Friday, December 21, 2018

Midway University athletes do well in the classroom

Most of Midway University's athletes recorded a B average or better in the semester just ended, the university announced today. It said 249 student-athletes made the athletic director's honor roll by achieving a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. The school has more than 400 athletes.

The dean's list, which requires a 3.6 GPA, had 114 athletes, and 42 of them scored a perfect 4.0 GPA. "As a department, Midway's student-athletes chalked up a 3.01 cumulative GPA, while 14 of the 20 teams earned above a 3.0 in the classroom," the university said in a news release.

"Taking home the honor of the highest team GPA for the second semester in a row was the equestrian hunt seat team, who collected a 3.38 team GPA," the release said. "Women's cross country was close behind with a 3.36, while women's soccer and men's golf each had a 3.28."

Rusty Kennedy, the university's vice president of admissions and athletics, said in the release, "Our student-athletes continue to amaze me with their work in the classroom. To balance their work both on the playing field and in the classroom takes focus, time management, and determination. I applaud our student-athletes for their hard work in the classroom."

Thursday, December 20, 2018

24 Panamanian students get degrees at Midway Univ.

Graduates from Panama posed with their diplomas after the ceremony. (Midway University photo)
Midway University hosted a commencement ceremony Thursday, Dec. 13 for 24 students from Panama who came to the university as part of a program sponsored by the Panamanian Institute for the Development of Human Resources.

After completing high school in Panama, the students came to Midway in spring 2014 and participated in a nine-month college readiness program developed by Midway University faculty and staff. It included courses in English conversation, leadership and cultural activities, and weekend excursions. Then the students enrolled as regular students.

“We congratulate this group of new alumni on their accomplishments,” said Dr. John P. Marsden, president of the university. “The students came to Midway speaking little English and most had never traveled outside their home country. It has been a privilege to watch them learn, mature and grow and now be Midway University graduates ready to take on the world.”

Faculty member Gayle Bartilow and former staff member Emily Evans, the featured commencement speakers, reflected on the accomplishments of the students and offered them well wishes.

The graduates are:
Alexis Javier Aguirre Mojica
Business Administration
Chiriqui, Panama
Glorisneth Yadhir Arcias Saenz
Business Administration
Colon, Panama
Milagros Del Carmen Broce Pardo
Business Administration
Veraguas, Panama
Maria Cristina Castillo Castillo
Business Administration
Veraguas, Panama
Odalys Cedeño Gutierrez
Education Studies: English
Darien, Panama
Jose Jesus Coronado Alveo
Cocle, Panama
Katherine Milena Cortez Barria
Interdisciplinary Studies
Chiriqui, Panama
Vielka Itzel Cruz Bonaga
Education Studies: English
Los Santos, Panama
Elsy Elizabeth Duarte Arena
Interdisciplinary Studies
Chiriqui, Panama
Dania Isel Frias Chavez
Business Administration
Los Santos, Panama
Ilcia González Garcia
Business Administration
Colon, Panama
Eliel Alberto Guerra Alveo
Business Administration
Cocle, Panama
Velkys Lismeth Montemayor Jordán
Health Care Administration
Chiriqui, Panama
Amado Manuel Mendoza
Interdisciplinary Studies
Darien, Panama
Ibeth Karina Morales
Business Administration: Accounting
Chiriqui, Panama
Beverly Murillo De León
Education Studies: English
Darien, Panama
Rosaura Ortega Rodríguez
Business Administration
Cocle, Panama
Nelydeth Peralta Cortez
Business Administration
Los Santos, Panama
Carlos Manuel Pinto Villarreal
Health Care Administration
Los Santos, Panama
Jarol Alexander Prado
Los Santos, Panama
David Francisco Rios Gomez
Business Administration
Panama City, Panama
Yiniva Madelen Sarmiento
Business Administration
Veraguas, Panama
Marianela Valdés Concepcion
Education Studies: English
Veraguas, Panama
Ada Lisbeth Valdés Santo
Veraguas, Panama

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Winners of Midway Woman's Club Holiday Decorating Contest are announced; several are pictured here

Best overall design: 112 Old Towne Walk
The Midway Woman's Club has announced the winners of its annual Holiday Decorating Contest. Here are a few of the winners; the rest are listed below. For larger versions of the pictures, click on them.

Most whimsical lights: 238 W. Stephens St.
Most colorful design: 318 N. Winter St.
Best Christmas spirit: 219 W. Higgins St,
Other winners were:
Best Front Door – 225 Gayland Dr.
Most Creative Lights – 323 S. Winter St.
Best Daytime Display – 111 Coach Station Rd.
Best Indoor Tree – 401 Merrywood Dr.
Best Traditional Decorations – 231 Johnson St.
Best Outdoor Tree – 219 Gayland Dr.
Most Fun – 109 Carriage Lane
Best Porch – 268 W. Stephens St.
Best Yard – 225 E. Higgins St.
Best for Spirit of Woodford County – 115 Coach Station Rd.
Special 2018 14th Anniversary MWC Holiday Décor Judging Award – 217 N. Turner St.
Best Business Decorations – Milam House, 140 E. Main St.

Best wreath: 129 Old Towne Walk

The Messenger welcomes contributions of photos of other winners. Send to al.cross@uky.edu.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Council votes 4-1 to cut sewer rates by 25 percent; farewell resolution names John McDaniel 'Mr. Midway'

Council Members Steve Simoff, John McDaniel and Johnny
Wilson, who are leaving the council, posed after the meeting.
The Midway City Council voted 4-1 tonight to cut sewer rates 25 percent, as Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wanted. Barring an unexpected special meeting, the session was the last for half of the council; three new members take office Jan. 1.

Two of the returning council members did not join the majority. Bruce Southworth, who favored a 15 percent cut, abstained, and Kaye Nita Gallagher voted no. Sara Hicks and the three departing members voted yes.

Gallagher had seconded Johnny Wilson's motion to pass the ordinance, which briefly seemed at risk of dying for lack of a second. "If I hadn't seconded it," she explained, "we wouldn't have been able to talk about it."

Later in the meeting, Gallagher suggested that the council could pass neither ordinance and wait to see what happens to the 21.5 percent rate increase Kentucky American Water Co. has proposed to the state Public Service Commission. Sewer fees appear on water bills and are based on water usage.

Vandegrift said the city would probably have to pass on to customers whatever rate hike the PSC approves in about 10 months, but said the increase was in doubt and he would fight it.

He told Gallagher that if the council didn't cut sewer rates at all, "You have to explain to citizens why." He said the long-discussed cut would reflect the city's early payoff of debt for the sewage-treatment plant, and without it, "I'm afraid what it'll do is kill the appetite" of citizens for sewer improvements.

"In a couple of years we may have to raise 'em anyway to do a major project, and people are gonna say, 'Dang it, you all always come back asking for more, and never give it back when you don't need it any more'," the mayor said.

As for the alternative 15 percent cut, "I'm not sure 15 percent makes enough difference to people, in their lives," he said. "Even with a 25 percent cut, we've still got between, on the low side, thirty thousand, on the high side, fifty or sixty thousand dollars in new revenue that's not going toward old debt."

Southworth, who once operated the sewer system, defended the 15 percent cut as "more conservative" and said rates could be lowered again later. Vandegrift said the 25 percent cut "doesn't scare the most conservative person I ever met, Phyllis Hudson, our treasurer."

Vandegrift argued, "Let's put it in people's pockets while we can. It won't change everybody's lives, but I guarantee you it'll have a major effect on a lot of people's lives." Earlier, he said the average annual savings would be about $120 per household.

The only other discussion at the meeting was on departing Council Member John McDaniel's suggestion that the city make "more presentable" the two African American cemeteries it agreed to take over in 1989. Since then, he said, most of the maintenance has been done by Boy Scouts. Vandegrift called it "a great suggestion."

McDaniel lost his bid for a second two-year term last month, placing a close seventh in the nonpartisan eight-candidate race for six council seats. In May, he finished third in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for Midway-area magistrate on Woodford County Fiscal Court.

The farewell resolution honoring McDaniel called him "Mister Midway," citing his passion for the city, his civic leadership and his honor as Citizen of the Year in 2003. He told his colleagues, "I'll probably be down here harassing you all from the peanut gallery."

Council Member Steve Simoff, who chose not to seek a second term but said he might run again, "showed great care for all public spaces," said the resolution honoring him. He said his term has been fun and educational.

Council Member Johnny Wilson was appointed in March to fill the unexpired term of Libby Warfield after an application process that discouraged people who were interested in a full term. The resolution for him said he has "a great eye for detail, which he shares with his predecessor."

The resolutions approved by the council, with the subject members abstaining, named Dec. 29, 30 and 31, respectively, as Johnny Wilson Day, Steve Simoff Day and John McDaniel Day in Midway.

The newly elected council members, John Holloway, Logan Nance and top election vote-getter Stacy Thurman, attended the meeting and sat in the back row of the audience.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Model train exhibit drew steady stream of visitors Saturday; will be on display once more this Saturday

Story, video and photo by Karlil Wilson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Train enthusiast Christy Reaves displayed her “Joy Land” model train layout for the citizens of Midway and many more last Saturday at the Thoroughbred Theater, and will again this Saturday.

The Midway Business Association sponsors the exhibit, which will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a free event that welcomes all comers, and the first one had a steady stream of visitors.

Reaves said “Joy Land” is her happy place and uses parts from her last project in Ashland. “The inspiration was to take stuff that wasn’t going to be used anymore and turn into something that I can enjoy and love forever.” Reaves said she spent two and a half months putting it together.

Reaves said her train layout gives children and families in the community something to do together that’s happy and positive: “Trains ever since the beginning of time have been uniting communities.” She said everything a train did always had something to do with community growth and she believes that model toy trains do that same thing today. Reaves said she hopes that she can do an event like this at least once a year.

Steve Morgan, secretary of the MBA, said this was a good event to have in Midway because historically, Midway is historically a railroad town and “there is a lot interest in model trains.” Midway was the first town in Kentucky created by a railroad. “Our goal is to have people that interested in model trains come take a look and bring people to downtown Midway,” he said.

Morgan said this is the first time that the MBA has sponsored an event like this, but members hope that they can do something like this every year. Along with the exhibit, the association was also accepting cash donations for the charity Toys for Tots last Saturday.

With a lot of visitors, also came a lot of families. Many parents brought their children to look at the train exhibit.

“It blows my kid’s mind; he’s gonna be here for an hour or two and then scream the house down when we’re about to leave,” said Charles Campbell of Midway.

Campbell said the first thing that stuck out to him when he saw the exhibit was Reaves’s attention to detail. He thinks this is “a great event for kids to come experience and gives them a chance to get away from the TV for a little bit.”

Campbell said this event is “huge” for a city like Midway and does a lot for the community. “You see so many parents and children out here – and the fact that it’s free. You can go and eat at the surrounding restaurants. So even though this event is small, it’s still helping the economy.”

Boil-water advisory lifted, mayor says

From Mayor Grayson Vandegrift:

As of 1:20 p.m. today the boil water advisory affecting several streets in town has been lifted. We recommend that you run your faucets a few minutes to clear any sediment that may be in the lines, but lab tests have come back and the water is safe to drink. Thank you for your patience during this advisory.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Business Association adopts January promotion, elects officers, donates profits from chili cook-off, hears reports

For a larger version of the poster, click on it.
By Desiree Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway businesses will try to jazz up January, usually a slow month, with a “Taste of Kentucky”/Winter Clearance Sale promotion.

The Midway Business Association adopted the idea at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 5. It also elected Cortney Neikirk president for 2019, allocated profits from November’s chili cook-off and heard reports on Toys for Tots, Midway University and the plan for a tourism-oriented entrance to the town.

The January promotion will be a two-week event in which restaurants offer specials on appetizers, lunch and dinner entrees, and desserts, and retailers would have special clearance sales. Members of the association plan to spend no more than $500 on advertising it.

Officers: Neikirk, the MBA president, is co-owner of Sweet Tooth. Steve Morgan was elected vice president, Leslie Penn was re-elected treasurer, Katie Hicks was elected secretary, and Justin Werner and Doug McDaniel were chosen for member at large.

If you are interested in joining the Midway Business Association, there will be an open house membership meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at the Brown Barrel Restaurant. Following the meeting, or at 10 a.m., a Fall Festival contract meeting will be held.

Toys for Tots: Collections for Toys for Tots, a program for underprivileged children, have at least doubled from last year, Morgan reported. He and Logan Nance are delivering toys collected this week to the Marine Reserves unit in Lexington.

“I think that is such a statement … as a community, for us to even double what we did last year,” President Peggy Angel said.

Google map, labeled, shows tract proposed for town entrance
Town entrance: Morgan reported that Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, Cynthia Bohn of Equus Run Vineyards and members of the City Council continue to discuss with RJ Corman Railroad Co. and property owner Helen Rentch the idea of a railroad-themed entrance to Midway at the corner of Midway Road (US 62) and Leestown Road (US 421).

The location would be one of the trailheads for the hike, bike, canoe, and horseback trail portion that is being established between Frankfort and Midway.

Campus report: Ellen Gregory of Midway University gave an update on projects on the campus. In addition to the new sports field house, for which a ceremonial groundbreaking was held Nov. 8, Pinkerton Hall is being converted back to a residence hall and is expected to reopen by fall 2019 with space for up to 52 students.

The upstairs floor of Marrs Hall is being converted into a welcome center for admissions, the business office and financial aid, and the ground floor will house accounting, human resources and marketing. 

Chili cook-off: The Nov. 17 chili cook-off made a profit of $840. Members decided to give half, $420, to the Midway Area Ministerial Association. The association has donated $200 to the Presbyterian Church backpack program and also contributed to Northside Elementary art classroom supplies.

Members also agreed to provide a $50 gift card to Christy Reeves to thank her for providing the model train exhibit on Dec. 8 and 15.

In other business, Penn reported on the Renaissance Living History Committee, announcing there are now five photo plaques posted downtown. Most recently, a map of the city in 1852 is now on display at City Hall.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Water main broken in 100 block of East Stephens Street

A message from Mayor Grayson Vandegrift:

We have located a water main break on the 100 block of E. Stephens. City employees are on site working on the repair, but water customers living on the 100 block of E. Stephens between Winter and Gratz will be affected, and the break will likely affect customers living on S Gratz between E. Stephens and the softball field. As water service is restored, city workers will be placing boil water advisory notices on the front doors of all homes affected.

This is one example of the many types of updates we can give you through our participation in Heads Up Community. We will be sharing more information about Heads Up in the coming weeks, including for those who aren’t technologically advanced and those without internet connections, but if you are interested in learning more at this time you can visit headsupemergency.com or download the app for free on your phone. We also have hard copy information about this program at City Hall. Our goal is to be able to reach as many people as possible in the event of emergencies, for public notices, or for important city updates, connecting to you in the way that is most convenient for the user.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Model train exhibit Saturday at Thoroughbred Theater

Local train enthusiast Christy Reaves will display her “Fantasy Land” model train exhibit Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Thoroughbred Theater building on Main Street. Stores in downtown Midway will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Restaurants will have food and drink options all day and there will also be activities for kids, including trackless train rides and face painting from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, contact Steve Morgan at 859-552-1377 or morganstv01@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Council hears first reading of ordinances to cut sewer rates 15 percent or 25 percent; action set Dec. 17

Story and photo by Ana Neal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift presented dual ordinances to the city council Monday evening for cutting sewer rates, saying the city needs a new baseline for the service.

Vandegrift said he prefers a 25 percent cut, which would mean the current monthly rate of $14.60 for the first 1,000 gallons of water used would be lowered to $10.95, and everything over 1,000 gallons would go from $7.30 to $5.47.

The 15 percent cut, which Council Member Bruce Southworth favors, would mean the rate would go from $14.60 to $12.41 for the first 1,000 gallons and from $7.30 to $6.21 for over 1,000 gallons.

Vandegrift said Midway was financially set back in 2002 to pay for the new sewer plant, but now that the debt is paid off, four years early, rates could be lowered. “Too often government will take money when they need it but they never give it back when they don’t,” he said.

The second reading and vote on both ordinances is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 17. Vandegrift said the council also has the option of leaving rates as they are. A new council takes office Jan.1.

Vandegrift touched on the projected cost for a sewer-improvement project with HMB Professional Engineers. This project would focus on cleaning out the old lines in town, tree root removal, and inspections. He said he thought the project would cost around $300,000, but the HMB is projecting only $107,000.

The mayor said the city has two choices, “one side with HMB as the engineer, and one is with us essentially doing it ourselves.” Vandegrift also said that Chris Stewart of HMB will attend a council meeting in a month or so to explain the project in more detail.

Assistant Chief Joe Campbell and Kentucky American's Jimmy Keaton
Fire department gift: Jimmy Keaton, government-affairs director for Kentucky American Water Co., presented a $500 check to the Midway Fire Department.

Keaton said, “Our firefighting support grant program is one way we can say thank you so very, very much to the men and women of these departments for their tireless dedication.”

The assistant chief of the fire department, Joe Campbell, accepted the check and said the money will be used for a new firefighting curriculum, including textbooks.

Iron Horse: Next year will be the 10th year of the Iron Horse Half Marathon, but it will be held about a month earlier, in conjunction with the Midway Fall Festival, under a permit the council approved. The Midway Business Association, which sponsors the festival, adopted the idea last month.

Because the race has been held on Sundays at 8 a.m., race representative Riley Marshall said, the biggest thing they hear from their runners is that they have little chance on a Sunday morning in mid-October to “drink in” what Midway has to offer.

Marshall and Zach Beavin, another representative, said parking will be available at Southern Equine Farm and Midway University. Asked how they will prevent runners from parking on the street, they offered the idea of issuing parking passes beforehand. The race will be run from 7 to 10 a.m.

Other business: Rex Cecil’s request for the council to waive the $850 fee for restoring water to properties that have been inactive for five years was approved. The council agreed that Cecil could only pay the deposit fee of $75 for his building at 123 E. Main St.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Message from the mayor gives his view of options for sewer-rate cuts; first reading of ordinances Monday

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

It’s time to set a new baseline for our sewer rates – one that reflects our much improved financial situation.

Tomorrow night, I will present two options to the city council for cutting sewer rates – a 25 percent cut (which I prefer) and a 15 percent cut. The reason our current sewer rates are what they are is because they were raised in 2002 to cover the bonds issue for the new sewer plant. Now that we’ve paid off the debt on both the old and new plants, I believe it’s time to set a new baseline sewer rate.

Governments too often take money when they need it but never give it back when they don’t. Our upcoming sewer project to camera and clean out the old lines in town will not require us to borrow money, but future projects likely will. At that time, we may have to raise rates temporarily to pay off the loan of such a project – but it will only be for the life of the loan – then, rates will be reduced back to the baseline.

The question is, what should that new baseline be? I believe it should be 25 percent lower, bringing the rate just below the levels they were before the city had to build a second sewer plant because of failed technology in the old plant. The numbers and projections show (they are available at City Hall or here) that even with a 25 percent rate cut, there is still plenty of new money coming in because we are debt free in our sewer fund, and we’ve got plenty of money saved for rainy day funds.

The ordinance requires two readings, the first of which is scheduled for our regular council meeting on Monday, Dec. 3 at City Hall. The second readings, and vote to approve one of the ordinances, is set for Dec. 17 at City Hall. Both meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. and members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend. Thank you for taking the time to read this and on becoming more informed on the issues, that’s part of what makes this community so great.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Architects give Rex Cecil award for service to profession

Retired architect T. Rexford "Rex" Cecil of Midway has received the Oberwarth Gold Medal from the Kentucky Society of the American Institute of Architects.

The award is made "to recognize and honor an individual member who has displayed a long-standing commitment to the betterment of the profession and well-being of architects in Kentucky, and who has dedicated extraordinary time and talent to this end," an AIA Kentucky press release said.

Cecil's resume says he has been a registered architect for 44 years, with broad experience in building design, including "technically complex medical facilities and from new facilities to the complete restoration or renovation of the historically significant." In the administration of Gov. Brereton Jones in 1991-95, he managed facilities and employees for the Finance Cabinet, as well as design and construction activities. He was executive director of the Kentucky Board of Architects from 2005 until early this year.  He and his wife Gay live on Old Frankfort Pike.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Kentucky American wants Midway to pay 21.5% more for water; mayor says he will object, calls hike 'absurd'

Kentucky American Water Co. is asking the state Public Service Commission for rate increases, including a 21.5 percent in the fee for wholesale customers such as the City of Midway. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger that he would oppose the increase.

"I will absolutely be speaking publicly against this rate increase," Vandegrift said in an email. "It is absurd for them to ask for another rate increase right now."

Kentucky American last filed for rate increases in 2016. The PSC gave it about half what it sought; for the company's direct residential customers, that was a 9.2 percent hike. Midway's water system did not pass the increase along to its customers. "I'm not sure if we'll be able to do that again," Vandegrift said.

At its meetings in December, the outgoing City Council is to consider an ordinance that would reduce sewer fees by 2515 percent, because the city has reduced its sewer expenses with an early payoff of the bond issue used to build the wastewater treatment plant. Vandegrift said he has changed the cut from the original 25 percent on the advice of Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, but still hopes for an additional cut to make the total 25 percent.

The sewer and water funds are separate, but billed together. "On average, the sewer bill is about 35 percent of the overall bill, when you factor in garbage too," Vandegrift said. In August, the council increased garbage rates 15.4 percent for residential customers and 29.6 percent for businesses, passing along increases from contractor Rumpke Waste & Recycling.

The increase for Kentucky American would be the company's sixth in 11 years, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The PSC process includes public hearings, and takes six months to a year.

The company says it is spending more than $100 million improving its system and needs a rate hike to cover those costs. “These investments are necessary to maintain and enhance service, water quality, system reliability, and fire protection capabilities for customers while still keeping the cost of water service for most residential customers at about a penny per gallon, usually their most affordable utility bill,” it said in a news release.

“We have approached infrastructure replacement in as proactive a way as possible,” Kentucky American President Nick Rowe said, “but more investment is still required in order to address the continual need for system renewal.” The news release listed "major capital projects," including work at the company's largest treatment plant, on the Kentucky River in Fayette County and "the replacement of 9.5 miles of aging water pipes in the region since the last rate increase took effect in 2016." It didn't say where those were.

“In addition to focusing on these and other capital improvements, we are committed to containing operational and maintenance expenses as much as possible, too, in order to keep rates affordable for our customers,” Rowe said. “We have done this by implementing efficiencies and leveraging technology throughout our operations. We will continue to work toward becoming even more efficient without sacrificing the safety of our teams or the level of service we provide.”

Council committee to consider water fee requests

The Public Works and Services Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at City Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, to discuss requests for a water-bill adjustment and for an exception to the fee for reconnecting service after five years. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Rex Cecil, who owns the vacant building at 123 E. Main St., made the latter request to the City Council last week. Cecil said he closed his architectural practice that was in the building in 2005, and turned the water off in 2009. The fee for restoring service after five years is $850.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Woodford County Judge-Executive John 'Bear' Coyle found dead on his farm, after apparent heart attack

John "Bear" Coyle
Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle, who was about to retire after three four-year terms at the head of county government, died unexpectedly at his farm on Troy Pike south of Versailles today. Coroner Ronald Owens said the cause appeared to be a massive heart attack.

Coyle was 63. His chosen successor, state Rep. James Kay of Versailles, said Coyle's wife, Mary Don Coyle, discovered him about 2:30 p.m. "He had gone out to feed some ponies he kept for his granddaughters, and never came back in," Kay said.

Coyle was farming in his home Nonesuch community in 1985 when Loren "Squirrel" Carl, then a county police detective, ran for sheriff and put him on his ticket as a deputy.

"I just took a liking to him, when I would go to the Nonesuch store," Carl recalled in an interview. "John was my friend and one of the hardest-working guys I had. . . . I always called him John-boy."

Coyle's better known nickname, "Bear," came in 1987, when he took an anti-drug message to an elementary school, "carrying a stuffed toy bear to engage the children," Kristy Robinson Horine reported in 2015 for the Blue Grass Area Development District. "Coyle says the bear’s uniform and hat matched his own, even down to the badge. One small child in the front row latched onto the resemblance and declared to Coyle, 'You look just like him! I’m going to call you Bear.'"

When Carl was in his third term, he resigned to work in the state attorney general's office for Ben Chandler of Versailles, and "I was able to get John appointed sheriff," Carl said. "Nobody ran against him when he was sheriff. . . . He was very personable, very likeable."

When Democrat Joe Gormley didn't seek re-election as judge-executive in 2006, Coyle ran, won the primary and general elections, and was re-elected in 2010 and 2014, both times defeating Republican Bobby Gaffney. The second race was closer, 54 to 46 percent, and Gaffney carried five precincts, including rural Midway.

“He was a gentleman and a class act,” Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. “We disagreed on policy quite a few times, but there was never a cross word between us when we saw each other. On Midway Station, we worked particularly well together, and he’s part of the reason for the success we’ve seen there. My heart goes out to his family.”

Kay said Coyle surprised him on April 7, 2017 by calling him to his courthouse office and telling him that he wasn't going to run again and that Kay would be "a great judge-executive." Kay said Coyle's support "did make it a much better shot" for Kay, and no one else in either party filed for the office. Kay will take office Jan. 1 unless Republican Gov. Matt Bevin appoints him to fill the vacancy.

Kay said Coyle will be remembered for his "steady leadership, his common-sense approach to good government; he always did the right thing, or what he believed the right thing to be. . . . He was a great steward of taxpayers' money and he left the county with a nearly $5 million surplus."

Besides his wife, Coyle is survived by four sons: Andrew (Kristin), Roy (Katherine), Matthew (Jordan) and John Paul; and three granddaughters: Ella, Sloane and Mallory.

Visitation with the family will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at Versailles United Methodist Church, 230 Paynes Mill Rd. Those wishing to pay respects may also do so at the church Friday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at which hour funeral services will be conducted at the church. Officiating will be Tim Noel of Troy Presbyterian Church, with eulogy from County Attorney Alan George and comments from retired Judge Anthony Wilhoit.

County offices will close at 1 p.m. Friday for the services.

Burial will be in the Versailles Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Spurgeon Chapman, Glenn Carter, Charles Melvin Carter, Kip Gillespie, Charles Withers and David Sutherland. Honorary pallbearers will be all Woodford County magistrates, Loren “Squirrel” Carl, Wayne “Tiny” Wright, John Wilhoit, Jerry Lancaster, Ronnie Durbin, Alan George, Gordie Shaw, James “Flea” Kay, Sr., James Kay, Kenny Tilghman, Mark Molla, Randy Redmon, Sandy Redmon, Clifford Ray Bradley and the staff of the second floor at the Woodford County Courthouse.

Memorial donations may be made to Troy Presbyterian Church, 11021 Troy Pike, Versailles, KY 40383 or the Food Pantry for Woodford County, PO Box 1066, Versailles, KY 40383, where Coyle was planning to concentrate his efforts in retirement. For the full obituary from Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home, click here.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Message from the mayor: We can cut sewer rates 25 percent and still improve the system

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Upon hearing of our proposed 25 percent sewer rate cut, a citizen asked a great question that’s important to answer. They said, “Why not keep sewer rates the same and use that money for infrastructure?” My answer is pretty simple: because we can do both. Governments too often use taxes as a way to cover for their inefficiency and waste. If a business did this, they’d have no customers left. That’s not to say that government should run like a business, but it can use a lot of the same principles to achieve what’s best for our citizens.

My No. 1 objective in my second term is infrastructure, and we already have a plan in the works to camera and clean out all of the old sewer lines in town, which will give us invaluable information and make those lines more functional immediately. From there, we’ll continue to use the large general fund surpluses we’ve accumulated (and which are projected to grow) to decide what sewer project we should do next. Our sewer fund is as healthy as it’s been in years, so why not make the present more comfortable while we plan for the future. After all, isn’t that the goal of government?

On top of that, we’re about to re-launch our sidewalk program on a larger scale than our pilot program a couple years ago, and we’re planning more road paving in the spring. We just finished extensive storm sewer work that has already shown improvement in heavy rains, and we plan more down the road.

Taxing shouldn’t be a Democrat vs. Republican issue. A government should never tax citizens more than it needs to. It is no longer necessary for our citizens to pay exorbitant sewer fees; we can ease that burden somewhat and still improve our infrastructure for the future.

Make no mistake, my plan is harder on the government. We’ll have to work harder, plan smarter, and continue to be efficient and mindful. But that’s our job -- to work harder every day to make the lives of our residents better.

I want to thank that good citizen for their thoughtful question and reflection of the issues. It’s that kind of citizenry that makes our city so special.

Santa Claus comes to Midway via RJ Corman Railroad

Santa Claus arrived in Midway this morning at 11, right on time, via the RJ Corman Railroad. A crowd waited for him on both sides of the tracks, and a long line of parents and children lined up to see him at the old Thoroughbred Theater building. Santa's visit was sponsored by the Midway Business Association. We got no still photos of Santa, just video, and technical difficulties have prevented posting video here, but we have a short one (about 30 seconds) on our Facebook page. For a one-minute video of the train's approach into town, click here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Christmas tree and other city lights are lit

The annual lighting of the city Christmas tree and light poles on Main Street was held tonight. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift led the crowd in carols before and after the lighting. Santa arrives tomorrow at 11 a.m. (In the video, a car makes the turn onto westbound Main Street just as the tree is lit.)

Governor names Midway teacher Elizabeth Smith to Education Professional Standards Board for teachers

Gov. Matt Bevin has named Elizabeth J. Smith of Midway to the state Education Professional Standards Board, which establishes the rules for teacher certification in Kentucky and sets the standards for teacher-training programs.

Smith is a teacher of English as a second language. She will represent elementary teachers and serve for a term expiring June 30, 2019. The board has 17 members, all appointed by the governor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mayor says 25% sewer-rate cut to be proposed at next City Council meeting; sidewalk repair plan renewed

By Hannah Woosley, Sierra McLean and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift plans to ask the City Council to give the city's sewer customers a Christmas present: a 25 percent reduction in the city's sewer fee.

Vandegrift made the announcement today, after distributing figures at Monday night's City Council meeting showing that the balance in the sewer fund is "rising very steadily." He told council members that he would "be talking to each of you individually, but I’m of the opinion we can have the first reading of [an ordinance] lowering sewer rates the first Monday in December."

Just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, Vandegrift said in an email to the Messenger and The Woodford Sun, "We’re going to go ahead and put 25 percent sewer-rate cuts into ordinance form and schedule for first reading on Dec. 3 and second reading Dec. 17. It’s become apparent, and I’m very confident, that with the sewer fund rapidly improving and our new revenue coming in, which is expected to continue to grow itself, we can both cut rates and make major investments in infrastructure."

Vandegrift told the Messenger Tuesday night that he did not talk to all the council members before making the decision: "After the meeting I felt that wouldn’t seem right. I did speak to a few, individually, but didn’t try to get a consensus much more than those I spoke with felt that this council should be the one to decide, which I agree with." Three council seats will change hands Jan. 1.

The sewer fund is growing because it no longer has one big expense: payments on the bonds the city issued to build its current wastewater treatment plant. At Vandegrift's request, the council voted in July to dip into the city's savings to pay off the bond issue early. He said the city was paying more interest on the bonds, 3.8 percent, than it earned from the $285,490 certificate of deposit it cashed, 0.6 percent. Vandegrift said at the time that the move should lead to lowering sewer fees by “at least 25 percent . . . in a few months.”

West Main Street in 2015
Sidewalk redux: The council voted 5-0 to renew the program it started last year, paying half the cost, up to $1,000, of repairing selected sidewalks. Property owners will apply to be part of the program, pay the full cost, then be reimbursed. Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher abstained, saying, "I've got a dog in this fight." Her sidewalk on West Main Street needs repair or replacement.

Last year, due to budget limitations, only three owners were funded for repair of five sidewalks, and the plan “worked very well,” Vandegrift said. “It wasn’t a huge number, but it was sidewalks that hadn’t been fixed in a very long time. This showed us that we can do it on a larger scale.”

Vandegrift said he wants residents to apply if they believe their sidewalks need repairs. He said letters will be sent in February to those who have sidewalks that need repair but haven’t signed up. The sign-up deadline will be March 31. If residents who need sidewalk repairs haven’t signed up by this date, they will be required to bear all costs to repair their sidewalks, he said.

The mayor also said residents who own blighted or abandoned property or have not paid their taxes are ineligible to participate in the cost-sharing program.

Council Member Steve Simoff asked Vandegrift how the city will prioritize repairs. He said Winter Street should have priority, especially due to the busy Halloween traffic, “simply for safety reasons.” Vandegrift agreed, saying that they will look to frequently walked streets first.

The mayor said that eventually, repairs on old streets such as Winter will require tearing up old trees. Council Member Sara Hicks noted that the city has a tree plan that could guide replacement work.

Citizen’s petition: Rex Cecil, who owns the vacant building at 123 E. Main St., asked the council to consider a variance in its policy for restoring water service to properties that have not been active for five years.

Cecil said he closed his architectural practice that was in the building in 2005, and he turned the water off in 2009. He said he wants to sell or rent the property, but “Since it’s been more than five years, it’s $850” to do that, he said.

Vandegrift said he would refer the matter to the council's Public Works and Services Committee.

400 S. Winter St. (Photo from Google Maps street view, 2015)
Building extension request: Greg Rawlings requested an encroachment permit for an addition to the house at 400 S. Winter St. that would need an entrance for parking. Rawlings said the property was originally platted for townhouses but will remain a single-family residence. The council approved the permit 6-0.

Traffic update: Vandegrift said edge lines and center lines will be painted on Stephens Street when the weather stays consistently warm. He said he will include in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 money to build sidewalk bulb-outs at the Winter Street intersections of Bruen Street (the post office) and Stephens. Bulb-outs are designed to make streets narrower, create more space designated for pedestrians, and discourage speeding.

Holiday schedule: The council also discussed the upcoming holiday-season events. On Friday, the tree- and street-lighting ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Santa Claus will be visiting via RJ Corman Railroad at 11 a.m.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Chili cook-off draws shoppers and diners to downtown

Chip Guillot with his winning chili before the judging.
By Ana Neal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Stephanie Blasenak, describing her favorite at Midway’s chili cook-off, said chili made by Carrie Scott “had a really good flavor to it; it was a hometown, like home-cooking taste.”

This was a distinction many had to make Saturday afternoon at the cook-off presented by the Midway Business Association. The annual cook-off is meant to draw people to downtown to shop and dine. While it wasn’t crowded, there was a consistent flow of attendees. Many of the chili tables ran out before day’s end.

Scott said it was her first time entering the cook-off and she decided to use a family recipe: “It’s a recipe our mom fed us and I make it for all my sons and they seem to like it pretty well.” Scott had been to the cook-off in years’ past and decided this year that she wanted “to get in on the fun.”

Debra Shockley's chili won third place in the cookoff.
Many contestants said they entered because they like competition and the charity that the cook-off donated to, the Midway Area Ministerial Association.

Attendees paid $5 each to enter the cook-off and were able to sample the 20 chilis, varying from mild to spicy, and vote for their favorites from noon to 3 p.m.

Blasenak, who lives in Midway, described the event as “a really great opportunity to see and socialize with very friendly people.” She said many people come back year after year to try their chili recipes for the coveted trophy.

A little before 3:30, the winners were announced. First place went to Chip Guillot, manager of Southern Equine Farm. “I have one more place for a trophy, on my trophy shelf for cooking,” he said. “I have one spot so I need to go ahead and fill that up.”

The Rev. Mary Seeger Weese, in turkey hat, had her
chili stand in front of the Thoroughbred Theater.

Guillot said he has a history of winning cook-offs in Louisiana, California, New York, Florida, and Kentucky, and is known for his gumbo. He won a $50 cash prize that donated it back to the ministerial association.

Second place was won by Phil Burchell. His chili recipe earned first place in Midway Christian Church's competition in 2016.

In third place was last year’s winner, Debra Shockley with her Mexican-inspired chili. Asked about her history of success in chili making, she said it’s “more luck than anything.”

This year’s cook-off was helped by volunteers from Midway Renaissance, who staffed City Hall so there were public restrooms available for the contestants and attendees.

Cortney Neikirk, co-owner of Sweet Tooth, said “Anything we do brings new people to town. I believe that it just tells people that we’re here and we do fun things.”

Shockley, Guillot and second-place Phil Burchell pose with MBA's Steve Morgan, wearing Guillot's medal.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Chip Guillot wins chili cook-off, which draws good crowd

Chip Guillot of Southern Equine Farm holds high the cup he won by having the most popular chili today in the Midway Business Association's annual Chili Cook-Off, part of its series of events designed to bring shoppers and diners to downtown Midway as Christmas approaches. Phil Burchell, right, won second place; Debra Shockley, left, last year's winner, was third. Also pictured is MBA Secretary Steve Morgan, wearing Guillot's medal. The event produced a good crowd. The Messenger will have a story on it tomorrow. (Photo by Ana Neal, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media)