Monday, February 27, 2017

Vandegrift tells statewide 'fairness' supporters that ordinance has been good for business in Midway

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift speaks at the ACLU's legislative reception at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort as Kirsten Hawley of Brown-Forman Corp., right, listens.
By Austyn Gaffney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told an audience in Frankfort Wednesday night that Midway’s fairness ordinance, prohibiting discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has been good for business.

“The argument as to whether fairness laws are bad for business is over,” said Vandegrift, one of three invited speakers at an American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky legislative reception. “And with every new job we create and every business that opens its doors and every person that feels that they and their loved ones are welcomed we will continue to show that fairness is good for business.”

Vandegrift led the City Council to make Midway the eighth city in Kentucky with the anti-discrimination measure, known by advocates as a “fairness ordinance.” Although state and federal civil rights laws ban discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, marital status, disability or national origin, they do not include sexual orientation and gender identity. In Kentucky, it is still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodation, such as a business or restaurant. Fairness ordinances make discriminatory practices illegal within city or county limits.

“Like a lot of people, I assumed those protections already existed,” Vandegrift said. “When I ran for mayor it wasn’t on my radar.” Just three weeks into his term, the Woodford County Human Rights Commission presented the issue to him, and he quickly agreed to push it.

Opponents argued the ordinance would drive people out of business or drive businesses out of town. But instead, according to the mayor, the opposite happened, and businesses sought out Midway.

A year after passing the ordinance, the city projected a 33 percent increase in occupational-tax revenue and the Midway Station industrial park transformed as two new businesses announced their plans to open plants, Vandegrift noted. American Howa Kentucky Inc., an auto-parts manufacturer, promises to employee 88 full time workers. Lakeshore Learning Materials, an educational supply company from California, will open its first eastern distribution center, employing 262 full time workers and 140 seasonal workers.

“We’re about to experience a nearly 100 percent increase in jobs in a matter of a few years,” Vandegrift told supporters of the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition, which favors fairness ordinances and a statewide law.

“So as not to appear disingenuous, I am not claiming all this growth is the because of a fairness ordinance,” the mayor said. “But it is indisputable that the ordinance did not cause hardship to our existing businesses, it did not drive employers out of town, and it did not keep companies from coming to Midway. And I’m happy to add that Lakeshore Learning Materials has expressed their support for our ordinance and laws like it.”

The Midway Messenger asked Lakeshore if its decision to locate here had anything to do with the fairness ordinance. The company declined to comment.

The coalition is a group of over 200 businesses, from small, locally owned businesses to large Fortune 500 Companies like PNC Bank, United Parcel Service, Humana and Brown-Forman. Kirsten Hawley, senior vice president and chief human resources officer of Brown-Forman, explained why her company is committed to the coalition’s work: “We know through 145 years of experience talent doesn’t come in one shape, one size, one color, one religious background, or one type of sexual orientation or identity.”

But the coalition recognizes it faces a long, uphill battle.

“A non-discrimination ordinance has been introduced for 17 or 18 years now, and has not gained enough support for passage,” said Michael Aldridge, director of Kentucky’s ACLU. “We were building and building more support over the years but with the November elections it looks unlikely within the General Assembly that a statewide anti-discrimination law will pass in the near future.”

In fact, bills with an opposite vision have been introduced in the 2017 General Assembly. House Bill 105, commonly known as the “religious freedom” bill, says no law or court shall take the place of “a person’s right of conscience” to stand by their religious beliefs. The bill threatens to reverse fairness ordinances, but leaders of the newly Republican House have indicated it won’t be heard.

Vandegrift finds it ironic that Rep. Rick Nelson, a Democrat from Middlesboro, filed the bill and one to ban transgender people’s use of bathrooms for the gender with which they identify.

“When he was running for state treasurer,” said Vandegrift, “I co-hosted a fundraiser for him. What’s funny is that the ordinance had just passed, and I find it funny he didn’t have a problem raising money here but then turns and files a bill saying we don’t have the right to govern ourselves on laws like this. You just can’t write this stuff.”

Vandegrift’s push for Midway to move towards fairness is noticed not only by the coalition, but by Woodford County citizens as well. Dan Brown, secretary of the Woodford County Human Rights Commission and a retired school teacher, shared a personal story.

“For 27 years I drove to school and almost every morning I worried a little bit that I could be fired for my sexual orientation,” said Brown. “That loss of energy and that amount of worry would give more vibrancy to city if you didn’t have to be concerned. It makes a city more welcoming to all people.”

He also shared that when he and his husband go out to eat now, they do so in Midway. “We’ve been together about 33 years. We’ve lived through a lot of being hidden just to survive but we feel very comfortable in Midway,” said Brown.

Aldridge said Midway was always a welcoming community, but attributed the success of the ordinance to Vandegrift.

“I really applaud his leadership,” said Aldridge. “I think he’s a leader we really need in other parts of the state.”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Midway-connected Classic Empire moves back to top of prospect list for this year's Kentucky Derby

Debby and John Oxley of Midway's Fawn Leap Farm, left, with Classic
Empire after he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile stakes in early November.
Midway-connected Classic Empire is again the top prospect for the May 7 Kentucky Derby, after his subpar performance in the Holy Bull Stakes was attributed to a hoof abscess, but that temporary health problem means that trainer Mark Casse is no longer aiming for next Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes, reports columnist Tim Sullivan of The Courier-Journal.

"When Churchill Downs opened Pool 3 of its Kentucky Derby future wagers Friday afternoon, Classic Empire shared the shortest odds of any individual horse with McCraken, at 8-1. He continues to lead the points race for Derby qualifying," Sullivan reports. "Yet the abscess has changed and compressed the bay colt’s prep race schedule and effectively eliminates some of the wiggle room still available in the 10 weeks remaining before Derby 143. . . . Classic Empire may run only one more race en route to America’s biggest race."

Classic Empire is owned by John C. "Jack" and Debby Oxley, who have a home at their Fawn Leap Farm on the south edge of Midway, and is trained by Mark Casse. Son and assistant Norman Casse told Sullivan that the horse's next race is uncertain: "We’re kind of joking around, saying that he’s kind of training us. He’s telling us what he wants to do. We haven’t really lost any confidence in him, but he just has to go day to day and week to week and run when he’s really ready to run."

Today's Derby prep is the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the first race to offer 50 Derby points to the winner. The favorite is Mo Town, who has 10 points. McCraken, Gormley and El Areeb each have 20 Derby points; Classic Empire has 32. McCraken is slated to run in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday, March 11.
UPDATE: Girvin won the Risen Star; Untrapped placed, getting 20 points for a total of 24; Local Hero was third and got 10; Guest Suite was fourth, getting five for a total of 15.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Midway Christian Church wins national recognition from denomination for its environmental stewardship

Midway Christian Church Board of Trustees Chair Sandy Gruzensky, Trustee Adele Dickerson and Pastor Heather McColl
pose in the church's rain garden, which uses native plants to conserve water and limit runoff. (Photo by Austyn Gaffney)
By Austyn Gaffney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Christian Church, known locally for its environmental stewardship, is now nationally recognized for it.

For at least the last decade, the church made changes to its structure and services in line with the goal of “creation care,” a term for environmental stewardship representing the congregation’s belief that humans are stewards of divine creation. They believe creation care enacts God’s plan for a healthy and livable earth.

These changes were nationally recognized in 2015 when the church was honored in the “Cool Congregations” challenge organized by a religious non-profit, Interfaith Power and Light, that identified inspiring responses to global warming.

According to the challenge’s website, “Our unique stewardship program helps congregations engage their members in creation care by reducing individual greenhouse gas emissions and helps save hundreds of dollars in the process.”

The church's colorful bike rack is made from used bicycle parts,
from the Bluegrass Cycling Club. (Photo by Austyn Gaffney)
The church was one of six runner ups in the “Sacred Grounds Steward” category. Now certified as a Sacred Grounds church, the award recognizes changes to the church’s campus, including native landscaping and water conservation through two rain gardens, bicycle racks to promote cycling, and a robust recycling and composting program.

Also, the church’s improvements to its historic sanctuary, built in 1894, and its fellowship hall, included the installation of LED and motion-sensing lights, water-saving toilets and high-grade insulation.

“Creation care is now in the DNA of our church,” said the Rev. Heather McColl, pastor to about 60 regular attendees and 300 members. “It took a long journey to get us to this place.”

Sandy Gruzensky, chair of the church’s board of trustees, said she hopes the influence of creation care in the church’s decision-making will influence the broader community.

“We hope that the more people who see us choosing sustainability, the more our congregation and community will start to make changes intuitively,” Gruzesky said. “The changes become integrated. We’re leading by example.”

Green Campus

One catalyst for the church’s mission of creation care was a broken heating and air-conditioning system. In 2005, the church chose to replace duct-taped repairs with an energy-efficient system. The new system had a higher upfront cost, but saved money in the long run, Gruzensky said.

“The green philosophy was already there,” she  said. “We’re a small congregation and limited in our funding. When our first major project came along we decided to look at it as a long-term investment.”

The church’s dedication to environmental work continued to grow.

“I think our biggest project when we were going green was our kitchen, certified by the health department,” said McColl. “We were already pretty close, but we had to add a three-base sink and a mop sink. It really wasn’t that much.”

The certified kitchen allows the church to serve the general public at
monthly community dinners like this one at Thanksgiving in 2015.
McColl said this helped the church in two ways. First, it followed the church's mission to be a welcoming place for serving the community. A certified kitchen allows it to host free community dinners for the public every month, and during the annual Iron Horse Half Marathon, it feeds more than 100 visitors Weisenberger Mill pancakes in the fellowship hall. The kitchen also allows them to offer space to community members who want to make food products for the local farmers’ market.

Secondly, the kitchen moved the church forward in its mission of greening its campus. While planning how to serve such large groups of people, church leaders decided to stop buying styrofoam plates and instead took the dusty, reusable dishware out of the cabinet. Along with serving food on real plates, the church invested in eco-friendly cutlery and cups that are recyclable and compostable.

“People really appreciate it, when they know that they’re using sustainable stuff,” McColl said. “People notice that.”

The church’s creation care recently reached new heights dealing with a colony of bats occupying the belfry. Estimating a population in the thousands, Adele Dickerson, a church trustee, joked, “I think we probably had a case study.”

Dickerson, along with church members, found an ecologically sound way to remove the bats without exterminating them. She noted their importance in the life cycle, which includes eating mosquitoes.

“The method of bat exclusion works like a revolving door,” said Dickerson. “The bats can leave the belfry, but they can’t come back in.” The bat-friendly solution also required the church to upgrade the belfry’s insulation, reducing a potential fire hazard.

Green congregation

One of biggest promoters of the church’s “green” changes is Carol Devine, pastor of Providence Church in Nicholasville and minister of the Green Chalice program of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). 

One side of the church's historical
marker. (Photo by Austyn Gaffney)
“Midway’s identity has really become creation care, and I think the spirit is really strong in their commitment,” Devine said. “They’re a great example of walking more gently on the earth and doing their part. Churches large and small can learn from Midway, and [changes] don’t seem so overwhelming. Midway can take their vision to a national level and hopefully that will have a ripple effect.”

To become a Green Chalice congregation, the church followed three steps. Beginning in 2010, the church formed a Green Chalice team and adopted the Alverna Covenant, an agreement recognizing the human causes of climate change, and promising to create a more sustainable lifestyle, congregation, and community. Then, it declared three specific, identifiable acts of creation care: the new heating and air-conditioning system, the commercial kitchen, and the rain gardens.

One of 124 Green Chalice congregations in North America, the church is only one of eight that has received a Green Chalice certification, an honor bestowed on churches that show a strong devotion to creation care. It requires a rolling three-year commitment to continually improve four areas of the church: its buildings, its other property, its worship practices, and its education and outreach.

 “The Green Chalice program is a grassroots ministry that began in Kentucky,” Devine said. “In 2011, our ministry grew from a few passionate people in Kentucky to a movement throughout the U.S. and Canada.”

The Disciples of Christ’s work for ecological justice began much earlier, in 1977, when its General Assembly formed a Task Force on Ecology. The task force, made up of 18 Disciple members and staff, met at the Alverna Retreat Center near Indianapolis, and wrote the Alverna Covenant. The document is named after Mt. Alverna in Italy, where Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment, occasionally lived.

Forty years later, the church is still using this initial framework. Each year, before Earth Day on April 22, the congregation re-confirms its commitment to the Alverna Covenant. McColl emphasized its value, stating, “It’s important because it signals that it’s not just words. It’s a pledge, a covenant, a promise.”

Green Community

Church members didn’t accomplish these accolades alone. Their conservation efforts created partnerships with Midway Renaissance GreenSpace, Bluegrass Greensource, Third Rock Consulting, Woodford County High School, Equus Run Vineyard, Bluegrass Cycling Club, and other churches within the community.

The church was built in 1894. (Photo by Austyn Gaffney)
Gruzensky said her congregation’s reason for creation care always comes back to its larger community. She quoted Dr. Sharon Watkins, president of the Disciples of Christ: “We care about the earth, because we care about the people.”

After the presidential election, Dickerson and Gruzensky started organizing Food for the Soul, a bi-monthly Sunday dinner at the church. They discuss topics such as climate change and immigration.

McColl has considered moving their sentiment for community care into local advocacy.

“We’ve had conversations that our role may be changing from educators to advocates, and we’re asking what will that look like in this new political landscape,” McColl said. For example, McColl voiced her opposition to this month’s congressional vote to repeal the recently enacted Stream Protection Rule, allowing coal waste to continue leaching into Kentucky waterways.

With this possible new direction in mind, McColl will take the church’s story to the General Assembly of the Disciples of Christ in Indianapolis in July.

“We want to show that small churches can go green, and they don’t need major, expensive changes,” McColl said.

Reflecting on the future of her congregation and community, McColl said the church “will follow our basic tenet of faith: take care of our community and love one another.”

Monday, February 20, 2017

Council annexes, rezones for Lakeshore; OKs task force for brewery or distillery; talks trees, firefighters

Property annexed and rezoned (Tim Thompson survey; click image for larger)
The Midway City Council annexed more farmland for industry, heard plans for fire department training and pay, vented about recent tree work, and discussed attracting a brewery or distillery to the town, all at Monday night's regular meeting.

The council passed on second reading ordinances annexing 34.184 acres of the Homer M. Freeney property on the north side of Midway Station and changing its zoning from agricultural to light industrial. Lakeshore Learning Materials plans to use the property for the second phase of its distribution center, the first phase of which is under construction and promising 262 jobs. The rezoning ordinance included approval of a final development plan for the property.

Later in the meeting, Council Member John McDaniel asked if the city could put in its agreements with Lakeshore and American Howa Kentucky a requirement that they pre-treat their wastewater.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the plants will have to follow city ordinances, and Council Member Bruce Southworth, a former water-sewer superintendent, said pre-treatment is required by ordinance.

Fire department: Vandegrift said his proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 will include money to train Midway firefighters as emergency medical technicians and raise the pay they get for making a run.

The mayor noted that the fire department has expanded its services to non-fire emergencies, and said having additional EMTs will help address the need for such services until Woodford County locates an ambulance station in the Midway area. He asked the Public Works and Services Committee to meet with Fire Chief Butch Armstrong and other members of the department to discuss details of the training.

UPDATE: The committee is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27 at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Tree treatment: Council Member Sara Hicks said Kentucky Utilities "left limbs all over my yard" when cutting trees recently, including some prickly holly branches, and asked if the council had any way to get the electric company to do better. Southworth said, "They should have cleaned all that up."

Vandegrift said he could inform KU of the council's feelings, but then Council Member Libby Warfield weighed in. She said the company had failed to reply to her complaint "as a private citizen" about sloppy tree-trimming on West Cross Street, "and it's still really a big mess over there. I think we need to really fuss about it." Vandegrift said he would draft a letter to KU.

Bourbon or beer? With the council's approval, Vandegrift appointed a task force to explore the possibility of attracting a brewery or distillery to Midway. He said some vacant buildings in the downtown area "would be perfect" for either purpose, and noted that the town has "a long history" of distilling. The last distillery closed around 1940.

Members of the task force are McDaniel, former council member Dan Roller and Steve and Julie Morgan, owners of Kentucky Honey Farms.

McDaniel said Country Boy Brewing, which recently opened a brewery in Georgetown, looked at Midway two and a half years ago. "They were wanting to do it over here but we didn't have any place that was big enough," he said.

Other business: The council's packet included a list of prioritized ideas from the council's recent special meeting, with major goals in boldface and assigned to council committees. For an abridged copy of the council packet, click here.

When Vandegrift said the city's revised website has been up for a while and has saved money by consolidating services through its information-technology vendor, Hicks suggested that the goals be added to the site.

Warfield asked what had happened to the city's bid to take the old Weisenberger Mill Bridge when it is replaced, with plans to put it in Walter Bradley Park. Vandegrift said the replacement project seems to have stalled, perhaps because of local opposition to the state's planned two-lane bridge. "As far as I know they have not been acquiring property," he said.

Warfield asked about her request for a stop sign at Cottage Grove in North Ridge Estates. Vandegrift said he thought putting up a sign might be counterproductive, because it could cause an accident, but he said he would seek an expert's opinion. When Warfield said, "It's not to get people to stop, it's to get people to slow down, Vandegrift said he could put the city's radar speed-limit sign at the intersection. "That would be helpful," Warfield replied.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bill Penn’s book, Kentucky Rebel Town, is a lifetime achievement; reading Thursday evening at library

Penn poses with his book outside his Midway Museum Store.
Story and photos by Austyn Gaffney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

It could be said that Bill Penn’s book, Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana and Harrison County, is 55 years old.

Penn, co-owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store, first wrote about “the best rebel town of our native state,” a Confederate officer’s reference to Cynthiana, in 1962. Dr. Thomas D. Clark, University of Kentucky history professor and founder of the University Press of Kentucky, taught Penn in his History of Kentucky course. Penn turned in a 40-page paper on his hometown of Cynthiana, the seed of his future book.

Although Penn never went back to school, the history bug never left him. In 1995, he synthesized research he had done since his undergraduate years, self-publishing the book Rattling Spurs and Broad Brimmed Hats. The title was a quote from a letter on Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders who rode through Cynthiana.

When Penn sent the book to Clark, his old professor wrote back: “One can never tell where bread he casts upon waters will come floating home.” His proud appreciation of Penn’s book encouraged Penn to do further research. He expanded his study to nearly 400 pages of historical text, published by the University Press of Kentucky last fall.

Penn will give a reading at the Midway branch of the Woodford County Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, and will be at the Northern Kentucky Regional History Day at the Boone County Library for a workshop on his book March 25.

The Kentucky Civil War Bugle editor, Ed Ford, said of Penn’s work: “Penn deserves an “A” for his research and another “A” for his skill in effectively pulling the story together.”

Close-up of cover shows cropped image.
Penn’s insistence on historical precision begins with the book’s cover. The painting of the Civil War emblazoned on the bottom half comes from Frankfort.

“The battle is realistic,” said Penn, “But an anomaly exists in the bottom right.” According to Penn, rifles are shown instead of a cannon atop a wheeled carriage. Because a cannon carriage is more historically accurate to the time period, Penn had the University Press cut off the image at the carriage wheel.

His research is undoubtedly a labor of love. Unable to find any Civil War battlefield maps of Cynthiana, Penn studied primary texts of citizens and soldiers. The extensive analysis allowed him to redraw battlefield maps for Morgan’s raids, and the subsequent first and second Battles of Cynthiana.

According to Penn, there is an assumption that Morgan rode through town on horseback shooting guns and quickly leaving. But Morgan and his troops actually dismounted and fought bigger battles in Harrison County.

Morgan raided Cynthiana because of its tactical position bordering the Kentucky Central Railroad. But his interest in Cynthiana may have also been its initial pro-Southern leanings. State Rep. and slave-owner Lucius Desha advertised for Southern sympathizers to join a volunteer company led by his sons. At the beginning of the Civil War, a Confederate flag flew from the Harrison County Courthouse.

Penn did several maps. (Click on image for larger version)
Reviewer Lawrence K. Peterson of Civil War News was impressed with Penn’s distinctive story. In his article, “A Gem Concerning Middle Kentucky,” Peterson stated, “This book is a gem for two sets of students of the Civil War: those interested in the fighting in Kentucky other than Richmond/Perryville, and those interested in civilian life during the war.”

Those interested in civilian life can also look forward to Penn’s next book. “A project I had started before I finished this was a history of Midway and northern Woodford County horse farms,” said Penn. “And I laid that aside. I’ve done two chapters of that, I’ve done one on the settlement period around this area from the first surveyors. They actually camped near here. And then I’ve written a chapter on the Civil War period here.”

Penn is obviously a hard worker, but is anything but self-congratulatory.

“I plagiarized all I could,” Penn joked when asked how long it took to complete the book. He teased Dr. James Ramage, a history professor at Northern Kentucky University, when Ramage visited Penn’s shop. “Dr. Ramage was in here about a month ago,” Penn said. “I told him that I had stolen all I could out of his book on John Hunt Morgan.”

Joking aside, Penn’s love of history continues to guide his life. Penn interrupted the Midway Messenger’s interview to greet a customer purchasing books on Versailles from his store’s upstairs library. Hopping up from his stool, Penn ran upstairs to get another book to “throw in” for free.

“This is a prize,” Penn told the customer, handing him a book on the architecture in Versailles. “I just want someone who’s interested to have it.”

“He forgets we have bills to pay,” Leslie Penn teased her husband. Bill Penn smiled and insisted on the gift. History, for him, is just that, a gift.

Penn poses in the upstairs library and bookstore of his and wife Leslie's Midway Museum Store.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Annual Chocolate Stroll is Saturday, 10 to 5, downtown

Midway’s annual Chocolate Stroll, Saturday, Feb. 11, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., celebrates chocolate lovers across Kentucky. The Valentine’s Day weekend event includes 10 downtown stores and restaurants along Main Street. Each store will feature its own unique chocolate treat along with special offers.

The ticket to taste is free, but a $5 donation is recommended. The donation goes straight to the Midway Business Association to pay for the advertising costs of local events. Raffle tickets have been sold in the past but will not be sold this year. Tasting tickets, along with prize tickets, can be picked up at the Historic Midway Museum Store.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Council rezones, starts to annex land for industry; discusses restaurant vestibule in Main Street sidewalk

By Austyn Gaffney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway’s City Council rezoned and began to annex more property for industry at Midway Station, and discussed the new, temporary vestibule outside Heirloom Restaurant, at a regular meeting Monday night. It also heard about safety trainings that will be available in the city.

The council approved a zoning map amendment and heard first reading of an annexation ordinance for 34 acres at Midway Station that Lakeshore Learning Materials intends to use for expansion of the distribution center it is building. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said second reading and passage are set for the next meeting, Feb. 20.

The council also approved a reimbursement agreement with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority for Midway’s commitment of $450,000 for the $2.8 million gas line to Midway Station. The EDA plans to repay Midway most, if not all, of the financial commitment with net profits from land sales.

The council also heard from Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler. He invited the community to a monthly, one-hour CPR training for bystanders at the Woodford County Courthouse, and a Community Emergency Response Training session Saturday, Feb. 25 and Saturday, March 11, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with lunch provided, at The Homeplace at Midway.

The council approved Chandler’s proposal to apply for a grant from Kentucky’s Homeland Security Department to buy a new computer for the fire department.

Proposals by council members at the end of the meeting included Sara Hicks’ request to move the city’s cemetery database to a user-friendly site like www.findagrave.com or www.billiongraves.com, to which members of the Veterans Committee have posted the graves of military personnel. Libby Warfield praised those efforts, led by committee member Jimmie Murphy.

John McDaniel suggested the downtown Christmas tree be moved to another location replaced by a smaller tree less likely to damage surrounding infrastructure. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift agreed. Warfield complained about speeding near the lower end of Cottage Grove, and she requested that Vandegrift consider adding a three-way stop there.

The recently installed vestibule at Heirloom
Warfield’s complaint wasn’t the only one discussed Monday evening. Vandegrift said county Planning Director Pattie Wilson told him she has received two or three complaints about the vestibule recently placed outside Heirloom restaurant.

Vandegrift said the main issues were the obstruction of the sidewalk, which he said he wouldn’t press for now because the city leases the restaurant sidewalk space for tables and chairs in the summer, and a potential fire hazard. He said the fire department is aware of the vestibule, and the fire inspector will make a report about the safety of the structure before the city moves forward with any other action.

Wilson said in an interview, “I have received several complaints anonymously, and the concerns are that it sets a precedent for all businesses along the railroad. The concerns are a safety hazard and an aesthetic issue for the street. It’s both a visual, but most importantly, a health-and-safety issue.”

Hannah Smith, a server at Heirloom, told the Midway Messenger that the vestibule is a temporary structure added to retain heat during the winter.

“It’s exactly what Grey Goose puts up every winter in front of their restaurant,” Smith said. “It’s so our customers don’t get blasted with cold air through the front door.”

Vandegrift noted that the Grey Goose’s vestibule doesn’t obstruct a public passway, and said he is worried about setting a precedent.

“Can you imagine if every business had one of those things outside?” Vandegrift asked the council. He said he brought up the matter at the meeting so council members could explain it to their constituents if they inquired.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Fawn Leap Farm-connected Classic Empire places third in Holy Bull Stakes; foot infection blamed

UPDATE, Feb. 12: Trainer Mark Casse told the Thoroughbred Daily News that Classic Empire came out of the Holy Bull Stakes with an abscess on his right front hoof, perhaps explaining his third-place finish in a race where he was the odds-on favorite. On Wednesday morning, "He had a huge pus pocket bust out of the bulb of his foot," Casse said. "He's now a happy camper and moving around fine. We feel some relief because we knew something was up and we just couldn't pinpoint it."

For a TDN podcast of a 35-minute interview with owner John Oxley, click here. In the interview, he voices high regard for Charles Nuckols and his staff at Nuckols Farm for "such good care" that they gave 2001 Derby winner Monarchos when he stood at stud there for many years before his death on Oct. 22 following surgery for an intestinal issue.

Video by TVG via YouTube     

Classic Empire, the Midway-connected colt who was the early favorite for this year's Kentucky Derby, finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes this afternoon.

Irish War Cry led sire to wire in winning the $350,000 Grade II race at Gulfstream Park by 3 3/4 lengths over Gunnevera. Classic Empire, the odds-on favorite until post time, was five more lengths back. He was a close third for most of the race, but failed to rally in the stretch after he took second and jockey Julien Leparoux whipped him during the turn.

Classic Empire was sweaty and had difficulty getting into the gate, reminding observers of the only race he has lost: the Sept. 5 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, when he threw his jockey and didn't finish. He became the Derby favorite after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5. This was his first race as a 3-year-old.

“He gets a little hot, but maybe hotter than normal, so I don't know. We will regroup,” Trainer Mark Casse said after the race. “He had no excuse . . . They kind of tried to pin him in a little bit on the first turn and Julien used a little bit of him. We had a good trip.”

Leparoux said, “I got in the clear on the first turn and there was really no excuse. He came back good and we’ll see what happens. He got a little bit warm [warming up] but after that we a good trip and every chance and he just didn’t kick at the end.”

Classic Empire is owned by John Oxley, who has Fawn Leap Farm at Midway, and is trained by Mark Casse, a top trainer in Canada. The horse was sired by Pioneer of the Nile, the sire of 2016 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

The odds on Classic Empire were 3-5 until shortly before post time, when they dropped to 1-2. His third-place finish paid bettors $2.10 and earned him two more qualifying points for the Derby, raising his total to 32, still more than any other horse.

Irish War Cry, a son of Curlin, got his first 10 qualifying points, paid $10.80 and ran the race in 1:42.52. Gunnevera got four points, raising his total to 14. Talk Logistics was fourth and got his first point. Some of the same horses may face each other again in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream March 4.

Ambulance, facilities for visitors, homes for new plant workers among goals voiced by city council members

An ambulance for the Midway area, a visitors' center with restrooms and plans for more housing were some of the long-range goals voiced by members of the Midway City Council and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift at a special planning meeting Thursday night.

Shorter-term goals include a lower speed limit on Winter Street, changes at the Midway Cemetery and continued work on the city's streets, sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines.

"Please feel free to be outlandish as well as practical," Council Member Sara Hicks asked her colleagues as she presided and Vandegrift made notes on big easeled sheets, divided by goals for the next six months, two years and five years, in that order.

Near-term: next six months

Several near-term goals voiced by more than one member dealt with the cemetery: revising and updating its rules, and placing benches. Council Member Libby Warfield said the new rules should include a retroactive timeline for compliance. She also called for demolition of the old cottage, more landscaping around the veterans' monument and creation of a section for infant burials.

Warfield, who brought a long narrative to the meeting, also said the city should modernize or repeal outdated ordinances, educate citizens about ordinances on nuisances and blighted property, better enforce ordinances, "perhaps with a city manager," replace the ballpark storage building and keep cars off the North Winter Street sidewalk "so baby carriages can go down the street."

New Council Member Steve Simoff said the city needs a welcome sign for motorists entering town from Interstate 64, and a list of business owners' phone numbers for police. He also called for a committee to consider development of a "distillery district" between Main Street and Lee Branch.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said the city needs to work with the Midway Business Association to develop events each month to bring people to town, and develop a way to notify everyone in town of events and other things that need to be publicized.

New Council Member John McDaniel also called for more events, and endorsed the infrastructure goals voiced by other members.

Council Member Bruce Southworth said the city needs to identify where water and sewer repairs need to be made and work with county officials to get an ambulance. (See long-term goals, below.)

Vandegrift said the first round of city-subsidized sidewalk repairs should be done this spring. He also said the city needs new cemetery rules, updated blighted property procedures and better code enforcement: "Our rules have been piecemealed together over the years."

Mid-term: six months to two years

Vandegrift said the city needs to develop a master plan for Midway Station with the EDA and developer Dennis Anderson, continue paving projects, and work with the state Transportation Cabinet to get a lower speed limit on Winter Street.

Warfield said that if no housing is built in Midway Station, the current intention of Anderson, the city needs to identify other places housing.

Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper said he had an inquiry from a Leitchfield firm, Wabuck Development Co., that is interested in building moderate-cost apartments that would need three to five acres within walking distance of retail stores.

"They're interested in our community because of all these jobs coming in," Soper said. "When people see the walls going up on Lakeshore [Learning materials' distribution center], it's going to open up a lot of eyes." The company hopes to open the plant by November, and the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant is complete and "partially open," Vandegrift said.

Simoff said the city needs to establish parameters for future development, including housing; ensure greenspace buffers for Midway Station and other developments; and "try to get away from vinyl siding." He also called for a beautification plan.

Gallagher also voiced the need for more housing, especially for those who will be working at Midway Station.

Hicks said the city needs a plan to make it fully handicapped-accessible, a sidewalk to Northside Elementary School and a mixed-use path to The Homeplace at Midway. She said it could slow traffic on Winter Street by painting parking spaces. The state controls the street's speed limit.

Warfield said the city should consider a pavilion at the cemetery for memorials and other ceremonies which would be especially useful in bad weather. She estimated the cost at $28,000. She also said the city should "re-establish gifting opportunities" as outlined in the ordinance for the cemetery's endowment. She added later, "We're gonna have to address the fact that our parking is getting so limited downtown."

McDaniel endorsed the cemetery-pavilion idea and said the city needs a Main Street manager to do outreach, contact motel and hotel developers, recruit businesses for empty buildings and take charge of downtown activities, "just like we had before." The city stopped funding the position when Tom Bozarth was mayor.

McDaniel also said the city should benefit financially when it issues tax-exempt bonds for other jurisdictions that have reached their annual limit on such bonds.

Long-term: two to five years

McDaniel called for "an ambulance service for our side of the county." County officials have been resistant to the idea because of cost, but Vandegrift noted after the meeting that they are planning to build a new fire station just northwest of town, and said an ambulance could be based there to meet the need that will grow greater due to Midway Station.

Southworth said earlier, "We're gonna have 400 people working out here and the closest ambulance is in Versailles."

Vandegrift said the city should have a goal in the next five years of creating "200-plus" more jobs at Midway Station, and 150 to 200 new homes, including affordable housing. "Let's not have jobs outpace homes too badly," he said.

The mayor also called for paying off the bonds on water and sewer facilities and using half the savings for repairs and half to lower customers' rates.

Hicks said the city should develop a downtown "performance area" with a stage and bathrooms. She also called for solar panels on City Hall, an "edible forest" in the park; an elevator in City Hall; a swimming pool and recreation center; a small organic grocery; a Dollar Store; a bike and walking trail around the city; and a volunteer transport service to Lexington and other cities like one offered in Versailles.

Warfield said the city needs to rebuild the rear entrance and porch on the second story of City Hall "before it falls down," and have a visitor center with restrooms that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a city manager to manage employees and enforce ordinances. She also said all blighted areas should be in compliance with the building code within five years.

Simoff also called for a visitor center with bathrooms, and said Midway Station should be mowed and cleaned regularly until its development is complete.

Gallagher, asked for her five-year goals, replied, "Let's get the two-year first."

Asked for his, Southworth smiled and said, "Get re-elected."

With that and laughter all around, the council adjourned until its next regular meeting, at 5:30 p;m. Monday, Feb. 6 at City Hall.