Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Midsummer Nights in Midway returns for 2nd season Friday, June 30, and on last Fridays of July and August

Midsummer Nights in Midway will return for a second season at 6 p.m. Friday, June 30, and will be held monthly through August. The events are designed to provide wholesome, family fun and serve as a platform for local businesses, artists, and non-profits to reach new audiences, as well as "highlight the historic, small-town warmth of Midway," says Midway Renaissance, the event's originator and coordinator.

The Twiggenburys, a Lexington-based band that plays rock and pop from British artists from the '70s through today, will provide live music from 7 to 10 p.m.

Local restaurants will be selling food and beverages, local shops and street vendors will be open late, and local non-profits will be selling food, soft drinks and water.

There will be activities for children, including Tiny Tallman from 6 to 8 p.m., and a Bearded Brothers photo booth. Free parking will be available.

Midway Renaissance is offering a sponsorship level called Friends of Midsummer Nights. For $25 sponsors get a t-shirt and their names in a drawing to win a gift certificate to local restaurants and stores. People can sign up at the Midway Renaissance t-shirt booth at the event.

The presenting sponsors of Midsummer Nights in Midway are Grey Goose Restaurants and Graviss McDonald's Restaurants. Other sponsors are Midway Shell and Midway BP (now under the same ownership), Midway University, the Lexington law firm of Sturgill Turner, Amberway Equine, Sporthorse Properties, Mezzo Italian Cafe and Provisions, The Homeplace at Midway, Kennydid Gallery, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Woodford County, Horse Country Cottage, Kentucky Honey Farms, Weisenberger Mills, May & Co., Southern Equine and Holly Hill Inn and the City of Midway.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Council OKs cemetery rules, house demolition bid, purchase of lower speed humps for Stephens Street

The Midway City Council enacted new cemetery regulations and authorized the mayor to buy lower speed humps for East Stephens Street at its meeting Monday evening. It also put some surplus equipment up for sale and awarded a bid to remove the old house in the cemetery.

The cemetery regulations are the first update in 18 years, said Council Member Libby Warfield, chair of the City Property and Cemetery Committee. She said nothing in the new rules (at the end of the council meeting packet, here) conflicts with the cemetery brochure distributed by City Hall, but they impose some new requirements in addition to the cemetery ordinance.

For example, memorials made of concrete, artificial stone, wood, composition, cast plaster, tin or iron are prohibited. Warfield said many graves in the cemetery don't comply with the ordinance, which requires "a suitable memorial identifying each set of remains in a particular lot." Warfield said, "So many of the things that are not in compliance are from what people are leaving there as a marker."

Warfield agreed with a suggestion by Council Member Sara Hicks that the city look for a way to help people who can't afford suitable memorials. Hicks suggested raising the cost of a lot by $50, to $700, and putting the extra money in an assistance fund. Warfield said the ordinance already allows the city to create such a fund, but raising the lot price would require a new ordinance.

The new rules set time periods for artificial decorations, rules for display of flags, and circumstances for the city to remove shrubs. They ban concrete urns, pots and planters; trellises, standards, brackets and shepherd's hooks; new plantings of trees or shrubs; bark mulch, lava rock, stones, glass pebbles and similar products; edging, curbing or fencing; benches, unless used in place of a headstone; toys, shells, balloons, decorative stones, wooden items, statuary, mirrors or other glass items, eternal flames, solar lights, photographs, paper articles, lawn stakes, tree ornaments, wind chimes, sun catchers, birdhouses, feeders and several other items. Warfield said newly prohibited man-made items in the cemetery will be removed.

In other cemetery business, the council accepted a $7,200 bid by Grubbs Excavating of Versailles to remove the old house in the cemetery and restore the site to a mowable condition. Vandegrift said the work will be done after June 28, because the Versailles Police Department will be using the house in a special-weapons-and-tactics exercise that day. He said windows will be broken.

The mayor gave the council a copy of this ad for the replacement
speed humps he wants to buy. Click on it to view a larger version.
The council spent much more time discussing the removable speed humps that were installed in early May on East Stephens Street, upsetting some residents. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the 3-inch-high humps need to be replaced by 2-inchers, mainly because of concerns by emergency medical services and The Homeplace at Midway. He said the 3-inchers could be used on streets with lower speed limits.

Several council members wanted Vandegrift to check with EMS, traffic engineers and others before making the purchase. "These questions you're asking now weren't asked the first time," he said. "You all want to be 100 percent certain that these are going to work. I can't give you that." But he said "I'm going to do a lot of homework" before buying the replacements.

The council declared as surplus property, to be sold by sealed bid, to vehicles and several pieces of equipment: A 1990 Ford Ranger pickup, a 1994 Jeep Cherokee 4x4, a set of 6-foot side toolboxes, a 5x10-foot trailer;, a 50-gallon sprayer on a trailer, a Honda push mower, two Stihl blowers, an Echo hedge trimmer, two Shindaiwa weed eaters, a Meyer salt spreader, a SnowEx salt spreader, and an unspecified number of DeWalt and Skil battery-powered tools.

The council agreed to cancel its meeting scheduled for July 3 because the "Sparks in the Park" event will be held that evening, starting at 6. He said the proposed ordinance with a big pay increase for the mayor and council elected in November 2018 will probably be ready for first reading at the July 17 meeting.

Hicks informed the council that Woodford Forward and Kentucky Utilities will have a meeting Friday at 10 a.m. in the parking lot behind City Hall to discuss installation of a charging station for electric cars. "It's exciting," she said.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Council to consider new cemetery rules and regulations

The agenda for Monday evening's Midway City Council meeting includes a new set of Midway Cemetery rules and regulations, on which a council committee has been meeting for several weeks. A copy of the proposal is in the packet sent today to council members as a PDF, available here; the current regulations are in a brochure, available here.

The council will also consider a bid to remove the old house in the cemetery, a resolution to sell several items as surplus property, and discuss the nagging issue of the removable speed humps on East Stephens Street. The council packet has an advertisement for humps that are two inches high, one inch less than those recently installed.

The agenda includes a usual subhead, "First Reading of Ordinances," but no ordinances are specified. The council recently asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance with a big pay increase for the mayor and council that will be elected in November 2018.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

City council discusses pay raise, adopts new budget

The Midway City Council agreed informally last night to draft an ordinance that would greatly increase the salaries of the mayor and council elected next year. If the council adopts the recommendation of the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, members of the next council would get $400 a month, up from $50; and the mayor would get $1,000, up from $100.

Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the committee, said she had "received favorable feedback. Many people approached me and said they thought it was a good idea," in light of the increased workload of city officials, especially with the Midway Station project. But Council Member Libby Warfield said she's having difficulty with her own opinion.

"It is a touchy subject," Warfield said. "This is a larger increase than I think anybody I talked to ever would have expected, and I'm trying to work on my own to justify it, but I'm not having a whole lot of luck."

"I'm torn as well," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

Warfield said she has less problem with raising the mayor's salary because the office has a four-year term and council members' terms are two years. For them, "You could increase it some and then watch that workload and the increase it some more after two years," she said. "We wouldn't have that luxury with the mayor's position."

Hicks said she had recommended to her committee that the mayor's salary be $20,000, but the committee "encouraged us to be more prudent. . . . Given the amount of the work the mayor's doing, twenty thousand would just be a beginning ... and could be raised as the job becomes more demanding. . . . I'm real concerned with the burden on our mayor."

Council Member Steve Simoff said a recent email from Warfield about her work as chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee showed council members need to be paid more. But Warfield replied, "It just feels like it's a really big leap."

Hicks said that as a member of the council and other boards related to her council work, she attends five to eight meetings a month and also spends time preparing for the meetings. "The good thing is, we're all like excited about our town," she said. "That's really a good problem to have, but I don't think there's a problem with us being reimbursed for that."

McDaniel noted that the committee used other cities in the Bluegrass as a guideline, but Warfield said the average salaries in the six Kentucky towns most similar to Midway average $6,000 for the mayor and $1,900 each for council members.

Hicks said that's not the whole story. "The difference is how active these towns are in their regions and how active their regions are in the state," she said "We are in one of the most active regions in the state and for the size of our town we're one of the most active towns."

Joseph Coleman, research director for the Kentucky League of Cities, said in an email to the Midway Messenger last month that in "cities of similar size to Midway (1,000-2,999 population), the median annual pay for mayors was $6,600 and for legislative body members was $1,200 in Fiscal Year 2016," which ended last June 30.

Vandegrift ended the discussion by saying he had wanted to get "a straw-poll consensus" from the council, and said he would ask City Attorney Phil Moloney to draft an ordinance with the raises.

In other business, the council adopted the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Vandegrift said that was the end of "the smoothest budget process I've ever seen." For a copy of the budget, click here.

Vandegrift said the removable speed bumps recently installed on East Stephens Street need to be smaller, and promised to tell the council that "every two weeks" because "It's only a matter of time before they cause some injury to somebody." The council meets on first and third Mondays.

The mayor said most of the city's first subsidized sidewalk repairs have been completed, but work at the corner of Bruen and Winter streets will require removal of trees, which will need approval from the state Transportation Cabinet because Winter is a state right of way.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Top officials of Japanese firm speak at grand opening of American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant

Tatsuro Ito, president of Howa Textile Industry Ltd., spoke at today's grand opening of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant in Midway Station, which has been operating for several months. "We hope this plant will become a role-model plant among our American facilities," Ito said, after noting that the Japanese company has 36 plants in 13 countries.

American Howa Kentucky President Mizuhiro Toki said "AHK is committed to being a good neighbor and building strong relationships in the community." He expressed thanks to "the people of Woodford County for welcoming us into the community."

The plant is building headliners, the inside roof covering, for automobiles produced at the Toyota plant in Georgetown. It has about 70 workers now and will have 83 by August, plant manager Chris Fortino (at far left in photo) said in an interview. He said he lives in Frankfort, is a native of Cleveland, and has worked for Howa for 11 years and at all the company's U.S. facilities.

Lindsey Ransdell of the state Economic Development Cabinet (seated next to the lectern) told the crowd, "Our automotive industry is what really drives our state," and said 100,000 Kentuckians work for foreign-owned businesses. She said AHK's decision to locate in Midway Station spurred more growth, alluding to the larger Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center that is under construction next door.

The company's name is pronounced "Ho-wa" and it has a plant in Bowling Green. Here's a 14-second video of the ribbon-cutting, which was followed by a reception and tours of the plant:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sixth print edition of Midway Messenger is available

Margie Stedman, Shirley Davis and Lou Taylor enjoy the
Messenger outside the post office, with Lou's dog Molly.
The latest print edition of the Midway Messenger was distributed to locations around greater Midway this week. It mainly features stories that have appeared online, but also includes an update on the Weisenberger Mill bridge and a story about Heirloom being ranked among the top 100 U.S. restaurants on Open Table.

Stories of lasting interest include Austyn Gaffney's profile of artist Ray Papka, the city council's discussion of goals for the town, concerns of local merchants, the Midway Christian Church's environmental work, the recent study about agricultural jobs, and the denial of a request for another bed-and-breakfast.

The Messenger began publishing a print edition twice a year three years ago in response to requests from Midway citizens. Its major distribution points are City Hall, United Bank and Midway Grocery, but many other businesses also have copies. If you can't find one, email al.cross@uky.edu or download a 16-page PDF of the newspaper here.