Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cora Emma Combs Washington, 85, died Wednesday; funeral to be at Midway Christian Church on Monday

A prominent Midway citizen and a leader of its African American community has passed. Cora Emma Combs Washington, 85, died Wednesday, Dec. 28.

She was an elder of historic Second Christian Church and the widow of Jerome E. Washington. Besides her husband, she was preceded in death by two children, Janice Collins and George Anna "Did" Campbell. Survivors include her daughter, Brenda Jackson; grandchildren Yolanda Collins, Juanita Collins, Jerome "J. W." Collins, Ayana Dixon and Jeremy Campbell; great-grandchildren Jasmine Collins, Maya Dixon, Alexa Dixon and Caramia Collins; and special friends, Mrs. William Clark and Dr. and Mrs. Norman Fisher.

"She was always so interested in the children in Midway," Dee Dee Roach said in a comment on the Midway Musings Facebook page. "She was a very special lady who told wonderful stories of Midway's past."

City Council Member Dan Roller wrote, "We went to a picnic at Historic Second Christian Church one time and Mrs. Washington was waiting in her car, near the tables with food. She said, 'If you are looking for my pies, I don't put them out until after people start eating, otherwise they skip the food and go straight for my pies.' We will miss that wonderful smile!"

Wilda Willis Caudle wrote, "The bakers in God's Heavenly bakery will get first hand instructions on making mouthwatering from scratch butterscotch pies. Rest in peace, Ms. Cora Emma. You have more than earned the golden rocking chair in your heavenly mansion."

Funeral services will be held at noon Monday, Jan. 2 at Midway Christian Church, 123 E. Bruen St., with visitation from 11 a.m. to noon. Burial will be in Sunset Memorial Gardens, with O.L. Hughes & Sons Mortuary of Lexington in charge of arrangements.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Organist for 78 years at New Union Christian Church dies at 97

Martha Jane Stone at her organ in 2009. (H-L photo by Tom Eblen)
By Tom Eblen
Lexington Herald-Leader

Martha Jane Stone became the organist at New Union Christian Church when she was a freshman at Transylvania University in 1938, and she stuck with it until shortly before her death Wednesday at age 97.

Stone, who also played cello for decades in several Lexington orchestras and taught music at Transylvania for 33 years, died at Baptist Health Lexington two days after major surgery, said the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of the church on Old Frankfort Pike at Browns Mill Road.

Kemper tried to get Stone listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-serving church organist, but she couldn’t find enough documents to prove her 78-year tenure. Many records were lost when the church’s former building was demolished in 1962.

Stone had been a member of the small, 182-year-old congregation longer than anyone else, Kemper said, having been there through two buildings, three organs and five ministers.

“Martha Jane lived a remarkable life filled with music and friendships,” Kemper said. “She was an excellent music educator, continuing to teach me — her one-time piano student at Transylvania — music theory nearly every Sunday as we went over the hymns together. We will miss her greatly.”

Stone grew up in Owensboro, Paducah and Pineville before moving with her family in 1933 to the Lexington house where she lived the rest of her life. She never married.

Stone graduated from Transylvania University with a degree in music and mathematics, which she said caused her to mistakenly get a draft notice after World War II began. Few women studied math in those days, she said, so the Army had put the names of all math majors into the Selective Service System.

Stone earned a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1949 and later studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She taught piano and organ at Transylvania from 1947 to 1980.
Stone played cello with several local orchestras, including the UK Radio Orchestra in the mid-1940s and the old Lexington Symphony, before spending 42 years with the Lexington Philharmonic, where she performed on both cello and keyboards.

Stone’s funeral will be Jan. 3 at 1 p.m., with visitation beginning at 11 a.m., at the church. Burial will be at Lexington Cemetery.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lighting restorer moves to Midway, where he had trade

A wide variety of lights hangs in Setzer's Chandelier and Restoration Shop. (Photos by Claire Johnson)
Alex Hein moved his shop from Lexington and renamed it.
By Claire Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Restoring antiques to their original form is nothing new for Alex Hein, owner of Setzer’s Chandelier and Restoration Shop, which opened Nov. 1 at 120 E. Main St.

In fact, reviving household antiques is more like a family tradition for Hein, since his family has been in the antique business for as long as he can remember.

Hein said most people might know him from his business, previously named Mirror and Brassworks and located in Lexington, where he is from. He lives in Cynthiana, but chose Midway as the best location for his shop.

A customer had pointed out an open space in Midway in the summer, and Hein took the opportunity to revive his shop with a new location and a new name.

“I have been in business for twenty years doing this. I’ve had a lot of customers in this town,” Hein said. “And honestly, I just really like the town.” His new location allows for people to get in and out of town easily to pickup and drop off items, he said.

The shop opened Nov. 1 and is decorated for Christmas.
A great location and love for the town were not the only reasons Hein made his move. “There’s a lot of older generations [in Midway] that deal with brass, copper, and silver and that have it to restore,” he said. “Some of the horse farms here I do a lot of work for, and generally because Midway is so historic.”

One of his most memorable restorations was on the historic 1850s John Graham House near Midway, featured in the May/June 2011 edition of Sophisticated Living Magazine. The owner of the house at the time, Kim Morris, said Hein is one of the few people who are passionate about what they do.

“His restoration knowledge and experience has found him in a niche that needed to be filled.” Morris said, “We are lucky to have a specialty business like his available to us in our community.”

Hein no longer does mirrors but still works with brass.
Hein said he has done work on many of the historic houses in Midway over the last 10 years.

Eric and Ellen Gregory of South Winter Street hired Hein for a large project on her great grandparents’ historic house in Metcalfe County, untouched since 1909.

“In the attic, we found all of the original gas lights.” Eric Gregory said. “We took one to him when he was over in Lexington and his eyes lit up.” He said they were so blown away that he could restore them, they decided to bring Hein dozens more. “He’s a true craftsman,” Gregory said. “With his level of excellence for a fair price, you just keep coming back.”

Hein said he can restore and fix chandeliers, as well as any type of lighting or rewiring a customer may need. The shop also sells restored, antique fixtures, lighting and antique fireplace accessories.

In conjunction with the move to Midway, Hein said he wanted to change the name of the company completely. “I don’t do anything with mirrors anymore and I haven’t in a long time,” he said, “so I wanted to change the name totally.” The new name, “Setzer,” is German for setting prices or a market inspector.

Since people in the community already know of his work, Hein said he has already seen a good response from the town. Some new clients have even brought items in for him to restore or fix.

“Midway is such a town of renaissance and craft and artists,” Gregory said. “I think he’ll be appreciated here.”

Hein’s reason for repairing antiques is simple according to him: He just enjoys it. “You can take stuff that looks like it should be thrown in the trash and make it look like a million bucks.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Woman's Club recognizes top Christmas decorations

The Midway Woman's Club has announced the winners of its 12th annual House Decorating Contest, judged on the night of Dec. 16. The judges were Debra Shockley, Amanda Glass, Katie Vandegrift and Sara Hicks. Pictures of the winners will be posted here as they become available. Several photos, especially the night views, are much better enlarged. To view a larger version of each photograph, click on the image.
Best Yard, 219 Cottage Grove
Most Fun, 103 Carriage Lane
Best Overall Design: 232 West Higgins Street

Best Daytime Display: 238 West Stephens Street
Best Christmas Spirit: 548 South Winter Street
Best Front Door: 412 Mill Road
Best Traditional Decorations: 251 West Cross Street
Most Whimsical Lights, 138 Cottage Grove
Special 2016 12th Anniversary MWC Holiday D├ęcor Judging Award, 102 Cottage Grove
Other winners were: Most Animated Lights, 222 E. Stephens St.; Best Wreath, 408 Merrywood Dr.; Most Creative Lights, 106 Cottage Grove; Best Indoor Tree, City Hall, 101 E. Main; Best Business, Mezzo, 131 E. Main; Best Outdoor Treet, 120 E. Higgins St.; Best Porch, 221 Johnson St.; Best for Spirit of Woodford County, 105 Circle Dr. (off West Stephens, past the cemetery).

Mayor recaps 2016, month by month, mostly in rhyme

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Every December, while we’re winding down another year, we tend to reflect on our most recent trip around the sun as we decompress and re-energize for a new one. In that same vein, I thought I’d do a month-by-month rundown of what happened in the City of Midway this past year, with help from the archives of the Midway Messenger and old copies of The Woodford Sun. So here it is, “The Year in Midway” in 150 words or less:

January: Midway Renaissance re-ups, MLK service unites us.
February: Chocolate Stroll downtown, American Howa breaks ground.
March: Midway’s “Calendar Girls” wows, Mezzo waters mouths.
April: Volunteers plant 200 trees, Brown-Forman to house whiskey.
May: Francisco’s Farm a success, Midway U. goes co-ed.
June: For the Penns a celebration, Midsummer Nights, no TIF after all at Midway Station.
July: State closes Weisenberger span, council ok’s the sidewalk plan.
August: Lakeshore Learning bringing 300 jobs; new trails at the park for all to walk.
September: FallFestival holds its 42nd, university enrollment in the right direction.
October: Leaves don’t yet fall due to strangely warm weather, a new footbridge ties the city together.
November: Parks Board meets for the first time, Santa arrives on the railroad line.
December: Midway Merchants hold a planning meeting, awards are given for lights in the city.

Seems to me like a pretty good year, so season’s greetings and a happy new year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Midway Station plants and new convenience store boost chances for hotel in Midway, mayor and EDA chair say

By Claire Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

With construction scheduled to start in April for Woodford County’s first modern hotel, a Holiday Inn Express in Versailles, Midway and county officials have high hopes for a hotel in Midway.

Plat of Green Gables development with one potential hotel site marked;
another is across the interstate (Click on the image for a larger version)
Two potential sites are currently available in Midway, according to Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and John Soper, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority. One, on a plat already approved by zoning officials, is between Interstate 64 and the Shell convenience store in the Green Gables development on Leestown Road. The second site could be north of the interstate at Midway Station, according to Vandegrift, who prefers this site.

The prospects for a Midway hotel are improving because Midway Station is getting its first large-scale industries and a convenience store, developed by Dennis Anderson of Lexington, who has an option on the unsold parts of Midway station and is the developer of Green Gables.

Soper said, “When a hotel is looking to build a site, they want gasoline and food next to them. It is also industrial-based. Industry brings people in for the week, tourists come on the weekend.”

Soper said Anderson has had a potential investor look at both sites. “It didn’t pass the mustard, so to speak,” Soper said, referring to the investor’s decision not to build.

Soper and Vandegrift said the investor did not physically visit Midway, but relied on the internet, and Vandegrift said “The hotel chain did a feasibility study to see if Midway would be a good choice” but it probably did not show enough residential homes in Midway, which has a population of about 1,700 compared to 9,000 in Versailles.

“They have more rooftops, so there’s more chance of succeeding with more residents nearby,” Vandegrift said.

Midway City Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she thinks Midway should have gotten a hotel before Versailles, and so does Vandegrift.

“I was surprised too,” Vandegrift said. “Our proximity to I-64 is more ideal to a hotel.” The Bluegrass Parkway is not nearly as travelled as much as the interstate, he said.

Soper said the jobs Midway Station is about to receive will boost the chances for a hotel. American Howa Kentucky Inc. will provide at least 54 jobs and Lakeshore Learning Materials has promised 262 in return for state and local incentives.

“When these two plants get up and running,” Soper said, “I think we have a real good shot at landing a hotel.”

Vandegrift, a former restaurateur on Main Street, said it is “crazy” that Midway does not have a hotel already. He agreed the two plants will increase the likelihood, but he also said if investors actually visit Midway, they will see it as a good investment.

“We already have a good amount of people that visit for the day, but would stay if they had a place to stay,” Vandegrift said. “We just need to get them [investors] here on the ground to see that.”

If Midway received a hotel, downtown businesses would benefit the most, according to Vandegrift.

The mayor said he thinks Midway would see a significant increase in tourism if a hotel were added.

“I’m not holding my breath we will get one soon,” he said, “but I’m very hopeful.”

The Holiday Inn Express in Versailles is set to open in the late fall of 2017, according to Soper.

The hotel will have 82 rooms, more than doubling the number of rooms subject to the “bed tax” levied by the county tourism commission. Those rooms are all at bed and breakfasts, and generate revenue of about $10,000 a year for tourism promotion, much less than adjoining counties.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Northside Elementary madrigal dinner is Thursday and Friday; tickets are still available for the second night

The Northside cafeteria has been decorated like a castle for the dinners. (Photo provided by Erin Casimir)
By Evan Merrill
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

This time of year, many schools offer some sort of musical performance or Christmas play to involve students. Northside Elementary School in Midway takes a different approach.

Under the leadership of music teacher Erin Casimir, the school will be hosting its second annual madrigal dinner, with a cappella singing by students, Thursday and Friday nights.

Casimir said she came up with the idea as she sought a program for the children that could also be an effective fundraiser.

“The idea for the program came about as a ‘revival’ of sorts from a program that I participated in while in elementary school,” Casimir said in an email.

About 80 students in the fourth and fifth grade will participate in the event. Casimir said they will be servers for the two-day event, beginning Thursday evening, as well as a “royal court” of students who auditioned for parts.

Casimir said the production is a very special event due to the high level of production for such young children.

The food will be provided by the school district’s food services, and the event will raise funds for the school’s music department. Casimir and the school have decorated the cafeteria as a castle, reflecting madrigal singing’s roots in the Renaissance.

“It is a big night, as it is such a huge production it is not your typical ‘elementary Christmas program,’” Casimir wrote. “With the meal, drama, comedy, and music it incorporates so much more than just singing some songs. The kids really take ownership in the serving process and making the guests feel welcome.”

The two-day event will seat an average of 125 people a night. Tickets are still available for Friday night: $12 for adults and $6 for students 3-12. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15 and Friday, Dec. 16. For ticket inquiries contact Erin.casimir@woodford.kyschools.us.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Police still seek convenience-store thief, step up patrols

By Kaitlyn Taylor
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Police are still looking for the employee who they think stole $30,000 and a truck from the Midway Food Mart on Nov. 20. The theft has prompted Versailles police, who patrol all of Woodford County, to increase their presence in Midway in the third shift, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
A Versailles police officer who lives in Georgetown parks his cruiser at the convenience store. (Photo by Kaitlyn Taylor)
According to police and an employee of the store, Baljit Singh, the suspect is Greg Smith, who worked as a handyman for the Shell-brand convenience store for four to six months.

Singh, brother of the store manager, said he never suspected Smith. “He was working with us for the past six months,” he said, “and we never doubted him.” But WLEX-TV quoted the manager as saying that Smith had taken the truck and disappeared for two days before returning.

Singh said the theft occurred while Smith was fixing ceiling tiles. “We are open 24/7 and employees were still present when he was doing his job,” Singh said. “He was the one who put the safe in the ground. Maybe it was since then that he put the plan in his mind.”

Although the safe needed a code to open it, Singh said, Smith broke into the safe and walked out the front door as if nothing had happened. According to police, Smith was caught doing the crime on surveillance cameras before unplugging surveillance them and unlocked the office door through the ceiling tiles.

Greg Smith (driver's license
photograph via WLEX-TV)
Smith hopped in the black Ford F-150 that belongs to the store and has not been seen since. Police are continuing to search for him and the truck, and have a warrant for his arrest, said Mike Murray, assistant chief of the Versailles Police Department.

“We are still going over the video and surveillance,” said Lt. Michael Fortney. “Stuff like this does affect the community. Luckily no one was hurt and we want to tell people it is a random, isolated incident.”

Fortney said police “have stepped up patrols” in the Midway area in response to the theft.

Murray said, “Whenever on third shift, all the officers that work in the Midway district, especially any business that is open 24/7, we constantly do extra patrols. Third shift is so vigilant under business checks. That’s what we focus on, on third shift." He also said that after the theft, officers in the northwestern part of the county were told to also keep an eye on the Midway area.

Fortney said police want to make sure that the area near the interstate is a safe environment for locals and those who are passing through.

“We have an officer that is assigned to Midway city limits 24 hours a day and we want to let people know that they are safe and that we are taking this seriously,” he said. “We stepped up our patrols before this convenience store was opened. We simply added it to our routes when Subway, McDonald’s and other businesses were building in that area and when it officially opened.”

According to police, when the store opened three years ago, they stepped up patrols because it was the first 24/7 business in Midway. An officer who lives in Georgetown parks his cruiser at the store, Fortney said. Murray said officers may also fill out paperwork in their cruiser at the store when time permits.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trails Committee to have organizational meeting

The Midway Trails Committee will meet this Monday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. at Midway City Hall. "This meeting will be organizational in nature," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Council honors departing Roller and Craig, reviews annual audit of city's finances

By Emily Priddy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council Monday evening honored Dan Roller and Steven Craig as they leave the council, reviewed a recent audit of the city, and confirmed the goals and objectives submitted by the planning commission.

Council Members Dan Roller and Steven Craig, left and right,
posed with Mayor Grayson Vandegrift after their last meeting
as members. (Midway Messenger photo by Kaitlyn Taylor)
Roller has been elected to the council three times, serving since 2011. This year, he decided to not seek re-election. “Dan has been the driving force on the council in updating the city of Midway’s property maintenance code,” Vandegrift said, reading from a proclamation he had written.  Roller served on the Property Maintenance Code Committee during his time on the council, working to resolve issues with blighted properties. Continuing his proclamation, Vandegrift said, “Many formerly blighted properties have been rebuilt as a result of Dan Roller’s work.”

Vandegrift added: “Dan put significant time and energy into making Midway the eighth city in Kentucky to adopt a fairness ordinance.” The June 2015 ordinance prohibits businesses that have more than seven employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In recognition of his service, Vandegrift declared Dec. 31 “Dan Roller Day.” This will be his last day on the council.

Craig, the other council member honored at Monday’s meeting, was one of two members who opposed the fairness ordinance. The other was Libby Warfield. After serving one two-year term, he ran seventh in last month’s election for six council seats.

Vandegrift praised Craig in his proclamation for using “his considerable skills and talents to improve Midway’s city property.” Craig has worked at Georgetown College for the last 20 years and also works for the Woodford County Fire Department.

Vandegrift credited Craig for the sidewalk in front of the Midway Veterans Memorial in the cemetery. Craig was on the council committee dedicated to sidewalks that created the city’s first sidewalk cost-sharing program. Vandegrift declared December 30 “Steven Craig Day.”

The council passed a resolution confirming the goals and objectives for the comprehensive plan adopted by the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission. The council had passed a similar motion at its last meeting, but Planning director Pattie Wilson asked the council to adopt a formal resolution.

The goals and objectives had long been a point of contention because one goal specified an objective that included a proposed northwest Versailles bypass. If built, the bypass would funnel traffic from Versailles onto Midway Road, U.S. 62.

The specific reference to the bypass was removed as part of an amendment by a committee of representatives from the governing bodies, appointed so that all would be in agreement.

The resolution passed unanimously. Council Member Sara Hicks, who voted against last month’s motion, was not present Monday evening.

While the resolution didn’t plow new ground, it gave Vandegrift an opportunity to comment on planning and zoning issues.

“I think the whole document is a compromise . . . There are questions that we need to not let drop,” Vandegrift said, alluding to relations between Midway and the rest of Woodford County. Midway’s sole representative on the commission, Rich Schein, was left off of the subcommittee that drafted the goals and objectives.

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott has proposed giving Midway another seat on the commission, and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, in return for Midway paying more to fund the planning function and EDA.

Traugott’s proposal was a reaction to tension that arose at the last meeting between Vandegrift and EDA Chairman John Soper over Soper’s proposal to raise Midway’s payment to EDA to finance a contract for Soper, who already has such a contract with Versailles. Midway also only has one representative on the seven-member EDA board.

Vandegrift told the Messenger that he has scheduled discussion of the proposal for Jan. 3, the next council meeting, when new members Steve Simoff and John McDaniel will take office.

Audit finds a weakness and a deficiency

The council also reviewed a financial statement provided by Smith & Co. CPAs. The statement said the city's finances have a material weakness and a significant deficiency. The firm described the material weakness as the city not having internal control “over financial reporting that would allow it to prevent, detect, and correct a significant misstatement in its financial statements.”

The statement said, “The city has financial restraints that prevent the hiring of accounting personnel” such as certified public accountants. It described a similar cause for the significant deficiency.

In describing the deficiency, the financial statement said “There was not adequate segregation of duties over receipts, disbursements, and reconciliations at City Hall. The clerk/treasurer accepts cash receipts and also records the amounts into the accounting system.”

The recommendations suggested by the firm were: “Mail should be opened by an employee not responsible for accounting, such as the assistant clerk or the mayor. Cash receipts could be recorded in a cash receipts journal and the deposit prepared by this person. The cash receipts journal, supplemented by remittance advices, could be forwarded to the clerk/treasurer for postings to the general ledger and detail customer accounts. Cash receipts should be deposited intact daily. Holding receipts for a weekly deposit exposes the city to loss.

“Bank statements, canceled checks, and appropriate advices should be received by someone other employees maintaining cash records. Such items could be periodically reviewed prior to turning them over for reconciliation. Unusual items noted during the review should be investigated promptly. Signed checks should be also mailed without allowing them to be returned to the employee responsible for accounts payable.

“The mayor should review supporting documents for normal recurring disbursements (not usually reviewed) on a spot-check basis. Non-routine testing would aid in ensuring compliance with city policy for all disbursements.”

Vandegrift told Smith & Co. accountant Jason Strange that he actually does such a review when the city issues checks, twice a month. Strange said the statement was referring to corrections in the ledger, which Vandegrift said he does not check routinely.

The audit statement also said, “Journal entries should be approved by an employee other than the one who prepared the entry. Bank reconciliations should be reviewed by someone not responsible for entries in the receipts and disbursements records. Inasmuch as this is difficult because of the small number of office employees, we recommend that test reconciliations be made from time to time by one of the council members. In addition, he or she should review, approve, and sign the bank reconciliations to document the approval.”

Strange said both findings were common for cities similar in size to Midway. “The second finding is very common for local governments and cities of smaller sizes . . . it’s related to segregation of duties,” he said.

Warfield, the only council member who asked questions about the audit, told Strange, "I take from your comments that you're not overly concerned about it."

“I wouldn’t say I’m not concerned,” Strange said. “They’re common.”

Warfield said of Strange’s staffing recommendations, “I can see the benefits to that.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New city Parks Board to meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The new Midway Parks Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, Dec. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, at 101 E. Main St. The board was created by the city council, so all its meetings are public, as are meetings of the council and its committees.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Midway Business Association, citizens hash out issues

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, standing, spoke with Business Association members and interested parties Thursday night.
By Emily Priddy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media 

The Midway Business Association hosted a “business social” Thursday night to allow business owners and citizens to share ways the group can improve attendance at association meetings and prepare for the future of the Midway Fall Festival.

The group discussed how to improve communication among members, how to address parking issues, and how to provide a public restroom for visitors, and heard Mayor Grayson Vandegrift say a new City Council committee will help local businesses.

Business Association members, Vandegrift and interested citizens gathered at the Grey Goose to discuss the future of the group. Approximately 20 people attended, participating in open discussion for nearly an hour. Amid waning attendance at meetings, communication was a point of concern.

“There just seems to be a lot of pettiness and self-interest,” said Steve Simoff, MBA member and council member-elect.

Joshua Naylor, general manager of the Grey Goose, commented on communication issues, citing “unnecessary and detrimental pettiness.”

Elisha Riddle, a social media and marketing consultant who works for the MBA and the Versailles Merchants Association, also pointed out the communication problems. “I think the biggest thing I see in Midway is a cohesion problem,” she said, “In Versailles I have cohesion. People work together, they ask what the event link is, they ask what they need to do, and they do those things.”

For example, Riddle compared the towns’ Christmas open houses. She said 1,000 people were interested in the Versailles event’s page on Facebook, while Midway had 256 people interested in its event. “There is no reason we can’t accomplish the same thing here,” she said.

Vandegrift told the group, “I have seen this merchant association do well, I’ve seen it not do well, and the key is y’all have to work together. If you all work together, the city will be there to carry you across the finish line.”

Two years into his four-year term, Vandegrift sees the need for the city to play a bigger role in helping local businesses. “Maybe we need to help out a little more than we have the last two years,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift announced that he would be making appointments to a new committee called Events, Outreach and Tourism. He has named council members-elect John McDaniel and Simoff to the committee already, both were present at the business social Thursday night. Vandegrift said more appointments will be made in January. 

The committee would focus on city events and tourism by reaching out to the business association on how they can help, Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift, who operated a Main Street restaurant for several years, had some advice: “Try and every now and then see the city as the newcomer sees the city.  Try to remember the first time you saw the city, it’s magical, it just captures you immediately.”

Kenny Smith, association president, said the Fall Festival is a tremendous amount of work for one person, and the association will benefit from hiring Riddle to be its coordinator, a job he has handled the last two years. Riddle was chosen to take over the festival by three members of the association who attended its October meeting. He suggested that she be hired as the event coordinator year round.

Many in attendance voiced the need for a public restroom on Main Street. “We have to work with the city to get a bathroom downtown,” said Leslie Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum store and association treasurer.

Vandegrift said he understood the need, but saw it as a future endeavor for the city: “We can use our resources in better ways.” He estimated $20,000 would need to be raised for a restroom and maintenance that is required, and suggested that Midway Renaissance aid in the fundraising effort.

Vandegrift encouraged more shop owners to provide bathrooms for their customers if possible. 

Brian Lynch, owner of Amberway Equine, suggested that City Hall restrooms be opened on weekends with volunteer help.

Vandegrift said, “If we had a consistent turnout for volunteers to man City Hall I would certainly look into it.”

Lynch volunteered to build a public parking lot on land he owns just north of Main Street, with help from the city and businesses. Lynch said he would need “stone, electric . . . put some lights in for the staff to safely get back to their vehicles” after restaurants close.

Simoff expressed the need to resolve the parking situation for businesses downtown. “An idea I have is that if you own a business try to find a place off the street so that your customers can park there,” he said. Simoff said each parking spot in front of businesses downtown is worth about $5,000.