Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Council deals with taxes, smoking, festivals, emergency services, encroachment issue

The Midway City Council kept the city's real-estate tax rate at 10.6 cents per $100 and heard first reading of a revised ordinance on the personal-property tax rate Monday night.

The council also passed a smoking-ban ordinance, to replace a county health department regulation that by all indications is in violation of the state constitution, under a June decision by the state Supreme Court.

Pending final approval on second reading, the property-tax rate will be 14 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, two cents less than last year, because the total valuation has gone up. The original draft ordinance had to be revised and delayed because of a clerical error.

The smoking ordinance bans smoking in public places, workplaces, city buildings and vehicles, the seating areas of any "arenas, stadiums and amphitheaters," and within "a reasonable distance of not less than three feet" from any windows or outside entrance of a place where the ordinance applies. For a PDF of the ordinance, and the tax-rate calculation, click here.

Kenny Smith, representing the Midway Fall Festival, asked the city to be a financial sponsor of the Sept. 20-21 event, "so that we're clear and on the record what we can expect from the city." Bozarth replied that there had never been any written agreement between the city and the merchants association, which sponsors the festival. He appointed Council Members Grayson Vandegrift, Dan Roller and Sharon Turner to meet with festival organizers.

The mayor said the festival should be treated like the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, which returned to the Midway College campus this spring after three years at Equus Run Vineyards. He noted that the fall festival has paid vendors' license fees for two years (under a relatively new ordinance passed after Francisco's Farm left town). "Francisco's Farm has been sent a bill, and I don't know if we've ever received payment," he said.

Council Member Sara Hicks is the president of Midway Renaissance, the main sponsor of Francisco's Farm. She said after the meeting that the $1,800 bill came as a surprise and was incorrectly calculated because at least 10 of the 90 "vendors" at the two-day festival were actually sponsors with booths. Hicks said the difference in the two festivals is that the fall event is on "the streets of downtown Midway," but "I'm sure something will be worked out."

Most of the discussion during the meeting was about Woodford County's unofficial cancellation of its agreement with Midway and Versailles to jointly finance emergency management services, following the cities' complaint that they are paying too much.

The agreement will expire 90 days after the county gives formal notice of the cancellation, EMS Director Keith Slugantz told the council. "I expected the public officials to work this out a long time ago. The public conflict has been between the county and Versailles; Bozarth said he had been unable to discuss it with county officials.

Vandegrift said he was surprised that the county was acting so abruptly. "The county has some reasonable claims," he said. "I think we do, too. I would like to see some kind of compromise." He said the fiscal court and city councils should meet to draft a revised agreement. Bozarth said that meeting needs to happen soon.

The council held a nine-minute closed session, citing the exception to the open-meetings law for discussion of proposed or pending litigation.

The council quickly disposed of the issue that got the most discussion at the last meeting, approving a revised encroachment permit for Jon Maybriar that allows him to keep the concrete he used instead of pavers. Bozarth noted that the city's engineer had a favorable opinion of the work.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Versailles mayor wants to start official study of merging the governments of Woodford County and its two cities

"Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott said Friday that it's time to study whether merger of the Versailles, Midway and Woodford County governments would be beneficial to residents," Greg Kocher reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"At its next regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Versailles City Council will discuss a first reading of an ordinance 'proposing the formation of a commission to study the question of unifying' local governments into a 'unified local government'," Kocker writes. "Woodford County Fiscal Court and at least one of the city councils must pass similar ordinances" in order to create a commission. County Judge-Executive John Coyle told Kocher that no citizen has asked him to look at merger and he didn't know what the fiscal court would think about it.

If a city passes an ordinance, its mayor would appoint commission members with approval of the city council, with the number "based on the ratio that the percentage of the population in the mayor's city bears to the population of all participating cities," Kocher reports.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/08/15/3381818/versailles-mayor-wants-study-of.html?sp=/99/322/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

"Traugott said 'two prolonged battles with the county' over city-county funding of parks and recreation and joint funding of emergency management prompted the ordinance," Kocher writes. "The dispute over parks and recreation is being resolved, but the fiscal court voted this week to end its participation in the funding of emergency management."

Midway officials have also been unhappy with the county's position on emergency-management funding, and have had other conflicts with Coyle and the fiscal court. Mayor Tom Bozarth, who is not seeking re-election this fall, told the Midway Messenger in an email, "I am not in favor of having a unified government. Midway will lose its identity forever."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Council advances smoking ban, tables Chamber request, hears city will get 2nd water line to make supply reliable

The Midway City Council gave first reading this evening to ordinances that would keep the current property-tax rates and impose a smoking ordinance to replace a county health-board regulation that is almost surely unenforceable.

The proposed smoking ban was changed from the initial draft to remove a proposed enforcement board and a $1,000 penalty for a fourth violation. City attorney Phil Moloney said no fine should be more than $500, since no violation would be more than a misdemeanor.

The council agreed to table the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce's request to participate in government funding of a full-time position at the chamber, costing $30,000 a year. Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, chair of a committee Bozarth named to consider the request, said near the end of the council discussion, "We don't neccessarily feel anything's warranted at this time. . . . It just seems like a non-starter right now."

Earlier, Vandegrift said the chamber should "have some kind of forum here in Midway to gauge opinion from the community at large on whether their tax dollars should be spent on the Chamber of Commerce." Midway interests have often thought the town gets short shrift from the chamber and the meager tourism-promotion funds it handles. That money would increase if a hotel or motel was built in Midway, which seems increasingly likely, but the city could choose to set up its own tourism commission.

Cheryl Norton of Kentucky-American Water Co., the city's water supplier, said the company plans to begin construction in September of a second supply line, which would resolve the problem of frequent breaks in the only supply line, along Leestown Road. The new 12-inch line will run more than two miles from Ironworks Pike in Scott County to the Midway Station industrial area. Once teh new line is completed, hopefully in December, the old line can be worked on to help prevent breaks, Norton said.

Norton also said the company has placed a fence around the meter vault on Junior Phillips' "buffalo farm," where the supply line joins the city system. "The buffalo will no longer be standing on the concrete," she said. "We were worried they would fall in ... and it was a little disconcerting to have the buffalo come up and greet you" when reading the meter.

The council decided to charge Woodford County Habitat for Humanity only the city's cost for utility hookups to the home Habitat is building on North Winter Street. In the past, the city has charged half price. Council Member Dan Roller, who suggested charging costs only, said the house is a major improvement and will add to the tax base.

On yet another utility matter, Bozarth gave the council a proposed franchise agreement with Kentucky Utilities, revised in several ways from the current agreement, mainly in that it would run for 10 years. The current one has a 20-year term that is near expiration. Bozarth said other changes deal with notices, liability, indemnification and other facets of the relationship between the city and the electric company. The new agreement would keep the same franchise fee of 3 percent of gross receipts, which brings the city about $35,000 a year.

The council spent considerable time discussing with Jon Maybriar his failure to follow the plan he offered in applying for an encroachment permit on Cross Street, using concrete instead of brick pavers to reduce runoff.

Maybriar said pavers would have cost more than double, and his research showed very little difference in runoff from the two surfaces. The city's engineering consultant said likewise. Council Member Bruce Southworth said that if encroachment permittees don't do what they say they will do, "Why bother to get a permit?"

Bozarth said, "If there was going to be any variance in the original encroachment permit, it should have come back to the city."  Council Member Sharon Turner noted that the encroachment ordinance doesn't say permittees must do that. The council agreed that the ordinance needs to be clarified.

Council Member Sara Hicks said Maybriar "acted in good faith ... I just think we should let it go," but Roller said Maybriar should do as he offered and saw off that part of his parking-area extension that extends into the street. (Maybriar said he did that to repair blacktop that was damaged by people turning around on the spot after he had excavated it but before he poured the concrete. Turner noted that he poured it more than a year after getting the permit.) After some discussion about what that would do to drainage on the street, Bozarth said he would have the engineer take another look.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

City council to consider smoking ban, tax rates

The agenda for Monday evening's Midway City Council meeting includes setting of tax rates for the coming year and reading of a proposed smoking ban to replace the countywide ban that is likely invalid because of a state Supreme Court decision.

The proposed tax rate for real estate is 10.6 cents per $100 of valuation, the same as this year. The proposed rate for personal property (motor vehicles and watercraft) is 18 cents, also the same as last year.

The proposed smoking ordinance would apply to all enclosed public spaces and places of employment and is designed to replace a regulation passed by the Woodford County Board of Health. The state Supreme Court, ruling in a case from Bullitt County, ruled June 19 that appointed health board did not have the authority to impose such regulations. For a copy of the proposed ordinance, click here.

The agenda also includes committee reports. Mayor Tom Bozarth recently appointed three council committees to consider blighted and abandoned property, to meet with the Northridge Homeowners Association to discuss property issues, and to review the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce's request for funding. The chamber wants Midway, Versailles and the county to fund a position paying $30,000 a year.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.