Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Neighbors protest two-lane plan for Weisenberger Mill bridge, but state says it won't change that design

The bridge was closed July 1 after an inspection found danger.
By Marjorie Kirk
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
    Residents of Woodford and Scott counties contested the plan for a two-lane Weisenberger Mill Bridge during a three-hour meeting Tuesday evening at Midway University.
    The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the State Historic Preservation Office invited property owners who would be directly affected by the project to help find ways to mitigate any adverse effects on historical and archeological properties.
    The National Historic Preservation Act requires that federally funded projects consider effects on historical sites and give the Advisory Council on Historical Preservation a chance to make comments or recommendations.
    The cabinet gave about a dozen people “consulting party” status, and most objected to the limited time they were given to look over documents concerning the project, including the physical features of the new bridge, and communications with Project Manager Ananias Calvin III.  
    Nearly all took issue with the proposed two-lane bridge, but Kentucky Heritage Council Director Craig Potts said the plan is a foregone conclusion and the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the project’s effect on the historical aspects of the area—not to debate one lane versus two.
    Some of the consulting parties pushed back. Ellen Bagby interrupted the agency representatives with calls to change the plan and push back the deadline for comment on the mitigation process.
Bagby said she lives less than a mile from the bridge and making it two lanes would encourage drivers to speed on the narrow country road, creating a hazard to other cars and pedestrians. Others made the same complaint.
    Calvin said a two-lane bridge would be safer than a one-lane, and engineers on the project had considered the traffic that would use the road—including the semi-trailer trucks that were part of the reason for the bridge’s July 1 closure—when evaluating the safety standards the road would have to meet.
    “I can’t say if the speed [of drivers] is going to increase or decrease,” Calvin said. “What we’re going to recommend is that they put a sign over on the Scott County side as well as the sign they have on the Woodford County side: 15 miles an hour because of the curve. We can’t make people abide by it, but that’s one issue that we’re going to bring up.”
    The road is maintained by the counties. Woodford County has responsibility for the bridge, but the state is doing the project in return for the county doing work on a state road a few years ago.
Calvin said semi-trailer trucks continued to drive on the bridge after a 3-ton weight limit was implemented last winter, causing the bridge to weaken. When it was inspected in late June, it was discovered that there were significant problems with the steel infrastructure and it was closed.
    The bridge attracts residents, touring motorists and bicyclists because it offers a good view of the historic Weisenberger Mill, and it is also a popular spot for anglers in South Elkhorn Creek.
Tuesday night’s discussion in a meeting room at Midway University turned into a contentious debate that often interrupted the Transportation Cabinet’s presentation.
L-R at table: Midway Magistrate Linda Popp, mill owner Mac Weisenberger and wife Sally (Photo by Marjorie Kirk)
    At one point, Scott County resident Pat Hagan got up from his seat in the crowd and joined the table of authorized consulting parties after he was told that the meeting’s priority was to address the concerns of those parties.
    When the group continued to make points about the safety of a one-lane bridge, and a cabinet representative said that alternative would not be considered, Bagby shouted out, “Change it.”
    As the night was coming to a close, Bagby persisted, asking for an extension of the Dec. 13 deadline for written comments.
    To this, a member of the crowd pointed out that the longer the public tries to prolong the project, the longer ambulances, buses and traffic from using a route that in some cases is faster for them.
    The cabinet refused to extend the deadline, but representative Jonna Wallace said the discussion did unearth the option of keeping one of the stone abutments that would have been replaced to accommodate a bridge that will be nearly twice as wide.
    But aside from that, Wallace defended the cabinet’s decision. “These determinations and recommendations are evidence-based,” including traffic counts and consultations from traffic experts, she said. “They’re not just because we think it should be this way.”
    Consulting party Bryan Pryor was among those voicing concern over the two-lane bridge, but he suggested at the end of the meeting that the best use of the parties’ efforts would be to lobby their county governments to put up warning signs and traffic restrictions on the approaches to the bridge.
    The bridge is a “pony truss,” or small-truss, span built in 1932. All such bridges more than 50 years old are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, according to David Waldner, the cabinet’s director of environmental analysis.
    To mitigate the loss of the old bridge in a historic district, the new one will be “a truss structure of similar design,” Waldner said in an interview before the meeting. “The aesthetics of that were important.”
    Calvin said in an interview that the cost estimate of $1.3 million is about double the cost of a standard bridge for such a location.
    Waldner said the cabinet considered rehabilitating the bridge, but estimated that would extend its life no more than 20 years and would have cost 40 to 50 percent of the cost of a new bridge, which will last 75 to 100 years. “The economics really didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said.
    Waldner said the cabinet wouldn’t normally hold a meeting for consulting parties and observers on such a small project, “but the interest in this project is fairly high.” He said the cabinet had shared information with consulting parties for six to eight weeks and had met with some of them.
    Calvin told the Midway Messenger on Wednesday that the bid letting for the project has been delayed again, until June, to give the cabinet time to buy small pieces of property that will be needed for the project. He said offers cannot be made until the project’s environmental documents are approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Midway Christmas events start with tree and pole lighting Friday night; Santa set to arrive by train Sat.

Santa's arrival by train is a big event. (2013 photo by Jill Novak)
The holiday season has arrived, and downtown Midway is a full participant, with a big ad from local businesses on the back page of today's Woodford Sun, inviting readers to "Spend a Day in Midway."

The Christmas lighting ceremony is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, starting with the downtown light poles and concluding with the community Christmas tree. Christmas carols will follow. "Please come and add your voice," says Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.

Santa Claus, hitching a ride with R.J. Corman Railroad, is scheduled to arrive downtown at 11 a.m. Saturday. Children can visit him at his Main Street workshop from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Free carriage rides will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"It's no coincidence hat this event takes place on 'Small Business Saturday,' an answer to 'Black Friday,' where Americans are encouraged to support their local businesses who really make our economy go," Vandegrift says. "I hope you'll come out and support out Midway entrepreneurs, enjoy the magic of the season and sip on some hot cocoa provided by the Midway Presbyterian Church."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mayor, EDA chairman clash over proposal to have Midway pay more and expand chairman's contract

UPDATE: EDA Chairman John Soper withdrew his proposal from the agenda for tonight's Fiscal Court meeting.
UPDATE, Nov. 23: Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott offered a new proposal that would have Midway pay 15 percent of EDA expenses, up from 10 percent, and 24 percent of planning and zoning expenses, up from 11 percent, with an additional appointee form Midway to both the EDA board and the planning commission, and a prohibition on EDA advocating "anything even remotely similar to" the northwest Versailles bypass. For a copy of the proposal, click here.
By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
    The Midway City Council meeting Monday evening ended in frustration after discussion of modifying the contract with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.
    The tension rose after Mayor Grayson Vandegrift gave an update concerning the revision proposed by Versailles and the EDA. 
    The proposal would have Midway, Versailles and Woodford County each pay $26,884 a year for EDA operations. Midway now pays $5,000 and the other two $22,500 each.
    The extra money would cover an expanded contract for EDA Chairman John Soper, whom Versailles now pays $63,000 a year for job recruitment. Craig McAnelly, part-time executive director of the EDA, would be phased out of his position. 
    Vandegrift said at the council meeting that he would like to see the city receive another seat on the EDA board and another seat on the planning and zoning commission in return for the new agreement. Last week, he suggested two new seats on the EDA, but he said Monday night, “I don’t think we can agree to this deal without getting more representation on EDA and planning and zoning.”
    Currently, Midway only has one representative of seven on the EDA board and one of nine on the planning commission.
    Vandergrift said Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County Judge-Executive John Coyle did not seem open to his suggestions in his meeting with them Monday. The proposal is on the agenda for the Fiscal Court meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m.
    “I think we can be open to other possibilities,” Vandegrift said. “I don’t think anyone has a problem with giving us two more EDA appointments, but I think in reality this is a big step up for us and it’s the first time we’ve been asked to be an equal partner in it, and I thought what’s really more important was . . . give us one more planning and zoning appointment, because those two things do go hand in hand, and I think, honestly, the planning and zoning appointment would be extremely important.”
    The Midway council indicated agreement with the mayor’s stance.
     “If I’m going to go down to the Grey Goose, and order a steak, and two other people order a steak, and we’re all paying $27, they’re better damn be all the same size steak,” Council Member Dan Roller said.
    Vandegrift said, “I appreciate John Soper’s work, I appreciate Craig McAnelly’s work, but I’ve never seen a deal like this where you already have the person in mind ahead of time. I think in all fairness – this is nothing against John, because he’s a wizard – but there probably should be some kind of open hiring process to this.”         
    Soper said, “If you want to start the process and look at somebody else, that’s certainly an option.”
    Vandegrift replied, “It’s not personal, John, it’s just that I’ve never done this . . . and had a person picked out ahead of time. Generally it’s not done that way.”
    Soper responded, What we have now, I think, is working.” He said Midway Station was developed by a volunteer board and “was poorly designed and was a failure,” costing the city and county $750,000 in extra interest costs until developer Dennis Anderson agreed to pay the interest in return for an option on the property.
    Soper argued that someone who is familiar with the development should be in charge of its future.
“I’ve uncovered most of the issues in Midway Station, and let me tell you there’s a lot of issues,” he said. “From you all not knowing that you didn’t own the water tank, to there not being proper easements into it, to the roads you got that you can’t get a car turned around in. . . . If you go out and you try to bring someone else in, they’re gonna have that learning curve. It’s a tough piece of property. It’s a snake pit and it always has been.”
    Anderson recently decided against building housing in Midway Station, a decision that local leaders endorsed, but he has never developed industrial property and wants EDA’s help. “I think he’ll stay on board if we help him,” Soper said.
    “I’m not sure, you know, if we don’t have a good presence trying to help him convert that, that he’ll continue to pay $10,000 a month in interest for the learning experience of knowing how to do an industrial development. I think he’ll walk. I think he’ll sell three or four more lots and I think he’ll walk.”
    Soper said he disagrees with those who think Anderson is already too heavily invested in the property to walk away from it. “If we’re going to convert it to industrial, which I do think is what needs to happen, then we need to keep the press on like we’ve got and let’s get it converted and get the debt paid for. . . . As long as the principal is out there, you all are still on the hook for the interest.”
    Soper said some members of the Fiscal Court have said the ultimate solution would be a foreclosure sale, but he said that might not produce enough money to pay the debt, and without the property as collateral, “You’d have to pay off the debt or you’d have to pay interest forever.”
    After a brief discussion with council members, Vandegrift said, “I just don’t think it’s the best tactic in the world to say, pay up this money or it’s all going to fall apart, and that’s what I am hearing tonight.”
    Soper replied, “Grayson, I am a realist. You do not pay me to be a politician. I tell you what my opinion is, and my opinion is you all got a lot at risk here. It’s as simple as that.”
    When Vandegrift replied, “Thank you,” and Soper kept talking, Vandegrift cut him off,  saying, “That’s enough. That’s enough. Thank you. That’s enough.”
    Soper then left the meeting. McAnelly, who stands on the losing end of the proposal, stayed for the rest of the meeting. Afterward, Soper sent the Midway Messenger a summary of new tax revenue generated by EDA-coordinated projects.
    Midway’s relations with the rest of the county also figured in the council’s 3-1 vote to approve the revised goals and objectives for planning and zoning.  One change would allow more flexibility in the urban services area. 
    Council Member Sara Hicks voted no, saying the new language “makes the urban service boundary fluid in a way that does not protect agricultural lands.”
    Vandegrift said he believed accepting the language would be a good compromise with Versailles and the county, since a committee of representatives agreed to remove from the proposed goals and objectives a specific reference to the proposed northwest Versailles bypass, which Midway opposes.
    Vandegrift said, “Removing that bypass language was extremely important, and I think we have to show the rest of the county that we are willing to compromise, we are willing to find common ground, even when they are not.”
    In other planning and zoning business, the council approved Vandegrift’s reappointments of Phil Kepler to the Architectural Review Board and Al Schooler to the Board of Adjustment.
    Earlier, the council passed on second reading an ordinance of intent to annex 33.485 acres next to Midway Station, which Lakeshore Learning Materials is eyeing for expansion and a possible supplier.
    After more than two months of discussion and debate, the council passed an ordinance that would make the killing of domestic animals through kill traps illegal. This stemmed from the death of the pet cat of Sarah Gilbert and Stewart Surgener, who wanted to prohibit kill traps altogether.
    “I do not feel as if the ordinance addresses the heart of the problem,” Gilbert told the council.
    Council Member Libby Warfield said a kill-trap ban would be difficult to enforce, and said she hoped that people who set traps for groundhogs or other pest animals will let their neighbors know so pets can be protected.
    The vote on the ordinance was 4-0. Council Members Kaye Nita Gallagher and Steven Craig did not attend the meeting.
    Craig ran seventh in the recent election for the six council seats. This council will have one more meeting next month before the new council including newcomers John McDaniel and Steve Simoff, begin their terms. Roller did not seek re-election.

Zeb Weese named director of Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission

Zeb Weese (Commonwealth of Kentucky photo)
Gov. Matt Bevin has appointed Zeb Weese of Midway director of the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, which oversees 63 state nature preserves with a total of 63,000 acres.

Weese had been coordinator of the nonprofit Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, which works closely with the commission. Before that he was a naturalist at Natural Bridge State Resort Park and a conservation education and natural-resources manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

"Since 2008, the commission and its work have come under withering attack from governors and lawmakers alike, with cuts and funding source raids adding up to about a 40 percent reduction," reports James Bruggers, environmental writer for The Courier-Journal. "Staffing had been cut from 23 in 2008 to about 14 employees," according to former director Donald Dott.

Weese said in a press release, “I am excited to play a role in furthering the KSNPC’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of the aesthetic, cultural, scientific and spiritual values of our natural areas. These special places are part of our legacy to our children and future generations.”
Weese previously worked at Natural Bridge State Park and the Kentucky Department for Fish and Wildlife Resources as a conservation educator and natural resource manager.

KSNPC Commissioner Carl W. Breeding said in the news release, “I’m very confident that he will take the preserves to the next level.”

Midway Business Assn. to hold social Dec. 1 to discuss future of the group and its Midway Fall Festival

The Midway Business Association will host a “Business Social” Thursday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. at the Grey Goose to give community members an opportunity to express their opinions about the future direction of the Business Association and its main event, the Midway Fall Festival.  You are invited to attend and make your views known.  Light hors d'oeuvres will be provided by The Grey Goose.   "We hope to see you there," says Kenny Smith, president of the association.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mayor cancels ban on open burning in Midway

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has canceled his executive order banning all open fires in the city. "The burn ban has been lifted, but please use extreme caution when having contained burnings, as drought conditions still persist," Vandegrift said in an email today.

Friday, November 18, 2016

EDA and Versailles want to cut job-recruitment expense 29% but have Midway pay one-third of budget

By Marissa Beucler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway is being asked to pay more than five times as much as it does now for the agency that recruits jobs for the city and the rest of Woodford County.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority and the city of Versailles proposed this week that Midway’s annual contribution to the EDA rise to $26,884 from current $5,000.

Versailles and Woodford County each contribute $22,500 a year to EDA, but Versailles also pays EDA Chairman John Soper $63,600 to recruit jobs for the city.

“I can’t do my job for the city and spend half my time in Midway; it’s just not fair,” Soper said in at Friday’s EDA meeting. 

The Versailles City Council endorsed the idea Tuesday night. Mayor Brian Traugott said most of the work being done by EDA has produced jobs in Midway through two industrial projects while Versailles is paying “a good deal” for economic development and has no property to offer that is not in litigation.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in interview Friday morning, “I feel to even consider the deal there should be two more appointments” to the EDA board from Midway, which has one of seven members.

Soper indicated that he would favor one more Midway member: “I would welcome another EDA member because we got 103 acres coming to Midway. I’d like another local person that has their ear to the ground saying ‘John, that’s good; John, that’s not good’.”

To enlarge the board, the three governments would have to revise the 1986 agreement that created the EDA. Soper said it needs changing anyway, to reflect current conditions.

Vandegrift said he had not spoken with any Midway City Council members about the proposal, but he and the council will discuss the issue during the council’s regular meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Under the proposal the three governments would equally split the cost of a contract with Soper and pay his health insurance for a total of $68,652 a year. Each would also pay $4,000 a year for other EDA expenses.

The total funding of EDA would be $80,652 a year, down 29 percent from the current $113,600. The savings would come from no longer paying Craig McAnelly of the Bluegrass Area Development District $45,000 to serve as EDA’s part-time executive director.

Midway now pays 4.4 percent of EDA expenses; the proposal asks it to pay 33.3 percent.

Soper discussed the possibility of the county loaning Midway money to pay its share until the American Howa Kentucky and Lakeshore Learning Materials plants generate expected payroll taxes.

Soper said Lakeshore will generate $132,000 in annual payroll taxes, and AHK will produce $44,000 a year. “The money is there but they are going to have to ramp up,” he said.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Midway University trustee pledges $2 million to school

By Matthew Hunter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Long-time Midway University trustee Jan Hunter announced at the trustees’ November meeting her family’s intention to donate $2 million to the school over the next two years.

Hunter (2006 photo)
In a university press release, Hunter commented on the timing of the announcement. "I recently heard someone say that 'The opportunity of a lifetime must be taken during the lifetime of the opportunity' and that spoke to me," she said. “There are so many positive things happening at Midway and we need to invest in the institution and rally others to do the same to keep building on our current momentum."

After years of falling enrollment, Midway welcomed men as undergraduates this fall and received its largest incoming class. To accommodate the growth and expansion, its residence halls and athletic facilities need enhancement, President Dr. John P. Marsden said.

“We plan to utilize this gift in the way that will touch the most students – improving their living space and enhancing our student center and athletic facilities,” Marsden said in the release, which said the school’s leadership team will draw out specifics “over the next few months” on how and where the funds will be spent.

This isn’t the first time the Hunters have been generous to the university. In 2013, Hunter and her husband, Dick, pledged $500,000 to the school shortly after Marsden started his tenure.  In February, she and trustee Belinda Metzger each gave $25,000 for upgrading athletic facilities.

Hunter has been a trustee since November 2000. She and her husband own Hunter Industries Inc. in San Diego, California, which manufactures irrigation systems.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

City Parks Board to organize at 5:30 p.m. Thursday

The new Midway Parks Board will hold an organizational meeting Thursday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. The notice from the city says the agenda items include election of officers and selection of a park manager. All meetings of city agencies are open to the public.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kay defeats Fister to return as state representative, says he will be independent in new House minority

Daniel Fister and Rep. James Kay
By Claire Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The 56th district state representative race did not come down to the wire as the presidential election did through the the night.

Democratic State Rep. James Kay defeated Republican Dan Fister in Tuesday’s election 12,590 to 8,525. Kay carried Woodford County 8,180 to 5,255, the district’s Franklin County precincts 2,071 to 1,597 and the Fayette County precincts 2,339 to 1,673.

While Fister was not victorious, he claimed victory in the experience he received.

“It has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “It’s been the most exciting thing I’ve done in probably 30 or 40 years.”

Fister ranked the excitement of campaigning for election to that of his wedding or when his children were born.

“There’s just a lot of emotions that go with it,” he said.

Kay said he was excited by the response he received in the race: “It was the best response that I’ve ever had in the three times I’ve run.”

He said it was great to see the turnout of Republicans, Democrats and independents who voted for him, especially in Woodford County, where both candidates live.

“When you go door to door and talk to people and visit people on Labor Day, I was confident in what the results were going to be,” Kay said. “I’m truly humbled by the large margin of victory, we personally knew more people.”

On Election Day, Fister felt disappointment for his supporters over a lost outcome, but congratulated Kay for winning.

“I’ve got to meet a whole lot of people and do a lot of exciting things,” Fister said, “and I’ve learned a whole lot.”

Fister said he holds a positive outlook for Kay's next term, but is fearful of the new House that Kay will be step back into. Republicans won a majority of the chamber for the first time since 1920, which puts Kay in a 64-36 minority in the House.

“The whole terrain of the legislature has changed for him,” Fister said, “but I’m hoping he does well and represents us well. I wish him nothing but the best.” He said he hopes Republican control will not put his fellow Versailles resident at a major disadvantage.

Kay said, “It is going to be a big change, but I am truly interested in being the voice of the legislative independent.”

Kay said his aim is for everyone to have a voice. “Kentucky is at risk,” he said, because a governor will have too much power with a Republican House and Senate.

He said it is important to be the voice for multiple parties, especially for workforce and education.

Vandegrift to Democrats: Progressive agenda can fit with job creation; leaders must take stands

In the wake of Democrats' landslide loss of the Kentucky House of Representatives, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift sent the following letter to newspapers very early Wednesday morning.

By Grayson Vandegrift
    There will undoubtedly be autopsies performed of the Kentucky Democratic Party in the coming weeks, but I’d rather focus on a plan for the future, not a postmortem of what went wrong. The fact is, many people already know what’s been going wrong for some time: very few, including Kentucky Democrats, know if the KDP stands for anything that may be seen as controversial.
    In Midway, we’ve proven that a socially progressive agenda can perfectly coincide with a common sense approach to job creation, infrastructure, and quality of life. Despite passing what some opponents called a “job killer,” our fairness ordinance hasn’t resulted in the loss of jobs, but rather, a dramatic increase in them. We are experiencing a nearly 100% increase in jobs in our city since our civil rights bill was passed. That’s not to say that these jobs were created because of the ordinance, but they certainly weren’t deterred by it.
    Increased revenue has allowed us to begin to invest in programs that are resurfacing roads, fixing sidewalks, upgrading our water and sewer systems, and making enormous improvements to our city parks.
    I serve as the mayor of our city in a non-partisan office, and I’m thankful for it. But I am a registered Democrat, and proud of it, even if only because I find the Republican Party mostly unappealing. But I have many Republican friends, and today I’m telling them one thing they must be proud of – at least I know where they stand. If I understand anything about politics it’s this: you have to stand for something that might get you criticized before you can achieve anything worthwhile.

Voters in Midway go for Clinton, Gray and Kemper

City voters formed a line Tuesday afternoon at Northside. The poll for the smaller county precinct, at right, had less traffic. 

Trump precincts in red
The Midway city precinct was one of only three in Woodford County that Hillary Clinton carried in the presidential election. Clinton got 421 votes to 338 for Trump, with 28 voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson, 14 for independent Evan McMullin and 7 for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

In the rural Midway precinct, which extends to the city limits of Versailles, it was Trump 345, Clinton 225, Johnson 20, McMullin 10 and Stein 4. In addition to the Midway city precinct, Clinton carried two Versailles precincts, B103 and C102.

Countywide, the results were Trump 7,697, for 57 percent; Clinton 4,958, for 37 percent; Johnson 529, McMullin 246, Stein 217 and Rocky de la Fuente 13. Statewide, Trump got 62.54 percent of the vote; Clinton won 32.69 percent.

Paul precincts in red
The U.S. Senate race was closer, and much closer in Woodford County, as Republican Sen. Rand Paul edged out Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by 0.6 percent of the vote, 6,838 to 6,759.

Gray carried both Midway precincts, taking the city 489-316 and the rural precinct 309-303. Statewide, Paul won by about 14 percentage points.

The city precinct was the only one in the county won by the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 6th Congressional District against Republican Rep. Andy Barr. The vote was 407 to 390. Barr carried the county 8,650 to 4,873 and easily won re-election. Both are from Lexington, but Kemper pastors the New Union Christian Church at the eastern tip of greater Midway, in the county precinct.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

McDaniel, Simoff join council; Craig is odd man out

John McDaniel and Steve Simoff posed at City Hall last winter after
filing for city council. McDaniel signed Simoff's candidacy papers.
By Evan Merrill, Alexandra Kerns and Claire Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The presidential election was not the only big race on election day for citizens of Midway, as seven candidates vied for six seats on the city council – a council that will have a new look come January, as Council Member Dan Roller did not seek re-election and incumbent Steven Craig was the odd man out. Newcomers John McDaniel and Steve Simoff were elected.

Incumbents re-elected were:
  • Sara Hicks, 64, a family therapist who returned to the area just 12 years ago and was encouraged by friends to run for a council seat in 2014. She received the most votes, with 457, which will make her mayor pro tem.
  • Bruce Southworth, 61, the former wastewater plant operator in Midway, who received the most votes in the 2014 election, will serve his third term after getting 438 votes.
  • Nita Kaye Gallagher, a well-known food server in Midway and a state-government retiree, will return for a second term, receiving 426 votes.
  • Libby Warfield, 64, the only council member besides Craig who voted against the “fairness ordinance” banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, finished in sixth, with 388 votes to win her second term. Craig got 355 votes.

McDaniel, 67, is the Midway correspondent for the Woodford Sun and a former police officer who served time for drug possession in the 1990s but just had his civil rights restored a year ago. He received 413 votes.

Simoff, 67, operates a bed and breakfast and is a racing official who has worked in the horse industry and lived in Midway for 15 years. He came in fifth with 408 votes.

Both spoke at length in their Midway Messenger profiles of a longtime dream or desire to hold a council seat. For both, that desire has been fulfilled.

Craig, 45, lost in the 2012 council race, when he finished in ninth of 10 candidates, but was elected in 2014.

Asked why he thought he lost, "Well, you know, I don't know. I don't think I have the answers to your questions. How about if I just make a comment? As far as going into how things feel and that stuff, is kinda irrelevant."

His comment was this: "I congratulate everyone that won. I'm glad they won; it is a good thing for them. I congratulate Sara Hicks on making vice mayor, and I want to see them keep doing good things for Midway and I think they will. I wish them all the best."

The new council of Hicks, Southworth, Gallagher, McDaniel, Simoff and Warfield will look to work with Mayor Grayson Vandegrift – who is in the middle of a four-year term – to address some of the issues in the election, such as repairing water and sewer lines, promoting tourism, and upgrading roads and sidewalks.

One voter for Simoff was Barb Wanner, 53, a Midway citizen for six years. She said in an interview that she voted for “the two candidates that came to the door,” including Simoff.

Wanner was one of several voters who said they did not really know the council candidates well enough to vote for them. Nathaniel Wyatt, 33, said he voted for only one candidate, McDaniel, because he knows him.

Geddy Walker declined to reveal his council choices. “I know most of those people because I work down at the drug store, so I did kind of find it hard to just exclude one,” he said. I think it would be better if there were more people running for that, because it’s almost a shoo-in that you’re going to get in if you ran for it.”

Information for this story was also gathered by Alexandra Kerns and Olivia Jones.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Anderson won't build housing at Midway Station; site to be industrial, commercial, professional offices

Midway Station will be an industrial park after all, without any residential development, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway City Council tonight.

"We have just learned from Dennis Anderson that he is not going to build residential homes in Midway Station," Vandegrift said. Anderson is the Lexington developer who holds an option on most of the property, owned by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.

EDA Chair John Soper told the council that the agency and Anderson would seek rezoning of the property back to industrial, except 37 acres near Georgetown Road where Anderson plans a commercial development, including 8 to 11 acres zoned for professional offices.

Midway Station was developed for industry in the 1990s. After it attracted only a handful of jobs, and the city and county were burdened by the debt incurred to buy and develop the property, and an attempt to relocate Bluegrass Stockyards to the site failed, EDA optioned it to Anderson and had it rezoned for residential and commercial use. Then the Great Recession hit, and Anderson agreed to make the payments on the debt to maintain his option.

Dennis Anderson (2014 photo)
When the economy bounced back, Anderson planned to redevelop the property with tax-increment financing, which pledges the increased tax revenue from a property to pay the debt for redeveloping its public infrastructure. After state officials said the property qualified only for use of revenue from property taxes, not payroll taxes, Anderson said he wouldn't use TIF after all.

Meanwhile, the property and adjoining land on Georgetown Road had attracted interest from industries, and American Howa Kentucky began building an auto-parts plant that will open soon, employing about 60 people.

Then Lakeshore Learning Materials decided to locate a 262-employee distribution center in Midway Station, and when it almost backed out for lack of natural gas, state and local officials arranged for a big gas line, which Vandegrift said makes the entire property more attractive.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher asked, "How much are we going to charge Dennis Anderson to tap on to gas?" Soper said, "That's a question for Columbia Gas," which is paying one-fourth of the line's $2.8 million cost. The city is contributing $450,000 over five years to the project.

Vandegrift said of Anderson's announcement, "I think we sort of had an inkling this was coming. . . . One could reasonably argue that was never a good place to build homes to begin with," near factories and large electric transmission lines.

Soper said, "It just didn't make economic sense" for Anderson, but for industry, "Midway Station is at the right place."

Vandegrift said Anderson still wants to build homes in Midway, and later he said the city needs to encourage more housing. After the meeting, he said, "At some point, with all those jobs, we need to look at building a few more houses, and maybe they ought to be affordable houses," he said.

The mayor said some people in town don't want more residential development, but he would like to see the population of 1,700 "creep up to two thousand" with the help of some of the new plant workers, who would see advantages to living and working in the same city, to which they will be paying payroll taxes.

The council heard first reading of an ordinance to annex 33.485 acres behind the two plants, between Georgetown Road and the southwest corner of the property bought by Brown-Forman Corp. for new whiskey warehouses. Soper said part of the property is likely to be bought by Lakeshore for expansion, and "part is to control what's around them," perhaps a site for one of their suppliers.

Animal trap ordinance: The council also heard first reading of an ordinance on animal traps, designed to discourage more unfortunate incidents like the death of a pet cat in a trap set for groundhogs.

The proposed ordinance reads, "The means used in removing or evicting any animal, wildlife or pests . . . shall not result in the contemporaneous harming or death of a domestic animal or household pet," and says a copy shall be given to any animal-control business applying for a license in the city.

Stewart Surgener, whose cat was killed by the trap, told the council that it should allow only non-lethal traps. The ordinance, which could be amended, is scheduled for second reading and possible passage at the council's next meeting, Nov. 21.

Part of sidewalk to be replaced at 101 S. Winter St.
Sidewalks: Vandegrift reported that all three property owners offered city subsidies to fix their dangerous sidewalks have accepted and are getting bids. Five properties are involved: 100, 101 and 105 S. Winter St., 117 W. Bruen St. and 106 S. Gratz St.

Appointments: The council approved Vandegrift's appointment of Joanna Smith of Northridge Estates to the city's new Park Board, and of a new Trail Town Committee: Pam and Randy Thomas, Helen Rentch and Council Members Sara Hicks and Dan Roller (who is going off the council). Vandegrift said the committee would explore the possibility of connecting Midway with trails in Scott and Fayette counties.

Surplus property: The council approved a resolution declaring as surplus property the old house in the Midway Cemetery. That will allow the city to put the house up for bids, with the bidder to remove it. Hicks asked that the bidder be allowed a limited time to accomplish the removal, and city attorney Phil Moloney said that could be one of the bid specifications.

Event permits: The council approved permits for the next annual Iron Horse Half Marathon, to be run Oct. 15, 2017, and for a new 5-kilometer event, RaceRise, to benefit the Midway Ministerial Association, on New Year's Day.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Leslie M. Sharon, longtime builder and restorer, dies

Longtime Midway builder Leslie Murphy Sharon died Thursday at 88. For 70 years he built or restored hundred of homes, churches and businesses in Central Kentucky, first as partner in Sharon and Stone Builders, then on his own.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Jean Clifton Sharon; his daughters, Midway City Council Member Leslie “Libby” Warfield (David), Margaret “Peggy” Sharon, and Cynthia Jean Karrick (Philip); six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and a brother, Marvin Clay Sharon (Bessie).

Sharon was a native of Scott County. His visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Johnson’s Funeral Home in Georgetown. The funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Midway Baptist Church, with burial in the Midway Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the church, where he was a deacon, Sunday school superintendent, teacher, trustee and finance committee chair, and took a leading role in major restoration of the building during the 1960s.

"He gave of his time and talents where needed to help make a stronger community," and was "often seen working on something around town that needed to be fixed," says his obituary; read the full version here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Firefighter leaders Armstrong, Price build city's department over 23 years of volunteer work

Story, photo and video by Leah Sharp
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Fire Chief Butch Armstrong and Assistant Chief Vincent Price make up a long-running team at the Midway Fire Department.

This summer, Armstrong and Price celebrated their 23-year anniversary of being chief and assistant chief. They took on their leadership roles in June 1993.

“The only way I was going to take on being chief is if Vince would serve as assistant chief,” Armstrong recalled.

Armstrong has been with the fire department since he was 20, in 1974. He said he joined “because it was a family thing on my in-laws’ side of the family” and his brother-in-law invited him to join.

Price joined the department in 1976. He grew up in Midway, he said, so “it was a calling” for him to become a firefighter.

Armstrong said that a little after he had joined the department, Midway made some changes by stopping “old habits of being unorganized.” 

“Before Midway organized the volunteer fire station, a siren would go off and whomever could come to the station would hop on a truck and go put out the fire,”  Armstrong recalled. Now a team is organized to come to the fire station if a call is made.

“What once started out to having just a helmet and rubber jacket to now having a full body suit,” Armstrong said. “A lot has changed since we have joined.”

Current regulations require all volunteers to have their own full body suit and accessories that come with it.

The department has 13 volunteer firefighters. Armstrong works at Lehman’s antiques store. Price has been retired for 12 years.

Armstrong and Price said they have no intentions of stepping down from their positions any time soon.

“Together we have stuck it out, and built it up with the city’s help,” Armstrong said. “I think we did a good job.” In 2015, the city bought a new fire truck, and they were able to customize it to fit their needs. Price talks about the "brotherhood" of the department:

Council agenda: annexation, animal traps, Midway Station, sidewalk deals and more

The Midway City Council has a long agenda for its regular meeting Monday evening at 5:30 at City Hall.

The council plans to hold first reading of two ordinances: one annexing more than 33 acres of farmland next to the Midway Station industrial zone, and one putting animal trappers on notice that they are expected to leave domestic animals unharmed. The farmland is in line for industrial development, and a citizen's requested a ban on trapping after her cat was killed by a trap set for a groundhog.

The agenda also includes an update on developments involving Midway Station, appointments to the new Park Board and Trail Town Committee, two event permits and a resolution declaring surplus the house at the cemetery, so it can be put up for bids for sale and removal.

Also on the agenda is an update on sidewalks. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said this week that all three property owners who were offered a city subsidy of 50 percent, up to $1,000, for repair of their dangerous sidewalks, have accepted.

All meetings of the council and its committees are open to the public.

First-ever men's basketball team at Midway University loses its first home game, 89-74; now 0-3 on season

By Matthew Hunter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
               After starting its inaugural season in the Marian Classic in Indianapolis over the weekend, the Midway University men’s basketball team fell in the program’s first-ever home game to Lindsey Wilson College on Wednesday.
               The Eagles (0-3) came into the matchup undersized and attempted to combat that by playing zone and limiting Lindsey Wilson’s touches inside.
               Midway’s only lead of the game came just after tipoff at 4-2. Then the Blue Raiders (3-0) used a flurry of transition points off turnovers to fuel a 17-2 run, prompting Midway Coach Joe Krupinski to use his first timeout.
Lindsey Wilson worked the baseline and frequent passes to the middle to open up Midway’s zone defense to draw fouls and find open teammates.
               Midway’s backcourt wouldn’t concede the game that easily, though. Freshman guards Bryson Harris and Brandon Johnson led the Eagle attack in the first half, each netting eight points. Midway was efficient on offense in the first 20 minutes, shooting 14 of 26 from the floor, and converting on four of nine from the 3-point line.
               Krupinski said his Eagles shot well because “We moved the ball a lot better and we shared the ball better. Some of the guys finished around the rim, which that hadn’t really happened the other day.”
               Lindsey Wilson led at halftime 44-34, getting production out of forward Charles Sutton, who led all first half scorers with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including a pair of threes.
               The start of the second half showed some fight for Midway as Harris was the catalyst in a 15-3 Eagle run that pulled his team within two, 49-47.
               “He’s taken it upon himself to be the heart and soul of the team in trying to get us better every day,” said Krupinski, who coached Harris and other Eagles-to-be at now-closed Saint Catharine College last year. “He’s the one guy we have back who’s playing right now who had a significant role on the team last year.”
               Veterans Tyler Smothers, Gerry Milligan and David Jump are the other returning players who Krupinski said he wanted to get into the game plan moving forward.
               After almost losing its lead, Lindsey Wilson responded with a 25-8 run to create the largest deficit of the game, 74-55. Turnovers, which have plagued Midway’s offense early in the season, were again an issue for the Eagles.
               “Our motion offense involves them reading defenses, and we got to get better at reading those plays so we don’t continue to turn it over,” Krupinski reflected.
               Midway continued to chip into the lead as they narrowed the margin to10 with just under four minutes to go. The Blue Raiders were too much on this night as they prevailed 89-74.
               Three Eagles scored in double figures. Harris led the way with 19, freshman Brandon Maxwell contributed 14 and Johnson had 13. Lindsey Wilson’s Sutton led all scorers and tallied his first double-double of the season with 31 points and 10 rebounds.
               There was no recorded attendance for the evening, but students, faculty and community members alike showed up for the home opener.
               “I told the guys, ‘100 years from now when the first team is on the wall, that’s going to be you’,” Krupinski said with a grin. “I hope we can all look back on this and remember that we were a part of something when it gets to be really big.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

University, community team up for 'A Day for Midway'

L-R: President John Marsden, Joyce Evans, Ellen Gregory (MU photo)
By Alexandria Kerns
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway community and Midway University teamed up Thursday evening, Oct. 27, at “Day for Midway” to honor community spirit and raise money for Woodford County students.

A Day for Midway honored Joyce Evans and her late husband, Joel, with the 2016 Community Spirit Award. Ellen Gregory, the university's vice president of marketing and communications, thanked Evans for all of her hard work in the community and introduced her. In accepting the award, Evans told a story about the first time her husband volunteered in Midway.

 “It was pretty bitter between our group and the city council,” said Evans. “When we left a city council meeting Joel said ‘I’m going to fix something,’ and he went down the next day, and found the clerk and he fixed the chairs that were squeaking during all those meetings.”

Supporters surveyed the silent auction. (Photo by Alex Kerns)
“Day for Midway” started with a silent auction that raised money for a scholarship for any Midway student from Woodford County.

According to Gregory, who organized a “Day for Midway,” the silent auction had around 100 items, including a trip to Disney World with a three-day hopper pass and four nights at a deluxe studio. This was valued at $3,800 and was donated by Jan Hunter. Other items included a gift card from Midway Chiropractor, a coffee and tea basket, and a gift card for My Old Kentucky Dinner Train.  These items came from businesses and residents in Midway.

Midway University students were involved with a “Day for Midway.” Precious Holloway, a freshman from Alabama studying equine sciences, painted two pumpkins for the auction. Holloway said that the event was a great way to see how the town wants to help the university. 

“I like painting so when she sent out the email about painting pumpkins, I was like I have to do it,” said Holloway.

Other students volunteering for the event included Taylor Gregory, a senior from Somerset, who is also studying equine sciences, and volunteered last year as well. Gregory said she loved seeing the town rally to help raise money for scholarships for students.

“The support we get is phenomenal,” said Gregory. “I would really like to see fellow students start supporting local shops like the Fashion Filly. It’s a fun little boutique, and they give a 10 percent discount to students.”

Many faces from Midway attended a “Day for Midway” including non-incumbent city council candidates John McDaniel and Steve Simoff. McDaniel said the event reminded him of something the town used to do in the 60’s called “International Days.” Simoff said he had been to the event the last two years, and loved to see the community and the university work together.

“I would like to see more students downtown, and find more things for them to do,” said Simoff. “I would like to visit with some of the students to see what they would like to see or do in Midway.”

Midway University adds more sports; first home game for men's basketball team is Wednesday at 7 p.m.

By Matthew Hunter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
               This fall, Midway University opened its doors to men for the first time since it was founded in 1847. That meant the addition of men’s sports, and the school announced recently that it will add three more sports next fall.
               The new teams will be men’s tennis, men’s cross country and co-ed cheerleading.
               “They were natural extensions of what we already had,” Athletic Director Rusty Kennedy said in a phone interview. “We had the facilities in place and it made sense to expand.”
               The announcement came after the institution’s decision to add six teams earlier this year, bringing the total number of sports offered to 17.
               The men’s basketball team began play Friday at the Marian Classic in Indianapolis, losing to Marian University 90-76. It lost the second game of the event to Mount Vernon Nazarene University, 94-68.
Assistant Coach Marquis Estill and Coach Joe Krupinski watch
the men's basketball team practice. (Midway University photo)
               The team, which has former University of Kentucky standout Marquis Estill as assistant coach, tips off their first-ever home game against Lindsey Wilson College this Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Marshall Gymnasium.
               Both men’s golf and soccer are well underway. Kennedy is encouraged from what he has seen in the first couple of months of the seasons.
               “Our men’s golf team is solid and has had good finishes,” he said. “Soccer has a winning record and are third in their conference, which is impressive because there are highly ranked NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] teams they compete with. We are very excited for basketball, baseball and the rest of the sports to get underway in the coming months.”
               Next fall, Midway University will have men’s and women’s teams in cross-country, golf, soccer, tennis, equestrian hunt seat, equestrian Western, and cheerleading. Baseball for men, and volleyball and softball for women, are also offered. Kennedy said archery will also be co-ed starting next fall.
               “Thanks in part to the addition of male and co-ed sports this year, we’ve enjoyed a record undergraduate class of incoming students,” Midway President John Marsden said in the press release.
               Kennedy, who became athletic director about nine months ago, said athletics have been a strong component of the student life experience at Midway for more than 40 years, when the institution was Midway Junior College.
               As a result of Midway admitting men and the closing of Saint Catharine College near Springfield, participation in athletics has increased partly because student-athletes and coaches migrated from Saint Catharine.
               According to Kennedy, Midway had 92 student-athletes across eight different sports when he arrived. Now, Kennedy says, Midway has 260 student-athletes across 14 different sports.
               “The decision to add these new sports so early into the academic year is so our coaches and admission staff have ample time to work to recruit for the upcoming year,” Kennedy said in the press release.
               Midway coaches go far beyond the borders of Kentucky, and even the United States of America, to recruit prospective student-athletes. In men’s soccer alone there are players from Chile, England, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama. In baseball, there are athletes from California and Texas.
               “We try to recruit Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio the most,” said Kennedy. “It’s our best base but we recruit neighboring states and internationally as well. We are not bound by a geographic area.”
               Prospective student-athletes are encouraged to visit Midway’s athletic site and fill out a recruiting form to get in contact with coaches, according to Kennedy.
               “It’s an exciting time at Midway University with all the growth,” Kennedy concluded. “All the things we are doing is to benefit and to open up opportunities for our students.”