Thursday, September 29, 2016

Council committee to discuss unspecified 'change in regulations' at 10 a.m. Monday

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 3, at City Hall to discuss a "change in regulations," says the notice from the city, with no elaboration. All committee and council meetings are open to the public. The council will hold a regular meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Council committee endorses idea of moving Weisenberger Mill bridge to city park

This story has been updated since the committee meeting.

Walter Bradley Park has a new bridge. It might also be getting an old one.

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council agreed Wednesday afternoon that the city should apply to the state to get the Weisenberger Mill bridge when the bridge is replaced next year. The state is seeking proposals for moving the one-lane bridge, built in 1935.

Weisenberger Mill bridge (Commonwealth of Kentucky photo)
If moved to Midway, the bridge would not span any stream. Its proposed location is a marshy area in the park, next to Newton Street. The park has a new pedestrian bridge farther downstream on Lee Branch, in the formerly overgrown wooded area.

"I think we owe it to our citizens to keep it here, because it means so much to Midway residents," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the committee. He said the state would bring the bridge to the site, but in pieces, and the city would have to pay for reconstructing it.

"What we really want are the trusses," said prospective park manager John Holloway. "The rest of it is just two concrete pads for it to fit on. . . . I would make it as close to the ground as practical." Holloway's park plan calls for two trees at the site, but he said that could be changed.

Committee chair Sara Hicks mentioned other possible locations, but Council Member Libby Warfield said, "I can't see any place that would accommodate it as easily" as the park. Council Member Steven Craig said, "I think it's going to look great in the park and I'm actually excited about getting it there."

The council is expected to discuss the idea. Vandegrift said the state wants proposals by Nov. 10. He said the city has spent about $6,000 of the $10,000 park budget on the pedestrian bridge, but also has more than $3,000 in extra money that has been donated for park improvements.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Park bridge has gained its essential appearance

The bridge over Lee Branch in Walter Bradley Park is virtually complete. Workers are grading the approaches today; the temporary plywood at the far left keeps dirt from falling into the creek. This photo was taken from the upstream side after crossing the bridge.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bridge over Lee Branch in park is nearing completion

L-R: City workers Timmy and Terry Agee, park manager-to-be John Holloway, city worker James Downs.
Lee Branch is bridged. The pedestrian span over the creek in Walter Bradley Park is nearing completion, following installation of the supporting steel beams on Friday. City workers and John Holloway, who is line to be park manager when the city's new Park Board gets organized, worked on installing the wood elements Monday. Holloway, a theatre professor at the University of Kentucky, has spearheaded the volunteer work that has transformed an overgrown section of the park into a great asset for the community. He said the grand opening for the bridge is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'The case of the curious cat' remains unresolved; ordinance committee to consider issue

This story has been corrected.

The concern about lethal traps endangering pets remained unresolved at the Midway City Council meeting Monday night. At the last meeting, on Sept. 6, council members tabled the discussion after they were pressed to answer a letter from a concerned resident whose cat was killed in her neighbor’s yard by a trap set for groundhogs.

This meeting didn't make much progress on the issue either. After a 35-minute debate, council members concluded that the issue needed more public input, so they referred the mater to the council's Ordinance and Policy Committee. agreed to invite the Midway community to voice opinions on it at the next council meeting, on Oct. 10.

Sarah Gilbert was the owner of Bunny Kitty, the cat killed in a lethal trap set in a neighbor's yard back in August. Gilbert acknowledged the friendliness of neighbors and good character of Midway, but she believes that lethal traps don't belong here.

"I really don't think kill traps keep with the spirit of community that we have in this town," she told the council. It is legal to set lethal traps for animals pests in Midway, but Gilbert and her boyfriend, Stewart Surgener, reiterated her written request for an ordinance to ban them.

Members were sympathetic to the loss of Bunny Kitty, but not to the point of taking action.

"I'm not certain that we can enforce this," said Council Member Libby Warfield. Instead of banning lethal traps, Warfield suggested they urge members of the community "to take more personal responsibility" and communicate with neighbors if they resort to using such traps for animal pests.

Gilbert disagreed. "Just because you can't enforce a law all the time, doesn't mean that it still shouldn't be law," she said.

Council Member Daniel Roller Steven Craig said existing ordinances that could make banning lethal traps problematic. He posed the questions: Should pets be on a leash, and do trap owners have rights "if a neighbor's pet is on his or her property?" These questions and more will be examined by the Ordinance and Policy Committee, which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift says will also research how other cities have handled similar situations.

"We're dealing with one unheard element here," Vandegrift said. "We just need to see other ideas of how people handled this."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fall Festival is again a success, despite rain

Crowds filled Main Street and spilled onto Gratz Street.
(Photo by Alexandria Kerns, UK School of Journalism and Media)
By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The sun may not have shone much on Kentucky this weekend, but that did not stop crowds from enjoying the 42nd annual Midway Fall Festival.

The festival started Saturday morning with beautiful weather as visitors gathered on Main Street to explore offerings of the vendors, who were more numerous than ever.  This changed around 4 p.m. when it started to rain heavily, which led many vendors and festival patrons to leave for the day.

Sunday, the skies cleared and many vendors and visitors returned to finish out the festival strong.  Kenny Smith, president of the Midway Business Association, estimated that between 12,500 and 15,000 people came to the festival. Last year’s crowd was estimated at 15,000. Smith attributed the likely decrease to the weather.

“The rain hurt us on Saturday,” said Smith. “We didn’t have a surge of people in the afternoon.”

Among the vendors leaving early Saturday was Carol Hyde of St. Louis, whose booth flooded. She blamed a storm drain directly behind her booth.  Hyde did not let the rain ruin the weekend, however, and returned Sunday to enjoy the rest of the festival.

Some vendors chose to stay despite the rain.  Julia Weber, with Adventures Creation, did not leave until the festival was over Saturday evening. Weber’s booth was full of beautiful jewelry that Weber said she had collected from all over the country. Once the rain passed Saturday, she said, visitors returned to the festival.

“If I can make money, then I am going to stay and enjoy the festival,” Weber said.

One festival visitor, Ashleigh Harden of Lexington, did not let the rain affect her Saturday festival experience. Harden said she loved the small-town feel of Midway, and was surprised to see what the vendors had to offer.

“I was so excited when I saw that one of the vendors was selling succulents,” said Harden. “They were even priced pretty cheap!”

According to Smith, the festival had 127 vendors this year selling crafts and serving food. Smith said some vendors reserved several booth spaces, which extended the festival across Gratz Street next to the United Bank parking lot. The vendors included many new and old faces and products ranging from wreaths, to plants, to pony rides.

About 150 vendor spaces had been reserved, up from 120 last year. One veteran vendor was surprised to see how the festival had grown.  Jo and Sherman Kallin, owners of Down Home Soap from Louisville, were moved from their typical spot because they did not turn register in time. The couple was surprised, but happy to see the festival become more popular.

“We have been coming to the festival for about 20 years, and we’ve never seen vendors by the bank,” Sherman Kallin said.

Several vendors traveled hundreds of miles to be a part of Midway’s community for the weekend.  The Kreole Sisters came all the way from Lafayette, Louisiana, giving festival-goers a chance to experience authentic Cajun food by passing out free samples of pralines and bread pudding. The vendors’ menu included several authentic dishes to visitors such as chicken and sausage gumbo and fried catfish topped with crawfish ettouffee.

R. J. Corman Railroad Co. gave visitors a little taste of Midway history during the festival by having a train on site for people to tour.  Corman set up the train to look like the dinner train that is located in Bardstown. Drew and Gail Costa, from Versailles, were impressed.

“It was nice to actually see inside the train car,” said Drew Costa. “We had thought about doing the dinner, but seeing it made us really want to do it more.”

Even with the downpour of rain Saturday afternoon, the festival was still able to bring in a large crowd of people to Midway. This proved that despite the weather, the festival still a success.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Midway University enrollment jumps 14.5 percent following admission of male undergraduates

By Olivia Jones
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University has its largest incoming class, giving it a 14.5 percent increase enrollment from last fall. This fall’s enrollment is 1,194, up from 1,043.

The university has new graduate-level academic programs and recruits from closed St. Catharine College, but the biggest factor appears to be its first admission of men as resident undergraduates.

In May 2016, Midway’s Board of Trustees made the school fully coeducational. Of the 151 new students, 23 percent are men.

The admission of male undergraduates also meant the establishment of men’s athletic programs, and that was spurred by the closing of Saint Catharine, a Roman Catholic college near Springfield.

In June, Midway University signed agreements with three St. Catharine College coaches that brought not only the coaches, but some of their players for men’s baseball, basketball and soccer teams.

Non-athletics students are also transferring from St. Catharine to Midway; the university is one the college’s official “teach-out” schools, a designation that provides an easier transfer of credits and and waives admission fees.

"This summer has been an exciting, and extremely busy, time on campus," Midway University President Dr. John Marsden said in a Sept. 12 press release, adding that the school's motto this years seems to be "It's a new day at Midway."

It is a new day, compared to 2013 when the school suffered an 18 percent enrollment decrease, dropping to 1,362 from 1,567 the fall before and starting a three-year decline.

The first big drop affected the school’s finances, which had already been hit when the trustees abandoned plans for a pharmacy school that had already cost millions and led to the resignation of the previous president.

The school relies heavily on tuition for its revenue, and cut 12 of the 54 faculty positions. It also suspended making matching contributions to employee retirement accounts. Ellen Gregory, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications, said the matching resumed “within the last budget year.”

Seven of the laid-off teachers filed a lawsuit against the school in 2014, challenging the terminations on the basis of “breach of contract and age discrimination.” Gregory said the lawsuits are still pending.

Enrollment dropped another 16.3 percent in Fall 2014, to 1,140, and another 8.5 percent last fall, to 1,043. Thus, this year’s figures represent a major turnaround.

“Midway has always been an institution that has made changes as needed,” Marsden said in the news release.

The school said enrollment in traditional undergraduate programs (formerly the Women's College) is 432 students, 238 of whom are new to Midway, either first-year or transfers, making the largest incoming class in the history of the institution.

Out-of-state students are 22.7 percent of the enrollment, “and nearly 10 percent of the student body is made up of international students from 10 countries,” the college said in its news release.

The school said graduate student enrollment is at an all-time high at 189 students enrolled in the master of business administration, master of education and master of science in nursing programs.

“The increase in our graduate enrollment is significant,” Marsden said. “We have added additional concentrations in the MBA program, started a new MSN program this fall and our M.Ed. program is the most affordable in the state."

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Weisenberger Mill bridge will have pony trusses like the one that has been closed, but no walkway

By Marissa Beucler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

When the state replaces the 86-year-old Weisenberger Mill Bridge next year, it will try to maintain some of the historical character that made some oppose its replacement.

The small trusses called pony trusses can be seen in this state photo of the bridge.
The new two-lane bridge will include pony trusses, which are the most visible shape of the one-lane bridge and a marker of its historical value.

Casey Smith, the Transportation Cabinet manager of the project, said a very important piece of the construction is “being able to preserve the environment. It’s a historical district.”

Some wanted the bridge to remain one-lane, for historical reasons, but the cabinet determined that a two-lane bridge is necessary for safety and ease of traffic.

The bridge over South Elkhorn Creek has been an instrumental component in the area since it was built in the early 1930s. It is next to the Weisenberger Mill, which was founded in 1865 and built its current structure in 1913. Initially, a primary purpose of the bridge was to expedite the distribution of the mill’s flour and cornmeal products to its customers within the region.

Some neighbors of the bridge fear the loss of its historical value, as well as the likelihood of increased traffic and speed with two lanes.

The state Office of Historic Preservation did an inspection on the bridge, looking for any parts that could be kept and reused, and the cabinet is seeking proposals for dismantling and relocating it.

“The best thing from the safety and economic standpoint would be to go in and replace the entire bridge in addition to 70 more years of life,” Smith said. Heavy trucks violating increasingly lower weight limits have put the bridge in bad condition, and a state inspection found it to be unsafe for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. It was closed July 1.

Federal money has been added to the the project, which is projected to begin in January with an estimated total construction cost of $1.3 million. The work is expected to take one construction season.

Small pieces of property are being purchased to accommodate the new bridge, as well as temporary construction easements.

The bridge is a scenic spot where photos of the mill, dam and creek are often taken, but the new span will not have a pedestrian walkway.

“With every project we do, bicycle and pedestrian considerations are always talked about while we make our decisions,” Smith said. A main focus of the replacement is to widen the bridge, and adding a walkway would add to the width needed for a safe two-lane bridge, she said.

State seeks proposals for moving bridge to be replaced

"The historic Weisenberger Mill Bridge is eligible for relocation," the state Transportation Cabinet announced in a press release Saturday, Sept. 10. "The bridge has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Kentucky State Historic Preservation Office. It is a 5-panel Pratt pony truss circa 1935, a 72-foot long structure with a 12-foot wide concrete deck. The truss span is approximately 40 feet long."

The bridge will be replaced next year and the state is seeking a new home for it. "City, county or state government, as well as a historic preservation organization or anyone else approved by the SHPO, could acquire the Weisenberger Mill Bridge for preservation and reuse at a new site in Kentucky," the news release says. "If relocated to an appropriate setting, the bridge may still be eligible for the National Register."

Before making proposals, interested parties are encouraged to contact the cabinet's District 7 Office in Lexington to get information about the bridge's condition. Letters of interest and proposals for this bridge will be accepted until 60 days after publication of a legal advertisement, which should occur soon. To make a proposal or get more information, contact Derek Adams, Transportation Cabinet, Highway District 7, 763 W. New Circle Road, Lexington KY 40512. Here are some details:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Red Cross, firefighters, other volunteers canvass town to install free smoke alarms and educate citizens

By Claire Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Nathan Bardeen of Eastern Kentucky University installed an alarm.
(Photos by Shawn McLuckie, American Red Cross)
Many residents of Midway got an early wake-up call Saturday as members of the American Red Cross, community volunteers and area fire departments offered free installation and battery replacement of smoke alarms.

The project was part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

Steve Powell, the Red Cross disaster program manager for the Bluegrass area, said the mission of the campaign is to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent by 2019.

“Kentucky really took an initiative with this program and leadership to make it a priority,” Powell said.

Fifteen members of the Red Cross and up to 30 volunteers from the community and fire departments met at Midway Baptist Church before setting out to their specified destinations on maps.

From morning to afternoon, Red Cross workers, volunteers, Eastern Kentucky University Fire & Safety program members and firefighters from the Midway and Woodford County fire departments worked door to door installing small smoke alarms and educating citizens about them.

Three-member teams, one Red Cross representative and two assistants, visited on roughly 20 houses before re-supplying or receiving a map of a different neighborhood.

Quinton Godfrey of EKU watched Nathan Bardeen and Sally Higgins of the Red Cross.
A red vest and two fire department volunteers greeted the citizens as they went door to door with supplies and safety information.

Chief Gerald Walsh of the Versailles Fire Department designed the map of the town with highlighted areas.

“I arrange the streets by how many houses there were,” Walsh said. “As they finish the street, I will hand them another map.”

Anne Peters, 58, who has lived in Midway for about 12 years, thought her smoke detector was fine until one of the teams found that it needed to be replaced.

“I had sort of been counting on it working,” Peters said with a laugh. “So if it’s not working and they catch that, that’s definitely helpful.”

After installing a detector, the teams made sure residents like Peters knew two different exit plans to use in case of fire, and took down their information to keep track of what they did in each home.

The Home Fire Campaign, according to Powell, is on pace to install about 5,000 smoke alarms this year in Kentucky.

“Certainly it never hurts to have somebody remind you,” Peters said. “A lot of people have lived here since the neighborhoods were built, so they might not know about the regulations on smoke alarms.”

Bobby Allison, one Midwegian who had a home smoke alarm installed Saturday, agreed that it can be hard to remember them.

“I don’t know how many people actually check them, or if they think they’re just going to work forever, because they’re not,” Allison said. “I try to check mine as much as I can when I think about it, but at 77 sometimes you forget.”

Midway firefighter Joe Hudson said reminding seniors is a prime benefit of the campaign.

“We have a lot of older families that live in Midway and they don’t even think about the smoke detectors until it’s brought to their attention,” Hudson said.

Hudson recalled a woman who was hearing impaired and did not know Red Cross offered bedside alarms. Hudson said one of the teams arranged for a Red Cross member to contact her soon and get a bedside alarm for her.

“There’s a lot of them that’s very happy to see us out in the community doing this for them,” Hudson said. “Midway is such a small, rural community. You know, we’re kind of like the little back leg of the county and nobody really thinks about it or anything until sometimes it’s too late.”

Powell said issues like Hudson mentioned are exactly why the Red Cross tries to aid rural communities like Midway in the Home Fire Campaign.

“Not all of the rural towns are able to staff full-time fire departments,” Powell said. “A lot of them are volunteer services,” Powell said.

Powell said the Home Fire Campaign has already been documented saving three lives in Western Kentucky.

He said most people might not know how much fire work the Red Cross does.

“I think when people think of the Red Cross they think of natural disasters, but primarily what we respond to weekly are home fires,” Powell said.

Shawn McLuckie of the Red Cross said educating citizens and reducing fire deaths are the main goals of this campaign.

“This is completely free to all residents; we’re not charging them a thing,” McLuckie said. “I feel it’s very good to come in to these communities and do this. It gives the power of choice to the communities. It’s reducing fire death and it’s making educated community members.”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

On 5-3 vote, planners put Versailles bypass extension in proposed goals and objectives; Midway to hold hearing

By Emily Priddy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

On Thursday evening, the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission recommended goals and objectives including the proposed northwest Versailles bypass that could funnel traffic onto U.S. 62 and into Midway.

With a 5-3 vote the commission approved the plan, which will now go to the county’s legislative bodies for deliberation. Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift is planning a public forum in the coming weeks on the issue.

The bypass has long been a point of contention, and Midway citizens and their government have voiced opposition to it.

Chad Wells, chair of the planning commission Comprehensive Plan
Committee, listens as Rich Schein, Midway's sole member on the
commission, speaks. At right is commission member Patty Perry.
Richard Schein, Midway’s sole representative on the commission, made his argument against the bypass, arguing it should be put in the comprehensive plan and left out of the goals and objectives. “Projects do not belong in the goals and objectives” of the plan, he said.

Schein was not appointed to the subcommittee that drafted the goals and objectives, drawing an objection from Vandegrift.

Schein was not the only member of the commission who objected to the proposal.

Referring to this year's removal of the project from the state road plan, Commissioner Jim Boggs said,“This is a dead horse. Some people and some politicians want to wash its mane and clean its tail out and make it think it’s still alive, but it ain’t.”

Boggs added that the addition of another four-lane highway in the county had been discussed for 15 to 20 years with no success, and to promote it further would put the commission in a “dumb” position.

Commission member Patty Perry said, “I don’t think the extension of KY 2113 belongs in the goals and objectives.”

Schein argued that the commission should listen to public opinion on the bypass because it is “charged as a public body.” He said two public hearings and a community survey on the goals and objectives indicated what the community wants.

“With the exception of three people persistently in the public hearings, nobody spoke in favor of a bypass in the public record,” Schein said.

Another argument against the bypass was keeping the integrity of the county park it would bisect. “Look at all the entities that are in there, and we want to build a four-lane highway down the middle of it?” Boggs asked. “Look at how our park is expanding -- and we want to destroy it.”

Schein, a geography professor at the University of Kentucky, said past engineering studies do not all support a bypass: “Those engineering studies are ambiguous.” He said some of the studies are from the 1950s and 1960s when many American cities were building bypasses, but they regret it today.

Schein did acknowledge that there is a traffic problem in downtown Versailles. “This is the story of the hollowing out of American cities . . . the building of bypasses across the country,” he said, adding that the answer may a bypass southeast of Versailles instead.

Despite these objections, with the 5-3 vote the proposal will move forward to the legislative bodies with the bypass language intact. The Midway City Council can choose to adopt or leave out the bypass in the proposal.

“We can adopt the goals and objectives as is but remove some items that we don’t approve of,” Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an interview after the meeting. He said the council plans to hold a public forum within the next three weeks to allow Midway citizens to voice their opinions on the goals and objectives.

“They don’t have to have the same version throughout the county,” said the commission’s legal counsel, Tim Butler.

The goals and objectives provide the basis for final planning and zoning decisions by the legislative bodies in their own jurisdictions, but Midways sole rejection of the bypass would not affect the decisions made by the city and county.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Midway Business Association gets ready for Fall Festival; setup of Main Street begins 8 a.m. Sept. 16

By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Business Association got ready for next week’s Midway Fall Festival and tackled some issues in its regular monthly meeting Wednesday morning. 

Tents and chairs have been ordered, and the Fall Festival is full to capacity with a total of 150 booths signed up to participate this year. MBA President Kenny Smith said there were only 120 vendors last year, which shows how the festival is growing. 

The increase of vendors has caused the festival to expand into the bank lot. Smith said vendors are still contacting the association every day to attempt to be part of the festival, but he has started to turn them away.

The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept 18.

Smith announced that the festival will have new faces this year, including Monique Irons from Lafayette, Louisiana. She will be serving authentic Cajun food.  Her daughter, Alana Henderson, attends Midway University and plays on the women’s soccer team. Irons also will be serving baked goods from her bakery.

Smith is ecstatic to have Irons as a part of the festival. “If you have anything left over, you don’t have to worry about taking it back with you, ” he said.

Volunteers are still needed for trash pickup; the association has not been able to find a group for the job. It plans to look to the university, which recently started to admit men, and the Woodford County Schools. The association is looking for a group to volunteer so that they can donate to this group’s cause.

Setup for the festival will start 8 a.m. Sept. 16, which will close Main Street.  Smith said Gratz Street will remain open until 6 p.m. Friday so the bank will be accessible through the day.  

Other business

The association also discussed Kentucky’s film industry.  Smith said Midway was poorly represented on KYfilmoffice.com with pictures that are old and do not accurately depict the town.  He said seven of the 12 pictures were from the university and some were up to 20 years old.

“I went and looked at Midway on there and we were pathetic,” Smith said. “If I was a producer or a director looking for a location I would pass us up.”

This greatly bothered association media contractor Elisha Riddle, who said the pictures must be updated immediately in order to give users a fair look at the town and what it has to offer.

The association revamped its advertising committee by adding Riddle and Steve Simoff.  This occurred after Simoff explained that an ad in the Kentucky Horse Park Magazine and Louisville Magazine was almost unreadable.

“You take the two magazines and put them side by side, one’s larger than the other and they are both very difficult to read or capture someone’s eye,” said Simoff. He and Riddle said they would make sure that ads in the future are proofed and effective.

Smith announced that he would be stepping down as president of the Midway Business Association after this year.  This also will be the last year that he will serve as the artist coordinator of the Fall Festival.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The case of the curious cat tugs heartstrings and spurs debate at Midway City Council meeting; more to come

By Marjorie Kirk
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Paul Chism, a vice president of Lakeshore Learning Materials, said during Tuesday’s city council meeting that Midway’s culture was one of the motivations for the company’s decision to set up business there. Despite this culture that residents enjoy, every place has its pitfalls.

Bunny Kitty, taking a nap before her final misfortune (photo provided)
Soon after the council approved agreements with the new industry, members were pressed to answer a letter from a concerned resident whose cat was killed in her neighbor’s yard by a trap set for groundhogs. The case of the curious cat became the day’s most time-consuming concern, Council Member Libby Warfield told her colleagues.

Sarah Gilbert said in her letter that she and her boyfriend, Stewart Surgener, moved to the 100 block of South Turner Street in 2010 with her cat, Bunny Kitty. For years the feline wandered the neighborhood and returned home without consequence.

A crawl space in a neighboring yard had been missing a door for quite some time, and Gilbert noticed that groundhogs had moved in. She was not worried about them bothering her family or pet. On the evening of Aug. 9, Gilbert said in an interview, she discovered Bunny Kitty lying still with what she thought was a pile of leaves covering her. But when she went outside she discovered her beloved cat had been killed by a lethal trap. Surgerner spent about an hour trying to pry their pet out of the rusty old trap, set just outside the crawl-space opening.

“A cat can’t say no to a space like that,” Surgener said in a joint interview, “because they would naturally think there was vermin in there.”

Gilbert said, “All four of those houses, you can just walk across the yard. There’s no fences. It’s in this very open place next to a house, accessible to children and dogs and any person that would wander around.”

It is legal in Midway to set lethal traps for animal pests. After the council meeting, Warfield said Midway Baptist Church had hired a pest-control company to deal with the groundhog infestation in its properties behind the church. She said the trap was set "as a last resort" because the marmots are too smart to enter live traps.

Gilbert said the church had no intention of causing harm to Bunny Kitty, but she sees a problem if such traps like these continue to be set. She submitted her concerns, and photographic evidence of her cat's demise, to the council and asked it for an ordinance banning lethal traps.

“Nothing will change what happened to Bunny Kitty,” Gilbert wrote. “Adding this provision to the Code of Ordinances, and so making our best effort to ensure that this does not happen to another pet, will be of some comfort.”

Gilbert's story stirred the council, but Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he did not think the unfortunate death of Bunny Kitty could be remedied by city intervention, and “We can’t prevent all of the sad things that happen.” Vandegrift and Warfield said they had never heard of such an episode in the city.

“If this were a problem that kept occurring, we would have to do something about it,” Vandegrift said. “But I don’t know that anything we do is going to bring that cat back. I don’t know that we’re going to prevent that from happening again.”

Council Member Sara Hicks argued Gilbert’s case, saying that there were other methods that could keep the public and their pets out of danger, such as signs warning pet owners and residents with children that a dangerous trap had been laid in the yard.

Warfield said she worried that Gilbert’s suggestion to ban kill traps would encourage residents to use other more harmful means of pest extermination. “I am as much of an animal lover as anybody in the state but when you take this away … when you have groundhogs eating up your foundation and digging and tearing up, they’ll be poisoned,” she said. “When people use poison that’s even more inhumane.”

Hicks persisted, and the council informally agreed to readdress the concern at the next meeting, at which Gilbert will have the chance to come in and plead her case. In the interview, Gilbert said she was out of town at the time of Tuesday's meeting, but said she plans to attend the next one, on Sept. 19.

Vandegrift said he didn't know how the council could enforce an ordinance requiring warning signs. "It seems like government intrusion," he said.

Hicks second-guessed her own idea: “The only thing is, cats can’t read those signs.”

Council OKs measures to bring 262-employee plant to Midway Station; property-tax cut; snow-removal bid

By Elizabeth Allen, Claire Johnson, Alex Kearns, Emily Priddy and Ben Wolford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council approved financing mechanisms for Midway's soon-to-be largest employer, a tax cut for property owners and a bid for snow removal at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Lakeshore Learning Materials, an educational-products company, is expected to bring 262 new workers to its new distribution center in Midway. They will receive a tax break, paying an occupational tax of 1.5 percent instead of the normal 2 percent for 10 years, as part of the incentive package that helped attract the company.

Paul Chisholm, VP of Lakeshore Learning Materials
Paul Chisholm, the company's vice president of Eastern U.S. distribution, said he and his colleagues spent 15 months in "five or six states" looking for a location for the new facility. “It was really the culture of Midway that fit with our third-generation, family-run business,” he told the council.

There are other incentives. The financing package will put the future Lakeshore property in the name of city. In turn, the city will lease the property to the company, and the lease payments will be equal to the bond payments, about $50 million. This is less than the American Howa auto-parts plant being built in Midway Station, which will employ about 60.

Bond attorney Mark Franklin of Louisville said the city will have no liability, and the package is the only way in state law to exempt an industry from state, county and city property taxes. However, the deal will not shortchange Woodford County schools, because a "payment in lieu of taxes" agreement sets Lakeshore up to pay the schools what they would have paid in taxes.

"Generally, companies do not want to short the schools, especially a company in the business of providing educational materials," Franklin said.

Veteran Council Member Dan Roller asked what would happen "if our new friends decide to walk away in five years." Franklin said Lakeshore would pay off the bonds and take title to the property, making it taxable.

Two council members asked about support facilities that could make Midway a more attractive as a potential residence for new workers and their employers.

Roller asked if a child-care facility would be provided, and Sara Hicks asked if a gym could also be considered "so we could keep our workers healthy." Such facilities could also make Midway an attractive place of residence, rather than a commuting destination, for new workers and their employers.

The child-care center is a good idea, said John Soper, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property. EDA Executive Director Craig McAnelly said a gym has also been discussed. Chisholm said the company has a child-care facility at its California headquarters.

Mayor Grayson Vandergrift thanked Soper and McAnelly for bringing Lakeshore to Midway Station, which had been a failed industrial park and will now be a mixed-use development, with commercial and residential areas too.

“A lot of people worked to get this done … and I appreciate it,” Vandegrift said. “We’ve had an empty piece of land there for a long long time that had an uncertain future and in the last year we have basically set our city on a financial path forward. Not very many small cities in Kentucky can say that.”

Property taxes: The council passed on second and final reading an ordinance setting a lower real-estate tax rate for bills that will be mailed this fall: 10.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, down from 10.7 cents last year. The rate will generate about the same amount of money because property values in the city have gone up. The personal property tax rate for 2017 rate will remain 14 cents.

Park board: The council approved the first reading of an ordinance to establish a park board to "conserve, manage and sustain" the city's parks, following a recommendation from from the Citizens Advisory Committee. Council Member Libby Warfield said the board would take some of the burden and responsibility for the park from the council.

The board would have five to seven members, including at least one council member, all appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council. One member would serve as park manager, reflecting the high level of recent volunteer activity at Walter Bradley Park. Members could live outside the city limits but would have to be residents of Woodford County.

Snow removal: The council geared up for winter weather by extending the deal with the city’s snow removal contractor, Wright’s Farm Services of Richmond, after removing a provision that would have required the city to provide a backhoe for loading salt. "Salt's hard on equipment," said Council Member Bruce Southworth, who asked for the change.

The other bidder for snow removal was Parks Landscape Group of Versailles, which asked for $30,000 for the winter or $90 per truck hour plus $225 per ton of salt. Wright's bid was a maximum of $1,562 for a 2-inch snowfall, with lesser charges for salting without plowing. The bids are part of the council's document packet, downloadable here.

A helping hand: The council heard first reading of an ordinance for refinancing of $1.8 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Lexington Montessori School. All Kentucky cities can issue a limited amount of tax-free bonds each year; Midway's limit is $10 million, but Lexington has already exceeded its limit, Vandegrift said. Four students from Midway attend the school. City attorney Phil Moloney said such bonds incur no liability to the city.

Basketball blacktop: The city's current blacktop contractor reduced his bid for resurfacing the city basketball court to $5,000, from $9,000, leaving the total cost of this year's paving just under the $80,000 the city budgeted. The contractor is getting about $74,000 to pave Northside Drive, and city officials argued that his incremental cost to do the basketball court would be much lower than what he bid.

Smoke alarms: Vandegrift noted that the Red Cross and emergency-services volunteers will canvass targeted neighborhoods Saturday to install free smoke detectors. He said volunteers are still needed, and should meet at the city firehouse at 9:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided.

Sidewalk repairs: The mayor said a list of sidewalks approved for cost-sharing from the city, because repairs would improve public safety, will be provided at the next meeting, Sept. 19.

Information for this story was also gathered by Marissa Beucler, Matthew Hunter, Olivia Jones, Evan Merrill and Kaitlin Taylor of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media.