Saturday, December 23, 2017

Ministerial association to hold 2nd Frozen Rails 5K on Jan. 1; register online or get packet Dec. 30 or race day

The Midway Ministerial Association is staging the second Annual Frozen Rails 5K on Monday, Jan. 1, starting at 2 p.m., with the start and finish at the corner of Main and Winter streets. The race will benefit the association, which expects 300 or more runners to participate.

All pre-registered runners and walkers will receive a long-sleeved T-shirt while supplies last. Registration packets can be picked up at Midway Christian Church Saturday, Dec. 30 from 1 to 3 p.m., or on race day, or runners can register online at https://runsignup.com/Race/KY/Midway/NewYearsDay5KInMidway.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Latest print edition of the Messenger is available

The latest print edition of the Midway Messenger has been distributed to businesses and public facilities in Midway. We publish a print edition once a semester to highlight student work, but this one also includes John McDaniel's essay about Sam Shepard. If you have story ideas for the spring semester, please mention them in a comment on this post or send them to al.cross@uky.edu. For a PDF of the print edition, click here.

We thank Libby and Brereton Jones for sponsoring the printing of this edition. Merry Christmas, Midway!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Woman's Club announces winners of decorating contest

The Midway Woman’s Club has announced the winners of its 13th annual Christmas house decorating contest. The best daytime display was judged to be at 202 South Turner St.:

Mezzo Italian Cafe and Provisions, 131 E. Main St., won the award for best business decorations:

The home of Midway University President John Marsden, 305 S. Winter St., won for best wreath:

The award for Most Animated Lights went to three side-by-side homes at 138, 140 and 142 Carriage Lane. We tried to get you a video, but getting good photos of Christmas lights is tricky, and getting good video of them is even trickier, so you'll just have to go look for yourself.

New to the contest this year was the People's Choice Award, chosen by votes for the favorite of four houses on the Midway Musings Facebook page. The award went to the home at 106 Cottage Grove. The runner-up was 232 W. Higgins St. Honorable mention went to 112 Old Towne Walk and 117 Carriage Lane.

Other awards were: Best Front Door – 412 Mill Road Place; Most Creative Lights –119 E. Stephens St.; Most Whimsical Lights – 238 W. Stephens St.; Best Indoor Tree – 304 S. Winter St.; Best Christmas Spirit – 209 Gayland Drive; Best Traditional Decorations – 225 Gayland Dr.; Best Overall Design – 109 Carriage Lane; Best Outdoor Tree – 345 Northridge Dr.; Most Fun – 103 Carriage Lane; Best Porch – 219 W. Higgins St.; Best Yard – 219 Gayland Dr.; Best Inflatables Design – 222 E. Stephens St.; Special 2017 13th Anniversary MWC Holiday Décor Judging Award – 116 E. Stephens St.; Best for Spirit of Woodford County – 102 Cottage Grove; and Best Gate – Southern Equine Stables, 241 N. Winter St.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

City to ask residents what they want from it, explore idea of creating neighborhood associations

The City of Midway plans to survey residents about their needs and wants, and ask about the possibility of creating neighborhood associations in the town.

City Council Member Sara Hicks revealed plans for the survey Friday evening, at an Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee meeting called to discuss the idea of neighborhood associations.

"We are planning an outreach at the first of the year called 'All Aboard,' to find out what people in town are wanting from the city," Hicks said. The survey would be posted on the city's website and included with water-sewer bills.

Hicks and the committee agreed to include in the survey a few questions about neighborhood associations, such as potential benefits and pitfalls, improvements they would like to see in their neighborhood, and what neighborhood residents consider themselves to be part of.

Joyce Evans, a promoter of the neighborhood-association idea, said preliminary discussions have defined as many as eight neighborhoods and as few as five. She said drawing a map is "way down the road."

Judy Offutt, another promoter of the concept, said initial discussions should focus not on boundaries, but "the social aspects of it and a way to get to know your neighbors. We've talked so often about people on our block who we don't even know."

If the survey indicates sufficient interest, the next step could be a town meeting to discuss the concept. Council Member John McDaniel, who suggested a meeting, said it could be moderated by a Kentucky League of Cities staffer who moderated a town hall in Midway a few years ago.

"You need the interaction," McDaniel said. "What Sara's talking about would give us some ammo, different things to be sure and cover at the meeting."

Offutt said neighborhood associations would not be legal entities like homeowners' associations that enforce deed restrictions, levy dues and "tell you what color you're going to paint your house. . . . That's not what what we're talking about at all."

She, Evans and council members said neighborhood associations could encourage neighbors to look out for each other, provide babysitting services, set up telephone trees for communication, provide assistance during natural disasters, and work on projects such as replacing old trees -- "just something that makes these neighborhoods get closer," Evans said.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Council panel to discuss neighborhood associations

The Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at City Hall. The meeting notice says the purpose is to discuss neighborhood associations, and no action will be taken. All committee and council meetings are open to the public.

The council discussed the possibility of creating neighborhood associations on March 21, pursuing a suggestion by Joyce Evans and Judy Offutt. Evans said the idea was “driven by the need for a little closer communication within the community.” She added, “I think it’s about getting to know who your neighbors are and how you can interact with them and help out.”

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said at the March meeting that neighborhood associations would be “a great way to connect city government to the city,” but Council Member John McDaniel questioned the need for them, noting Midway's small size, and said he would prefer "town hall meetings."

Vandegrift said such meetings typically attract about 30 people, and neighborhood associations would probably be more effective because individual leaders within the associations could promote involvement in each community, person to person. He, Evans and Offutt agreed that the first step in creating associations would be to establish neighborhood boundaries.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Message from the mayor: Christmas lights judging Fri.; shop at home; council meets Jan. 2; Merry Christmas!

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

If you want to be in the running for one of the coveted Midway Woman’s Club annual Holiday Decorating Awards, make sure your strands are plugged in this Friday night. Starting at 7:30 p.m., members of the club will be driving around all of Midway’s 11 square miles to pick the best of the best. If you wake up Saturday morning with an award attached to your door, you’ve got bragging rights for at least 365 days.

When and if you’re looking for one of those last-minute gifts, I strongly encourage you to find that little something in downtown Midway (if you haven’t already). Locally owned businesses make Midway’s commercial economy standout from the pack, and study after study shows that money spent close to home tends to stay close to home. Shop owners who get support from local citizens do better, and when they do better, they reinvest in their communities, which benefits everyone.

Our next city council meeting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 2 (because of the New Year’s holiday) at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. In the meantime, here’s to hoping that you and yours have the happiest holiday season yet. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sam Shepard's last book, written at his Midway home, is an intimate, precise portrait of Lou Gehrig's Disease

Shepard chose his book's cover image, of an old
man staring at circling birds, by Graciela Iturbide.
Playwright, author and actor Sam Shepard, who had a home near Midway and spent his last days there, is the author of a just-released book about his fatal struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Spy of the First Person "is an unvarnished, intimate portrait of a man facing the end of his life, as he reflects on his past and observes how his own body has betrayed him," Alexandra Alter writes for The New York Times.

"He had always been incredibly private, and he didn’t want to publicize his deteriorating health," Alter reports. "Few people apart from his family, closest friends and collaborators knew about his diagnosis." It was known among those in Midway who knew him, but as usual, they respected his privacy.

"Shepard explored his condition through his writing in vivid, precise prose that transformed his worsening symptoms into something akin to poetry," Alter writes. "He wrote in notebooks at first, as he always had, but when his condition grew more grave and he could no longer control his hands, he dictated into a recorder" while sitting in the garden of his home near South Elkhorn Creek in Scott County. He got help from his longtime editor, LuAnn Walther, and his old friend, singer Patti Smith.

Sam Shepard's home near Midway, where he died July 27
“He was always a very private writer, and the fact that he was now having to involve his family in his process was not easy for him,” Walker Shepard, one of Shepard’s two sons, told Alter in an email. “I think it was a relief for him to work with Patti because she is not family.”

Shepard's sisters, Sandy and Roxanne, "transcribed the tapes and gave the pages back to him to read over," Alter reports. Sandy Rogers told her, “His mind was like a steel trap. He would dictate for an hour and a half or two hours from the top to the bottom, and he would never change anything.”

Alter writes, "One of the most moving moments in the book occurs before the story even begins. In a heart-rending inversion of a typical dedication page, where the author often thanks his or her family, 'Spy of the First Person' is dedicated to the author himself: “Sam’s children, Hannah, Walker and Jesse, would like to recognize their father’s life and work and the tremendous effort he made to complete his final book.”

The 96-page book is available at the Historic Midway Museum Store. For Midway City Council Member John McDaniel's remembrance of his friend, written shortly after his death, click here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Electric-vehicle charging station unveiled at City Hall

Cutting the ribbon: Council Member Bruce Southworth; David
Huff, director of energy efficiency and emerging technologies for
KU and LG&E; Mayor Grayson Vandegrift; council members John
McDaniel and Sarah Hicks; Woodford Forward CEO Chase Milner.
Kentucky Utilities representatives and Midway city officials unveiled KU’s new publicly available charging station for electric vehicles Thursday in the far corner of the parking lot behind City Hall.

The City Council agreed in July to reserve two spaces at the back corner of the parking lot for the charging station, which was installed at no cost to the city. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said then that KU had picked Midway to be one of 20 towns with such stations, which charge $3.28 per hour.

Council Member Sara Hicks, who had pushed the idea, said at the July meeting it would attract new visitors to town and generate business because "They'll have to sit around for an hour" while their vehicles charge. Vandegrift said, "It's just the next step in becoming a greener city."

Local nonprofit Woodford Forward took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Its chief executive officer, Chase Milner, "initiated outreach with KU and the mayor of Midway this spring in seeking to cultivate a private/public EV partnership opportunity," the group said in a news release.

“Chase helped to bring renewable energy innovation and EV charger development to Midway’s infrastructure grid, thereby putting the City of Midway ‘on the map’, which will help to attract more zero-emissions vehicle drivers to Woodford County,” Woodford Forward Chair Benny Williams said. “We hope that this effort will also help spur more destination tourism to Midway’s uniquely charming and historic downtown, as EV drivers will now have a great place to visit and shop while they wait on their vehicles to charge.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mayor sees much progress, several challenges in annual report to City Council

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift delivered the following annual report at tonight's meeting of the Midway City Council.

It’s easy for many of us – at least I know it is for me – to go through life as though Midway is the center of our universe. For me and you, in so many ways, it is the center, and so I think you’ll forgive me for speaking in such terms. Developments in recent years have been extremely encouraging, and now we are seeing the fruit of generations of care that has given us a better right than most to lay our claim that we are the greatest small city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

More specifically, our general fund is very healthy, our debts are rapidly being paid down, and there is no need to raise any city taxes anytime in the near or remote future. In each of the last two years we have lowered property tax rates, and come budget time, I’ll be proposing we lower them once again.

In financial terms, the reason for our stability is no secret. In fact, the entire Bluegrass Region knows that Midway is open for business. As I stated previously, the added payroll taxes generated by American Howa Kentucky, now in full production, have begun flowing into our city coffers, and with the end of the 4th quarter of 2017 approaching, we will soon begin to collect the significant revenue that Lakeshore Learning Materials is generating, and of which we have all been long awaiting.

Midway University, also a significant contributor of occupational tax revenue, is thriving. Now co-ed, their enrollment numbers are climbing, and nothing but good news is coming from 512 E. Stephens Street. The Homeplace at Midway is an enormous sense of pride, a significant employer, and it continues to win accolades for their superb service to the wisest of our citizens.

Downtown is as vibrant as ever. Three new restaurants have opened in the past year alone, bringing our downtown dining options to an impressive eight, and new shops continue to relocate here from Lexington. The downtown business district has organically been expanding from Main Street onto North Gratz, stretching towards our continuously improving Walter Bradley Park.

A rejuvenated Midway Merchants Association has created new and successful events that have delighted local businesses, residents and visitors. Midsummer Nights in Midway had a terrific sophomore season, and the Midway Fall Festival brought in the largest crowds the 43-year-old event has ever seen. Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival continues to improve, and creates a midsummer boost of its own to downtown shops and restaurants. We should continue to support and encourage these efforts, providing these non-profit organizations the atmosphere – and the autonomy – they need to succeed. I challenge the Midway Merchants Association, in particular, to have it so there is at least one event in each month of the year, so as to give local merchants much needed support to get them through the tougher times.

As a government, we’ve shown that we can accomplish tasks that have seemed elusive to the city for many years. The success at Midway Station, the resolution of inconsistent cemetery regulation, and the public-private collaborations that led to the repair of highly trafficked sidewalks have proven that like our citizens, our government can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Our next challenge will be passing and enforcing a new Property Maintenance Code ordinance that will ensure that diligent property owners are not burdened by careless neighbors, and that renters in our city never have to suffer the negligence of bad landlords.

We’ve also made important tune-ups to our wastewater treatment plant in hopes that we can extend its lifespan for another decade. In 2018, we will finally pay off the old wastewater treatment plant. We should then consider having the plant appraised, deemed surplus property, and put up for public bid. We are currently planning improvements to some of our worst storm sewers, and will be paving more roadways in the spring.

With all of the positive news we’ve become accustomed to, we still have many challenges. As I’ve said before in previous annual reports, we can’t take our eye off of needed improvements to old water and sewer lines. Currently, we are making repairs in small doses, and this policy will need to continue until we have paid off our current debts, because no matter how much new revenue we have or are still to create, the expense of such projects will still most likely involve borrowing money.

Despite the change in fortunes the city has seen at Midway Station, many challenges there still await us. Nothing worries me more at the moment in our mercurial industrial park than the fate of the roads. It is clear now that there can be no guarantee that any private developer will pay for the cost of the needed finishing coat on the roadways there. At the same time, I don’t see any reason why we as a city should accept into our possession any road at Midway Station in its current condition.

One solution is to continue to push for a rezoning of the 61 acres on the east end of the park from residential back to industrial. Aside from the increased revenue this would generate, it could also allow for the complete removal of those inadequate roads in that portion of the park.

All of our problems, however, are solvable; most cities would gladly trade their main issues for ours. If a community works together, and everyone’s light is allowed to shine, then they possess a formula for success.

In summary, our local economy is booming, our citizens are engaged, and our accomplishments can easily be seen. Despite our challenges, it’s abundantly clear that our city is flourishing, and the opportunities we have are only bounded by our own imaginations. I have never been more optimistic about our city’s future than I am right now. Like the classic children’s story about a little engine that could achieve what others believed impossible, we are the “little city that could,” because we think we can … we think we can … we think we can …

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Train brings Santa Claus to Midway, delighting children

Santa Claus made his annual arrival in Midway this morning via the RJ Corman Railroad Co. A large crowd of children and adults waited along the tracks and East Main Street for the engine and caboose, which arrived promptly at 11 a.m. Santa greeted many of the children and even some of the adults.

Santa's arrival, and Friday night's lighting of the tree, next to the tracks near the corner of Main and Gratz street, signaled the full-scale opening of the Christmas season in Midway, which merchants began on Nov. 4. For a YouTube video of Santa's arrival, by Mary Massie, click here. For her video of Santa at the Eat, Drink Breathe cafe, go here. Thanks, Mary!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Housing no longer planned for Midway Station; mayor says he doesn't want 'sprawling' housing developments

Midway Station is likely to remain an industrial and commercial development, with no residential zoning. That was the main news as Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reviewed recent developments and looked ahead with the City Council Monday evening.

Vandegrift said developer Dennis Anderson, who has an option to buy much of Midway Station, "is very interested" in changing 61 acres that are zoned residential back to industrial. He said they agree on the need for that, especially with the truck traffic to and from the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center that began shipments this month.

"It never really was a good idea out there," with industrial property so close to residential, Vandegrift said.

Midway Station was a failed industrial park in 2008 when the council and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority adopted Anderson's plan to turn it into a commercial and residential development. That plan was delayed by the Great Recession, then was changed by the advent of industry on and near the property and the state's expected disapproval of Anderson's initial tax-increment financing plan to redevelop the property.

Housing: If the 61-acre tract is once again zoned industrial, Vandegrift said, there will be no plans for housing in Midway. He said housing developments need to be affordable for the young and old, have a "small footprint" and "fit with Midway. . . . We do not need another sprawling neighborhood with a big footprint."

Specifically, the mayor said there should be no residential development south of Leestown Road, other than "infill" of small, undeveloped tracts. That could run contrary to the plans of David Thomas Phillips, who owns 31 acres between Leestown Road and the Northridge Estates subdivision. In 2010 Phillips filed a lawsuit seeking a judgment seeking to invalidate development restrictions that were supposedly placed on the property at the time Northridge was developed. The lawsuit has not proceeded largely because Phillips has not pressed it, apparently die to legal complications.

Immediately before his Leestown Road comment, Vandegrift said, "We should be thinking about some guidelines to keep our growth in check and keep it sustainable." Speaking more generally, he said the city needs to look for small industries, not just "whales." Lakeshore has promised to employ 262 people to earn incentives from the city, county and state.

Annexation: The mayor noted that EDA decided last week to exercise its option on 104 acres of the Homer Freeney farm on Georgetown Road, between Lakeshore and the new Brown-Forman Corp. warehouses. "It makes perfect sense for us to annex that. We can create more good jobs and more revenue, and we're not going to encroach on good farmland," he said. "The growth is not going to last much longer. . . . I think we've got to take advantage of it while it's here."

Council Member Sarah Hicks asked if the city should annex the warehouse property, which goes all the way to the Scott County line at South Elkhorn Creek. "I see no reason to," Vandegrift said. "It's a fire hazard," and the county gets the property-tax revenue on the aging whiskey.

The mayor said Anderson has closed on a lot that will be the site of a service station and convenience store on Georgetown Road, and has notified the city of his intent to close on five more acres fronting the road.

On other development topics, Vandegrift said the downtown area is "flourishing" and "is as near to full occupancy as it has been in a long time," the two major exceptions being a building that is blighted and another that the owner won't rent. He said a "longstanding" business that he declined to name wants to move to downtown Midway from downtown Lexington.

Other business: Hicks reported that a plan for trails in Woodford, Franklin and Owen counties will be rolled out at the Kentucky Association of Counties office in Frankfort on Nov. 29 at 11:30 a.m. She said she has worked for two years on the issue and the top priority for Woodford County is a trail from Frankfort to Midway, which she hopes could be extended to Weisenberger Mill.

In the only major business at the meeting, the council agreed to sell the city's 34-year-old fire truck to the town of Berry in Harrison County for $1. Vandegrift said, half-jokingly, "Berry is a much smaller city than us, and as the big guy, we've got to look out for the little fellows."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mayor's message: Tree lighting Friday, Santa Saturday

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

This Friday evening, as you’re still recovering from the bloating that thankfulness can bring, I hope you’ll join us for the annual Midway Christmas Tree Lighting. At 6:30 we’ll light up downtown and sing some carols to kick off the final stretch of the holiday season. As I write this, there is yet to be a tree in the common area across from Steppin’ Out Boutique, but the soil in Midway is special, and I’m convinced a large enough tree will appear before Friday evening.

Of course, this event leads right into Santa’s big visit to the “little city that could,” as the jolly ol’ fat man will be riding an RJ Corman locomotive into town at 11 a.m. The Midway Presbyterian Church will be providing hot chocolate and the kids can visit with Santa at Eat, Drink & Breathe until 2:00. A big thanks to the Midway Merchants Association for all of the other fun activities that they’ll be providing on Small Business Saturday.

Here’s to hoping you have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving week – and that your belt can withstand the strain! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

EDA invites small businesses to Friday's meeting

Small-business owners in Midway and the rest of Woodford County will have the opportunity to voice their views about local economic-developments efforts at Friday's meeting of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.

EDA Chair John Soper told the Messenger in an email that he hopes "representatives from the merchants associations of Midway and Versailles will participate.  We are just trying to have a conversation to give small business a voice in case they have an unmet need."

The meeting begins at 8 a.m. Friday in the Fiscal Court meeting room on the second floor of the Woodford County Courthouse in Versailles.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mayor says city should make up any pension pay cut; businesses 'ecstatic' and 'elated' about holiday kickoff

In a short meeting Monday evening, the Midway City Council heard Mayor Grayson Vandegrift criticize the employee "cut in pay" in the legislative proposal to save state pensions, and had positive reflections about local merchants' earlier Christmas-season kickoff Saturday.

Vandegrift issued a proclamation declaring “A Pension is a Promise Week” in Midway and urging the council to make up the pay cut if the General Assembly passes the plan to have state and local employees contribute an extra 3 percent of their pay toward retirement benefits.

"The problems with our commonwealth’s pension system were not caused by our public employees, but rather by a wide network of cronyism that has pervaded this commonwealth for far too long," Vandegrift said in the proclamation.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift posed with city employees and his pension proclamation. From left are Terry Agee, public works supervisor; Brandon Bobbitt, part-time laborer; Timmy Agee, public works; Vandegrift; Sonya Conner, assistant city clerk; James Downs, public works. Not present: Phyllis Hudson, city clerk/treasurer; Jack Blevins, water-sewer operator; Cloyd Downs, public works; and Mark Roberts, water-sewer labor. (Photo courtesy of John McGary, The Woodford Sun)
The mayor said before the meeting that the proclamation was his idea and he knew of no other jurisdictions taking similar action. During the meeting, he posed for a photograph with city employees.

Peggy Angel, president of the Midway Business Association, said Saturday's holiday-season kickoff was a big success. "The merchants were just ecstatic with the turnout we had," she said.

Angel said the chili cook-off, in which tasters bought a cup for $5, raised $656, half of which will be donated to Toys for Tots.

Much more than chili was consumed; Angel said one restaurant reported having as much business Saturday as it did on Sunday of the Midway Fall Festival in September. "The restaurants were elated," she said.

City officials were likewise upbeat about the event. "I think you all are doing a great job," Vandegrift said, calling the association "our chamber of commerce."

However, the mayor had a quibble about the merchants' new rack card promoting Midway, which mentions "upscale" places to eat. A former restaurateur, he said the word "plays into a false narrative about Midway."

Earlier, Council Member Sara Hicks noted that the card does not mention the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival among annual events. Angel said the event coordinator hadn't been hired when the card was being prepared and they were unsure of the date. "We definitely want to support Francisco's Farm," she said.

The cards appear below. Angel said the business association will elect officers for 2018 at its next regular meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 9 a.m. in the upstairs meeting room at City Hall.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Council delves through ordinance on nuisances and blighted, deteriorated property; mayor predicts passage

By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council gathered for a special meeting Wednesday to go over a draft of an ordinance that would crack down on owners who do not maintain their property.

Wednesday’s meeting gave council members a chance to go through the draft of the ordinance on nuisances and blighted and deteriorated properties and discuss it in greater detail than they did Oct. 17. Phil Moloney, the city attorney, started the meeting by going through the changes he made when re-drafting the proposed ordinance.

A major change was ensuring that property owners would have 10 days to “remedy” a notice of violation, not the original five days.

The council made no motions Wednesday, but made some progress toward ensuring that the proposal is worded reasonably and understood by all.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he would work with Moloney to rework some aspects of the draft. “Although there were some good questions raised, I mostly chalk it up to healthy skepticism, especially from a couple of members who are naturally resistant to government regulation,” he said in an email Thursday morning.

Council Member Bruce Southworth was adamant on ensuring the language in the ordinance is fair and would not be misinterpreted. Southworth cited some language as “too vague.”

“I can make anything out of that, I could probably go to your house and find something,” Bruce said regarding Section 92.22(a), regarding “the deposit or accumulation of any foul, decaying or putrescent substance, in or upon any lot, street, highway, or in or upon any public or private place.”

Council members also debated whether the ordinance should include a “sunset clause,” setting a time after which property owners in violation would not be considered repeat violators.

Council Member Sara Hicks argued that giving property owners a reset would allow some to take advantage: “We know the houses where this happens over and over.”

Hicks added, “if you have a chronic offender with multiple properties, you need enough sting that so they feel it, now that might not be fair for somebody who doesn’t have a lot of money and just screwed up.”

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher agreed with Southworth that a sunset clause would be ideal for property owners who do not regularly violate ordinances.

Following Moloney’s suggestion at the last meeting, the council also discussed compensation for the proposed Code Enforcement Board, which Vandegrift suggested have three members with two alternate members. Hicks proposed the board receive $25 per meeting.

The council also discussed the possibility of civil fines, not criminal, for abandoned vehicles, and a daily charge for violations involving animals.

For a copy of the ordinance, in a previous meeting's packet, click here.

While the council was weary over some of the sections in the ordinance, Vandegrift said that once the draft is finalized the council will accept it.

“I firmly believe that once a final draft is ready the council will pass it on to me for my signature,” Vandegrift said. “After all, the people of Midway overwhelmingly want to see action taken on these matters.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Merchants' holiday kickoff brings shoppers to town

The Midway Business Association's Christmas-season kickoff appears to be a success, judging from the crowd that turned out in the first hour this morning. The chili cook-off will run from 3 to 5 p.m. and mini-train rides for children will continue until 4 p.m.

                         UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Debra Shockley won the chili cook-off. (Photo by Julie Morgan)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Merchants to start holiday season Saturday with chili cook-off, mini-train rides and sidewalk vendors

Midwegian Bob Rouse will sign his hardbound
collection of 10 Midway stories at the Historic
Midway Museum Store from 1 to 3 Saturday.
By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Christmas is coming earlier in Midway this year.

Following the lead of some nearby towns, Midway merchants are starting holiday festivities this weekend, rather than waiting for the traditional post-Thanksgiving kickoff.

The Midway Business Association is starting the season Saturday, Nov. 4 with a chili cook-off, a mini-train ride, and multiple arts and crafts vendors.

“They’ll be on the sidewalks," Steve Morgan, co-chairman of the Christmas Events Committee, said at a business association meeting Wednesday morning. “There’s a good variety of things that they have that are all hand-crafted, holiday-merchandise types of things.”

Morgan said local vendors Two Ladies and a Kettle and a booth run by the owner of Damselfly Gallery and the owner of the new Wine and Wood shop will also be on the sidewalks.

Vendors will arrive as early as 8 a.m. and have to be set up by 10 a.m., when the kick-off begins.

Free mini-train rides will begin at noon on Saturday and will go around United Bank, Morgan said: “We got permission from the city, we can go down Gratz Street and maybe Dudley, or maybe turn around on Gratz; it’s going to depend on the train guy.”

The chili cook-off will be held on the sidewalks from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Shoppers can buy a cup and spoon for $5 in front of City Hall to sample the chilis and cast their votes.

Part of the proceeds from the chili cook-off and booth fees with be donated to Toys for Tots, a charity that gives toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts, Morgan said, and there will collection boxes for those wanting to donate.

“We’ll have a few of the collection boxes around on Saturday, if any business wants to keep one of those around, they’re welcome to do so,” he said.

City Hall will be open for public restrooms and for visitors looking to see Midway history, according to Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.

“I've told the merchants association previously that whatever they think they need to succeed, we as a city will do our best to provide a helpful environment, and we've certainly done that here,” Vandegrift said in an email Thursday morning.

While festivities are starting earlier, holiday decorations will not be added until after Thanksgiving, Vandegrift said: “Consistent with the last few years we won't have downtown fully decorated until the day after Thanksgiving, mostly due to our employees having the necessary time and materials, such as live greenery and a live tree being ready and available.”

As usual, on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m., Santa Claus will arrive in Midway.

“Santa’ll come to town, he’ll get off the train first, he’s gonna get onto a carriage over here on this side,” Morgan said. “I think they’re gonna make one whole round around Railroad Street to show him off to everybody that’s around and he’s gonna end up going up to Eat, Drink and Breathe, where he’ll sit down.”

The holiday kick-off is one of several events the merchants have planned throughout November and into December.

“We hope it can be an annual thing for us so we’re real excited to see the turnout and to see what’s gonna happen with all of this,” said Peggy Angel, president of the Midway Business Association. “Special things will be going on every Saturday during the month of November and December.”

She said the events will include a book signing featuring local authors and a pet parade.

“We’re going to launch that in the vacant lot between Damselfly and Leslie’s shop [the Historic Midway Museum Store] and then we’ll just walk the sidewalk; we won’t close the streets or anything,” Angel said. “They can dress their pets up, it’s gonna be a fun thing, kids can bring their animals and adults can bring their animals.”

The pet parade will be on Dec. 2.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lakeshore Learning Materials to make first shipment Fri.

The Lakeshore Learning Materials plant was photographed by the Messenger Oct. 24. The sign on the building is temporary.
Lakeshore Learning Materials will make the first shipments tomorrow from its new Eastern U.S. distribution center in Midway Station, Vice President Paul Chisholm said today. The company had said that it planned to have 120 employees working on the day of the first shipment; Chisholm said in a text message, "Our headcount is now in excess of 100 and will continue to increase as we start ramping up outbound volumes." Lakeshore's state incentive package requires a $28.5 million investment to be completed by the end of the year and to reach a payroll of 262 by the end of 2021, with average wages and benefits totaling $19 an hour. (This item has been updated.)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween Decorating Contest winners announced

The Midway Woman's Club has announced the winners of its annual Halloween Decorating contest!

Best Overall: 211 South Winter Street
Best Daytime Display: 119 East Stephens Street
Creepiest: 232 West Higgins Street
Scariest: 103 Carriage Lane

Most fun: 209 Gyland

Best use of technology: 233 West Higgins Street

Best Use of Inflatables: 219 West Higgins Street
Best Pumpkin: 106 Cottage Grove

Most Kid-Friendly: 318 North Winter Street

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Council to hold special meeting to discuss ordinances on blight, nuisances, Code Enforcement Board Nov. 1

The Midway City Council will have a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, at City Hall to discuss an ordinance creating a Code Enforcement Board and another amending the ordinance on blights and nuisances. The meeting notice says no action will be taken.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Nov. 6, at 5:30 p.m. At its last regular meeting, the council discussed the proposals to crack down on owners who don't maintain their property, and asked City Attorney Phil Moloney to research some issues and possibly make some changes. For a copy of the proposed ordinances, in a council packet from an earlier meeting, click here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

State says Weisenberger Mill bridge will be replaced, with only one lane of traffic

The Weisenberger Mill and bridge, shortly after the one-lane span was closed for safety reasons on July 1, 2016.
By Katia Davis, Destiny Butler and Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Neighbors of the Weisenberger Mill bridge, who wanted it to remain one lane for safety and historic reasons, appear to have won their years-long battle.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said Tuesday it would “move forward with an alternative plan that re-uses some elements of the existing structure” and that the plan would be a “long-term solution to re-opening the roadway,” but the cabinet's press release did not address specifics of the plan.

However, Assistant City Clerk Sonya Conner told Midway officials in an email Wednesday afternoon, "The engineer on the job called me this morning to report that at this time, they are going to build a single-lane bridge over the existing space and re-build the abutments."

The bridge over South Elkhorn Creek has been closed since July 1, 2016, due to steel infrastructure problems caused by trucks violating a weight limit that was reduced to 10 tons and finally to 3 tons.

Conner said cabinet officials "do not have a start date at this time but should be meeting in the next couple of weeks to try and work out the details." She said the engineer "assures me there will be no work done until sometime next year."

The project has been delayed several times, most recently for federal review of more detailed studies requested by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

In 2016, the cabinet announced that the one-lane bridge would be replaced by a two-lane span, but Tuesday's release didn't address that point. It said "The proposed solution will fit within the context of the environment. It would also provide a structure that can be safely utilized by both the public and emergency management vehicles."

The bridge, built in the 1930s, has been a candidate for renovation or replacement since 2010. In 2014, the cabinet proposed to replace it with a two-lane bridge, but residents objected and the plan was delayed.

At various meetings over the years, residents have expressed concern that a two-lane bridge would increase speeding, causing a hazard to other cars and pedestrians. Residents also expressed a liking toward keeping some historical elements of the bridge. But in May 2016, the cabinet said it would stick with its two-lane plan.

At a meeting last November, Project Manager Ananias Calvin III said a two-lane bridge would be safer than a one-lane span, 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.

The cabinet said in September that the replacement bridge would use the pony-truss design of the old bridge to retain some of its historical character. “The aesthetics of that were important,” David Waldner, the cabinet’s director of environmental analysis, said in an interview then.

Calvin said in an interview in November that a new bridge would cost about $1.3 million, about double the cost of a standard bride for the location. Rehabilitating the bridge would only extend its life another 20 years and will cost 40 to 50 percent of a new bridge, which would last 75 to 100 years.

The bridge is in a historic district and is a favorite scenic spot. Its closure has kept some bicycle and foot races from the area, and last week, Midway city officials agreed to urge the state to get going on the project.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Tuesday night that he is glad the cabinet decided to act after the long process. He said this month that the bridge replacement had already been delayed for more than a year, and that it had caused detours and loss of business. “We needed them to do something,” he said Tuesday night.

The bridge crosses South Elkhorn Creek and connects Woodford and Scott counties. Woodford has responsibility for it, but the state agreed to be responsible for its renovation or replacement in return for the county doing work on a state bridge at Millville several years ago.

This story is an updated version of one published Tuesday night.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

'Continuing the Conversation' about race, unity and diversity at 6:30 p.m. Sun. at Midway Christian Church

By Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The public conversation about race, unity and diversity in Midway will continue on Sunday, Oct. 22, as a follow-up to the city’s ‘Peace in the Park’ event in August.

“Continuing the Conversation: A Peaceful Discussion on Race, Unity, and Diversity in Our Community” be held at Midway Christian Church, 123 E. Bruen St., at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting follows an initial gathering on the topic that was held in August. The first ‘Peace in the Park’ event, organized by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, was a response to the violent white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Around 50 citizens attended the first meeting, and several of them spoke their thoughts and concerns to the crowd.

Vandegrift said after the August meeting that he wanted to continue the discussion on diversity, and that he hoped Midway could serve as an example to other communities.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announces for second term more than a year before the election

Grayson Vandegrift
By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

More than a year before the mayoral election, Midway already has its first candidate.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced Tuesday that he would run for re-election next year. The election will be in November 2018; the filing deadline is in August.

“It’s something I probably thought I would do from the get-go,” Vandegrift told Midway Messenger reporters. “I feel we’ve accomplished a lot over the last three years and I feel like there’s a lot left to do.”

Vandegrift, 35, served one two-year term as a council member before being elected mayor in 2014, defeating three-term council member Sharon Turner. He has been Midway’s mayor since Jan. 1, 2015.

“When I ran for mayor originally, one thing I said is that, you know, when it is all said and done, Midway, I think, should be considered the model for small cities,” Vandegrift said. “I think we are on our way there, but I think we still have some work to do. I feel like I’m the right person to keep the ship heading in that direction.”

The filing deadline for city office was once in January, but the council recently moved it to August. Vandegrift was asked why he is announcing now.

“I just figured, I’d made up my mind and there was really just no reason to wait,” he said. “I just figured, no time like the present.” He noted that some countywide offices already have candidates.

“I don’t think it hurts to just remind everybody that I’m going to run for re-election. I’m very proud of my record; I’d put it up against anybody,” he said. “There’s always one or two people who, I think, like to dip their toe in the water and see what people think.” But he said in response to a question that he hadn’t heard of anyone else interested in running. Turner didn’t return a call seeking comment.

On Sept. 18, the city council voted 5-1 to increase the pay for the mayor and council members elected next year. The mayor will get $1,400 a month, not the current $100 a month.

Vandegrift said the big pay raise did not effect his decision to run for mayor again.

“They could’ve lowered it and I would’ve done it,” he said with a laugh. “I put a lot of time into this, and you do make sacrifices. I think it’s fair, to be honest with you, but it didn’t have any bearing on my decision.”

The mayor once ran a restaurant on Main Street. He said he works part-time at Railroad Drug and cares for his son in the mornings. His wife Katie is a banker.

Vandegrift said that if elected, he would continue to work on “paying down the water and sewer debt,” which would lower water and sewer bills for residents. He added that he would like to pay off the debt on the current sewage-treatment plant early.

“I don’t think its fair for a city that is doing well in every respect to have to ever raise rates on citizens just because it has to come from that fund,” Vandegrift said.

Asked to name his biggest achievement in office, he said it was the recruitment of Lakeshore Learning Materials, a supplier of preschool and elementary school educational materials, which says it will employ 262 people, making it by far Midway’s largest employer. “I worked very hard on Lakeshore,” he said, adding later, “I think they will have just as big of a community impact as Midway University does now.”

Vandegrift said in his announcement, “Working together as a community we’ve brought new industry to Midway Station, creating what will eventually be over 350 well-paying jobs. We’ve increased the city’s revenue, lowered property taxes each of the last two years, and absorbed a rate hike by Kentucky American Water so as not to pass it on to the consumer.  We’ve encouraged volunteerism, which among other things has led to the vast improvements of Walter Bradley Park.

“We’ve paved roads and launched a successful public/private sidewalk program. We’ve made upgrades to the Midway Volunteer Fire Department, begun water and sewer upgrades, and improved city properties and city services. We also amended our civil-rights code to include protections in housing, public accommodations, and employment for the LGBT community.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

City council delays action on ordinances to crack down on blighted property, but seems favorably disposed

City officials say this house at the northwest corner of Higgins
and Turner Streets has been abandoned for almost 60 years.
The Midway City Council eased into its crackdown on owners of abandoned and dilapidated property Monday evening, postponing passage of two ordinances but indicating no outright opposition after picking through several provisions.

"There's a whole lot we don't understand," Council Member John McDaniel said at the start, suggesting that the ordinances be tabled and saying he had a majority to do that. But Council Member Libby Warfield said she wanted to discuss the proposals, so the council and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift did just that.

Warfield took issue with the existing language that targets inoperable vehicles left on property for more than 10 days, saying it didn't seem fair to go after people who might be having temporary car trouble and ignore the junk around certain businesses. City Attorney Phil Moloney said he would look into the issue.

Moloney cleared up one bit of confusion by saying that the proposed new ordinance to create a Code Enforcement Board has one section of red, underlined language (which usually indicates an amendment) because it refers to two other ordinances. For a copy of the ordinances, in the previous meeting's packet, click here.

The proposed ordinance says members of the board are not to be compensated, but Moloney suggested that the council consider compensation because "It might be difficult to get people to serve."

The board will have the power to declare a property abandoned, raising its tax rate to 75 cents per $100 from the current rate of approximately 10 cents per $100. Moloney said the tax is a device to encourage people to keep up their property.

The proposal's schedule of fines rage from $10 to $1,000, depending on the nature of the violation and whether it is contested. "Some of those fines look like they're awful light," Council Member Steve Simoff said. To that, McDaniel smiled and gave a thumbs-up. Near the end of the discussion, McDaniel said the council could always change parts of the ordinances that don't work out.

Here are the proposed fines:

In other business, the council approved Vandegrift's reappointment of Rich Schein as the city's representative on the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission. "I think he's done a fantastic job representing us, and often times he's going against the grain," Vandegrift said.

Acting on a suggestion from McDaniel, Vandegrift said he would draft a letter to county and state officials a letter asking for action on the Weisenberger Mill bridge, replacement of which has been delayed for more than a year, forcing detours and loss of business.

The bridge over South Elkhorn Creek connects Woodford and Scott counties. Woodford County had responsibility for it until a few years ago, when the state agreed to take it over in return for the county's work on a state highway. Replacement of the bridge was delayed most recently for reports to the Federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation; now the state is considering whether to go ahead with the replacement or undertake a temporary rehabilitation of the bridge that could open it to traffic sooner than a replacement, Ananias Calvin III, the state engineer for the project, told the Midway Messenger on Tuesday.

US 421 resurfacing from Midway to Franklin County line causing temporary lane closures through Friday

Resurfacing of Leestown Road (US 421) between Midway and the Franklin County line is causing temporary lane closures daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., says the state Department of Highways.

The department says one lane will remain open at all times and flaggers are guiding motorists, and "All work is subject to change depending on weather, emergencies and other factors beyond the control of the Department of Highways."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Midway Woman's Club wins Community Spirit Award from Midway University at annual Day for Midway

L-R: Adele Dickerson, Sara Hicks, Christy Reeves, DeeDee Roach, Tonya Steele (MWC vice president), Janice Holland, Debra Shockley, Mary Devers, Ellen Gregory (university marketing VP), Neisje Spragens, Genie Graf (MWC president), Dr. John Marsden (university president), Amy Perry, Amanda Glass (MWC parliamentarian), Katie Vandegrift (MWC treasurer), Helen Rentch, Lou Taylor. Absent: MWC Corresponding Secretary Kelly Brengelman and Recording Secretary Kelle Sanders.
By Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Woman’s Club is this year’s winner of the Community Spirit Award from Midway University, honoring nearly a century of community involvement.

This is the fourth year the award has been presented as part of the annual Day for Midway celebration to celebrate the close connection between Midway University and Woodford County. The university said it chose the Midway Woman’s Club for its long-term service to the Woodford community.

The Woman’s Club has accomplished many volunteer projects and has supported countless efforts to benefit the county over the years, including the Midway Free Public Library, Northside Elementary School, Woodford County High School, and the Midway Fall Festival.

"There is no other place like Midway and we're fortunate to have neighbors and community partners like the Midway Woman’s Club that are invested in our town and its possibilities," university President John P. Marsden said in a press release for the Oct. 10 event. "We are pleased to be able to honor this worthy group and their giving spirit."

The Woman’s Club was established by a group of 42 Midway women who first met in 1922 and adopted the slogan “For the Good of Our Community.”

“That good over the years has included wrapping surgical dressings during WWII, organizing a health education program for the county, supporting local schools and students, and sponsoring candidate forums for local and national elections,” Woman’s Club President Genie Graf said in an email.

Some of the organization’s most popular recent events include the Not-So-Scary Halloween Haunted House, an annual home and garden sale, and the annual Christmas decorations contest.

The club hosts political forums, staffs the Kids Vote booth at elections, sponsors an annual scholarship for a Midway woman high-school graduate, and has speakers at its monthly meetings, which are open to the public. Some recent speakers have included former Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and minister-columnist-author Paul Prather.

Not only has the club benefited the community, the members gain from their involvement. Today, the club sustains around 30 active members, club treasurer Katie Vandegrift said. Some members are new, and some have stayed with the organization for several decades.

“The Midway Woman’s Club has been a gathering place for Midway women,” Graf explained, “for women affiliated with Midway, where women find commonality, where we find we are not so different, where we can find friendship, where we find purpose in helping to support and build our community into a place that we are humbled to call home.”

What’s next? The Midway Woman’s Club looks forward to hosting a new event, the Midway Historic House Tour, on June 3, 2018, Graf wrote: “We have five houses and a historic church on the tour, which we hope will become an annual event and fund-raiser that will allow the club to create more ‘good for our community’.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Message from the mayor: Thanks to the volunteers who made Midway's summer events possible and successful

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

With summer events wrapped up, I thought it would be a good time to recap the major events of our city and to thank, as a group, all of the many people who make them possible.

The Francisco's Farm Arts Festival has been a welcoming event that showcases Midway University's beautiful campus, as well as a wide array of the arts.

Midsummer Nights in Midway held three successful downtown block parties that celebrated the culture, and fun-loving spirit, of our community. 

Most recently, the Midway Fall Festival presented our city to the entire state, and other parts of the country, and people are clearly taking notice. Saturday's crowd was the biggest single-day crowd ever, and pushed the whole weekend into the record books. 

All of these events, which celebrate art, music, community, and life itself, are only made possible by volunteerism. Such as with the continuing improvements of Walter Bradley Park, it's the spirit of dedicating time, talent and energy that leads to enjoyable results for everyone. 

In a country that can't seem to agree on anything right now, these volunteers are an example of what can happen when people make the conscientious decision to work together. In fact, they exhibit the best of us, and remind us that the only way to achieve results is to collaborate. 

On behalf of the City of Midway, I want to thank every person who has dedicated their time for the betterment of all, and I encourage even more to join a local movement that these good folks have started.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ky. Horse Council seeks applicants by Nov. 15 for scholarship for college students in equine studies

The Kentucky Horse Council says it will award a $1,500 scholarship for the spring semester to a Kentucky college student who has demonstrated academic success, community service and involvement in the equine industry. The scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled in an equine-related major or a horse-related program with a university or college in Kentucky. Applications will be accepted until Nov. 15, and the scholarship will be awarded Dec. 1. The student is required to be a member of the Kentucky Horse Council, but student memberships are free and interested students may sign up at www.kentuckyhorse.org.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Council gets a better price from Versailles for police, starts crackdown on owners of blighted property

By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Versailles has reduced its police budget proposal for Midway, according to Midway officials at Monday’s city council meeting.

Also at the meeting, the council started a crackdown on abandoned property owners with the first reading of a new ordinance that would punish them for not maintaining property.

The council also discussed a community service collaboration with Midway University, possible improvements to North Gratz Street and Warfield Street, and the trick-or-treat schedule; and denied a controversial permit request.

Police Contract: Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, reported to the council that Versailles had lowered its proposed price for police services in Midway, to $165,325 a year, or 4.25 percent of Versailles’ current police budget.

On Sept. 21, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and Police Chief James Fugate proposed a price of $173,674 a year, a 73.7 percent increase from this year.

That figure was 4.5 percent of the budget of the Versailles police, which patrol all of Woodford County.

Midway has 7 percent of the county’s population, but Midway residents also pay county taxes, and that should be taken into account, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said after the meeting. He said county officials have not explained what Midway will get for its county taxes.

“We see less and less services all the time and the county asking us for more and more money,” Vandegrift said.

As for the new proposal, Vandegrift said, “I think that we can agree, I think, something close to that, but we’re gonna have to have some increase in services to come with it, because we were paying $16,000 four years ago, now we’re paying $100,000. I don’t know how we can justify to our citizens that they’ve got this type of increase without some kind of increase in services.”

Vandegrift noted that there is plenty of time to conclude negotiations. The new contract would be for four years and start July 1, 2018. 

Crackdown on blight: The council heard first reading Monday of ordinances to establish a Code Enforcement Board and amend an ordinance requiring owners to maintain their property.

The board would be made up of Midway residents and will work to keep city properties maintained.

“If a property is not being maintained properly, we can go and make those changes and place a lien on the property with an 8 percent interest rate, so it’s not just a lien for our cost, there’s also an interest rate,” Vandegrift said. “Another thing is at some point you can look at eminent domain,” condemnation to take ownership the property.

The ordinance would give property owners notice to remedy the situation, give them seven days to respond, and allow for the police department or a code enforcement officer to initiate removal of abandoned vehicles, among other things. For a copy of the council meeting packet that includes the ordinances, click here.

“The main thing is that we are no longer going to allow the people to take advantage of their neighbors in the sense that they keep the property that has become blighted and deteriorated and abandoned and they’re not fixing it up and they’re just letting it sit there,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift said it’s unfair to residents who take care of their property. “We’re going to uphold that to the highest extent of the law and we’re gonna surprise some people, because a lot of people think that it cant be done.”

The mayor warned in May that he had asked for new ordinances to crack down on property maintenance. Under the previous mayor, Tom Bozarth, the city put pressure on owners of dilapidated property and had some success, but Vandegrift called that "a caretaker administration." He added, "That's not a bad thing."

Vandegrift said he would schedule second reading of the ordinances for Oct. 16, but the council might not vote on them until November because of possible changes.

Aerial photo provided by Nick Bentley shows North Gratz Street
and its extension, Warfield Street, with addresses and property
lines. The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's, a restaurant and bar,
recently opened at 224 N. Gratz. (For a larger photo, click on it.)
Businesses seek improvements:  Nick Bentley and Bryan Lynch, residents and landowners in Midway, proposed integrating North Gratz Street and Warfield Street into downtown now that businesses have opened in the block and they plan to open more businesses.

Bentley suggested putting in streetlights, adding sidewalks, repaving the streets and adding a cul-de-sac on Warfield Street to facilitate turnarounds.

“We get a tremendous amount of traffic that comes down kind of looking and then they run into that dead-end and end up turning around in Bryan’s parking lot,” Bentley said.

Vandegrift said, “I love the idea, it just comes down to what it’s going to cost.”

Bentley also expressed concern over parking. “We have enough parking,” he said. “The biggest issue is how do we fit sidewalks in and not hurt parking.”

Bentley said he might put a full-time farmers' market near the doctor’s office on North Gratz. Lynch, who owns several businesses downtown, said he plans to put in a café on North Gratz with volleyball courts behind it, and a banquet facility will occupy a part of the building.

“I own the building,” Lynch said in an interview. “I’d be leasing it out to a business from Lexington that would open a new restaurant here in town, that will be the banquet facilities as well.” Lynch owns the Eat Drink Breathe bistro and Damselfly Gallery on Main Street.

Permit denied for street entrance: A permit that would have allowed access to East Cross Street from a backyard at 120 S. Winter Street was denied at Monday’s meeting after much discussion on the issue.

The council first discussed the permit Sept. 4, and tabled the issue for 30 days to gather more information.

The property owner had spread gravel, built a fence and gate, and connected the lot to the street, encroaching on the street, before requesting a permit.

While the denial of the permit will force the property owner to remove all gravel from the city’s right of way, she will still be able to keep a gravel lot in the backyard.

Charles Logan of East Higgins Street, a neighbor to the property, expressed concern over the runoff from the gravel at earlier meetings and Monday’s meeting. Vandegrift said the property owner can have the gravel in her backyard, but cannot have the fence or gravel interfering with the city’s right of way. He said he still thinks the fence is in the right of way.

“There’s nothing that stops somebody from going into their yard and putting gravel down,” Vandegrift said. 

According to Vandegrift, if Logan has an issue with the gravel creating runoff on his property, the matter may have to be addressed as a civil matter.

“Had she followed the rules, then it wouldn’t be no civil matter, I wouldn’t have to hire an attorney and so forth,” Logan said.

Midway University athletes' service: Midway University Athletic Director Rusty Kennedy and Women’s Softball Coach Tripp Swisher spoke with the council about collaborating with the city on a service project for student athletes.

“Part of our mandate within the organization we are governed by,” the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, “is an emphasis on character development, something our very school values,” Tripp said. “We try to get each of our student athletes 15 hours a year, at least, in community service, that’s what we strive for.”

The service project would consist of different tasks such as painting, cleaning and junk removal and would be at least one day each semester.

Vandegrift suggested soliciting requests from community members for projects.

“We are thinking more of people who struggle to complete those tasks, either by health or age issues,” he said. “If we get the word out that the university is going to offer this service in conjunction with us, we can get the word and people can basically, sort of, apply.”

According to Tripp, the service project, if permitted, would be considered for sometime between the end of October and mid-November.

There are roughly 340 student athletes at Midway University, according to Kennedy.

Halloween: The council set trick-or-treat hours for Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.