Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Band returns fee, gives up return gig after allowing spectator to sing anti-gay lyric at Friday night event

Shades of Grass early in their performance
The band at Friday's Midsummer Nights in Midway event allowed a spectator to sing an anti-gay song, prompting protests from the crowd. Now Shades of Grass has returned the $500 fee it received from Midway Renaissance and asked that the money go toward an LGBT cause, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Messenger Wednesday afternoon.

“We don’t condone any kind of speech like that in Midway, whether it’s racist or sexist or anti-gay or anti-religious or anti-Christian or anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish,” Vandegrift said. “We don’t want any of that happening, especially in a public performance like that.” The mayor said he and Renaissance would write a letter of apology.

Vandegrift said he asked for a meeting with Renaissance members to discuss the matter. The meeting was held Tuesday night at City Hall, and included Sara Hicks, a city council member who is on the Renaissance board and is the immediate past president of the group. The gathering was not subject to the state open-meetings law, and Vandegrift said he saw no need to involve the public.

Midsummer Nights in Midway will repeat July 22 and Aug. 19. Shades of Grass was scheduled to play at the latter event but won't now. “I think the band recognized the error of their ways and decided it wouldn’t be prudent to play again,” Vandegrift said.

Renaissance President Jo Blease said she didn't witness the episode and the band had gone home "by the time we figured out what was going on," so she called band leader Steve Norman later "and he was very apologetic. . . . He immediately said he did not want any bad reflection on Midway or the event." Later, "His wife called and said they were going to return the fee."

Blease said the song, "Come on Down to the Farm," has been played at bluegrass music events for some time, so when the man began to sing, the band apparently recognized the tune, but erred by not stopping when they heard the lyrics. She said of Norman, "He's done everything he can to try to make it right and I hope it doesn't continue to reflect badly on that band."

Blease said the band played for four hours, one more than scheduled, without a break, and for less than their normal fee, "because they believe in Midway and the whole event. . . . I feel horrible that people were there and made to feel unwelcome and uncomfortable."

Norman did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday night. 

Two from Midway on dean's list at Midway University; many from Versailles, Georgetown, Frankfort

Amanda Elkin and Kristina Thompson of Midway are on the dean's list at Midway University for the spring semester, according to a news release from the school. Dean's listers from Versailles were Irene Alcaraz-Perez, Tara Gayheart, Kathryn Gosnell, Liliya Leskiv, Tania Orihuela, Michelle Varner, Mria Vieyra and Carolyn Wetherington.

Those on the list from Georgetown are Tiffany Beeler, Corey Blevins, Kasalina Brown, Danielle Despard, Rebekah Hamilton, Kaitlin Johnson, Kathryn Lawler, Terea Morris, Mark Nicholas, Joseph Shrewsberry and Erica Sims. Those from Frankfort are Kennedy Burch, Lyndsey Coffield, Ryan Fluharty, Lauren Horne, Macy Johnson, Courtney Murphy, Alexus Page, Amy Smith and Cait Smith.

The University of Kentucky reports its dean's list by county, not hometown. For a list of Woodford County students on the UK dean's list, click here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sparks in the Park to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 2; council candidates will speak at 6:30

The annual Sparks in the Park celebration for Independence Day will be held Saturday in Walter Bradley Park, starting at 6 p.m. Candidates for city council in the Nov. 8 election will have an opportunity to speak for two to three minutes, starting at 6:30. They will speak in alphabetical order: Steven Craig, Kaye Nita Gallagher, Sara Hicks, John McDaniel, Steve Simoff, Bruce Southworth and Libby Warfield. Food will be served at 7:15.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Midsummer Nights in Midway gets off to a good start

The first installment of Midsummer Nights in Midway is on. Shades of Grass is providing the musical entertainment, and the weather is ideal, so it looks like the Midway Renaissance project is off to a good start. Here's a video of most of their performance of "Up on Cripple Creek:"

IMG_2302 from Al Cross on Vimeo.

EDA negotiating with prospective Midway employer of 240, helping pursue idea of grain mill in Versailles

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority voted today to reject a letter of intent from a potential employer to buy its 43 acres of industrial property in Midway Station, but said it would continue negotiating with the prospect, which could employ 240 people.

The EDA board discussed the matter in a closed session, which is allowed under the Kentucky Open Meetings Act. After returning to open session, it took the vote and Chairman John Soper said negotiations will continue.

Soper told Fiscal Court 10 days ago that the CEO and four other executives of a California-based company looked at the site around June 1. He said Midway has "a real shot for competing against North Carolina and another city in Central Kentucky," and state inventory-tax incentives might be the deciding factor, The Woodford Sun reported last week.

Among other discussion, Soper said Columbia Gas won't run a line to the American Howa Kentucky plant under construction next to Midway Station, or the Brown-Forman whiskey warehouses to be build behind it, because the companies would use gas only for heating and "Gas used in production is what moves the needle" for extension of gas lines.

Soper said Brown-Forman might have "a little bit more pull" once it starts construction, but in the meantime EDA will pay for propane service to AHK with the escrowed profit it made selling the former Roach family property to the company. The profit was intended to help provide gas service.

EDA would find it "pretty hard" to pay for a gas line now, even with later rebates, because of its $4.7 million outstanding debt for Midway Station, EDA staffer Craig McAnelly said. Prospective developer Dennis Anderson is paying the $11,380 monthly interest on those bonds in return for the right to buy and develop the property.

The developer recently got encroachment permits from the city for a gas-and-convenience store and two other retail buildings at the front of Midway Station, and Soper said Anderson has filed a proposed amended plat for the development with the Planning Commission.

In an agriculture-related matter, Soper said local farm interests are very interested in getting a grain mill to supply the More than a Bakery plant to be built in Versailles. "The farming community is really rallying behind this thing," he said, and "sees this as a real possibility to create an ag-industrial complex" that could also include processing of wheat straw and industrial hemp.

Soper said More than a Bakery will use enough wheat and other grains to sustain 12,000 to 15,000 acres of crops, but advocates of the mill need to decide what its optimum size would be. He said they are consulting with Weisenberger Mills about that, and County Extension Agent for Agriculture Adam Probst wants to pursue the idea of a cooperative to build and operate the mill.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Midsummer Nights in Midway starts this Friday at 5

Midway Renaissance is sponsoring "Midsummer Nights in Midway" starting this Friday, June 24, and repeating on July 22 and Aug. 19, also Fridays, starting at 5 p.m.

"The pop-up fair events will provide wholesome family fun and serve as a platform for local businesses, artists and non-profits to reach new audiences. The events will highlight the historic, small-town warmth of our community," Renaissance says on the event website.

Each event will have live music (dancing is encouraged), local bourbon and brews, street vendors, a mini farmers market, kids activities, classic cars, and a chance to win local goods. Many stores will be open for shopping.

This week's music will come from Shades of Grass, a Bluegrass band that says it plays a variety of acoustic music. The music is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Snacks and desserts will be offered on Main Street by The Midway School Bakery, 2 Ladies and a Kettle, and St. Matthew AME Church. Midway Renaissance and Mezzo Italian Cafe and Provisions will have beverages on the street.

Street vendors will include Kentucky Honey Farms, Weisenberger Mills, Bellaire Blooms, Bob Mickler's, Goff Club Collection, uniKYly Crafted, Rediscovered Treasures, Summer Starts Here Farm, Shop Twenty Something and the Midway United Methodist Church.

Walnut Grove Events will have a photo booth, Rebecca Partin will paint faces, and balloon artist and stilt walker Tiny Tallman will appear. A city fire truck and classic cars will be on display, and there will be a children's activity area and a cornhole game.

Besides Midway Renaissance, the event sponsors are Graviss McDonald's Restaurants, Mezzo Italian Cafe and Provisions, the Lexington law firm of Sturgill, Turner, Barker and Moloney, The Grey Goose, The Homeplace at Midway, Kentucky Honey Farms, Railroad Drug and Old Time Soda Fountain, Midway Shell and Foodmart, 2 Ladies and a Kettle, Damselfly Studio and Gallery and May and Co. of Midway.

Renaissance is selling Midsummer Nights in Midway T-shirts, with the proceeds intended to help install a public restroom downtown. The $20 shirts are available at City Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and at the event.

Volunteers needed to spread mulch on trails in Walter Bradley Park on Saturday morning

Cecilia Gass posts on Midway Musings:
"This coming Saturday, June 25 we will be having a work event to spread mulch on the Park trails. We will meet behind the dog park at 9:30 am and work until 11:30 am. If you have a leaf rake, or a wheelbarrow, feel free to bring it. If you don't, just bring yourself. Gloves are helpful. The mulch does a great job of making the trails more walkable and visible. Please join us even if you can't stay very long."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Council OKs sidewalk law, delays vote on cost sharing

Council Members Dan Roller, Libby Warfield and Steven Craig
continued to discuss sidewalk issues after the meeting Monday.
The Midway City Council enacted a new sidewalk ordinance tonight but delayed a vote on its plan to split costs with owners of the sidewalks that the city deems most in need of repair.

After a discussion that lasted almost an hour, City Attorney Phil Moloney recommended the council not vote on the resolution because there had been "lots of concerns and suggestions."

The concerns were voiced by Council Member Libby Warfield, who said the plan was unfair to people who have inherited problems with sidewalks and done their best to fix them even though some are on fixed incomes.

"The people that have done the most ignoring of their problems . . . are the people you're going to reward with matching funds," Warfield said.

Moloney said the plan, which includes $27,000 in the new city budget for repairs, is for the safety and welfare of citizens. "The city is going to grade the worst sidewalks and address those first," he said.

Warfield said she didn't have an alternative to offer, but noted that the city has never enforced a 26-year-old ordinance that makes property owners who don't fix sidewalks subject to fines of $10 per day.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the ordinance is "ridiculous" because people who can't afford to fix their sidewalks can't afford to pay a monthly fine of $300 either. The new ordinance makes the fine $25 to $250 per occurence and allows the city to make repairs and place a lien on the property to help recover its costs.

Warfield said the cost-sharing plan would benefit "very few people." Vandegrift, sounding incredulous, asked, "Very few people? What about the people who walk on the sidewalks?"

Council Member Steven Craig said he didn't know if the city could maintain the 50 percent cost-share but said it needs to start taking action on the sidewalk problem.

Council Member Dan Roller suggested early in the discussion that no one with property on the city's list of blighted properties be eligible for sidewalk cost-sharing. Craig and Council Member Bruce Southworth agreed.

Council Member Sarah Hicks said the overall plan could save the city money in the long run by avoiding a lawsuit judgment. Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher did not attend the meeting.

The sidewalk discussion began during the citizen comment period at the start of the meeting, when Shirley Wilson asked questions about the plan and said she didn't appreciate the Midway Messenger publishing a photo of her sidewalk with her address. She said the city has many worse sidewalks.

The photo showed a sidewalk badly buckled by a tree, creating a hazardous ledge. Wilson said she had been told that the city planted the tree, and "It's always been a nebulous thing as to whose responsibility this was."

Vandegrift said it's "pretty clear" that the property owner is responsible for the tree, and said the city is lucky that it hasn't been sued by someone who has tripped and fallen on such a sidewalk. "A lot of property owners don't want to keep these up," he said, so the plan was designed "to push these along."

Wilson said, "I feel like my concerns are reflective of a lot of concerns because there are a lot of similar situations." Vandegrift replied, "there are a lot of people who are really concerned about the condition of sidewalks."

For a PDF of the council's meeting packet, including the sidewalk ordinance and the resolution, click here.

In other business, the council approved a $1,000 donation to the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, which had asked for $1,500, the amount it got last year; and approved an event permit for a 5K run to be held for charity on Saturday, Nov. 12.

The council also got reports on the speed monitor on East Stephens Street. On May 12, when the radar was operating in a way not apparent to motorists, 74 percent of the vehicles exceeded the 35 mph speed limit and 11 percent were timed going faster than 45 mph. On May 19, when the radar was operating and displaying speeds, 69 percent violated the limit and 10 percent were timed at more than 45 mph.

Assistant Versailles Police Chief Mike Murray said he asked his officers for more enforcement on the street, and the first night they stopped "nine or 10" motorists and issued "four or five" tickets.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Main Street activity is picking up, with new businesses and new owners for key buildings

By Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway has become known for its delicious food and good shopping, but the commercial trend of Main Street has been a bit sideways, with four of 28 storefronts unoccupied. But a chiropractor's office and the Mezzo restaurant recently opened, Jordyn's cafe is coming soon, and vacant buildings have been purchased, so Main Street is on the rise.

There is rarely 100 percent occupancy on Main Street, said Kenny Smith, the owner of Kennydid Gallery, who first rented a building, then three years ago bought the one where his business is now. It's old, like most on the street divided by Kentucky's first railroad.

"When you buy an old building, you have a lot of work to do," Smith said. "Old buildings require a lot of maintenance and a lot of up keep. But it’s well worth it because when you buy something that’s 150 years old, it’s a lot more special that just buying something in a shopping center.”

MidwaypkgBroughton from Al Cross on Vimeo.

Several businesses rent. The co-owner of bloodstock agency McMahon and Hill, Michael McMahon, says he has never had a bad experience with his landlord. “They lease the upstairs and the next-door place that is going to be a coffee shop,” McMahon said. “They are easy to work with and they are making a big improvement to Midway. They really believe in downtown Midway so they want to see nice places doing business here.”

Some landlords believe in downtown so much that they own multiple buildings. Peggy Angel, the owner of Steppin' Out Boutique, Peggy Angel, says her landlord, Ness Alamdari of Lexington, owns the building and she shares it with two other businesses. “This particular building, as I understand it, originally had the city tower or clock on top of it and lightning struck it several years ago so they are talking about possibly replacing it.”

Ness Alamdari posed in front of his latest building March 7.
Alamdari offers hope for one Main Street building desperately in need, Angel said: “He recently purchased the white building that had been condemned, almost, up the street and had gone vacant for many many years. He has purchased that and is going to totally redo that as well.”

Alamdari bought the building at 116 E. Main, one of the largest on the north side of the street. He didn't respond to a request for an interview, but Angel said, “He is all about the city and wanting to preserve the city and the historic preservation of the city. I know he has worked with other landlords doing various things.”

The Thoroughbred Theater building, which Angel had rented, also sold recently. Its future has not been revealed.

Smith said businesses come and go for various reasons, but there seems to be a core of stability that holds everything together. “Our visitors always comment on what a nice little town Midway is,” he said. “Overall, I think people maintain their buildings well and take pride in the ownership.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bill and Leslie Penn celebrate 20 years of Historic Midway Museum Store

Bill and Leslie Penn held an open house at the Historic Midway Museum Store on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their iconic business. Bill showed visitors the cover of his book, Kentucky Rebel Town, about his hometown of Cynthiana, due to be published by the University Press of Kentucky in October. Congratulations to the Penns on their business anniversary and their contributions to Midway.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Anderson gets permits for work at Midway Station but says he no longer wants tax-increment financing

Initial development of retail in Midway Station is to be bounded by
Georgetown Road, Woody Stephens Boulevard and Lacefield Street
(Click on image to see a larger, clearer version)
Midway Station developer Dennis Anderson is planning to start work on the project but no longer wants to redevelop the property's roads and other infrastructure with taxpayer-increment financing, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway City Council Monday night.

The council approved three encroachment permits, allowing Anderson to develop properties along city streets. Vandegrift said the three lots will be occupied by two retail stores, yet to be announced, and a convenience store.

The start of development indicates that Anderson will buy the property under a longstanding agreement with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which developed it as an industrial park more than 20 years ago but attracted little industry.

Saddled by payments on the debt incurred for the initial development, the EDA and the city turned the property into a potential residential and commercial development, with Anderson making the payments in return for the right to develop the property.

Anderson proposed to redevelop the property with tax-increment financing (TIF), in which most of the additional tax revenue generated by the development is used to repay the developer for the work on streets, parking lots, utilities and so on.

However, state officials said the property was not "blighted," and thus only the new property-tax revenue could be used, not payroll taxes. Anderson had been negotiating with city and county officials about revisions to the ordinance that made Midway Station a TIF district, but recently said he didn't want it, Vandegrift said in an interview.

Anderson, who has several developments in Lexington, has said that he had secured financing for the project. He has not returned a call seeking comment.

Vandegrift said the city still owes about $34,000 in legal fees related to drafting of the TIF ordinance, but will recoup the money and probably more in taxes from the development.

In other business, the council enacted the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and gave final approval to the previously discussed increase in garbage rates.

It also issued a permit that will allow alcohol to be sold and consumed outdoors during the Midsummer Nights in Midway events being sponsored by Midway Renaissance June 24, July 22 and Aug. 19. The events will include local bourbon and beer, live music and vendors.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Midway University hires men's basketball, baseball and soccer coaches from closing Saint Catharine College

Midway University announced Monday that men's basketball, soccer, and baseball coaches from Saint Catharine College, which is closing, will come to Midway, hopefully with many of their team members. Midway also will add men's golf, the university said.

"We are pleased to bring these coaches and their team members into our Eagles Athletics family," Athletics Director Rusty Kennedy said in a news release. "We are hopeful that many of their existing student athletes will transfer to Midway to continue playing together as a team. In addition to Saint Catharine athletes, there will now be an opportunity for other male students to look at our athletics offerings and begin discussions with our coaches about our program."

The coaches hired are: Joe Krupinski, men's basketball; Tim Wolz, men's soccer; and Luther Bramblett, baseball. Otis Smith, the current golf coach, will also oversee men's golf. Midway competes in the River States Conference, formerly the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Kennedy said the school "will be able to incorporate basketball, soccer and golf into our normal operations with the facilities we have or already use; for baseball we will be playing at an off campus facility the first year."

Friday, June 10, Midway University will host an open house only for Saint Catharine students and their families. Advisers, admissions officers and financial-aid officers will be available, and staff will provide campus tours.

Last week Midway was announced as one of the official teach-out schools for students from Saint Catharine, which is just northwest of Springfield. "This means that current Saint Catharine students can easily transfer to Midway University," the school said. "Admission application fees are waived, the residency requirement or the minimum number of credits that must be taken at Midway University will be waived, and earned credits from accredited institutions (inclusive of those credits awarded by Saint Catharine College) will be accepted."

Students can find out more details on Saint Catharine Day on June 10 and register online here. Student athletes can submit a recruitment form online at www.gomidwayeagles.com.