Saturday, November 25, 2017

Train brings Santa Claus to Midway, delighting children

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mayor's message: Tree lighting Friday, Santa Saturday

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

EDA invites small businesses to Friday's meeting

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

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

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

By Katia Davis
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Merchants' holiday kickoff brings shoppers to town

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

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

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

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

Christmas is coming earlier in Midway this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pet parade will be on Dec. 2.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lakeshore Learning Materials to make first shipment Fri.

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