Monday, December 4, 2017

Mayor sees much progress, several challenges in annual report to City Council

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift delivered the following annual report at tonight's meeting of the Midway City Council.

It’s easy for many of us – at least I know it is for me – to go through life as though Midway is the center of our universe. For me and you, in so many ways, it is the center, and so I think you’ll forgive me for speaking in such terms. Developments in recent years have been extremely encouraging, and now we are seeing the fruit of generations of care that has given us a better right than most to lay our claim that we are the greatest small city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

More specifically, our general fund is very healthy, our debts are rapidly being paid down, and there is no need to raise any city taxes anytime in the near or remote future. In each of the last two years we have lowered property tax rates, and come budget time, I’ll be proposing we lower them once again.

In financial terms, the reason for our stability is no secret. In fact, the entire Bluegrass Region knows that Midway is open for business. As I stated previously, the added payroll taxes generated by American Howa Kentucky, now in full production, have begun flowing into our city coffers, and with the end of the 4th quarter of 2017 approaching, we will soon begin to collect the significant revenue that Lakeshore Learning Materials is generating, and of which we have all been long awaiting.

Midway University, also a significant contributor of occupational tax revenue, is thriving. Now co-ed, their enrollment numbers are climbing, and nothing but good news is coming from 512 E. Stephens Street. The Homeplace at Midway is an enormous sense of pride, a significant employer, and it continues to win accolades for their superb service to the wisest of our citizens.

Downtown is as vibrant as ever. Three new restaurants have opened in the past year alone, bringing our downtown dining options to an impressive eight, and new shops continue to relocate here from Lexington. The downtown business district has organically been expanding from Main Street onto North Gratz, stretching towards our continuously improving Walter Bradley Park.

A rejuvenated Midway Merchants Association has created new and successful events that have delighted local businesses, residents and visitors. Midsummer Nights in Midway had a terrific sophomore season, and the Midway Fall Festival brought in the largest crowds the 43-year-old event has ever seen. Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival continues to improve, and creates a midsummer boost of its own to downtown shops and restaurants. We should continue to support and encourage these efforts, providing these non-profit organizations the atmosphere – and the autonomy – they need to succeed. I challenge the Midway Merchants Association, in particular, to have it so there is at least one event in each month of the year, so as to give local merchants much needed support to get them through the tougher times.

As a government, we’ve shown that we can accomplish tasks that have seemed elusive to the city for many years. The success at Midway Station, the resolution of inconsistent cemetery regulation, and the public-private collaborations that led to the repair of highly trafficked sidewalks have proven that like our citizens, our government can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Our next challenge will be passing and enforcing a new Property Maintenance Code ordinance that will ensure that diligent property owners are not burdened by careless neighbors, and that renters in our city never have to suffer the negligence of bad landlords.

We’ve also made important tune-ups to our wastewater treatment plant in hopes that we can extend its lifespan for another decade. In 2018, we will finally pay off the old wastewater treatment plant. We should then consider having the plant appraised, deemed surplus property, and put up for public bid. We are currently planning improvements to some of our worst storm sewers, and will be paving more roadways in the spring.

With all of the positive news we’ve become accustomed to, we still have many challenges. As I’ve said before in previous annual reports, we can’t take our eye off of needed improvements to old water and sewer lines. Currently, we are making repairs in small doses, and this policy will need to continue until we have paid off our current debts, because no matter how much new revenue we have or are still to create, the expense of such projects will still most likely involve borrowing money.

Despite the change in fortunes the city has seen at Midway Station, many challenges there still await us. Nothing worries me more at the moment in our mercurial industrial park than the fate of the roads. It is clear now that there can be no guarantee that any private developer will pay for the cost of the needed finishing coat on the roadways there. At the same time, I don’t see any reason why we as a city should accept into our possession any road at Midway Station in its current condition.

One solution is to continue to push for a rezoning of the 61 acres on the east end of the park from residential back to industrial. Aside from the increased revenue this would generate, it could also allow for the complete removal of those inadequate roads in that portion of the park.

All of our problems, however, are solvable; most cities would gladly trade their main issues for ours. If a community works together, and everyone’s light is allowed to shine, then they possess a formula for success.

In summary, our local economy is booming, our citizens are engaged, and our accomplishments can easily be seen. Despite our challenges, it’s abundantly clear that our city is flourishing, and the opportunities we have are only bounded by our own imaginations. I have never been more optimistic about our city’s future than I am right now. Like the classic children’s story about a little engine that could achieve what others believed impossible, we are the “little city that could,” because we think we can … we think we can … we think we can …

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