Sunday, July 29, 2018

Economic developers and developer Anderson now see eye to eye on industrial zoning at Midway Station

Midway Station developer Dennis Anderson, who has done only residential and commercial projects in Lexington, is getting more comfortable with the idea of selling industrial lots in Midway, now that he has a prospective buyer.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority voted Friday to seek industrial zoning, with Anderson, of about 75 acres in the southeast section of Midway Station. EDA Chair John Soper said the request was prompted by Anderson's pending sale of a relatively small lot to a plumbing supply company.

Dennis Anderson (2014 photo)
The deal breaks an impasse between Anderson, who didn't want to seek rezoning until he had a prospective buyer, and EDA, which wanted to change most of the residential zoning in Midway Station to industrial because it sees residential zoning as a disincentive to industrial buyers.

"With Lakeshore [Learning Materials] and AHK there, we just don't see the prospect of successful housing there," Soper told the other EDA board members. Planning Director Pattie Wilson added, "He would have to redo all the infrastructure" to create a residential development. Anderson had hoped to do that with tax-increment financing, in which new tax revenue pays for redevelopment of blighted property, but state officials said the property did not fit the official definition of blight.

Midway Station started out as an industrial park about 30 years ago. In 2008, when there had been few industrial sales and the city and county were saddled with debt service on the property, they and EDA redesigned it as a commercial and residential development. The Great Recession hit quickly, and Anderson did not develop the property but kept paying the interest to maintain his option on it.

In recent years, the property became attractive to industrial buyers, and EDA sold part of it for Lakeshore and bought and sold an adjoining tract for AHK, an auto-parts manufacturer.

The rezoning would leave about 11 acres zoned for apartments as the only residential zoning in Midway Station. The area near Georgetown Road is zoned commercial; between it and the residential zone is an area zoned for professional offices. The area at the far eastern tip of the property is not suitable for development, Soper said, but 35 to 40 acres are.
Wilson suggested that a tract of no more than 3 acres at 630 McKinney Ave., corner to Fisher Street, be added to the parcel to be rezoned because it would not be suitable for residential if the rest was rezoned. The board agreed.

Among other business, Soper said the county needs a housing-needs analysis to help address the lack of affordable local housing for industrial workers, perhaps leading to local government subsidies like those Fayette County gives to make rents affordable.

Employers have been having difficulty finding employees, and housing is part of that issue. Soper said employers "eventually ask" about housing for employees, and "I anticipate that conversation coming in Midway."

The latest report on industrial employment in the county, distributed at the meeting, shows AHK with 82 employees and Lakeshore with 243, on its way to 262, at which point state and local incentives that were offered to attract the distribution center will kick in. The new Woodford Reserve warehouses, north of Midway Station, were listed as having 25 employees. Two warehouses have been built; 12 are planned as a conditional use in an agricultural zone because bourbon is made from grain.

Soper said the Castle and Key Distillery in Millville now expects to employ 100 when it is in full production. "As I talk to people about getting a hotel in Midway, this is a success story to tell," he said, because Midway is an attractive base for traveling the Bourbon Trail. It is also near horse farms that offer tours, and six miles from the Old Friends horse retirement farm near Georgetown.

Midsummer Nights in Midway #2, Friday evening

Photos by Sarah Ladd, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Friday, July 27, 2018

City renews trash-collection contract with Rumpke; rates will rise 15.4% for residents, 29.6% for businesses

Rumpke containers on Main Street (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council voted unanimously at a special meeting Friday to renew the city's contract with Rumpke Waste & Recycling.

The council recently extended its contract with Rumpke to seek another bidder for the city's garbage collection needs, an action that Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said at Friday's meeting was to make the bid competitive. "We weren't comfortable approving a new contract for four years without a second bidder," he said. "So, we accomplished what we set out to do by getting a second bidder."

The other bid came from Republic Services. Vandegrift said CKY was also interested in the contract, but could not make the route at this time. He told the council that they would be interested in the bid in the future.

Rumpke offered rates of $14.95 monthly for residential users, who get one pickup per week; and $35 monthly for two commercial pickups a week. The current rates are $12.95 and $27.

"Rumpke’s bid improved after we extended the contract to get a second bidder," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said after the meeting. "Their original offer was $16 residential and $40 commercial."

The rates the council accepted will be increases of 15.4 percent for residential and 29.6 percent for commercial. Vandegrift said the rates are "easy to swallow" because they will be locked in for four years; China is reluctant to accept as much recycled material as it once did, increasing prices here; and trade conflicts have caused uncertainty in the steel and aluminum markets. "The garbage rate increase will be far outweighed by our forthcoming lowering of property taxes and sewer rates," the mayor said.
Council Member Steve Simoff said before the vote, "With the service that Rumpke puts out, it's hard to turn them down."

Vandegrift said after the vote that the council will hear ordinances at the next two council meetings to see how the city needs to update its billing to accommodate the new contract. But, he said, "This worked out very well for us."

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Council to open bids for garbage collection Friday

The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting at 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 27, at City Hall to open and act on bids for garbage collection. The council recently extended its contract with Rumpke Waste & Recycling so it could seek another bidder. All council meetings are open to the public.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Message from the mayor: What a week, what a city

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

What a week.

Wednesday, two young Midway citizens decided to sell lemonade to raise money for the Homeplace because they wanted to help with the care of the wisest ones among us. Their proud parents posted about their good deed on Facebook, and before you knew it, fellow residents were pledging to match their contributions -- they wound up raising well over $200 in the end.

It’s almost as if these two young women were inspiring us to be ready for the days to come, when we’d all have to band together to help our fellow citizens. Although I’m not surprised at how the Midway community came together, I’m still remarkably impressed and inspired by the endless accounts of residents doing good deeds to help each other get through a surprisingly monstrous storm and its serious effects.

It would take a book to account for all the selfless acts that were performed by people this weekend, so I’ll just say that I am continually inspired by the immeasurable number of good deeds done by people who simply want to help their neighbor get through a difficult situation.

KU and LG&E called in help from other states and had as many as 180 technicians working 16-hour shifts to bring power back to our homes. As I write this, nearly all of Midway has power again. We owe a great debt of gratitude to every line worker and every person who helped clear debris and limbs, and to their families for sharing them with us. One line worker from Chicago said he hadn’t seen this kind of tree damage since he was deployed to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Our first responders were brilliant as well, especially on Friday night, when things really could have devolved into chaos had they not held everything together.

What a week. What a city. What a county.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mayor says KU is confident that 'the bulk of the county, including Midway, will have power' by midnight Monday

UPDATE: The mayor reported just before 8 p.m. that it appeared power had been restored to all of Midway, except "the North Gratz to East Higgins corridor and the Midway School Apartments."

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reported around noon today: "I have just left a meeting with KU representatives and county emergency workers. KU feels confident that the bulk of the county, including Midway, will have power back by midnight on Monday, July 23 (Monday going into Tuesday). This is certainly not the news we were hoping for, but at least we now know a firm timetable for how long we have to bear through this.  KU and LG&E have approximately 140 technicians working to restore power throughout the county, working shifts of 16 hours on and eight off. They remind anyone to stay away from any downed power line, as well as a few other very important safety tips:
  • Check to make sure any electric stove is turned off - if you were cooking when the storm hit then it would be very easy to have forgotten to turn your burner off. Make sure you have not set anything on them which could cause fire when the power is restored. 
  • If you have a generator, make sure it is not too close (within several feet) of an open garage door - this could cause deadly carbon monoxide to enter your home. 
  • Although it is tempting to want to help push debris out of roadways, please do not move anything that is touching a downed power line. 
  • Remember to discard perishable food items that are in your refrigerator or freezer. The Health Department warns that frozen food which has thawed cannot be refrozen and then eaten safely. 
"Going without power this long can make you irritable, anxious, furious, or all three, plus some. We are going to make it through this because we stick together. There are many, many good folks out right now working tirelessly to bring us back to a normal state of living. Let’s continue to encourage them, even feel free to bring them water bottles if you are so inclined and can safely do so."

Woodford County Emergency Management announced that the American Red Cross will be in Versailles' lower city parking lot behind the police station from 3 to 6 p.m. to hand out clean-up kits, water, tarps, trash bags, gloves etc.

Midway Baptist Church is setting up free portable showers from the Southern Baptist Convention, tentatively available from 4 to 8 p.m. "Bring towel and toiletries," Logan Nance advises on the Midway Musings Facebook page. "We will update once we are set up and let you know the exact time it is available for use."

Midway Christian Church announced that it will hold a community dinner at 6:30 p.m. and needs available helpers to report at 4 p.m.

UPDATE, 4:45 p.m.: Here is an enhanced screenshot of the latest KU-LGE outage map:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Storms knock out power, block roads, cause damage; meteorologist says winds may have reached 100 m.p.h.

The storm felled a large tree, blocking South Winter Street. (Photo from Midway Fire Department)
The Midway area suffered extensive damage Friday afternoon from a thunderstorm that brought high winds and heavy rain. Many people in Midway and the rest of Woodford County lost power, and stop lights were out. A flash flood warning was issued for the county at 10:40 p.m., until 1:15 a.m.

South Winter Street (US 62) was blocked by fallen trees, prompting the county ambulance service to move an ambulance from Versailles to the Midway Fire Department. Old Frankfort Pike was closed at fire gates 69 and 79, Woodford County Emergency Management reported.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and the county government declared a state of emergency. "Crews will be working to clean up well into the night," the Midway Fire Department reported on Facebook.

At 11:17 p.m. Kentucky Utilities reported that 824 of its 2,061 customers in the Midway ZIP code were without power. Here's a screenshot, with the legend pasted in, of the Midway area on the LGE-KU electric outage map at 10:50 p.m. For a larger version of the map, click on it.

Lexington's airport reported three instances of winds reaching 70 miles per hour, WKYT-TV reported. Meteorologist Chris Bailey said the damage to large trees in Woodford County indicated that winds may have reached as high as 100 miles per hour in the county.

The old city dump is at fire gate 24 on Old Frankfort Pike.
Vandegrift announced that the former city dump site on Spring Station Road will be open to allow residents to dispose of fallen tree limbs. "The site is about a mile and a half past the Midway Cemetery, at fire gate 24," Vandegrift said. "We will leave it open for seven to 10 days."

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Council OKs paying off debt for sewage-treatment plant, saving money that will be used to lower customer bills

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council decided Monday to grant Mayor Grayson Vandegrift’s request to pay off the sewage-treatment plant’s bond issue and eventually lower sewer bills for Midway.

Vandegrift sent a letter to council members on Friday asking them to consider cashing in one of the city’s three certificates of deposit to pay off the $196,885 left on the wastewater plant. The city has been paying $30,000 on the debt twice a year, plus $9,000 in interest and fees to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, a state agency.

Paying off the bonds will use 42 percent of the city’s CD savings of $473,483. The city’s annual budget is about $1.1 million. The CD that the mayor plans to cash in is worth $285,490. The remaining $88,605 after paying off the treatment plant would be rolled into a new CD, he said.

The city’s three CDs are now worth a total of $473,483. With the council’s approval of paying off the wastewater plant, that number will decrease to $276,483. Vandegrift pointed out that the city is paying more in interest on the debt, 3.8 percent, than it is making on the CDs.  

Council member Bruce Southworth said, “Anytime we can avoid paying interest is a good thing.”

City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson said after the meeting that the CD being cashed in is paying 0.6 percent. Based on CD interest payments Vandegrift mentioned at the meeting, the one for $125,000 is paying 0.3 percent; and one for $58,000 is paying no more than 0.5 percent.

With the plant debt paid off, the city will save at least $9,000 in sewer revenue each month, which, Vandegrift reiterated Monday, should lead to lowering sewer fees by “at least 25 percent . . . in a few months.” He said lowering these fees has been a goal for a long time, but “what I did not expect is it to be this soon; but it’s a great thing . . . something that literally affects every single person in the city in a positive way.” Sewer fees are based on the amount of water used.

“It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do,” Vandegrift added, noting the city’s “healthy” general fund, which has been boosted by payroll taxes from new business and industry.

Vandegrift thanked the council (member Sara Hicks was absent) for approving the motion and said that he has received many messages from the public thanking him for working to lower bills. “Some people have said ‘I never thought I’d see this day’,” he said. “It’s been a community effort. … Thank you all very much.”

Other Business: The council tabled a funding request from extension agent Elizabeth Coots and the Homemakers and 4-H clubs for their 13th annual backpack project, which provides Woodford County students with basic school supplies. The council has $1,100 remaining in its donations budget, and Council Member John McDaniel said, “We have two backpack programs in Midway through the Presbyterian church and the Baptist church, and I would rather that money go to the programs here in Midway.”

Christian Juckett, a bond attorney with Rubin & Hays in Lexington, and Amanda Hale, development director at The Lexington School, asked the city council to again issue tax-exempt municipal bonds on behalf of the school, this time to finance a new learning center. The city would not be responsible for the $5 million in bank qualified debt, Juckett explained, but would serve as the catalyst for issuing the debt.

The Lexington School uses Midway as a financing tool because state law allows such bonds to be issued only by local governments that issue less than $10 million in bonds in that year, and Lexington issues more than that, Juckett said. He said 19 of the 600 students at the private school, and 13 staff members, are from Woodford County, and Hale said she is a native of Midway.

Vandegrift invited Juckett and Hale to return at the council’s next meeting, July 30, for a formal vote on their request.

Midsummer Nights on Main: Following the June 29 Midsummer Nights in Midway traffic arrangement that allowed the closing of the north side of East Main Street, the council agreed to follow that precedent for the next event dates, July 27 and August 24.

“I think it went very well,” Vandegrift said of the arrangement. He said the crowd seemed bigger this year, and “people fit better.” 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Four-church Vacation Bible School is a success

Children from four Midway churches, and some who have no church home, attended a joint Vacation Bible School this week.
Story and photos by Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Four Midway churches enjoyed their first multi-church Vacation Bible School this week, bringing together about 50 children – more than they expected – from the community and several denominations.

Cross-denominational gatherings have become more common in Midway since the creation two years ago of Locally Grown, a community youth group that focuses on uniting youth in the community and breaking down denominational barriers.

This year, Midway United Methodist Church, Midway Christian Church, Midway Presbyterian Church and St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church joined together for what they hope will be the first of many multi-church VBSes in Midway.

Presbyterian Church Pastor Mary Weese said the week was a success, both for the adults and for the children: “We get to be with each other. You don’t get to see people from other churches very often and work with them in projects. So, this has been a great opportunity.” She said the event “snowballed” from a small idea, to hoping for 36 children, to more than 50. “It’s been a huge success.”

Christian Church Pastor Heather McColl said she believes the event “exceeded our expectations” and has been successful enough to continue.  She said she was unsure in the beginning how such an event would work. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think the churches could work together, because the churches have done multiple projects together,” but she wondered about the timing, and that too many people would be traveling. “I am thankfully and gratefully wrong,” she said.
After dinner at the Methodist Church on Thursday, the group walked to St. Matthew AME Church to play games.
Each night, a different church hosted a variety of games, story-telling, Bible memorization and a dinner. On Monday, the group met at the Methodist church; Tuesday, at the Christian Church; Wednesday, at the Presbyterian Church, as Locally Grown hosted the students; and on Thursday, the students met first at the Methodist Church for dinner and walked to St. Mathews AME for a night of games. Friday was scheduled as a family event at the Methodist Church, allowing the children to wind down with their families from the week.

John Davis, who volunteered as one of the supervisors or “shepherds,” explained that the idea for the multi-church effort came from Midway having multiple churches but relatively few youth in each. “It’s difficult for each church to have their own” VBS, he said. “But when you get four together, it just works out so much better.” Davis said the event did not advertise to churches only, and welcomed several children who do not have a home church.

The pastors of the four churches attended each night and chimed in on how successful they think this week’s festivities have been.

“The community fellowship between these four churches is not seen in a lot of communities in Kentucky,” said Pastor Joshua Hale of St. Matthews AME, who said has pastored all around the state. He said Midway churches are doing what a lot of other communities have not embraced: worshipping together across denominations. “These churches work together all year long and worship together in different services all year long,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing.” He said that it is his hope that the event will continue each year.

Methodist Pastor Mickey Richardson said the event has been “tremendously successful.” She said that “independently, we wouldn’t have had the resources to do all the things that we’re doing. So, by putting our resources together, we are able to serve the entire community.”

Students acted out the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River as Jesus's ministry began.
After dinner Thursday, the students listened to the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, and several students acted it out. Afterward, they split into teams by grades, and each group walked with their shepherd to St. Mathew AME. Once there, teams were given a frozen T-shirt, which they had to work together to melt and unravel and then put on, symbolizing the Biblical idea of donning a “robe of righteousness.”

Jakeb King helped younger children with a frozen T-shirt.
Jakeb King, a sophomore student in Locally Grown, said he enjoyed the event and thinks it should be done three times a year.

He said the programs and interactive songs were his favorite parts because “the kids were really into it. I think what made it really fun was the adults; they’re really active and into it. I think the kids got that energy. They caught onto it.”

King said he loves that churches in the community are coming together, and said he feels there are more opportunities for students to learn when more churches are involved.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mayor asks council to pay off debt on sewage-treatment plant, saying it would lead to rate cut of at least 25%

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Ahead of Monday’s city council meeting, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced his intention to ask the council to pay off the city’s active wastewater treatment plant to allow lower sewer fees for water customers. 

Vandegrift would do that by cashing in one of the city’s three certificates of deposit, which total $473,483. That would leave CDs totaling $276,598.

Vandegrift told the council in a letter on Wednesday that the funds would be applied to the remaining balance on the wastewater plant, now $196,885. He said the city pays $60,000 a year on the loan, in two $30,000 installments, plus $9,000 in interest and “other services.”  He said the city would have an extra $9,000 in sewer revenue each month, leading to “lowering sewer rates for our citizens”

The next step, he explained, would be “letting the sewer fund build up some revenue for a few months,” then make some projections. “Once we feel that our sewer fund is sufficiently increased, I would then ask you . . . to vote on lowering sewer rates at least 25 percent, to begin with.” Sewer fees are based on water usage.

Vandegrift noted that the city recently paid off the old sewer plant, which had to be replaced before the bond issue used to build it was retired.

The CD that the mayor wants to cash in is worth $285,490. The remaining $88,605 after paying off the treatment plant would be rolled into a new CD, he said.

“Our current financial position is so healthy that I see no reason why we should continue to pay interest on a debt we are able to pay off,” he added. “Cutting sewer rates will help make Midway a city that is more affordable for everyone, and will be a major step in fixing one of Midway’s longest running problems.”

The council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 16 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. All council meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Meetings set to discuss 'On the Table' ideas that could lead to $25,000 or more in grants for projects in county

Woodford County Community Fund press release

Earlier this year, the Woodford County Community Fund hosted "On The Table" conversations at the Life Adventure Center. What we heard most that day was “This was a great event and I really appreciated all the helpful conversation, so what’s next?” This is it!

In five identical upcoming events, we will reveal what we heard from the participants. Our “From the Table to the Streets” presentation will go over what everyone had to say at On The Table and what the community wants to do about it.

Please mark your calendar for either:
July 12: Light dinner from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Versailles Presbyterian Church.
July 13: Light breakfast from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Versailles Presbyterian.
July 13: Light lunch from 11:30am to 1:30 p.m. at Versailles Presbyterian.
July 14: Light brunch from 10 a.m. to noon at Troy Presbyterian Church.
Aug. 16: Light dinner from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Versailles Presbyterian.
Each event will cover the same information. Pick a date and time which suits your schedule best and learn what was discussed and how to apply for a grant.

This fall, The Woodford County Community Fund, in partnership with the Joe and Debbie Graviss Foundation, Glenn and Sandi Bromagen and the Quigg Fund will award at least $25,000 in grants to support ideas arising from the inaugural "On the Table" conversations. Successful proposals will address community needs through projects and programs that demonstrate sustainable impact and measurable outcomes. Following an initial review by the Woodford County Community Fund, the community will be invited to weigh-in and help select the final grant recipients. Working together, we can put ideas into action! If not enough grant requests meet the proper criteria, left over funds will be rolled over into next year’s program.

For more information, contact Joe Graviss or Lori Garkovich at woodfordcf@bgcf.org.

"On The Table" is an initiative of the Blue Grass Community Foundation, with special thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as a funding and technical assistance partner.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Council donates to summer concert series, Midway U. tennis tournament; OKs striping of Stephens Street

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council decided unanimously Monday to give away another $650 of its allotted donation budget for the fiscal year that just began.

This year’s budget, which took effect Sunday, included $5,000 for donations, $3,250 of which have already been promised, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

The council decided to honor the request of Joseph Reyes, the head coach for men and women’s tennis at Midway University, who requested $250 to sponsor a tournament in August.

The council then agreed on a donation of $400 for the Cool Summer Evening concert series to help pay for performers.

After subtracting other donations that have been promised, the city’s donation budget for this fiscal year has $1,100 remaining.

The mayor and council put removable speed bumps on East Stephens
Street last summer, but the bumps couldn't stand up to the punishment.
Street striping: The council also discussed Vandegrift’s traffic plan, which he laid out at the last meeting and asked the council to give some thought. His main request at the last meeting was for lines to be painted on some streets to slow traffic.

Council Member Bruce Southworth said, “I don’t think anybody’s opposed to [putting stripes on the road] through East Stephens all the way up to the cemetery.”

The cemetery is on West Stephens, so the council agreed that the whole length of the street through town should be striped with double yellow lines in the middle and white lines on the side. Traffic engineers say striping roads and streets makes them seem narrower, slowing traffic.

Council Member John McDaniel asked the council to consider adding a bicycle lane on the street, but Vandegrift said two lanes would be needed, one in each direction, and he wasn’t sure the street is wide enough for that.

The council approved a motion to allow the city to paint Stephens Street, with bicycle lanes “where possible.” The painting will wait until state requirements and logistics can be confirmed.  “I don’t know that we’ll have this done before the next council meeting,” Vandegrift said, adding that the city plans to do the work on its own. “All we’re gonna pay for is the paint,” he said.

Parks Board: Vandegrift nominated, and the council approved, the appointment of Tiffany Marsh to the parks board to replace Julie Morgan, who the mayor said felt she could not complete the second half of her four-year term due to family commitments.

Marsh recently won the Kentucky Teacher of the Year award for her work as a music teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington. Vandegrift said Marsh has already been an active volunteer with the parks board and “it will be good to have an educator on the board.”

Animal ordinance: The council enacted a new ordinance on treatment of animals, which City Attorney Phil Moloney revised to fit the language of an ordinance recently enacted by the county, while adding some specifics. In some cases, “our language was much more specific,” Vandegrift said.

Sparks in the Park: The mayor reminded the council and the audience that the annual “Sparks in the Park” event will run from 6 p.m. to dusk at Walter Bradley Park. He said there will be enough barbecue to feed 300.

Park gets a new entrance, fence and trail behind library

Walter Bradley Park has a new entrance, behind the Midway Branch of the Woodford County Public Library. The new gate is the head of a trail that runs along the edge of the cliff created by the old quarry. It was installed after the city installed a fence along the edge of the cliff. The photo below is taken from the trail, with the gate near upper left of the photo.