Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Council hears about brewery or distillery recruitment, hotel/motel prospects, cemetery regulation enforcement

Economic development was the main theme of the Midway City Council meeting Monday evening.

Brewery-distillery task force chair Steve Morgan gave a report.
The council heard a detailed report from a task force trying to recruit a brewery or distillery, heard the executive of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce say he was surprised Midway doesn't have a motel or hotel yet, and approved the temporary appointment of Katie Vandegrift, wife of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, to the county Economic Development Authority.

Steve Morgan of Kentucky Honey Farms, chair of the task force, told the council it has focused on existing breweries or distilleries that might be interested in placing a satellite location in Midway. He said it would be a riskier proposition for a new, stand-alone operation.

Morgan mentioned two prospective locations: the area at the north end of Gratz Street, which was home to distilleries during Midway's distilling era (1852-1959), and the Leslie Mitchell farm on the northwest quadrant of the I-64 interchange.

Morgan said being visible from the interstate would be an advantage, but he and the mayor said there is more potential in the downtown location. "Our main goal is there," Morgan said, "because Midway needs something that brings traffic into Midway every day." He added, "The whole dynamic . . . would change, of the businesses in Midway," with new shops.

Vandegrift said, "It's all about diversifying your economy." He said the state economic-development employee who helps with brewery and distillery projects was the state's officer on the Lakeshore Learning Materials project, and "She's very excited to work on this."

For now, Midway's economy is becoming more industrial, with opening of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant and construction of the huge Lakeshore distribution center next to it in Midway Station.
The Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center is under roof and apparently still set to open in the fall.
Those developments should lead to a hotel or motel in Midway Station or the Green Gables development across the interstate, said Don Vizi, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce, who asked the council for financial support of the chamber.

Vizi spoke about lodging prospects when Council Member Sara Hicks asked him how Midway could have lodging beyond bed-and-breakfasts and noted that the Board of Zoning Adjustments recently denied a permit for a new one in the residential area of South Winter Street.

Vizi said several hotel operators have contacted the chamber. "You have the ideal location for it," he said. "I don't know why that has not happened." He said he had thought Midway would get a hotel or motel before Versailles, which is getting a Holiday Inn Express.

Midway interests have sometimes been concerned that the chamber and the county tourism commission, which the chamber staffs, have not done right by the smaller town near the county's northern edge. But the city gave the chamber $1,000 last year and $1,500 the year before, and Vizi asked for $1,500. The council indicated that it would decide during the budget process that is just beginning.

Vizi said chamber staff always ask people who stop at the visitor center in Versailles if they have been to Midway. "Three of four that come in there don't know Midway exists," he said. "I think we've helped that quite a bit."

Replying to a question from Hicks, Vizi said 22 of the 68 businesses in Midway are members of the chamber, a greater percentage than the chamber has among Versailles businesses.

Vizi said he attends monthly meetings of the Midway Business Association and works with merchants to promote the town. He noted that the chamber board will meet at Midway University on the morning of April 27.

Chamber Chair Bob Gibson said the chamber board has been pushing for Midway and better connections between the two towns, and will have a Midway update on every monthly agenda.

Appointments: Vandegrift said he had searched for some time to someone to fill the city's vacancy on the Economic Development Authority who is "willing and able, and who understands the balance we're trying to strike." Until he can find that person, he said, he wants his wife to hold the position.

Katie Vandegrift works in risk management for United Bank, which does not want her to hold the unpaid position on a permanent basis, her husband said. "She can hit the ground running," he said, because they have discussed EDA matters since he became mayor more than two years ago.

Council Member John McDaniel moved to appoint the mayor's wife on an interim basis. Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded and all other members approved the appointment.

The council also unanimously approved the mayor's nomination of Julie Morgan, wife of Steve Morgan, to a vacancy on the park board.

Cemetery issues: Council Member Libby Warfield said 55 letters will go out soon, notifying owners of lots in the Midway Cemetery that items on their lots are in violation of cemetery regulations. The council and Vandegrift decided recently to enforce all regulations, negating special exemptions that had been granted before he became mayor.

Warfield, chair of the Cemetery and City Property committee, said she has been removing names from the letter list as she sees cemetery lots brought into compliance with the regulations.

Garbage pickup: Hicks offered a recommendation from the Ordinance and Policy Committee, which she chairs, that all nonprofit organizations, not just churches, be allowed to have once-a-week pickup at residential rates rather than twice a week at the commercial rate. Vandegrift said he would have an ordinance drafted for the council to make the change.

Pool-filling adjustments: Hicks reported that she had received two calls Monday from people who want the city to return to its old policy of one-time discounts of sewer charges for people who fill their swimming pools with city water. The sewer charge is based on water usage; the exemption was based on the fact that pool water doesn't enter the sewer system.

The council abolished the exemption on a 3-1 vote in 2012, after it couldn’t agree on an adjustment plan that would include things like turning on sprinklers and watering gardens. Vandegrift said Hicks's committee should discuss the issue and make a recommendation to the full council, which has none of the members it had in 2012.

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