, discussed the remaining issues regarding the ordinance with the council and John Farris and Casey Bolton of Commonwealth Economics, a consulting firm that Lexington developer Dennis Anderson hired for the project.

Farris said the TIF will be limited to the footprint of the Midway Station property, a largely failed industrial park that has saddled the city and county with millions in debt. Business tenants and contractors will report their investments, payrolls and tax payments on forms created by the state to the developer or the developer’s compliance agent, who will report them out to the city. The mayor will be designated at the agency responsible for reporting to the state and overseeing the TIF.

Farris said the developer can write into the lease with tenants that they must supply this information when requested. Anderson estimates that the total investment in the project will be $176 million.

Chart prepared by developer's consultants and given to city council
Once $20 million has been invested, the state can make disbursements to the special district fund, from which 80 percent of the increased tax revenues would be used to pay for public infrastructure costs such as parking, utilities, streets, sidewalks, gutters, storm sewers and detention ponds, as well as associated costs such as grading, demolition and disposal – not just to Anderson but to tenants and utility companies for their expenses.

The council asked Farris what could make up the $20 million. "Anything spent on the footprint so there is nothing specific, that is just capital investment," he said. "Anything from soft cost to state funds that are spent. It doesn't even have to be spent by the developer, anything that is spent out there." However, the public infrastructure is the only reimbursable expense. Anderson has estimated those costs at $30.7 million, almost half of it for parking.

Plans call for the city to get 2 percent of the disbursements to cover its administrative costs, including accounting and legal expenses. Questions arose about how the city might be able to pay such costs if the 2 percent is inadequate. Farris said the fees will build over time and noted that the city will be receiving 20 percent of the new tax revenues from the project.

Farris said he expects the county to participate in the project, allowing its increased occupational- and property-tax revenue to support it. A chart offered by Farris estimated that in the first 10 years, the city and county’s 20 percent would total $2.63 million.

School and fire taxes are not included in the TIF, but those taxing districts would benefit from development, with the schools getting almost $4 million in taxes during the first year, according to the estimates. In his presentation, Farris emphasized an even larger number, $6.5 million, which would be the total new local tax revenues available to the city, schools and fire district.

The time limit on the project is 20 years. "When the public infrastructure has been paid for, all taxes flow like they normally do," Farris said. For a copy of his graphic presentation, click here.

Council Member Bruce Southworth wanted to know when the city would take possession of the infrastructure and thus be responsible for any repairs. Council Member Sharon Turner said, "The 2 percent won't cover that."

Southworth suggested that the responsibility could be shared, with the amount of the city’s responsibility increasing over time. He added later that the city’s tap-on fees for water and sewer should remain in place.

Martin noted that the local taxes that go into the special district fund can be spent on local capital improvements, while the state tax money must be used for public infrastructure.

Member Dan Roller said, “We don’t want to be responsible for the repairs if we’re not getting the money for it.”

Farris said he presumed the tap fees would be the same and the repair issue could be handled in a master developer agreement between Anderson and and the city. He complimented Roller, saying, “That’s looking into the future, which a lot of people don’t do.”

Roller replied, “I think we’re here today because with that project out there, there wasn’t enough looking into the future.” Midway Station was developed with the hope of attracting industry but has spawned only three or four businesses with about a dozen jobs.

Anderson first proposed making the entire tract commercial and residential, and it was rezoned accordingly. Then the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property, came up with some good industrial prospects, so part of the land that had been rezoned residential was rezoned back to industrial.

As the 47-minute meeting was wrapping up, Mayor Tom Bozarth thanked the council and said, “We have a responsibility to look at the city’s interest not tomorrow, not today, but beyond into the future. And I think that is one thing I want to commend the council about, is they have been talking about this since September and we have been very diligent I want to thank each and every one of you for asking these questions.”

The council ended the meeting in agreement that the 2 percent administrative fee is acceptable for the city. On another issue, Anderson has agreed to pay the fees to the state for processing the application.
The EDA is expected to approve the TIF at a special meeting Friday at 8 a.m. at the courthouse in Versailles.

“We know where we’re going and we’ll get this thing wrapped up and move forward,” said Bozarth, who leaves office at the end of the year and will be succeeded by Council Member Grayson Vandegrift.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Midway Branch Library hosts reception and showing of work by artist John Berry, to be on display until Dec. 30

By Sidney Rose Emison
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway Branch of the Woodford County Library is hosting a gallery of renowned artist John Thomas Berry’s work on selected dates through December 30. Berry is hosting the showcase of his eclectic array of artwork, which is mostly Andalusian horse paintings, but also includes canine charcoal portraits and landscape paintings.
Midway artist John Thomas Berry's work was first displayed during a Dec. 2 reception at the library.
Berry, who lives on West Higgins Street, has lived all over the United States, but moved to Midway years ago, and has loved the opportunity to paint the subjects he enjoys most, horses. And the Bluegrass state may be the best area to practice that profession.

“I was born in Texas. Raised in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa,” Berry said during a Dec. 2 reception for him at the library. “And then moved to Michigan, then spent 13 years in California, 17 years in Taos, New Mexico; and I’ve been here 10 years. … I love Midway, it’s fabulous.”

Prior to pursuing a full-time art career, Berry trained and showed horses professionally. His work has received awards from such prestigious organizations as the American Academy of Equine Art and the Hudson Valley Art Association in New York City. His paintings hang in private and corporate collections throughout the United States, Ireland, England, France and Spain.

Diana Ratliff is a fan of Berry’s work and purchased a painting at the Dec. 2 reception. “I love this piece because it is an Andalusian and they are Spanish horses,” Ratliff said. ”One of my friends, who is going to be the beneficiary of this Christmas gift . . . and several members of her family went to Spain a few years ago and took riding lessons and rode Andalusians the whole time they were there, so I thought it was a beautiful Christmas gift for her.”

Berry and Midway gallery owner Mary Thoreson have collaborated since Berry moved to the area at about the same time Mary retired from nursing and bought the gallery with her husband.

Thoreson said she couldn’t quite remember how she and Berry met, but she knew they respected each other’s work. “I think it was mutual, but I have an Andalusian horse and he does a lot of Andalusian art. So there was a draw through that,” she said, adding that Berry recently did a painting of the horse.
Mary and Eric Thoreson’s Damselfly Gallery consistently features three works by Berry among those of 200 regional artists and artisans, many of them horse-inspired paintings and sculptures. Mary Thoreson’s favorite piece in the library gallery on Tuesday was an Andalusian charcoal piece that she said was “extremely expressive of the breed.”

Berry said he decided to move to Midway after a friend in Versailles convinced him it could benefit his career.

“Her name is Cindy Wolf and she’s a very well-known sculptor and she said, ‘Why don’t you come here, since this is a large part of your market and it’s the home of horses? If it doesn’t work then at least you made the move.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, that makes so much sense and of course it would never occur to me.’ And I’m still here and I love it.”

Berry said he was always interested in the arts, but rediscovered his passion for the arts in his 40s. He thinks young people are being deprived of the nurturing aspect of art.

“I feel sorry for the youth of our nation actually, because most schools are not teaching art, which I think is a great sadness,” he said. “Art, at its best, speaks to your soul and it creates a sense of beauty and I don’t know if that is something we have a lot of in our lives. And so I just think it’s so important for young people, in particular, to be made aware of the arts. Not just painting and sculpting, but literature and all of the arts, music, et cetera. Because those are things that really nurture the soul.”

For more information on Berry's current schedule visit http://calendar.kentucky.com/performer.aspx?perf_id=2163116. For more information about his art contact him at Box 4330, Midway; 859-846-9948; or jtber3@aol.com. Here's a video report, with an interview of Berry:

For a higher-quality version of the video, by Caitlin McPherson of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telcommunications, click here.

Joneses recognized for helping St. Joseph Hospital

Di Boyer, major-gifts director for the
Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation,
poses with Brereton and Libby Jones.
Brereton and Libby Jones of Midway were recognized for their support of Saint Joseph Hospital at the annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted Nov. 19 in Lexington by the Bluegrass Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

The program recognizes individuals or groups who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to the community through philanthropy, the hospital said in a press release: "The Brereton and Elizabeth Jones Family Foundation has provided life-saving philanthropy to the patients and families served by Saint Joseph Hospital throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky."

It cited the Joneses' support of the hospital's mobile clinic, and fundraising for mammography equipment at Saint Joseph Martin, in area with high rates of breast cancer. “Brereton and Libby Jones have always believed in helping those less fortunate quietly and without desire for public recognition,” said Di Boyer, director of major gifts for the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation. “We are incredibly grateful for their many generous contributions that have brought wellness, healing and hope to thousands.”

Jones, who was governor in 1991-95, and his wife operate Airdrie Stud, a Thoroughbred farm on Old Frankfort Pike west of Midway. They also support education, including the cost of producing the latest print edition of the Midway Messenger.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Council gets down to the nitty-gritty of tax-increment financing, looking to pass ordinance before year's end

By Jackson Reams
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council is really getting down to the details of the proposed tax-increment financing for Midway Station to try to get an ordinance passed before the end of the year, before a big turnover in city government.

TIF pledges future gains in tax revenues in a district, in this case Midway Station, to fund the infrastructure for its redevelopment.

To reach the goal of passage by the end of the year, the council welcomed Doug Martin, a lawyer in city attorney Phil Moloney’s firm and former general counsel for the state Economic Development Cabinet, to continue to educate the council about the process of creating a TIF district.

Martin distributed a summary of the proposed Midway Station TIF Ordinance that briefly highlighted the main points. The largely vacant industrial park, owned by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, would be redeveloped by Anderson Communities of Lexington into a commercial, residential and industrial area.

“We really don’t see any major problem with getting this approved . . . as far as getting all the major statutory requirements fulfilled,” Martin said. Those requirements, according to the summary, are:
  • “There has been substantial loss of commercial or industrial activity at Midway Station;”
  • The area’s “public improvements and public infrastructure are inadequate” and
  • “A combination of factors substantially impairs and arrests growth and economic growth of the area as well as impedes the development of the property due to its present condition.”
Those conditions are why the TIF district wouldn’t include the adjoining Roach property, 37 acres adjoining Georgetown Road and the west side of the Station, said John Farris of Commonwealth Economics, consultant to Anderson.
Midway Station plat: Purple-outlined area was recently rezoned back to industrial; Roach property is at upper left.
The Roach property is undeveloped, unlike almost all of the Station, which is to be redeveloped. EDA has an option to buy it, but there is a different process to make a TIF district out of undeveloped land, so it will not be included in the TIF district, Martin said.

Martin continued with the city’s proposal that Anderson pay certain fees that come with applying to the state for TIF. While the proposal was included in the summary, Martin said, “We haven’t had a face-to-face with Mr. Anderson yet.” The city is asking Anderson to pay the city’s cost of the TIF application, including a $1,000 application fee to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority; a KEDFA administrative fee of up to $50,000; a $60,000 fee to KEDFA for an independent consultant who judges the viability of the proposal, and legal fees for the city’s attorneys and “any state legal fees.”

This would require Anderson to make financial commitments outside of just what the company would do at Midway Station and the revenue it would be guaranteed, Martin said.

Martin read Anderson’s request that the city pledge 80 percent of new property taxes (excluding fire and school districts) and occupational taxes and fees generated in Midway Station to fund “redevelopment assistance” for it. The ordinance summary says, “Anderson Communities’ financing costs and interest will not be included in redevelopment assistance.”

Midway would keep 20 percent of new incremental revenues and 100 percent of other local taxes. However, Council Member Bruce Southworth said that those other local taxes could amount to no money at all.

Another question is what agency would oversee the district and handle the money. The summary said it would be the city clerk, but other options mentioned included the Economic Development Authority or the Woodford County Fiscal Court.

The county has yet to be involved in this process but its participation would help, because more money would come in through use of its occupational tax. Farris said Commonwealth Economics has “initiated conversation but we’ve held off” pushing for action because the county wants the city to take action first.

A couple other points in the discussion were the $30,000 annual fee that would be paid to the city or other agency, a number both Council Member and Mayor-elect Grayson Vandegrift and Mayor Tom Bozarth thought was low; and the fact that only three audits are required for TIF: when TIF officially starts, once $20 million has been invested; when there is a request to reimburse public infrastructure costs; and when the district ends after 20 years. Bozarth suggested yearly audits, which Farris said could be “very expensive,” but Martin said Bozarth was not talking about a full-blown audit every year, just an audit of revenues.

The council set another meeting to discuss TIF Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 9 a.m. and a special meeting to go over the city’s annual audit at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 4.

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott presented
outgoing Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth with
a key to Versailles at the council meeting.
In other business, the council:

• Appointed Phil Keppler to the Midway seat on the county Architectural Review Board.

• Agreed to sign a temporary contract for emergency management that would run through March 2015 in hopes of a new deal being signed with the county, and pay the county $1,005.50, reflecting five months of the increased fee the county imposed on Midway and Versailles. “It buys us time,” Vandegrift said, noting that Versailles had taken the same steps. “We’re going to have to hold our nose on this one.” Bozarth said he, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County Judge-Executive John Coyle agreed to appoint a committee after Jan. 1 to come up with a solution to the dispute, with two representatives from each government.

• Accepted a $3,000 check from the Iron Horse Half Marathon, held in and around Midway in October. Race coordinator Chuck Griffiths provided Bozarth with a framed poster commemorating the event, Bozarth’s involvement in bringing it to Midway and coining him the “honorary race director.” Griffiths said, “One of the anchors of this event is that it is here in Midway, that the participants really enjoy coming to the community and they enjoy the scenery.” John Sensenig of John’s Run-Walk Shop, the race sponsor, said, “We do a lot of foot races and this is everybody’s favorite.”

• Heard Council Member Sharon Turner report that Girl Scout Maggie Hagan’s project to get accurate numbers on every dwelling in Midway had found 15 addresses not in compliance, and that nine of those have been corrected. Hagan is also promoting sign-ups for the EverBridge alert system. “Both these projects are going to add to the public safety and welfare of all Midway citizens,” Turner said.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Council sets special meeting Thursday morning to review city finances for fiscal 2014

The Midway City Council will have a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, to go over the city's financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014. The city's auditors are expected and the notice from City Hall says "Possible action will be taken." All council meetings are open to the public.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Smoke at 815 sparks sprinklers, summons firefighters

The Midway Fire Department was called out Monday afternoon when the sprinkler system in 815 Prime was activated by smoke from the dryer in the restaurant's laundry shortly after 4 p.m. No fire was reported, but firefighters were on the scene for more than an hour trying to shut off the sprinklers because the cutoff valve is in the old Thoroughbred Theater building, and the Steppin' Out boutique that occupies the building is closed on Mondays.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Still successful at Heirloom, restaurateur and chef Mark Wombles opens Distilled at Gratz Park in Lexington

Wombles in Distilled at Gratz Park
Story and photos by Paige Mullen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway restaurateur and chef Mark Wombles has opened a new restaurant on the edge of downtown Lexington and hired a new chef for his Heirloom restaurant in Midway.

Gratz Park Inn, the small boutique hotel at 120 West Second St., has replaced the previous restaurant, Jonathan at Gratz Park, with  Distilled at Gratz Park.

While Heirloom is California style, the menu for the new restaurant is “contemporary Southern,” Wombles said in an interview at his new location. “No one here is doing it well or really doing it right now at all, so that is what we want to capitalize on.”

He said Distilled is similar to Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, and Nashville. Both Husk and Distilled place a modern twist on Southern cuisine. Husk has an award winning chef, Sean Brock, who grew up just across the Kentucky border in Virginia, 45 miles from Hazard, Ky., where Wombles’ family once lived.

Wombles spoke highly of the new chef taking over at Heirloom in Midway, Cameron Roszkowski.

"He is great,” Wombles gushed. “He came from a really great restaurant,” at the Blackberry Farm Resort in Townsend, Tennessee, “and I am really happy with Heirloom and everything that is going on so far.

Wombles said he is making sure that his ingredients at Distilled are fresh, and worked with executive chef Jeremy Simpson, who came from Heirloom, to come up with the new menu.

The Distilled menu features a tasting of country ham on the appetizer list, as well as a roasted autumn squash salad. Entrees on the dinner menu include short-rib ragu and shrimp and grits, a dish that was on Jonathan’s menu and remains on Heirloom’s, albeit with different recipes.

The interior of Distilled at Gratz Park, former site of Jonathan
While the interior of the restaurant has elegant touches, Wombles said he wants to make sure that the d├ęcor is not overbearing. He said that there is a clean and soft feel that he believes will allow the focus to be more on the food.

"What we plan on doing is take all of the non- essential elements out of fine dining,” he said before the restaurant opened. “So there are no white table cloths, there is not fancy attire, the servers are going to wear pink-and-white-striped Oxford buttondowns with dark denim blue jeans and black Chuck Taylor shoes."

Wombles said he wants an atmosphere with some fun, and an experience that is not "cookie cutter fine dining." He added, “I have never wanted to go with the flow.”

Wombles opened the Heirloom restaurant in the heart of downtown Midway in 2006 with help from his father, Henry Wombles. It is the top-rated restaurant on OpenTable.com in the Lexington area, but Wombles said he wanted to be in the city itself.

“Heirloom has done so well and I have always wanted to have a restaurant in Lexington and the opportunity arose,” he said. “The owners of the hotel contacted us and we were actually looking for a place in Lexington at the same time."

The Gratz Park Inn is at 120 West Second Street in Lexington
He has a new partner and investor for Distilled but declined to say who it is.

At this writing, Heirloom was number one on Opentable for best overall restaurant in the Lexington area, with 4.7 on a 5-point scale, just ahead of Coles 735 Main, Dudley’s on Short and the Merrick Inn, all at 4.6.

Wombles said that because Heirloom is small, it has been and will be able to take care of its customers differently than larger restaurants. Also, he said that Heirloom will continue to try to keep everything local as much as possible, especially during the warmer months.

Wombles was born in Winter Park, Florida, moved with his family to Lexington when he was 5, and attended Sayre School.

Before opening the Heirloom he was a cook at the Merrick Inn in Lexington and realized that was what he wanted to do. He moved to San Francisco and trained at the California Culinary Academy, now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. Upon returning to Kentucky he worked at the fabulous but now defunct Maisonette in Cincinnati, as well as various restaurants in Lexington before opening his award winning Midway restaurant.

Mayor-elect and Midway restaurateur Grayson Vandegrift said he is impressed with what Wombles has done at Heirloom.

“He is a very good chef and everyone knows that,” Vandegrift said. “I think what he has done with Heirloom has been terrific; I think he will do well in Lexington.

Is there potential to open more restaurants? “There has been talk about opening another restaurant in two years,” Wombles said. “If this one does well then maybe in another city, like Louisville.”

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quilt show raises money for needy residents of The Homeplace at Midway, and provides bus tours of facility

Story and photos by Sarah Brookbank
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Old and new came together this weekend at The Homeplace at Midway Quilt Show, which showcased quilts from Woodford County to benefit The Homeplace at Midway Benevolent Fund.

The show at Midway College featured vendors, music and quilt exhibits from local community members and historical societies to add to the fund set up to help Midway residents who face financial struggles while they live at the long-awaited elder-care facility. Bus tours of the construction site of the Homeplace, across Stephens Street from the college, ran on Saturday.

The Homeplace has been a long time coming. The Midway Nursing Home Task Force has worked for almost 16 years to bring a care facility to Midway so that Midwegians can stay close to home while getting the help they need. The Homeplace is being built and operated by Christian Care Communities, the largest private, faith-based provider of elder care in Kentucky.

One of the draws of the show was the quilt registry, which is an online archive of quilts from Kentucky. The quilts are photographed and added to the archive that is hosted by the Folk Life Archives of the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University. The Heritage Quilt Society registered quilts on Friday and Saturday.

The show was held at Anne Hart Raymond Building and featured more than 100 quilts. Members of the Nursing Home Task force worked until 8 p.m. setting up the display and working with The Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society, said Helen Rentch, who organized the show.

Rentch, a longtime leader of the task force, encouraged members of the community to take the tours of the Homeplace, asking them about their plans and if they would be interested in living there, calling to them as they looked at quilts.

Rentch explained the long process of trying to get the Homeplace off the ground and the work that went into funding the project.

“When we started doing it, we wanted a small, community-sized facility,” she said. "In the industry, the principle is that you have to have at least 60 beds in the building or it’s not going to be financially feasible. And we didn’t want a facility like that, we couldn’t get that many beds licensed anyway, and consequently, we couldn’t find anybody who would agree to help finance or take over management. 
Even though there are thousands of companies out there doing it, they want it to be profitable.”

After five years of struggling to find a way to make the project come to life, the task force decided to work with a non-profit organization. Rentch said that after that decision was made, finding a non-profit with enough experience and credibility was difficult. After a few more years they found Christian Care, which runs 30 to 40 facilities across the state.

“They still didn’t think that it was financially feasible,” Rentch said. “So it took a number of more years before they would agree to agree to build the small houses that we wanted. Now that idea has become popular.” 

The Homeplace is considered a Green House facility, a new style of elder care that provides help while allowing freedom. All cottages feature an open kitchen and living area that will allow residents to come and go and prepare their own meals.

“If it doesn’t go in my house, it doesn’t go in the Green House Model,” said Linda Cox of Christian Care Communities, who will help manage the facility and gave bus tours if it. “You will not see a med cart in this place. That does not mean that our nurses are not providing medication, or care, or treatment. It’s just not done in that institutional type setting. It’s all sort of hidden away so it feels like home.”

When the Homeplace opens in the spring, a few months later than planned, it will have five buildings. One is the Farm House, which will house administrative offices and provide a place for activities and meetings.

Work continued as the bus tours ran on Saturday.
There are four apartment-style cottages with 12 bedrooms in each cottage.  One of the four is an assisted-living cottage that does not have full-time nursing staff, a memory-care cottage that will house patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and two cottages that will be skilled nursing facilities. The skilled nursing facilities will be more like a standard nursing home.

“The main tenets of the Green House are to fight the plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom for our elders and our seniors,” said Cox, adding that one of its slogans will be “Seniors rule.” The phrase will be used to remind the residents of the Homeplace that they are in control and will not be forced into scheduled living and eating like many nursing homes.

The Homeplace also hopes to add more patio-style homes around the facility for elders who need no assistance, in order to grow the community; as they age, they will move into different homes on the property.

The $13.5 million project sits on 31 acres across from the college, which will play a large role in the facility. Cox said internships and rotations will be available for college nursing students, and they are looking to expand that opportunity to hospitality students as well.

The show at the college was full of quilts and people. It has grown since last year, not only with the registry but with music by the Hills of Kentucky Dulcimer Society and a children’s activity table. On Friday night the Heritage Society registered 29 quilts. By lunchtime on Saturday it had registered 16 more. It tried to limit each family to two quilts because the process is time-consuming, and quilts must be at least 50 years old.

“We had a man come last night at 8 p.m. to register his quilts, because he had to wait to hire somebody to drive him,” Rentch recalled. “He’s elderly and has his grandmama’s quilts but he can’t drive.”

Rentch said the task force hopes to donate a few thousand dollars to the benevolent fund, which will benefit Midway residents who meet financial struggles while they live at the Homeplace. She said the fund needs to grow a great deal and that they will continue to raise money, even after the Homeplace opens. Residents who run out of money or cannot make ends meet on Medicaid benefits will be able to access the fund.

Rentch said, “The real object is to engage the community, which we have done successfully.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ambrose Wilson IV named secretary of public protection

Ambrose Wilson IV
Ambrose Wilson IV of Midway is Kentucky's new secretary of public protection. He started his new duties Friday, Nov. 7, after being appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear. He succeeded Larry Bond, the governor’s chief of staff, who had been acting secretary since Robert Vance resigned in May.

Wilson had been commissioner of the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction since 2012, and before that was deputy commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions, both part of the Public Protection Cabinet. He has held office-management and human-resource positions in various parts of the private sector.

“Ambrose’s experience in human resources and management will be an invaluable asset to the cabinet,” Beshear said in a press release. “In addition, he brings a background in both public and private sectors that will well serve the critical role that Public Protection plays in monitoring and regulating a number of activities that impact nearly every Kentuckian, from the financial soundness of our state-chartered banks and investment companies to reviewing building permits and fire-safety inspections.”

Wilson said, “I am grateful to Gov. Beshear for this new opportunity to lead a team of 600 employees dedicated to public protection and public service.” The cabinet includes various quasi-independent agencies such as the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Department of Insurance.

Wilson is also the chairman of the Woodford County Board of Education. He told The Woodford Sun that he and his brother, a school-board member in Arkansas, learned public service from their father, former Midway Mayor Ambrose Wilson III. “Any time you can do things to enhance the lives of others, you need to take that opportunity. So it was instilled in us from the very beginning.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Council to meet Wed. to act on water and repair bids

The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Midway City Hall to act on bids for replacement water lines on Higgins Street and work on the Rau Building that houses City Hall. All council meetings are open to the public.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Driver lands upside down in South Elkhorn Creek after failing to negotiate sharp curve at bridge

A Versailles police officer rescued a motorist in the wee hours of Thursday morning after the driver's BMW failed to make the sharp curve on Old Frankfort Pike at the South Elkhorn Creek bridge and landed upside down in the water.

Officer Scot Cottingham told Jim Warren of the Lexington Herald-Leader that he was looking for the site of an earlier accident "when he saw the BMW 'come around the corner at a pretty high rate of speed,' hit the end of the bridge, plunge over an embankment and land in the water," Warren reports. "He driver was left dangling from his seat belt with his face barely above water. Cottingham waded into the creek to reassure the driver until firefighters arrived to get him out of the car."

"It's fortunate that where he was pinned, his head was above water," Cottingham told Warren. "Obviously, he was scared, and what I did was mainly talk to him and assure him that we were there to help and that he would be taken care of. It was lucky that someone witnessed the wreck, because that location is not very well traveled at night, and he could have been there a long time."

Warren reports, "The motorist, whose name was not released, was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital with cuts on his face and complaining of pain in his legs." Cottingham told Warren that the driver should recover.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Citizens question propriety of tax-increment financing for redevelopment of Midway Station

By Sarah Brookbank
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Despite the elections on Tuesday, Monday evening was a full of business for the Midway City Council, starting with the regular council meeting and ending with a public hearing on tax increment financing for redevelopment of Midway Station's commercial and residential zones.

The big-ticket item at the council meeting was the approval of the rezoning from residential to industrial 38.22 acres on Georgetown Road that touches the edge of Midway Station. Without discussion, the council approved the rezoning, requested by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.

The EDA has an option to buy the property. That would create 80 acres of industrially zoned property, and EDA representative Craig McAnelly said between the meetings that the agency is looking to put as many as three plants on the property.

Prospects for redevelopment of Midway Station have been centered on tax-increment financing, which allows developers to use the increased tax revenue from a refurbished area to retroactively pay for the public infrastructure of a development. Lexington developer Dennis Anderson has proposed the financing method.

Citizens at the public hearing raised questions about the necessity of TIF.

The first comment came from John Schaaf, a resident of Ironworks Estates in Scott County, just across Elkhorn Creek.

“I would like to speak in favor of free enterprise rather than a free handout to this particular developer and his financial backers,” said Schaaf.

Schaaf said that it was his understanding that developers recover the money that they put into infrastructure through sale of the property. Schaaf’s concern was that Anderson would get “a double return on his infrastructure costs” through TIF and sale of the developed properties.

“If this is going to be a successful development I think it should be undertaken in the spirit of free enterprise,” Schaaf said. “He should take the risk, he should put in the infrastructure and he should recover that money from the people who intend to benefit from having property in that area.”
“I don’t know that the taxpayers of Midway, or the state of Kentucky should be underwriting this project.”

Schaaf said the property’s location and the improving economy mean that it should be able to be redeveloped without TIF. He said that he did not have a problem with the development, but with the way it will be financed.

In response, Anderson consultant John Farris of Commonwealth Economics said the city of Midway would retain 20 percent of incremental tax revenues, and TIF does not apply to school taxes.

“We estimate an additional 200 to 300 thousand dollars coming in to the city of Midway just on the 20 percent, not the school taxes and property taxes,” Farris said.

Farris said the redevelopment has a very large amount of infrastructure that needs to be done and it comes at a high cost. At an earlier meeting, Farris presented a list of infrastructure work totaling $31 million, including nearly $15 million for public parking.

Midway resident Nick Bentley, who has experience as a real-estate broker and a developer, spoke next.

Bentley said that he was pleased to see the rezoning of the 38 acres, since residential areas cost more for a city to service and maintain, and the area will need to be balanced between retail, industrial and residential so that it will be a net positive.

“My biggest question is, why as a taxpayer, as a developer, as a builder, as a Realtor, as a businessman, do I have to compete against subsidized property?” Bentley asked. “Why as a landlord do I have to say ‘Oh, no one gave me any money when I rehabbed blighted property,’ and I mean a nickel, but now I’m going to be asked to compete on the open market with a subsidized housing project?”

Bentley asked what would happen if millions of dollars are spent on infrastructure and the property never sells. He asked where the money that would be spent on infrastructure would come from.

“It’s the EDA that put this thing in place to start with,” Bentley said, noting the project’s failed 25-year history. “It’s a question of how do you trust the horse that takes you to the poisoned well. I don’t.”

Bentley called the estimated infrastructure costs “ridiculous” based on his own experience in the area.
“I’d sure like to see the books, because if I spent 30 million doing that property I’d be going broke,” he said. “So why are we asking the taxpayers to spend more than they need to? I don’t believe those numbers.”

Bentley said the TIF program takes the fiscal responsibility off the developer.

“In this case they’re asking the taxpayers to pay 30 million dollars, instead of ponying up what a developer would normally have to do,” he said. “I don’t get it, I think it’s kind of anti-American if you ask me personally.”

In response, Farris said that the $14.9 million for parking is an estimate, and reminded the council that the project is “receipt based,” meaning the developer has to spend money to get reimbursement. He said that this is a way to make the developer spend less money.

Farris also addressed who would pay for the infrastructure. The City of Midway has yet to determine how this project would be funded, but there are options. Some cities bond the TIF rather than pay upfront. Others, such as Lexington, make the developer take the risk on the infrastructure costs, and some take a hybrid approach.

Later in the hearing, Council Member Dan Roller also asked about retaining sales tax from the development. Farris said that 80 percent of incremental sales taxes would be available to pay for infrastructure, under state law.

Roller also asked about the timeline of infrastructure development and the payment. Farris said  development will be needed before the property can be sold, and that some of that involves updating the current infrastructure and putting down the basics. Farris also said that much of the development timetable will have to do with demand.

EDA Chairman John Soper said the EDA is confident in Anderson’s ability to finance the project. Soper also said that he feels like the EDA has the confidence of the city council, fiscal court and of their banks.

Soper stressed that the project needs to be started so that they can go back to the banks in 2019 when the bond on the property matures and renegotiate finances.
“It makes all the sense in the world to do it, and to do it now,” he said. “Especially with the economy, it is recovering and we’re starting to get calls at least weekly about these properties. We haven’t hit the home run yet, we’re having a lot of conversations and that’s a whole lot better than it was two years ago.”

Soper also said he hopes the council and citizens of Midway could get behind the TIF application process because it would solve infrastructure problems and boost employment.

Contrary to expectations, there was not statement at the meeting from Woodford Forward, which identifies itself as “a group of citizens and business owners that advocate for innovative policies that promote the highest and best use of urban land and the agricultural use of productive farmland throughout Woodford County.”

Billy Van Pelt of Woodford Forward said the organization would announce its position known after a meeting with Anderson. Anderson was present at the hearing but made no comments.

Council meeting

Other business at the council meeting included a conversation with Keith Slugantz, the director of emergency management in Woodford County. Slugantz fielded questions from council members Grayson Vandergrift and Aaron Hamilton about the issues with tornado sirens in Midway in early October.

On Oct. 7, a tornado warning was issued for Midway and surrounding areas by the National Weather Service, but the sirens in Midway went off 17 minutes after they should have, due to an equipment malfunction. The sirens had to be set off by the emergency management department through a portable radio that did not reach all the sirens in the area. Slugantz reassured the council that the issue had been resolved and would not happen again.

Renovations of the Rau building were also discussed. The historic green and red Rau building sits on the corner of Main Street, housing City Hall, offices and the Breckinridge shop. Contractor Phil Kepler said that to keep the historic building from constant repair and damage, that it should be redone and modernized with better wood and new glass. This will keep drafts out of the building, stop the wood from rotting and will make the storefront last much longer.

At the end of the council meeting, outgoing Mayor Tom Bozarth made a statement regarding the next day’s election for mayor, between Council Members Sharon Turner and Grayson Vandegrift.
“I want to thank Grayson and Sharon for their hard work. You’ve both ran a very good campaign. It’s been very positive… Good luck tomorrow.” Vandegrift won with 53.4 percent of the vote; for a report on the mayor's race, click here.