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 cafĂ© 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.