Saturday, June 30, 2018

Larry Cory, singing and leading his band
Story and photos by Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
For a larger version of any photograph, just click on it.

Hundreds of people came out for the third annual Midsummer Nights in Midway event Friday evening.

Debra Shockley of Midway Renaissance, which was experimenting with a new parking and traffic flow with vendors and the band set up in the westbound side of East Main Street, said the new arrangement was working.

Lily McDaniel (left) and Ainsley Lynch danced.
Shockley said with signs informing people of additional parking, “it worked out well. We got all the vendors in and none of the merchants are complaining, so I guess it’s a good thing.”

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the new setup was “working out really well. We’re very excited about that.”

While the street closure made room for more vendors, Shockley said the crowd for this year’s first event was about the same as in other years. Midsummer Nights will also be held on the last Fridays of July and August.

Adults had fun browsing around 20 vendors and listening to Larry Cory and The Passport Band, but it was the children who stole the show.

Early on, Emma Davis (right) danced with a flower she received from Locally Grown’s booth, where the youth ministry was set up selling T-shirts and giving away flowers. Her godmother, Angela Blackburn, watched her dance with a smile. She said she loves Midsummer Nights in Midway. “It’s great,” she said. “Every town should do this.”

Later, with the band in full gear, Midway’s Ainsley Lynch and Lily McDaniel (above) danced their hearts out to the band’s music, earning laughter and smiles from the crowd. Bandleader Larry Cory joked about the girls being his “backup dancers.”

Brenda Jackson (right) and Breauna Pennie at Jackson's craft table
Brenda Jackson, a member of Midway’s Second Christian Church, set up a table at the event to raise money for Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse ministry that allows people to send a shoebox full of goodies to less fortunate children around the world at the holidays. Jackson said she has been filling the shoeboxes for about five years and comes to Midsummer Nights to raise money for the contents and the shipping. “It keeps getting more expensive each year,” she said, but added that she is able to sell considerable produce at the event.

Her booth was full of interesting trinkets such as wooden trains featuring soda caps, candle holders, and jewelry, all of which she made herself for the ministry. She was sporting one of the bracelets she was selling. She said she made them after taking a class on jewelry making. She said the boxes are her own labor of love and “it’s just part of my passion for the church.” She said Breauna and Benisha Pennie, also members of Second Christian Church, help her with the boxes each year.
The westbound side of East Main Street, closed for the event, was filled with vendors and event-goers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tax to replace high school fails by 4.4 percentage points; Midway area votes narrowly in favor of it

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Woodford County voters decided Tuesday not to approve the proposed 5.5-cents-per-$100 property tax for building a new county high school in Versailles. The tax failed by 52.2 percent to 47.8 percent, with 3,758 votes against it and 3,442 for it.

Voters in the Midway city precinct favored the tax 235 to 162 but opponents carried the rural Midway precinct, 134 to 84. The combined vote of the two precincts was 319 to 296.

Interested voters waited for election results at the county clerk's
office in Versailles Tuesday evening. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
The referendum came after a heated campaign that “divided the community immensely,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Those voting for the tax felt they were looking after the future of the county’s children, while the opposition felt that the school’s contingency funds should be used to lessen or eliminate the tax increase.

A voter at Northside Elementary School in Midway, who identified herself only as a local farmer, citing the controversy, said she felt like her hands were tied with the proposed tax and was certain it would pass. “They should have come up with a better plan,” she said. The thought of “being forced to pay more taxes” was “irritating” to her, she said, adding that she already pays too many.

Deborah Wheat of Midway said she was against the tax because “the high school they have is fine” and because she did not want her taxes to increase.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he was surprised and disappointed at the outcome. "But the democratic process played out, and we all have to respect that," he said. "I am worried about future economic development prospects being hindered because their workforce is heavily tied to the school system. But," he added, "I’ve never known determined Woodford Countians to give up on a cause they believe in, and I’m positive that all possible solutions available to us will be pursued in the coming years."

Efforts by the school board to promote absentee voting in the election paid off, but not enough; the absentee ballots went 291 for the tax and 222 against.

Ambrose Wilson IV of Midway, who chairs the school board, could not be reached for comment on the results. He predicted last week that the tax would pass.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Message from the Mayor: Midway turns blue

Crowds of people, many of them dressed in blue, gathered in Midway on Sunday
to meet men's basketball team and Coach John Calipari. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

On Sunday afternoon, starting around 3 p.m., I watched as downtown Midway slowly started turning blue. But it wasn’t the bad kind of turning blue – it was Big Blue Nation making its way to the United Bank parking lot where fans of all ages met the incoming team and Coach John Calipari.

It was a whirlwind whistle-stop tour. I was notified on Friday that the team was coming via RJ Corman Railroad Co. and was asked if I could help secure a location and spread the word. The post I made to my political Facebook page alerting the region to the impending Cat sighting was shared over 100 times – far and away more than any previous post I’ve made on that page. Whether you’re a true blue fan or a casual observer, this is what UK basketball does for us Kentuckians – it unites wide swaths of us from all parts of our commonwealth. Yesterday, folks from all walks of life met in Midway to meet some Cats.

Calipari signs a poster for a fan. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
My initial estimate of the crowd size was around 750 people, but Coach Cal tweeted that it was more like 1,000. I don’t know if his calculations would meet the rigorous standards of the “McDaniel Density Equation,” but since the guys were nice enough to stay an hour later than planned so everyone could get an autograph and a picture, we’ll defer to the coach on this one.

Another Midway happenin’ is taking place downtown this Friday. Larry Corey & and the Passport Band will be performing at the kickoff of the third annual Midsummer Nights in Midway summer concert series. As in previous years, there will also be local vendors, food & drink, but this Friday we’re going to try a new set up. We’ll be closing the lower (north) side of East Main from 5:30 to 10 p.m. for increased safety and functionality. We’re hopeful this will make the event even better, but if unforeseen issues arise from it, we’ll go back to the drawing board. I hope to see you downtown this Friday night.

UK basketball team draws hundreds to Midway, giving new Wildcat players a rural taste of Big Blue Nation

Coach John Calipari waves to the hundreds who greeted the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team at a train stop in Midway Sunday evening. The team had planned to sign autographs for 30 to 45 minutes and leave Midway by 6:30 or so, but so many people showed up from such a wide area that they didn't finish until 7:08 p.m., according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Story and Photos by Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

C-A-T-S! Cats! Cats! Cats!

Crowds in Midway chanted the Wildcat cry on Sunday as they waited in the United Bank parking lot for the University of Kentucky’s men basketball team to arrive by train.

Head coach John Calipari brought the 2018-19 players to Midway on the team’s way back to Lexington from a kids’ basketball camp in Frankfort to give the Big Blue Nation a chance “to meet the entire team,” a UK press release said. Their R.J. Corman Railroad car arrived just after 5:30 p.m. to the cheers of fans, where they began signing autographs, giving away posters and taking pictures. 

Chris Blanton talks with friends while waiting to meet the team.
Chris Blanton of Versailles said while he waited in line that he had never met Coach Cal or any of the players present and thought the stop in Midway was a “terrific” idea. “This is a great opportunity to let these new players meet Kentucky, and let Kentucky meet them.” He said he thought the use of the train was a “fun avenue” that appealed to the children in the crowd. 

Tim Bernal, executive associate athletic director at UK, said the stop in Midway was chosen in part because “it’s one of those iconic towns in Kentucky.” He said the stop might have been right along the way of their return trip to Lexington, but “when you have a chance to do an event like this in a great town like this, you take advantage of that,” he said. “The people showing up the way they did kinda proves that it was a good decision.” Crowds were tightly wrapped around the bank parking lot.

Bernal said Midway represents rural Kentucky, but more than that, it represents Kentucky as a whole. “These are the nicest people and the most appreciative people,” he said of the crowds gathered. “I’ve got a saying that I kinda use: ‘as long as my gratitude exceeds my expectations, I’m in pretty good shape’ and everyone just seemed very grateful that we had come.”

Calipari echoed Bernal's sentiment when he told the Lexington Herald-Leader while preparing to leave Midway, "I want these guys to know the impact they have on people in the state, so I think it ended up being a good trip."

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he was "amazed, but not surprised" by how many people came to see the Cats. "It’s incredible that the team can draw about 1000 people with 48 hours notice," he said. "Every time we have something like that, it becomes a great showcase for Midway and reminds us all of what a happening little city we live in."

Blanton said after meeting Coach Cal and the rest of the team that the experience was “pretty cool.” The team, which was scheduled to be back in Lexington at 7 p.m., stayed in Midway until around 7:15. Blanton said it was nice of the team to make time for everyone in line. “Coach Cal has a way of pushing all the right buttons,” he said.
Players signed posters, basketballs and other items for Wildcat fans.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Wildcats to make train stop in Midway at 5:30 p.m. Sun.

Image provided by University of Kentucky Athletics; the mileage appears to be the distance from Frankfort to Lexington.
The University of Kentucky men's basketball team will make a stop in Midway around 5:30 p.m. Sunday as it takes a train back to Lexington from an afternoon camp for kids in Frankfort.

With the team roster "fully intact for the 2018-19 season, Head Coach John Calipari is inviting the Big Blue Nation to meet the entire team," a UK press release said. The players will greet fans, sign autographs and take pictures at Darlin' Jean's Apple Cobbler Cafe. Complimentary posters will be available while they last.

The players will board the train in Frankfort around 4:30 and head to Midway. Fans in Lexington can greet the team when it arrives back at the R.J. Corman Central Kentucky Line platform near Rupp Arena around 7 p.m. The team is expected to spend 30 to 45 minutes at each stop, the release says.

The Wildcats will be returning from a "satellite camp" at Franklin County High School. The camps give fans "the opportunity to get up close with our players," Calipari said. "The only problem is, until now, we haven't had our full team. With Ashton Hagans and Reid Travis here, I wanted to give our fans an opportunity on the way back from camp to meet these guys."

The satellite camp, from 1 to 4 p.m., is still open for registration. Fans can sign up by visiting ukathletics.com/camps. It is open to boys and girls in kindergarten through 12th grade. "Spots are available for all camps and are based on a first-come, first-served basis, with online registration recommended as the fastest and most efficient form of registering campers," the release says. "The cost for the camp is $90 per camper and includes a camp T-shirt, three hours of instruction with Coach Calipari and the Kentucky basketball staff and available players, competitions, autograph sessions, along with question and answer sessions with Coach Cal." Camp-related questions can be called into the men's basketball camp line at 859-257-9457 or 859-257-1916 or by email at ukmbbcamps@uky.edu.

The release cautions, "NCAA rules prohibit payment of camp expenses (camp tuition, transportation, spending money, etc.) for prospects (seventh grade and above) by University of Kentucky boosters. For men's basketball, a prospect is an individual who has started classes for the seventh grade. NCAA rules also prohibit free or reduced camp admissions for prospects. If you have any questions, notify camp officials prior to attending camp."

'Cool Summer Nights Concert Series' to start Sunday evening at the Gathering House at The Homeplace

Brett Franklin, Leslie Penn, Blake Jones and Bill Penn played
during the jam session before the first concert last winter.
The "Cool Summer Nights Concert Series" begins Sunday evening, at an alternate location. Because rain is forecast, it will be held at the Gathering House at the entrance to The Homeplace at Midway.

"We may move it outside at the Homeplace if the weather is nice," organizer and performer Blake Jones told the Messenger. "Just don’t want us to set up at Walter Bradley [Park] and get rained out."

The concert, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., will feature singer-songwriter Maggie Lander, guitar slinger Dale "Tonedr" Adams, and Jones, who plays several instruments, for an evening of acoustic music ranging from blues to bluegrass.

The evening will begin with an open jam session at 6 p.m. The Gathering House was the site for the "On a Winter's Night Community Artist Showcase" last winter.

Jones, who is also a singer-songwriter, 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 teaches in the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, and is a therapist in private practice.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Council to meet Monday morning on garbage contract; likely to seek extension to allow time for another bid

(Revised upon notice from city at 11:25 a.m. Friday.) The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, June 25 at City Hall to discuss the city's garbage-collection contract. The meeting notice from the city says no action may be taken., but Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email that he has notified Rumpke Waste & Recycling "of our intention to ask for an extension of 120 days so that we can seek another bid," because the sense of the City Council is that "such a contract should not be agreed to without receiving a second bidder." All council meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Woodford County voters to decide Tuesday on property-tax increase that would pay for a new high school

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Woodford County voters will go to the polls Tuesday, June 26, to cast ballots for or against a proposed tax increase for a new high school.

Advocates of the tax express frustration over the condition of the 54-year-old school and potentially limited resources for students in the future, while opponents say the school district’s contingency fund is too large and should be used to reduce the tax hike or improve the building. 

The proposed increase is 5.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value.  For a $200,000 home, it would be an increase of $110 per year, or $9.17 per month. The revenue would pay off bonds the district would issue for the $47 million project.

High school's sign promotes use of absentee ballots. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
Hawkins said one reason for a new campus instead of renovation is that the building is in a landlocked area that does not allow expansion. “The cost of a renovation that would update the facility with more modern spaces is over half the cost of a new high school,” he said, adding that a renovated building would still have no room for the performing arts. He also asked, “What would we do with the students during a major renovation?”

Hawkins said a new building would provide modern science and engineering labs, open spaces for collaboration and an auditorium for performances.  He said the school could also greatly improve spaces for band, orchestra, choir, career and technical education and some athletic facilities.

He also mentioned safety as a feature, saying a new school could be designed with the most up to date safety features. “That is extremely important given the most recent school shooting incidents,” he said.

Amanda Glass of Midway, a member of I Support our Schools—the grassroots campaign to pass the tax—and parent of future WCHS students, also mentioned safety as a concern. She said when the school was first built in 1964, “school violence wasn’t such the concern as it is today.” She pointed out the capacity increase in the school, which she said held 771 students when it was built and now has 1,250.

Glass said the school is not on par with 21st century standards for education. “A new building would offer areas to collaborate, exciting new programs and opportunities for all students.”

Hawkins agreed, and said timing is key for the project, because the district’s debt load and current tax base would not allow it to undertake the project for 12 years. “If the tax does not pass, next year’s kindergarten class would not see a new high,” he said.

Opponents of the tax also cite the school district’s debt of $26.745 million, which includes $3.15 million for a new HVAC system at Northside Elementary School in Midway, a debt that will not be paid off until 2027.

Wayne Raider, owner of a Versailles liquor store, said he doesn’t feel people have been educated on the details of the proposed tax. “The only reason they are asking for 5.5 is to get a loan,” he said. “These people think the 5.5 is paying for school.” The bond issue would be paid off over a period of 20 to 25 years.

Raider also challenged the size of the school district’s $5,079,373 contingency fund, 11.6 percent of annual revenues. He said it should be allocated to rebuilding the school.

Piper Williams White, owner and operator of M.C.’s Parties and Events in Versailles, said she also wants the contingency fund spent on the renovations to the school before resorting to a tax hike to issue long-term bonds. “The debt will be tripled and not paid off until our now-kindergarten kids have their own children,” she said.

Hawkins said he hears a lot about the size of the fund. “Our contingency fund, or rainy-day fund, is there in case of emergencies or to deal with reductions in state funding that can occur during a year,” he said. While the state only requires districts to keep 2 percent of their money in contingency, he said, that amount would only cover three weeks of operating expenses should the district need to access them. He said the 11 percent amount would cover three months of expenses.

“This strong financial position allows us to deal with state cuts and the ebbs and flows of state budgets passed by the legislature,” Hawkins said. He added that if Gov. Matt Bevin’s original budget had passed in the recent legislative session, only 55 of the state’s 173 school districts would have been able to remain in operation after two years without spending cuts or local tax increases. “We were one of those 55 districts and this is because of our solid financial position,” he said.

Opponents of the tax increase have other complaints. Raider said his property taxes increased from $1,300 to $2,700 in the last two years. “They reclassified how much ground to be agriculture, then reassessed my house last year,” he said.

Glass said she has not experienced a spike in her property taxes, but acknowledged people’s reluctance to pay more. “As a community I feel like it is our responsibility to give our children the best education possible, and that includes facilities,” She said. She pointed out that a similar tax has been used before to build other schools, including the current middle school. “Good schools help us all, with children or not,” she said. “It means increased property value and greater opportunities for economic development.”

Glass also expressed concern about future opportunities for students if the tax does not pass. “I worry about the children that won’t find something they are interested in because it isn’t offered due to limited facilities,” she said. “Also, there will be kids that leave our district for districts that offer more than we are currently able to.”

Hawkins said the current building has not hindered academic performance and pointed out that the high school and school district are “very high performing in the state. We have tremendous teachers and outstanding students.”  He said that the issue is rather about missed opportunities for the students “that would enhance their performance and experience.”

Ambrose Wilson IV of Midway, who chairs the school board, said he is not surprised the tax has been controversial, but feels it will pass successfully on Tuesday. He said he has spoken with parents in Midway who never assumed their children would still be in the old high-school building and are excited at the prospect of a new school. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to be part of the process to vote for a new high school,” he said.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Council OKs street closing for growing Midsummer Nights in Midway, hears mayor's plans to slow speeders

Renaissance diagram submitted to the council shows closure of East Main westbound,
outlets for eastbound traffic, and parking. (Click on image to download larger version)
By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council agreed Monday to close the westbound lane of East Main Street for Midway Renaissance’s Midsummer Nights in Midway on June 29, July 27 and Aug. 24.

Midsummer Nights is entering its third season and is growing in popularity. Debra Shockley of Renaissance told the council that the event expects 20 booths this year and already has 1,200 persons expressing interest in it on the event’s Facebook page.

To accommodate the event, which has outgrown the parking lot of United Bank and Darlin’ Jean’s Apple Cobbler Cafe, Renaissance proposed closing the street to make room for food and other vendors, and making up the loss of parking by using lots around the Brown Barrel restaurant. The bands will set up near the end of East Main and face west.

There was discussion of other parking and street-closure alternatives, but council members said the Renaissance proposal was worth a try, and agreed to it. Shockley said the streets will be blocked off around 5:30, giving the merchants on those streets time to close their shops.

Event funding: The council also agreed unanimously to Shockley’s request for funding of Midsummer Nights, but not before Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher reminded the other members of their February decision to deny money to the Midway Business Association.

The February request was for up to $1,200 to help pay for merchants’ placards on the logo signs at the I-64 interchange that say, “Antique Shops” and “Railroad Street Shops”, a request that was denied because the antique shops would not sponsor the signs, the city’s donations budget was running low at the time and some council members thought the MBA had enough funds to pay for the signs. 

Gallagher, who is a Main Street merchant, said she did not have a problem with giving Midsummer Nights funding, but wanted to understand the difference between the two situations. 

Council Member Steve Simoff said Midsummer Nights “should help the merchants.” and  Council Member Sara Hicks noted that Renaissance “is a non-profit organization that’s providing service to the city at no charge. The merchants are a group who are joined together to earn money and make a living.”

Council Member Bruce Southworth pointed out that the city has invested in the merchants by helping pay for utilities for vendors during the MBA’s Midway Fall Festival, the town’s largest annual event.

Mayor Grayson Vandergrift said Gallagher’s question was fair, but “I feel like we give a lot to the merchants association,” such as the portable toilets and other support the city gives the Fall Festival.

The council voted unanimously to sponsor Midsummer Nights with a $500 donation, to be applied to all three events. Council Member John McDaniel was absent, following surgery for an arm injury.

Slowing speeders: In the meeting’s other major discussion, Vandergrift laid out a plan for controlling traffic speeds in Midway, a problem he said has been addressed with “various degrees of success.” He presented his plan with a request that the council think about it, add suggestions, and vote at the next council meeting on July 2.

The mayor said part of the problem with speeding through the city limits are the country roads leading into town, which he said “feel kinda lawless,” so he wants to change “perception of drivers as they come into town” to get them to slow down.

State rendering of plan for new lines on South Winter Street
Vandegrift suggested painting lines on some streets to make them feel tighter, starting with East Stephens Street. He said the appearance of narrower streets will help drivers realize they are entering residential areas and need to slow down. He said the state soon plans to paint new lines on South Winter Street, US 62, as announced in February.

The second phase of Vandegrift’s plan would install corner bulb-outs, or sidewalk extensions, which would shorten pedestrian crossings and narrow the streets. Bulb-outs narrow roads at an angle, and Vandergrift said they could even be landscaped to “beautify the city.”

The mayor asked the council, “If phase one and phase two are not as effective as you’d like them to be, what do we have in phase three?” He said the immediate focus should be on painting East Stephens Street, where the city has often placed its mobile radar unit that displays speed. “If [painting the lines] doesn’t work,” he said, “we’re not really out anything but a little bit of paint.”

Animal ordinance: In other business, the council held first reading of a revised ordinance on treatment of animals, initially passed by the Woodford County Fiscal Court. Vandegrift said city attorney Phil Moloney had revised the legislation to conform to other city ordinances. The ordinance and the Renaissance proposal can be found in the council packet, online here.

Blighted property: The mayor announced that Ness Almadari of Lexington, who has owned the dilapidated building at 116 E. Main St. for more than two years, had told him that “He’s ready to start work” and thinks scaffolding will be up in about a month. “It’s good to see some movement on that,” said Vandegrift, who is trying to get the council to crack down on property owners who don’t maintain their property.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 2 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. All council meetings are open to the public.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Locally Grown offers teenagers a support system and unites local churches of various denominations

To start the summer-kickoff meeting, students in Locally Grown played a game, "Get to Know You."
Story and photos by Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Locally Grown, a local youth ministry for sixth to 12th graders in Midway and surrounding communities, held its summer kickoff Wednesday evening.

Now in its second year of full operation, Locally Grown is a cooperative ministry seeking to unite churches of different denominations in youth outreach. It got its start in August 2015, when several local churches united over their youth and their common faith. According to the program’s website, they seek to supplement existing youth ministries, support churches that lack youth programming, and engage youth who don’t attend church.

The name “Locally Grown” was inspired by the idea that young people’s surrounding community molds them into who they become.

Lily Savage, a student in Locally Grown, said the ministry gave her a positive support system. “I was really lonely before,” she said.

Another student, Willa Michel, said “Locally Grown has been super-beneficial in my life. It helps me connect with God in ways I wouldn’t have before.”

Bailey Spicer said that when she joined Locally Grown, she didn’t know what an impact it would have on her life. “It helps guide me through my issues,” she said, “and I can take the positivity I learn here and share it with others.”
The second game, "Race of Truth," had students advance when any of a series of statements applied to them.
Bud Ratliff, whose daughter, Zoe, is a student in Locally Grown, said the merging of the churches to form this ministry was “a real God moment.” He said the ministry was formed because Midway, like many small towns, has many churches and only a few young people in each. This ministry, he said, seeks to bring those churches and youth together.

Ratliff said the nine months that it took the vision of Locally Grown to be developed “was like birthing a child.” He said it provides a great opportunity for children like his daughter to grow up with trusting adults outside their families and to learn to love themselves and others. “That’s the whole message of Christ’s love,” he said.

Sara and Lee Busick, graphic designers in Midway, co-pastor the ministry. “We want it to be very real,” she said.

The ministry operates out of Midway Presbyterian Church, with other financial support from the Midway United Methodist Church, across the street. (The city gave it $500 last spring.) However, Busick said the ministry seeks to introduce the youth to other denominations and pastors at other churches in the area.

The weekly meetings often include pastors from other churches who are there to be in the students’ lives and serve as role models. Busick said this is an opportunity to let the students understand other denominations and practices. The ministry makes a point to visit other churches to let their students learn from other ministries.

“The goal is to be uniting, not divisive,” Busick said. “The focus is not on denominations. It’s on Jesus. My end goal is that when they walk out as 18-year-olds, they know how to pursue faith.”

During Wednesday’s kickoff, the students played a “Get to Know You” game that allowed them to share fun facts about themselves, participated in a “Race of Truth,” advancing when any of a series of statements applied to them (examples: “I have been to Indiana;” or “My hair is brown”) and gathered for a short prayer. 

During the prayer time, Lee Busick discussed the challenges that face youth today and told them that Locally Grown would help them through the challenges by helping them foster a relationship with God. “Life is never going to be perfect,” he told them, and his wife added that Locally Grown would be there for them and let them know each week that they are loved.

Locally Grown members meet Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church, and then walk to other churches or public areas for meetings. For information, see http://www.lgmidway.com.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Council committee decides noise complaint against new restaurant doesn't warrant changing ordinance

City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson listened as Council Members Southworth, Hicks and Simoff talked. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council decided Thursday that a recent noise complaint doesn’t warrant changing the city’s noise ordinance.

The complaint came from a community member against the Brown Barrel for playing a radio too loud before the restaurant opened for the day. The complainant, who was not identified at the meeting, said they approached the business in person before filing a complaint. The city sent the business a letter on May 15 requesting compliance with the ordinance.

Committee members Sara Hicks, Bruce Southworth and Steve Simoff discussed the complaint and read through the ordinance, which covers “excessive noise that adversely affects the community and individuals” that may cause irritants or health concerns. The ordinance’s standards for “excessive noise” cover power equipment, construction, motor vehicles and “noise that disturbs a reasonable person” among others. The ordinance applies to noises audible from a distance of 50 feet.

Southworth said he has been in the area and does not think the music is too loud.

Simoff said that since the committee members did not hear the music at the time of the alleged disturbance, they have nothing on which to base a revision of the ordinance.

The three concurred that nothing in the ordinance forbids the business from playing music, and that the issue is a result of commercial areas being so close to residential areas. “This is what comes from living in a commercial area,” Hicks said.

The Brown Barrel opened in Midway a few months ago into a building that had been vacant for years.

Hicks added later, “It seems to me that our ordinance is reasonable and fair, and I don’t really see a reason to change it.”

Monday, June 11, 2018

Council panel to discuss noise complaints, ordinance

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 14 at City Hall to discuss the noise ordinance and noise complaints. All committee and council meetings are open to the public.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Meeting about bridge offers little hope for fast reopening

Isaac Hughes of Zion Hill makes a point to consulting engineer Phil Logsdon and others at Thursday's meeting.
By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A consulting board’s meeting Thursday offered no solutions for a quick reopening of the Weisenberger Mill Bridge, but a small glimmer of hope that it could be rebuilt next year, not in 2020.

The meeting at Northside Elementary School was for people who had signed up to be consulting parties on the project, required under federal environmental and historic-preservation laws. It was also open to observers, most of whom were more concerned about the need to reopen the bridge, which has been closed since July 1, 2016, isolating the Zion Hill community.     

Casey Smith, project manager for the state Transportation Cabinet, opened the meeting by addressing concerns the community expressed in a meeting at the bridge Tuesday, including the feeling that its voices are not being heard. “It hurts to hear that,” he said. “Despite all the emotion and frustration, I find this process is actually working.”

Craig Potts, the state historic-preservation officer, said the process has already resulted in giving residents of the area the alternative they wanted – a one-lane bridge like the old one, for fear that a two-lane span would encourage more speeding and heavy truck traffic.

Federal Highway Administration environmental specialist
Eric Rothermel listened at the meeting. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
Potts said the Federal Highway Administration “said it didn’t build one-lane bridges,” for safety reasons, but FhWA Environmental Protection Specialist Eric Rothermel, who joined the project around a year ago, was able to get his superiors to accept the single-lane alternative. (Rothermel declined to comment afterward, saying he wasn’t allowed to speak to news media.)

Potts said, “We really benefited. . . . Otherwise we probably would have a two-lane alternative underway right now.” That was the plan when the bridge was closed for safety reasons.

Phil Logsdon, senior project manager at H.W. Lochner, the Lexington engineering firm advising the state, said part of the meeting’s purpose was to eliminate the two-lane alternative. He said it can’t be officially eliminated until a decision is made, but the community has made it clear that it wants the single-lane alternative.

The conversation turned to a debate over whether a single-lane bridge could be 14 feet wide, as opposed to the current 12-foot plan, to accommodate more farm machinery. Engineers at the meeting said both options should have the same weight limit of 40 tons.

Magistrate Chad Wallace of Scott County’s Third District asked if making it two feet wider would delay the process. “The general feel is to get something open as soon as possible,” he said.

Logsdon was unsure, but several members of the state's project team – 18 were in attendance – said consideration of the 14-foot alternative was unlikely to delay the process.

Wallace asked the question likely on the minds of most: “How soon do we get a bridge?”

Mapquest map, adapted, shows how the bridge closure has isolated Zion Hill.
The bridge is not scheduled to be completed until 2020, but Logsdon and state officials outlined a scenario that might get it done next year: After the official comment period ends July 9, if support for a one-lane bridge remains strong, he said, “It’s going to make it a lot easier for the Transportation Cabinet to make that decision.” He said the project timetable calls for FHwA to approve the project’s environmental document in December, after which the state could start acquiring property easements it needs for construction devices. The federal fiscal year does not begin until Oct. 1, 2019, but if money became available before then due to delays in other federally funded projects, “cabinet leadership” could move up the schedule and seek bids.

Later, Isaac Hughes of Zion Hill asked who heads the cabinet, and was told that is Secretary Greg Thomas. Hughes said the process he saw at the meeting won’t get a bridge built soon. At Tuesday’s meeting, he voiced concern that the process is focused more on the design of the bridge than its speedy reopening.

After the meeting, Hughes said his concerns have not been resolved. “We’re still looking at the process,” he said. “It’s about the process, not the people.”

Hughes said other communities nearby have repaired bridges in a speedy manner. “Those communities had horse industry money,” he said, and Zion Hill doesn’t produce much revenue, so there is little incentive to repair the bridge.

“It’s about land value, not life value,” he said, echoing his concerns from Tuesday, and said he feels the community means nothing to those working on the bridge repairs.

Soon after the meeting started, the cabinet’s environmental-analysis director, Danny Peake, told the crowd that the process “probably seems cumbersome, slow and painful,” but has seen “a large government agency” change its plans in response to public concern.

About halfway through the meeting, Ed Courtney, part of whose property would be used for a construction easement, said, “They built that bridge probably in less time than you all been talking about it.”
Project Manager Casey Smith, right, talks with mill owner Mac Weisenberger, who voiced concern that the new bridge abutments would reduce the width of South Elkhorn Creek by two feet, which he said would worsen flooding. Smith said state engineers looked at that, and “They did not see a significant rise out of it.” Weisenberger asked Smith if he had seen the creek in flood; Smith said he had seen pictures from Weisenberger. At left is state historic preservation officer Craig Potts.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Their patience worn thin, Zion Hill residents endorse use of emergency funds to get mill bridge reopened quickly

Asked if they wanted emergency funds used to open the bridge as soon as possible, the crowd endorsed the idea without dissent.
Story and photos by Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Members of the Zion Hill community at a meeting Tuesday unanimously decided to request state emergency funds for a quick reopening of the Weisenberger Mill Bridge through a one-lane truss bridge alternative.

That would overturn state plans for the bridge, which call for its replacement in 2020, but residents’ patience is wearing thin after almost two years of the bridge being closed, a move that has probably had a greater impact on Zion Hill than any other community. The bridge was its direct route to and from the rest of Scott County.

The closure of the bridge for safety reasons, and the delay in replacing it, have sparked seemingly endless debate at the local and state levels, and frustration from locals who have experienced delayed and limited access to emergency-response vehicles. Community members expressed frustration over what they said was their lack of representation on this issue.

The gathering at the bridge was held to prepare for a meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 7, when a special consulting board and members of the public will discuss the cultural and historic implications of any changes to the bridge. Magistrate Chad Wallace of Scott County’s Third District said the meeting was the public’s chance to share their thoughts in advance of the Thursday meeting.

Isaac Hughes addressed the crowd gathered at the bridge.
Isaac Hughes of Zion Hill said the community has not been represented in county government or on the board that will discuss the bridge Thursday. He asked, “How many people are on that board, that if they called EMS, response time would concern them?”

Wallace said a notice was sent out and any member of the community had the chance to be on the board.

EMS response times were the main concern. Veronica Raglin, who lives in Louisville but spent five months with her sick father in Zion Hill last year, said that with the bridge closed, EMS vehicles and hospice nurses often experience delays. She said that one ambulance took two hours to arrive.

Raglin said her father’s death last year was a result of cancer and not delayed EMS responses, but the delays were a source of frustration for her family.

Raglin expressed concern for other members of the community. “There are other sick people up here,” she said, adding that many members are elderly. “What happens to them?”

Wallace showed the crowd the two remaining alternatives for bridge replacement. The first involved a two-lane bridge that would require removal of the wall along the side of the road.

The rock wall near the bridge incorporates old millstones.
Bryan Pryor, who lives beside the bridge, said he is legally obligated by an historic easement to preserve the wall surrounding his property. “A wall’s not worth a life,” he acknowledged, but said he has supported the idea of a single-lane bridge for a while. Its proponents say a two-lane bridge would lead to more speeding and wrecks in the curve on the south side of the bridge.

The other plan is for a single-lane, 11-foot-wide bridge that would reuse materials in the current bridge and support farm equipment and ambulances, but not tractor-trailers, which have been blamed for damage that led to closure of the bridge.

Midway Magistrate Linda Popp said she has “been fighting to keep a bridge that is safe for our community.” She said the two-lane alternative is unsafe but thinks the single-lane alternative is “big enough for our farmers.” 

Veronica Raglin posed at the bridge.
Raglin said, “I don’t care what size the bridge is—just open it!” She added, “Anxiety isn’t building up; it’s been up.”

Hughes agreed, and reminded the crowd about the delayed EMS times. “Life doesn’t matter, apparently,” he said. “You’re arguing over one lane or two lanes. You’re not worried about lives. Get it open.”

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandergrift encouraged the community to begin a letter-writing campaign. “I sympathize with your anger,” he said, “but we need to turn that into something.” He suggested people write letters to their representatives and letters to the editor. “Politicians listen when they’re in the paper,” he said.

A member of the crowd said, “The people of Zion Hill have a right to be mad,” and Vandergrift replied, “We gotta yell at the right people. We have to come together.”

Joe Graviss, the Democratic nominee for state representative in the Nov. 6 election, encouraged the residents to think of the meeting as “a message to the powers that be” that the community wanted to open a single lane bridge as soon as possible to allow full access to emergency services. He said it would be cheaper and faster to build a single-lane bridge.

Graviss called for a show of hands to indicate how many were willing to ask for emergency state funding to open a single-lane bridge, and the crowd unanimously agreed. “This is how stuff gets done,” he told the crowd, and said later, “I’m pretty pleased that happened.”

The crowd gathered at the bridge, with its mill namesake in the background.
Wallace said that if there were no objections, the consulting board would pursue the second alternative that involves reusing bridge materials and constructing a single lane bridge. He said to get federal funding, he must present both alternatives, but would be fighting for the faster option.

Federal funding has complicated the project by invoking historical and environmental review requirements. One of those is the consulting board.

State engineers have said that reconstruction of the bridge will require purchase of a small amount of property, which cannot proceed until the historic and environmental reviews are completed. The project is slated for construction in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019.

Liles Taylor, who defeated Popp in the May 22 Democratic primary for Midway magistrate, expressed concern over funding possibly being delayed for two more years unless the board is able to “work some magic in Frankfort.”

The consulting board is scheduled to meet from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Northside Elementary School cafeteria in Midway. After the meeting, a 30-day comment period will be in effect. Then, the consensus will be given to the federal government.

Casey Smith, project manager for the state Transportation Cabinet, said in a letter presented at the meeting, “After completing the Section 106 process we’ll make a final alternative decision and complete the NEPA document.” He referred to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

Smith wrote that the process is expected to take until December, during which time the design plans will be finalized. “After that,” he wrote, “the right of way and utility phase of the project may proceed.”
Mapquest map, adapted, shows how the bridge closure has complicated Zion Hill's access to the rest of Scott County.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Council approves 2018-19 budget without debate; revenue is based on a 25 percent cut in property tax

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media 

The budget approved by the Midway City Council approved Monday evening has a revenue estimate that calls for the council to lower the city’s property-tax income by 25 percent.

The budget, for the fiscal year that begins July 1, was approved without debate. Council Member Bruce Southworth, who had  raised  questions about the $17,000 budgeted for improvements at Walter Bradley Park, said after the meeting, “I got my answers; it’s all been resolved.” 

At the council’s last meeting, Southworth asked for a third workshop to discuss the budget but Mayor Grayson Vandergrift declined, saying later that Southworth’s concerns were not about money, but about personnel. Volunteer Park Manager John Holloway was on hand to answer any questions that may have arisen at Monday's meeting,

Vandergrift said after Monday’s meeting that he and Southworth had discussed the park issue. As for the lack of discussion, “I think it was just a really good budget and they liked it,” he said.

During the 21-minute meeting, Vandergrift noted that while the process did not go as smoothly this year as last, “I’m very proud of our budget.” He thanked the council members for adding investments to the budget.  “There’s no other city in Kentucky doing this right now.”

Vandegrift proposed cutting property taxes because the city is getting so much more income from occupational, or payroll, taxes from recent development. The council agreed, and will set property-tax rates after it gets the options calculated by the state based on this year’s property valuations.

Vandegrift shows sign to be officially unveiled on Veterans Day
In other business, Vandergrift announced that Midway is officially a Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame City. He showed the council a new sign commemorating the honor, which he hopes to officially unveil on Veterans Day. He asked the council for suggestions on where to place it. To be a Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame City, a city must have a designated Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame Day.

In the midst of the city’s examination of an ordinance to crack down on blighted properties, Vandergrift suggested the council  also examine vague language in a county ordinance that deals with storage of recreational vehicles.

 “We’re starting to see a lot of RVs pop up around town,” the mayor said, adding that a county ordinance says RVs are to be stored in the owner’s side or back yard “where possible.” and “I don’t know what ‘where possible’ means.” He suggested City Attorney Phil Moloney begin working on clearer language to bring before the council when it works on the blighted-property ordinance.

“I don’t want to impose upon anyone,” the mayor said. “Anyone who wants to own an RV can own and RV. But, I think there’s a problem if we don’t start to regulate it.”

Council Member Steve Simoff noted a traffic backup from a tractor-trailer delivering to Main Street restaurants, and said the city also needs to do something to keep store owners and employees from using street parking that could be used by customers. “We’re losing business,” he said.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 18 at City Hall. All council meetings are open to the public.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Kathryn Lawler of Georgetown received The Midway Woman Award at Midway University's commencement

Board of Trustees Chair Donna Moore
Campbell presented the award to Lawler.
By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Kathryn Lawler of Georgetown received The Midway Woman Award at Midway University’s commencement ceremony in May.

The award is given to a graduating female undergraduate who has a grade-point average of at least 3.0, shows dedication to the community and embodies the university’s standards of excellence, according to a university news release.

Lawler earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. She was an Eagle Envoy tour guide, a golf-team representative on the student athletic advisory board, and was a volunteer with Lexington Right to Life and with various other campus projects.

She earned the River State Conference (RSC) Women's Golfer of the Year award, made the First Team All-Conference honors for four consecutive years and was named to the RSC Women's Golf Scholar-Athlete Team for her classroom performance during her senior season.

The university said Lawler “was a positive and professional role model to her peers facing situations of adversity with humility and grace.”

The university also awarded the President’s Award to Hailey Snipes of Lawrenceburg for her “scholarship, leadership and service.” The university said the recipient must maintain at least a 3.75 grade point average to earn the award, which is the highest honor a Midway student can earn.

The first two graduates of the Master of Science in Nursing program at the university, Shelia Griffeth of Lexington and Shannon Jackson of Versailles, received their degrees and hoods at the ceremony. Samantha Weldon of LaGrange also graduated as the first recipient of the Master of Business Administration degree in Tourism and Event Management.

The May 12 commencement celebrated 313 new alumni and featured a speech from Midway alumna Millie Marshall, the first female president of a Toyota Motor Manufacturing Corp. unit.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Historic Homes Tour opens eyes of visitors, locals

The residence at Southern Equine Farm, formerly Parrish Hill, shone in the bright Saturday sun.

Story and photos by Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

“It’s like a dream,” Chip Guillot said Saturday.

The balcony at Southern Equine Farm
He was referring to the beautiful grounds at Southern Equine Farm where he lives and works. Guillot manages the farm and gets to see the farm’s beautiful house every day. He was mixing a drink in the pool house and listening to jazz when I spoke to him. He said running such a large farm is a lot of work, but the result “is like a small slice of heaven.”

Southern Equine was the first stop of the Midway Woman’s Club’s inaugural Historic Homes Tour Saturday, and crowds of people came to get their first glimpse of the luxurious home filled with antique items, a winding staircase, elephant-skin walls, hand-painted stencil ceilings and rich history.

The swimming pool at Southern Equine Farm
The home is a Georgian Revival style architecture built in 1906 by James Ware Parrish II and his wife, Lily May. It sets atop a hill overlooking the grassy valley of Lee Branch and the town of Midway.

The farm produced racehorses Midway and Rolled Stockings, and the home reflects a love of the Kentucky Derby and thoroughbred horses. Throughout the home, pictures of racehorses and the derby are displayed.

The home also produced the first Head Start class in Midway, where Ruth Roach taught kindergarten in the basement when the home was still called Parrish Hill.

The front porch at Southern Equine Farm
Susan Shewmaker and Carrie Jackson said they have toured many houses, mainly in Charleston, S.C., but had no idea that their own town had such historic homes. “It’s amazing to have something like this in Midway,” Jackson said, adding that though she drives through town every day, she didn’t know about the homes.

“They’re all so beautiful, all so diverse, all so unique,” Shewmaker said of the homes on the tour. “We’re so grateful to Midway Woman’s Club and Midway for this opportunity.”

Jackson said she was impressed with how the owners of the homes have balanced the antique architecture and modern d├ęcor. “That combination is amazing,” she said. She said she felt the owners had remained true to the history of the homes while still incorporating modern vibes.

Porter House is a familiar sight in downtown Midway.
The tour’s second stop was the Porter House, a Federal/Greek Revival styled home built in 1840 by Midway’s first doctor, Dr. Thomas Jefferson Iles. Adele Dickerson of the Woman’s Club said that when the home was first built, Iles used the basement as his medical office, a space is now used as the kitchen. From 1883 to 1901, the home was a hotel called The Porter House. Later, in 1980, a dentist’s office ran out of the first floor.

The home featured a rare look at an antique bathroom, an exposed-beam ceiling and beautiful hardwood floors. It was included in the Midway Historic District and the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is at 113 North Winter St.

Dickie and Marsha Jones said they enjoyed looking at the homes. He was raised in Midway but lived elsewhere for years. The couple recently moved to Midway after several years of trying to find a home. “We love the tour,” she said. “I loved it as a newcomer, and he loved it as a native.”

Second Christian Church dates to the early 1830s.
Dickie Jones said though he was raised in Midway, he had never stepped foot inside the Second Christian Church, one of the tour stops, and didn’t know about a lot of the homes, except for Southern Equine, where he attended some parties growing up. Marsha said they enjoyed watching children sleigh riding down the hills last winter.

Other tour stops were the Parrish Home Place, Parrish Place, Village View Cottage, Pinkerton-Rouse Place and, for those who bought a lunch ticket, Hermosa. All have a connection to the Parrish family, which held a reunion the same weekend.

The building of Second Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at 309 Smith St. was constructed in 1906 for a congregation founded in the early 1830s. Thought to be home to the denomination’s oldest African American congregation in Kentucky and possibly in the United States (the denomination was founded in Kentucky in 1832), the church is 112 years old and the congregation is in its 185th year. James Ware Parrish Sr. was a donor for the building.

Parrish Home Place, also called Dearborn, is east of town.
It is located on the Dearborn tract of Darby Dan Farm.
Parrish Home Place, also called Dearborn, at 1234 Weisenberger Mill Rd., two miles east of the center of Midway, is a Georgian styled home with a Greek Revival reface built in 1810 by Bird (also known as Byrd) Price. This home was the first home of the Price family, two daughters of which were married to James Ware Parrish Sr. Both marriages, one to Martha Ann and one to Mary Philemon Price, ended in the death of the wives.

Parrish Place is now home to a veterinary clinic.
Parrish Place, at 5745 Midway Rd., just south of the city limits, is an Italianate style home designed by Adam Hibler and built in 1860 by David Lehman. It was occupied by Charles Ware Parrish and his wife, Catherine. It is now home to the Midway Small Animal Clinic, but despite its use for an active business, its historic character is maintained, and the furniture is well preserved.

Village View Cottage is not in its original location.
Village View Cottage was originally on the grounds of Southern Equine Farm but was moved to 337 S. Winter St. in 1916  after a murder in the cottage made it uninhabitable in its original location. It has kept its original trim, moldings, fireplaces and most of its original doors. Built in 1895, the cottage was home to a Midway mayor, Owen C. “Skip” Rouse Jr.

The Pinkerton-Rouse House is owned by Midway University.
Pinkerton-Rouse Place is a Greek Revival style home built in 1845 by Dr. L.L. Pinkerton and is the home of Midway University’s president. Its original use was a female boarding school alongside Pinkerton’s living space. He later co-founded Kentucky Female Orphan School, now Midway University, with James Ware Parrish.

Hermosa, now called Holly Hill Inn
Hermosa is a Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and Italianate style home built in 1845 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Known as the restaurant Holly Hill Inn since 1979, it was home to local farm owner Isaac Parrish in 1903.

Genie Graf, president of the Midway Woman’s Club and co-chair of the Historic Homes Tour, said she was pleased with the turnout and estimated the event raised around $5,000 for the club, which will be used to help the community. “We were just so pleased to be able to provide this,” she said, adding that the club is grateful for the “generosity of all the homeowners—they all said ‘yes’ right away.”  She said they will hold another tour next year.