Monday, August 20, 2018

Council raises garbage rates, tees up property-tax cut

The Midway City Council passed a garbage-rate increase and teed up a property-tax cut Monday evening.

The garbage rates, which will take effect Sept. 1, reflect the council’s July 27 adoption of a new contract with Rumpke Waste & Recycling. The new rates will be:

• Residential customers: one pickup per week at $14.95 per month, a 15.4 percent increase from the current $12.95
• Business customers: two pickups per week at $35 per month, a 29.6 percent increase from the current $27
• Churches: charged as businesses unless the church requests in writing to be charged and served as a residential customer

"Keep in mind, this is fixed for the next four years," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reminded the council and the audience. He said he appreciated Rumpke "acting in good faith" by extending the contract for a month to give the city time to solicit a competing bid, which made Rumpke lower its bid. "I'm very appreciative of Rumpke for the process to make sure we got the lowest price possible."

Vandegrift said at an earlier meeting that Rumpke originally bid $16 and $40, and the rates were "easy to swallow" because they are good 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.

Property taxes: The council gave first reading to ordinances that would lower the tax rates on real estate and personal property to 7.5 cents per $100 from the current 10.2 cents, a reduction of 26.47 percent. The compensating rates, which would give the city about the same amount of property-tax revenue as last year, would be 10 cents per $100.

The council based the current city budget on the tax cut, which Vandegrift proposed because the city's occupational or payroll taxes have greatly increased due to development. He said the city's current rates are double the rates charged in Versailles.

Second reading and final passage of the ordinances is set for Tuesday, Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day. For the formulas showing how the rates were calculated, see the council meeting packet, downloadable here.

Sewer and water expenses: The council decided not to award a contract for paving because part of the project calls for repaving Starks Alley, where officials have concluded a storm sewer needs repair or replacement. Vandegrift said the city would advertise for bids for repaving other streets, then do Starks and at least one other street in a second round after the sewer repair. Starks connects Stephens and Higgins streets and lies between Winter and Turner streets.

Vandegrift said he would probably ask the council to increase the $20,000 allocated in the budget for sewer repairs, because that amount would only pay for "a Band-Aid solution." Council Member Bruce Southworth agreed, saying "We need something to address it overall." Vandegrift said he and Southworth, chair of the public works committee and a former sewer superintendent, would come back to the council with a plan.

The council transferred $50,000 from its tax account to the water fund to cover some unexpected expenses: repair of the tank telemetry system and two water-main breaks. Vandegrift said the water fund would return the money when it is replenished with regular revenue, in three to six months.

EDA appointment: The council approved Vandegrift's nomination of Michael Michalsin as the city's representative on the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the Midway Station industrial park. He will succeed the mayor's wife, banker Katie Vandegrift, who was appointed in April 2017 for what they said would be only a few months.

"We appointed my wife; very Kentucky of me," the mayor said, adding that he had trouble finding a replacement. "That's a tough position," he said. "Not everybody wants to pick up with that one."

Vandegrift said Michalsin is a former Wall Street brokerage firm employee who moved to Midway
five years ago and started Timber Fence Capital, a venture-capital investment business that bought Bob Mickler's equine-supply store in Lexington. He said Michalsin has many connections in the Thoroughbred trade.

"He understands business, he understands economic development . . . but he also understands the need for the balance we have here, between EDA and the horse farms," Vandegrift said.

One side of the pavilion, as designed by John Holloway
Other business: Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the cemetery committee, said park manager John Holloway had redesigned the small pavilion to be built in the Midway Cemetery. "We're moving ahead and hope to pour soon," she said.

In response to a question from Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher, Vandegrift said he has had relatively few property owners express interest in cost-sharing with the city for sidewalks, and will put out a call for more applicants, which should result in a better price for the contract.

Vandegrift said he didn't think the new side stripes on the recently repaved South Winter Street (US 62) have solved the problem of speeding on the town's main drag, but has heard some people say they're being more careful. State highway officials had declined to lower the speed limit from 35 m.p.h. but suggested the stripes as a psychological device that seems to make drivers slow down.

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