Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wilson, 1 of 10 applicants, gets council seat on 3-1 vote; mayor says lot platted for Midway hotel is overpriced

Johnny Wilson took the oath as a council member.
The Midway City Council voted 3-1 Monday night to appoint Johnny Wilson to fill the unexpired term of Council Member Libby Warfield, who died Feb 24. The council chose from 10 people who applied and indicated they would not run in the fall election.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift praised the quality of the applicants and told the council, "You all have a remarkably difficult decision to make."

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher moved to appoint Wilson, noting that he has been a regular attendee at council meetings for at least six months. Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded the motion. After some silence, Gallagher indicated that the members had apparently discussed the matter among themselves before the meeting. "I kind of know where everybody else is," she said.

When Vandegrift called for the yeas and nays, only Gallagher and Southworth voted yes. Council Member Sarah Hicks voted no, and Council Member John McDaniel, who is running for magistrate in the May primary, did not vote. After looking over the letters and saying "There are some good applicants here," Council Member Steve Simoff voted yes, making the final tally 3-1.

Vandegrift swore in Wilson, who took Warfield's old seat at the council table. "Thank you for your confidence," Wilson told his new colleagues as the meeting ended. "I'll do my best."

Wilson, 69, said in his application letter that he has lived in Midway most of his life. After four years in the Air Force, he worked in factories and horse farms, and retired from Kroger in 2011. He and his wife Beverley have been married almost 50 years and have four children and seven grandchildren.

"I'm a clean slate and haven't had any business dealings with anybody in Midway," Wilson wrote. "I love Midway and I know I'll never take Libby's place but to do a fairly good job for the citizens of Midway in the short term."

Vandegrift said in opening the discussion that he was "blown away" that there were "ten good applicants," and "I am determined to include all nine who don't get chosen into other ways of helping our city out," such as appointments to boards.

Other applicants: Hicks said after the meeting that she was for Stacy Thurman, manager of the Midway branch library, because she was "the most involved civically" among the applicants and "I wanted to bring in young people." Thurman said in an interview she will turn 40 on April 21. She said she is considering running for council, but wouldn't say if that is more likely than not.

Thurman said in her application that she moved to Midway in 2009 and "I am a representative of the many young families that are raising their families in Midway." She cited her membership in the Leadership Woodford County class of 2018 and said "I am a community-minded person, something I believe was instilled in me during my undergraduate time at Berea College."

Cynthia Sharon Karrick, a sister of Warfield, was also an applicant. "She asked that I try to complete the remainder of her term," Karrick wrote in her application. Karrick said she works for the state Revenue Department and is a retired teacher who coordinated the county schools' program for gifted and talented middle-school students, where "I gained useful experience in diplomacy, tact, problem solving, de-escalating, being authoritative and motivating others."

Here are the other applicants, in alphabetical order, with information from their applications:

Miller Benson, 29, of the 200 block of West Higgins Street. He said he is the son of a former councilman and has seen "the impact of civil servants on their communities" and, as an employee of a family-owned restaurant in Midway and later in Versailles), "am keenly sympathetic to the residential and commercial interests of this town" but wants to "keep Midway . . . well, Midway" as it grows.

Freeland Davis of the 400 block of Mill Road, who moved to Midway in 2014 and is property-administration director for Alliance Coal. He also cited his experience managing loans for a housing-development firm; his work as vice president for housing development at Community Ventures Corp., a national nonprofit serving low-income communities; and volunteer work with the homeless.

Joe Fisher, owner of Fisher Antiques on Main Street for the last four years. He cited his master of business administration degree from the University of Kentucky, his work with water and wastewater systems, his family's five generations in Midway and his age, 30, noting that "the council has indicated a desire to make positions attractive to 'younger' persons."

Michael S. Michalisin, owner of Timberfence Capital Partners, a horse-focused investment firm based the old city hall building, and CEO of Bob Mickler's, a horse-goods store in Lexington. He also cited his MBA from the University of Maryland, his support of Midway University and his work for Wall Street investment firms. He moved to Midway four years ago.

Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Midway Museum Store and treasurer of the Midway Business Association. She also cited her leadership roles in Midway Renaissance and Midway Presbyterian Church. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, with a major in teaching and a minor in music, and an accounting graduate of the University of Illinois.

Mark Pitzer, a building inspector in Scott County. He cited his experience in the construction industry, particularly with steeple projects in large manufacturing facilities; his applied science degree in architecture; and his work as a farm manager and farrier. He said he attended elementary school in Midway and is "owner of a Lehman home on the National Historic Register."

Curt Savage, of the 100 block of Highland Drive, cited his work as a manager and president of tire companies. He was the Republican candidate for magistrate in 2010, losing 642-405. He applied for the council seat in 2012 and said appointing a candidate would be unfair. Vandergrift said likewise, but filed and then applied. He was not appointed, but he was elected, and was elected mayor in 2014.

In seeking applications this time, Vandegrift and the council said preference would be given to applicants who pledged not to run in the fall council election. The filing deadline is Aug. 14.

Chamber talk leads to hotel talk: The council heard a report on Woodford County Chamber of Commerce activities from Executive Director Don Vizi, who renewed the chamber's request for a $1,500 subsidy from the council, which gave the chamber $1,000 last year. He said the county is being asked for $5,000 and the City of Versailles for $5,500. His three-page letter to the council is in the council's meeting packet, available here.

Asked by McDaniel for the chamber's budget, Vizi said the mayor gets monthly financial reports. Vandegrift said, "They look better than they have in a while." Vizi said the chamber has erased the $12,000 debt it had when he started, but needs to make up loss of "partnerships" with Midway University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which is based in Versailles.

Vizi said 20 of the chamber's 242 members are businesses or individuals in Midway. He said Versailles has 170, Lexington 28 and Frankfort 14. Vandegrift noted that three members of the county tourism commission, which the chamber staffs, live in Midway. "I think you do a great job," he told Vizi. "I know you inherited a mess."

The commission is funded by lodging taxes, paid only by bed and breakfasts because the county has no motel or hotel. "We're expecting a great increase" when a Holiday Inn Express opens in Versailles this fall, Vizi said, adding that he got a call recently from a company that wants to build a lodging facility in Midway.

Vandegrift indicated he was familiar with that, but said the property in question isn't priced right. A large lot in the Green Gables development, next to the Shell convenience store, is zoned and platted for a hotel. It is owned by developer Dennis Anderson.

Bridge may not be replaced until 2020, four years after closure, council hears as it deals with sidewalks, streets

The Weisenberger Mill bridge, closed since July 1, 2016, may not be replaced until 2020, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said at Monday night's City Council meeting.

Vandegrift made the announcement as the council accepted a bid for paving part of East Stephens Street, which he said had deteriorated more than he expected, perhaps because of the bridge' s closure. Council Member John McDaniel asked if the paving should wait until the bridge is replaced.

The mayor replied, "All indications right now is the state is not going to do the bridge until 2020." He said a letter-writing campaign might change that, but "Stephens Street is in bad shape now and I don't think we can wait."

The state closed the one-lane bridge due to damage, probably from overweight trucks. It had planned to replace it with a two-lane span, but after objections from residents said in October that it would build another one-lane bridge after further environmental reviews and property purchases.

The council accepted the $60,755 paving bid from Lexington Blacktop Inc., almost twice as much as the $32,000 it had budgeted for paving. Vandegrift recommended acceptance of the sole bid, saying "We had trouble getting a lot of companies to put in a serious bid" because of the small amount of work and wouldn't expect more if it were re-advertised.

"My hope is we can get this done in the next month," he said. Stephens Street will be repaved from Brand Street to Mill Road. Other blacktopping will be done on Dudley Street, Gratz Street, Standish Place, Northside Drive and Spring Station Road. The bid and specifications are in the council's meeting packet, available here.

Sidewalk repairs: The council approved a process to subsidize sidewalk repairs that differs somewhat from the procedure followed last year. The city will pay half of approved repairs, up to a city expense of $1,000. While sidewalks are private property owners' responsibility, the city could be subject to liability or at least legal expenses from harm caused by poorly maintained sidewalks, Vandegrift said.

The mayor said the city budgeted $10,000 for sidewalks in the fiscal year that ends June 30, and he plans to propose $15,000 for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Hicks asked if the first round of repairs eliminated all the dangerous sidewalks. Vandegrift said he is still worried about one across Winter Street from the post office, which cannot be repaired without removing three large trees. "I'm not a tree-hugger by any means, but I'd hate to see those trees cut down," he said. "that's going to severely change the way that stretch of Winter Street looks, and that's going to upset a lot of people."

Friday, March 16, 2018

St. Patrick's Day in Midway: business specials, sidewalk vendors, a parade, leprechauns and probably some rain

LIVE UPDATE: Leprechauns strutted in the parade.
(Image from Blake Jones's Facebook Live video)
Members of the Midway Business Association are hoping that rain won't dampen the spirits for Saint Patrick's Day in Midway, the group's latest promotion. The association says a parade and other events will be held regardless of the weather. The forecast for Saturday is for a 50 to 60 percent chance of showers, with  a possibility of thunderstorms at mid-afternoon.

Specials will be offered by shops beginning at 10 a.m. and by restaurants beginning at 11 a.m. Each restaurant will have a beverage, appetizer, and meal special. Sidewalk vendors will also offer food, games, crafts and St. Patrick's Day items. Five participating restaurants are promoting the Shamrock Ramble, in which customers will get their tickets marked to be eligible to win one of five prizes.

Dr. John Marsden
The grand marshal of the Shamrock Parade at 3 p.m. will be Midway University President John Marsden, whose heritage is Irish. The parade will include an equine unit from the university, an Irish court of honor, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, the city's new fire truck and several other units. The World’s Tallest Leprechauns will walk in the parade and then walk around tying balloons and so forth until 5 p.m.

Midway Renaissance, the community garden group and the Friends of Walter Bradley Park will promote “Go Green in Midway” with electric cars and information booths about the garden, the park, recycling and solar energy.

The event is co-sponsored by Coolmore America Ashford, which bought Waterford Farm just east of Midway about two years ago.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Council rejects proposal to extend bar hours, seeks applications for temporary successor to Warfield

By Lizzy Allen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council defeated an ordinance Monday evening that would have extended legal sales of alcoholic beverages to 1 a.m. six days a week.

The council also honored deceased member Libby Warfield and agreed to accept applications for the appointment to fill her unexpired term, which runs through the end of the year.

The defeated ordinance would have allowed licensed alcohol vendors to remain open until 1 a.m. instead of midnight Monday through Saturday. They would have still been required to close by 10 p.m. on Sunday.

“I don’t like the idea of this,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. He said although the ordinance would pose no legal liabilities, the council should consider moral liabilities that could arise if extended hours of alcohol sales resulted in harm to citizens of Midway.

“At 1 a.m., you can’t get an Uber in Midway like you can in Lexington or Frankfort,” Vandegrift said.

Council Members Sara Hicks, Steve Simoff and Kaye Nita Gallagher also argued against the ordinance.

Hicks said that if Midway had public transportation, she would feel better about extending the hours, but she could not support the ordinance until then.

Simoff cited a serious car accident involving his brother and alcohol as an example of the potential consequences of later alcohol sales. “I just can’t, in good conscience, vote for 1 a.m. shutdown,” he said.

Gallagher said she did not see the need for extended hours. “I’ve always been told ‘nothing good happens after midnight’,” she said.

Council Member Bruce Southworth, who proposed the ordinance, said he believed there was a need for extended hours based on what business owners had told him. But only Council Member John McDaniel agreed with him, so the ordinance lost 3-2. (The mayor votes only to break ties.)

Warfield vacancy: The council adopted “a resolution honoring the life and service of Libby Warfield and declaring the week of March 4-10, 2018, as ‘Libby Warfield Week’ in Midway.”

Warfield died of cancer Feb. 24, after having served on the City Council since Jan 1, 2015. Several of her family members and friends were present at the meeting. After Vandegrift read the resolution, he presented the certificate to her husband, David Warfield.

Vandegrift asked Hicks to replace Warfield as chair of the Cemetery, City Property and Blighted Property Committee. Hicks accepted.

The council then discussed how to go about filling the open seat. Vandegrift reminded the council that it must make its decision within 30 days of Warfield’s death, but he would like to see the position filled by the March 19.

“I would suggest that you all accept essentially an application process,” Vandegrift said.

He said the letter should explain why the applicant would be a good candidate to serve the rest of Warfield’s term, which runs through Dec. 31. He said applicants should also promise that they will not run for the council after the term is up. The filing deadline for council elections is in August.

Vandegrift set the deadline for the applications for noon March 14. His formal notice appears at the bottom of this story. It does not bar applications from people who want to run in the council election, but says others would get preference -- unless none of the applicants say they're not going to run.

Merchants’ business: Leslie Penn, treasurer of the Midway Business Association, asked the council to reconsider donating $300 for interstate signs. This request was denied at the last council meeting.

Penn said that advertising like the interstate signs is crucial to keep business in Midway from dying out. “You have to remind people that Midway is alive and it is so interesting and we’ve got very diverse people and shops,” she said.

Southworth asked the balances of the association’s checking accounts. Penn said there is around $8,000 in the main account and another $8,000 or so in a separate account that holds only Fall Festival funds.

Vandegrift said that the donation for the interstate signs “was not denied out of malice.” He said that the council is planning on including funds for a new “Welcome to Midway” sign in next year’s budget.

The council approved the Business Association’s application for a parade/event permit for its “St. Paddy’s Day” celebration on Saturday, March 17.

The event will include six booths, a band, and cars, trucks and horses for the parade.

Other business: Helen Rentch of the Woodford County Community Fund invited the council to attend “On the Table,” an event the group will host March 28.

Rentch described the event as “a community conversation about ways to improve the place we call home.” She invited council members to register for breakfast, lunch or dinner, all of which will be served at the Life Adventure Center in Versailles.

Property owner B.J. Bentley asked the council to work on controlling the noise in downtown Midway, noting that most of the restaurants back up to houses and the noise from them, vehicles and music disturbs some citizens’ sleep.

Vandegrift said the noise ordinance is “difficult to enforce,” but said he would send out a letter as a reminder.
    The Midway City Council is now accepting letters of interest from Midway citizens who are interested in filling the open council seat left by the passing of Libby Warfield.
    Interested persons should write a summary (500 words or less) of their background and why they feel they are a good candidate to fill the rest of the term, which ends December 31, 2018. If you are interested, please turn your candidate summary in to City Hall no later than noon on Wednesday, March 14.
    By state law, the decision of who will fill the open seat is entirely up to the five remaining council members, and they are required to fill the seat within 30 days of the vacancy. They will confirm their appointment at our regularly scheduled council meeting on March 19 at 5:30 p.m.
    All candidates must be at least 18 years of age, and must be a registered voter in the city. Candidates who are NOT planning to run for a full city council term in the fall are preferable, so as not to give any non-incumbent candidate an advantage over other non-incumbents. 
    Intention to run for city council in the fall should not preclude any potential candidate from applying, but those applicants will most likely only be considered in the event that only full term council candidates apply.
    Feel free to call me at City Hall (846-4413) or on my cell (361-6320) if you have any questions.
Grayson Vandegrift, Mayor
City of Midway