Monday, January 29, 2018

Midway Renaissance fills board of directors; officer elections and events set; several other events planned

Jeanette Tesmer, the newly hired event coordinator for the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, spoke to the crowd.
Midway's community spirit looks as vibrant as ever, judging from a strong turnout of volunteers for the board of directors of Midway Renaissance at the group's annual meeting Monday night after the chili cook-off at Midway Christian Church.

When President Debra Shockley announced that the board had 10 directors and seats for 18, at least eight people volunteered. The board will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at the library to elect this year's officers.

Shockley said the group's primary source of income is the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, held each May at Midway University. She introduced Jeanette Tesmer, new coordinator of the event, and said planning for this year's Midsummer Nights in Midway will begin soon.

The group's first public activity will be staffing City Hall during the Midway merchants' annual Chocolate Stroll on Saturday, Feb. 10. Peter Fisher said a similar event is being planned for St. Patrick's Day, March 17, another Saturday, with the addition of "green"exhibits about electric vehicles, solar energy, recycling, gardening and so on.

DeeDee Roach said the group's Living History Committee will meet Feb. 12 at the Historic Midway Museum Store to gather up photographs of downtown businesses, and is planning a historic homes tour on Winter Street this summer to finance repairs to the Midway Woman's Club building.

Alex Woodruff, 15, wins annual chili cook-off at Midway Christian Church; crowd believed to be largest ever

Jonathan McColl and his father Mike were among the last in a very long line at the annual chili cook-off.
Alex's cookpot was empty, reflecting her dish's popularity.
Alex Woodruff, left, a 15-year-old student at Woodford County High School, won the annual chili cook-off at the Midway Christian Church's monthly community dinner Monday night. Steve Morgan placed second and Teresa Hoppin was third. All are from Midway. For the first time, the selection was made by vote of the crowd, not by judges.

Several observers agreed that the crowd was the largest ever, perhaps reflecting increased turnouts at the other community dinners in recent months. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Message from the mayor: Sewer rate cuts are coming eventually, but water is another matter due to state law

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

I’m pleased to say that it’s my intention to significantly lower property tax rates when the council sets them in August. We’re able to make such tax decreases because of the influx of new revenue from our recent job creation, especially at Midway Station.

But why not lower water and sewer rates instead? I believe we can do that in the near future as well, but I want to explain why it’ll take a little more time to achieve that feat. Our coffers are essentially separated into three funds: a general fund, a water fund, and a sewer fund. The water and sewer funds are known as enterprise funds, because they are in essence a business the city operates.

According to state law, we can’t use general fund revenue to supplement the water and sewer funds: they must pay for themselves. Kentucky American Water sells their product to the city and we sell it to you, basically at cost. We can’t control the rates they set, but when they increased rates recently, we did not pass that on to you – instead we were able to absorb it.

Sewer rates, however, are something we can control, and they have been higher than normal because for 20 years the city has been paying for a sewer plant which failed and a new one built to replace it. Because we’re still paying off the old debts, we can’t lower those rates just yet. But, fortunately, we are going to pay off our old sewer plant this year, and I believe with the right planning we can pay off the current one in a couple of years as well. When this happens, we will be able to lower sewer rates.

At any rate, it’s very exciting to be talking about lowering taxes, not raising them.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Renaissance annual meeting set after Mon. chili cookoff

Midway Renaissance will hold its annual meeting Monday, Jan. 29, after the annual chili cook-off at Midway Christian Church. The cook-off starts at 6:30 and the meeting is expected to start around 7:30.

Renaissance is looking for interested people to serve three-year terms on its board of directors. More information about the group is on its website, www.MidwayRenaissance.com. Questions can be emailed to info@midwayrenaissance.com, or call 859-227-8993.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Mayor suggests tax incentives for standard store hours; council may allow alcoholic-beverage sales until 1 a.m.

By Lizzy Allen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift asked the Midway City Council Monday night to consider the possibility of tax incentives to get downtown businesses to "keep longer and more consistent hours."

The council also brought up the idea of allowing bars to remain open until 1 a.m., and took under advisement a new agreement with the City of Versailles to provide police protection.

Vandegrift said he hears "constant frustration" over how early many of the shops in downtown Midway close, before the city's evening restaurant traffic begins. He said surveys have shown that most retail shopping is done after 5 p.m., and downtown would be much more viable with evening shopping. He mentioned Franklin, Tenn., as an example.

There have also been complaints from disappointed tourists about shops being closed on Sundays and Mondays, or not opening early enough.

Vandegrift said the city could not mandate hours for businesses, but could use tax incentives to reward businesses that keep regular or longer hours. He said the unspecified incentives should also go to businesses that already meet whatever standards are set. “If you’re already doing those things, you get those incentives,” he said.

One business that does keep longer hours is Kennydid Gallery, owned by Kenny Smith, who pushed the idea of longer hours when he was president of the Midway Business Association. There was no agreement, and some unhappiness that he kept raising the issue. "We're not a mall," MBA Treasurer Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Midway Museum Store, told him in late 2015.

Vandegrift asked the Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee to work with the MBA on the idea, since the three committee members -- Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel and Steve Simoff -- have all owned or operated a business downtown. "If it goes nowhere, it's no problem, but I think it is an interesting idea," Vandegrift said.

McDaniel, the chair of the committee, said he had already talked with Debra Shockley of Midway Renaissance about ways to extend business hours, and said if a committee is formed to work on the issues it could evolve into one that coordinates and promotes downtown events. Renaissance sponsors Midsummer Nights in Midway on three nights in the summer.

Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, proposed that the council amend city ordinances two city ordinances to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold an extra hour, until 1 a.m., except on Sunday nights, when the current closing time is 10 p.m. "At 11:30, they're getting ready to close, and people start coming in," he said.

Vandegrift said he would consult city attorney Phil Moloney about procedure to make the change.

Southworth, as chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, also presented the council with the proposed police agreement with Versailles, which calls for Midway to pay 4.25 percent of that city's police budget, or about $166,000 in the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- up from $100,000 this fiscal year, the last year of the latest multi-year contract between the towns.

Southworth's committee endorsed the proposal Jan. 10. He said then that Versailles wants a percentage rather than the current flat fee because it pay have to increase its police budget to fund pensions. Vandegrift said he would schedule the contract for a vote at the next council meeting, Feb. 5.

In other business, the council approved two mayoral reappointments to the Park Board: Liles Taylor and Joanna Smith. “They’re young and energetic and intelligent,” Vandegrift said. The two had completed one-year terms, part of the staggered terms used when a board is created so all the appointments don’t come up at the same time.

The council briefly discussed snow removal on sidewalks, which is generally considered the responsibility of property owners but not done by some. Vandegrift said he would check to see if there is an ordinance; he said the city has never penalized people for not removing snow.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Midway Living History Tuesday at 6:30 at local library

The Midway Branch of the Woodford County Public Library will hold a "Midway Living History" event at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23. The program, rescheduled from Feb. 16, will include several longtime Midway residents who will share their experiences and memorabilia. Eight are signed up to speak. Dessert and coffee will be provided. To sign up, call 846-4014.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Council won't meet tonight; meeting called for next Mon.

The Midway City Council meeting scheduled for 5:30 tonight has been canceled due to inclement weather. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has called a special meeting for Monday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 at City Hall. (The council usually meets on Mondays but was to meet tonight because of yesterday's holiday.)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

'On a Winter's Night Community Artist Showcase' starts; all events to be held in The Homeplace community room

The first "On a Winter's Night Community Artist Showcase" was held in the community building at The Homeplace at Midway tonight. From left are Brett Franklin, Leslie Penn, Blake Jones and Bill Penn. Jones said he organized the series to give Midwegians something to do during the winter lull and spotlight the talents of the many artists in the community. Jones is a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter who has lived in Midway with his family since 2000. He grew up in a family of eight and traveled the country with The Jones Family Band, with which he stills plays at the Midway Fall Festivals. His music ranges from traditional bluegrass to contemporary folk music. He is a professor at the University of Kentucky, and a therapist in private practice.
The next showcase will be held Jan. 28 at the Homeplace and will feature The Hills and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. Feb. 11 at the Midway Woman's Club, Sara Day Evans will perform and Bob Rouse will read. Feb. 25 at Higher Grounds will be "Open Mic Night." March 4 at The Homeplace, Midway University students and Aaron Hamilton will perform. The series will conclude March 18 at Eat, Drink, Breathe Midway with Nathaniel Wyatt and Bruce Skeeter. Each showcase begins with an open jam session at 5:30 p.m., and the shows start at 6:30 p.m., all at The Homeplace. All ages are welcome.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Council panel endorses proposed contract that would have city pay 4.25 percent of Versailles' police costs

Midway would pay 4.25 percent of Versailles' police costs under a proposed five-year contract endorsed by a committee of the Midway City Council Wednesday. That would be about $166,000 for the next fiscal year but could be more as costs increase.

Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, told the members that Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott wanted to base the contract on a percentage, not a flat fee, because of uncertainty about what the city will have to pay into its pension fund as part of the state pension crisis.

Versailles' police budget is $3.9 million a year, which would make the first year's payment $165,975 if the Midway council approves the contract. That would be 66 percent more than the current annual cost of $100,000, but Midway officials have long expected a big increase; the Woodford County Fiscal Court has already agreed to pay Versailles more -- $1.4 million, or 38 percent of the city's police budget -- for patrolling the unincorporated areas of the county.

Southworth said the cost of the proposed contract for Midway in the first year would be $101 per person. "I think it's fair," he said.

Council Member John McDaniel said the amount was lower than he expected, and said that he expects Versailles will be accommodating "if we need things done." The current contracts calls for police coverage in the city limits 16 hours a day, with the third shift available on call.

The other committee member, Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher, agreed but reiterated her feeling that the police patrols aren't visible enough. "They're going to have to police more," she said. But she also agreed with McDaniel and Southworth that the city couldn't afford to re-establish its own police department for that amount of money.

If approved by the council, the new contract would go into effect July 1, the beginning of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The committee also discussed a request by Gary Smith to extend a city water line to his recently purchased half-acre lot at 5799 Midway Road (US 62), just outside the southern city limits, near the veterinary clinic. The members agreed that Smith should pay the cost of the extension, which would probably involve boring and casing under the road, but that the city should not require annexation of the property for extension of the line.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Council panel to discuss police contract Wed. morning

The Public Works and Services Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, at City Hall to discuss the contract with the City of Versailles for police protection, which ends June 30 and is being renegotiated. The agenda also includes discussion of a water-line extension on South Winter Street.

The notice from City Hall says no action will be taken. Action on the contract will be up to the full council. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

As city accumulates cash from payrolls, mayor says he wants a cut in property taxes, not the occupational tax

By Lizzy Allen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway piled up more than $950,000 in its general fund at the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to an audit report released at the council meeting on Tuesday.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said after the meeting that he hopes to use this extra money, which comes mainly from payroll-tax revenue, to cut property taxes – and to make capital improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems, if he is assured of the legal authority to do that.

“I don’t know exactly what the rates will be, but . . . I’m planning on making significant cuts to property taxes,” Vandegrift said. In recent years the city has made small reductions in property-tax rates, but largely to compensate for higher property assessments

Jason Strange, certified public accountant for Stiles, Carter & Associates, an Elizabethtown-based firm that did the audit, noted that the payroll-tax revenue from workers in Midway was considerably higher than anticipated, bringing in over $100,000 more than the budgeted $400,000.

Based on the 2016-2017 collections, $500,000 is budgeted for payroll-tax revenue in the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Although this is a 25 percent increase from last year’s budget, Vandegrift said he is “confident we are going to exceed that.” He noted that the new Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center has 130 employees, none of whom were on the payroll in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
The Lakeshore Learning Materials plant is shown on Oct. 24, just over a week before it began making shipments.
Though the payroll tax provides an increasing share of the city’s revenue, Vandegrift said he would rather lower property tax rates for citizens of Midway than lower the payroll tax, since most who pay it don’t live in Midway do not.

Although Strange said that the audit report was “clean,” he did point out that the Midway Fire Department made two purchases without first completing the corresponding purchase orders. These purchases totaled over $500, Strange said in an interview.

When Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher asked about the issue, Vandegrift said kt “should have never happened,” but the purchases had been approved, just without purchase orders.

The audit report is a draft, but Strange said he does not expect any changes.

At the meeting, the council also approved a permit for the Iron Horse Marathon, which will be held Sunday, Oct. 14.

The meeting was held on Tuesday instead of Monday, New Year's Day. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 16, because Monday of that week is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Streams flow as more icy weather is forecast

A light snowfall just as the current cold snap began added to the picturesque scene Monday afternoon at the Weisenberger Mill and its dam on South Elkhorn Creek, seen less these days because the bridge there remains closed. Meanwhile, Lee Branch was still running in Walter Bradley Park, below, but ice floes were beginning to form along the banks. Temperatures are not forecast to rise above freezing until Sunday, but streams in the Midway area are partly spring-fed and thus slower to freeze than if they were fed entirely from surface tributaries.