Thursday, November 29, 2018

Architects give Rex Cecil award for service to profession

Retired architect T. Rexford "Rex" Cecil of Midway has received the Oberwarth Gold Medal from the Kentucky Society of the American Institute of Architects.

The award is made "to recognize and honor an individual member who has displayed a long-standing commitment to the betterment of the profession and well-being of architects in Kentucky, and who has dedicated extraordinary time and talent to this end," an AIA Kentucky press release said.

Cecil's resume says he has been a registered architect for 44 years, with broad experience in building design, including "technically complex medical facilities and from new facilities to the complete restoration or renovation of the historically significant." In the administration of Gov. Brereton Jones in 1991-95, he managed facilities and employees for the Finance Cabinet, as well as design and construction activities. He was executive director of the Kentucky Board of Architects from 2005 until early this year.  He and his wife Gay live on Old Frankfort Pike.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Kentucky American wants Midway to pay 21.5% more for water; mayor says he will object, calls hike 'absurd'

Kentucky American Water Co. is asking the state Public Service Commission for rate increases, including a 21.5 percent in the fee for wholesale customers such as the City of Midway. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger that he would oppose the increase.

"I will absolutely be speaking publicly against this rate increase," Vandegrift said in an email. "It is absurd for them to ask for another rate increase right now."

Kentucky American last filed for rate increases in 2016. The PSC gave it about half what it sought; for the company's direct residential customers, that was a 9.2 percent hike. Midway's water system did not pass the increase along to its customers. "I'm not sure if we'll be able to do that again," Vandegrift said.

At its meetings in December, the outgoing City Council is to consider an ordinance that would reduce sewer fees by 2515 percent, because the city has reduced its sewer expenses with an early payoff of the bond issue used to build the wastewater treatment plant. Vandegrift said he has changed the cut from the original 25 percent on the advice of Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, but still hopes for an additional cut to make the total 25 percent.

The sewer and water funds are separate, but billed together. "On average, the sewer bill is about 35 percent of the overall bill, when you factor in garbage too," Vandegrift said. In August, the council increased garbage rates 15.4 percent for residential customers and 29.6 percent for businesses, passing along increases from contractor Rumpke Waste & Recycling.

The increase for Kentucky American would be the company's sixth in 11 years, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The PSC process includes public hearings, and takes six months to a year.

The company says it is spending more than $100 million improving its system and needs a rate hike to cover those costs. “These investments are necessary to maintain and enhance service, water quality, system reliability, and fire protection capabilities for customers while still keeping the cost of water service for most residential customers at about a penny per gallon, usually their most affordable utility bill,” it said in a news release.

“We have approached infrastructure replacement in as proactive a way as possible,” Kentucky American President Nick Rowe said, “but more investment is still required in order to address the continual need for system renewal.” The news release listed "major capital projects," including work at the company's largest treatment plant, on the Kentucky River in Fayette County and "the replacement of 9.5 miles of aging water pipes in the region since the last rate increase took effect in 2016." It didn't say where those were.

“In addition to focusing on these and other capital improvements, we are committed to containing operational and maintenance expenses as much as possible, too, in order to keep rates affordable for our customers,” Rowe said. “We have done this by implementing efficiencies and leveraging technology throughout our operations. We will continue to work toward becoming even more efficient without sacrificing the safety of our teams or the level of service we provide.”

Council committee to consider water fee requests

The Public Works and Services Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at City Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, to discuss requests for a water-bill adjustment and for an exception to the fee for reconnecting service after five years. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Rex Cecil, who owns the vacant building at 123 E. Main St., made the latter request to the City Council last week. Cecil said he closed his architectural practice that was in the building in 2005, and turned the water off in 2009. The fee for restoring service after five years is $850.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Woodford County Judge-Executive John 'Bear' Coyle found dead on his farm, after apparent heart attack

John "Bear" Coyle
Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle, who was about to retire after three four-year terms at the head of county government, died unexpectedly at his farm on Troy Pike south of Versailles today. Coroner Ronald Owens said the cause appeared to be a massive heart attack.

Coyle was 63. His chosen successor, state Rep. James Kay of Versailles, said Coyle's wife, Mary Don Coyle, discovered him about 2:30 p.m. "He had gone out to feed some ponies he kept for his granddaughters, and never came back in," Kay said.

Coyle was farming in his home Nonesuch community in 1985 when Loren "Squirrel" Carl, then a county police detective, ran for sheriff and put him on his ticket as a deputy.

"I just took a liking to him, when I would go to the Nonesuch store," Carl recalled in an interview. "John was my friend and one of the hardest-working guys I had. . . . I always called him John-boy."

Coyle's better known nickname, "Bear," came in 1987, when he took an anti-drug message to an elementary school, "carrying a stuffed toy bear to engage the children," Kristy Robinson Horine reported in 2015 for the Blue Grass Area Development District. "Coyle says the bear’s uniform and hat matched his own, even down to the badge. One small child in the front row latched onto the resemblance and declared to Coyle, 'You look just like him! I’m going to call you Bear.'"

When Carl was in his third term, he resigned to work in the state attorney general's office for Ben Chandler of Versailles, and "I was able to get John appointed sheriff," Carl said. "Nobody ran against him when he was sheriff. . . . He was very personable, very likeable."

When Democrat Joe Gormley didn't seek re-election as judge-executive in 2006, Coyle ran, won the primary and general elections, and was re-elected in 2010 and 2014, both times defeating Republican Bobby Gaffney. The second race was closer, 54 to 46 percent, and Gaffney carried five precincts, including rural Midway.

“He was a gentleman and a class act,” Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. “We disagreed on policy quite a few times, but there was never a cross word between us when we saw each other. On Midway Station, we worked particularly well together, and he’s part of the reason for the success we’ve seen there. My heart goes out to his family.”

Kay said Coyle surprised him on April 7, 2017 by calling him to his courthouse office and telling him that he wasn't going to run again and that Kay would be "a great judge-executive." Kay said Coyle's support "did make it a much better shot" for Kay, and no one else in either party filed for the office. Kay will take office Jan. 1 unless Republican Gov. Matt Bevin appoints him to fill the vacancy.

Kay said Coyle will be remembered for his "steady leadership, his common-sense approach to good government; he always did the right thing, or what he believed the right thing to be. . . . He was a great steward of taxpayers' money and he left the county with a nearly $5 million surplus."

Besides his wife, Coyle is survived by four sons: Andrew (Kristin), Roy (Katherine), Matthew (Jordan) and John Paul; and three granddaughters: Ella, Sloane and Mallory.

Visitation with the family will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at Versailles United Methodist Church, 230 Paynes Mill Rd. Those wishing to pay respects may also do so at the church Friday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at which hour funeral services will be conducted at the church. Officiating will be Tim Noel of Troy Presbyterian Church, with eulogy from County Attorney Alan George and comments from retired Judge Anthony Wilhoit.

County offices will close at 1 p.m. Friday for the services.

Burial will be in the Versailles Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Spurgeon Chapman, Glenn Carter, Charles Melvin Carter, Kip Gillespie, Charles Withers and David Sutherland. Honorary pallbearers will be all Woodford County magistrates, Loren “Squirrel” Carl, Wayne “Tiny” Wright, John Wilhoit, Jerry Lancaster, Ronnie Durbin, Alan George, Gordie Shaw, James “Flea” Kay, Sr., James Kay, Kenny Tilghman, Mark Molla, Randy Redmon, Sandy Redmon, Clifford Ray Bradley and the staff of the second floor at the Woodford County Courthouse.

Memorial donations may be made to Troy Presbyterian Church, 11021 Troy Pike, Versailles, KY 40383 or the Food Pantry for Woodford County, PO Box 1066, Versailles, KY 40383, where Coyle was planning to concentrate his efforts in retirement. For the full obituary from Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home, click here.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Message from the mayor: We can cut sewer rates 25 percent and still improve the system

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Upon hearing of our proposed 25 percent sewer rate cut, a citizen asked a great question that’s important to answer. They said, “Why not keep sewer rates the same and use that money for infrastructure?” My answer is pretty simple: because we can do both. Governments too often use taxes as a way to cover for their inefficiency and waste. If a business did this, they’d have no customers left. That’s not to say that government should run like a business, but it can use a lot of the same principles to achieve what’s best for our citizens.

My No. 1 objective in my second term is infrastructure, and we already have a plan in the works to camera and clean out all of the old sewer lines in town, which will give us invaluable information and make those lines more functional immediately. From there, we’ll continue to use the large general fund surpluses we’ve accumulated (and which are projected to grow) to decide what sewer project we should do next. Our sewer fund is as healthy as it’s been in years, so why not make the present more comfortable while we plan for the future. After all, isn’t that the goal of government?

On top of that, we’re about to re-launch our sidewalk program on a larger scale than our pilot program a couple years ago, and we’re planning more road paving in the spring. We just finished extensive storm sewer work that has already shown improvement in heavy rains, and we plan more down the road.

Taxing shouldn’t be a Democrat vs. Republican issue. A government should never tax citizens more than it needs to. It is no longer necessary for our citizens to pay exorbitant sewer fees; we can ease that burden somewhat and still improve our infrastructure for the future.

Make no mistake, my plan is harder on the government. We’ll have to work harder, plan smarter, and continue to be efficient and mindful. But that’s our job -- to work harder every day to make the lives of our residents better.

I want to thank that good citizen for their thoughtful question and reflection of the issues. It’s that kind of citizenry that makes our city so special.

Santa Claus comes to Midway via RJ Corman Railroad

Santa Claus arrived in Midway this morning at 11, right on time, via the RJ Corman Railroad. A crowd waited for him on both sides of the tracks, and a long line of parents and children lined up to see him at the old Thoroughbred Theater building. Santa's visit was sponsored by the Midway Business Association. We got no still photos of Santa, just video, and technical difficulties have prevented posting video here, but we have a short one (about 30 seconds) on our Facebook page. For a one-minute video of the train's approach into town, click here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Christmas tree and other city lights are lit

The annual lighting of the city Christmas tree and light poles on Main Street was held tonight. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift led the crowd in carols before and after the lighting. Santa arrives tomorrow at 11 a.m. (In the video, a car makes the turn onto westbound Main Street just as the tree is lit.)

Governor names Midway teacher Elizabeth Smith to Education Professional Standards Board for teachers

Gov. Matt Bevin has named Elizabeth J. Smith of Midway to the state Education Professional Standards Board, which establishes the rules for teacher certification in Kentucky and sets the standards for teacher-training programs.

Smith is a teacher of English as a second language. She will represent elementary teachers and serve for a term expiring June 30, 2019. The board has 17 members, all appointed by the governor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mayor says 25% sewer-rate cut to be proposed at next City Council meeting; sidewalk repair plan renewed

By Hannah Woosley, Sierra McLean and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift plans to ask the City Council to give the city's sewer customers a Christmas present: a 25 percent reduction in the city's sewer fee.

Vandegrift made the announcement today, after distributing figures at Monday night's City Council meeting showing that the balance in the sewer fund is "rising very steadily." He told council members that he would "be talking to each of you individually, but I’m of the opinion we can have the first reading of [an ordinance] lowering sewer rates the first Monday in December."

Just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, Vandegrift said in an email to the Messenger and The Woodford Sun, "We’re going to go ahead and put 25 percent sewer-rate cuts into ordinance form and schedule for first reading on Dec. 3 and second reading Dec. 17. It’s become apparent, and I’m very confident, that with the sewer fund rapidly improving and our new revenue coming in, which is expected to continue to grow itself, we can both cut rates and make major investments in infrastructure."

Vandegrift told the Messenger Tuesday night that he did not talk to all the council members before making the decision: "After the meeting I felt that wouldn’t seem right. I did speak to a few, individually, but didn’t try to get a consensus much more than those I spoke with felt that this council should be the one to decide, which I agree with." Three council seats will change hands Jan. 1.

The sewer fund is growing because it no longer has one big expense: payments on the bonds the city issued to build its current wastewater treatment plant. At Vandegrift's request, the council voted in July to dip into the city's savings to pay off the bond issue early. He said the city was paying more interest on the bonds, 3.8 percent, than it earned from the $285,490 certificate of deposit it cashed, 0.6 percent. Vandegrift said at the time that the move should lead to lowering sewer fees by “at least 25 percent . . . in a few months.”

West Main Street in 2015
Sidewalk redux: The council voted 5-0 to renew the program it started last year, paying half the cost, up to $1,000, of repairing selected sidewalks. Property owners will apply to be part of the program, pay the full cost, then be reimbursed. Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher abstained, saying, "I've got a dog in this fight." Her sidewalk on West Main Street needs repair or replacement.

Last year, due to budget limitations, only three owners were funded for repair of five sidewalks, and the plan “worked very well,” Vandegrift said. “It wasn’t a huge number, but it was sidewalks that hadn’t been fixed in a very long time. This showed us that we can do it on a larger scale.”

Vandegrift said he wants residents to apply if they believe their sidewalks need repairs. He said letters will be sent in February to those who have sidewalks that need repair but haven’t signed up. The sign-up deadline will be March 31. If residents who need sidewalk repairs haven’t signed up by this date, they will be required to bear all costs to repair their sidewalks, he said.

The mayor also said residents who own blighted or abandoned property or have not paid their taxes are ineligible to participate in the cost-sharing program.

Council Member Steve Simoff asked Vandegrift how the city will prioritize repairs. He said Winter Street should have priority, especially due to the busy Halloween traffic, “simply for safety reasons.” Vandegrift agreed, saying that they will look to frequently walked streets first.

The mayor said that eventually, repairs on old streets such as Winter will require tearing up old trees. Council Member Sara Hicks noted that the city has a tree plan that could guide replacement work.

Citizen’s petition: Rex Cecil, who owns the vacant building at 123 E. Main St., asked the council to consider a variance in its policy for restoring water service to properties that have not been active for five years.

Cecil said he closed his architectural practice that was in the building in 2005, and he turned the water off in 2009. He said he wants to sell or rent the property, but “Since it’s been more than five years, it’s $850” to do that, he said.

Vandegrift said he would refer the matter to the council's Public Works and Services Committee.

400 S. Winter St. (Photo from Google Maps street view, 2015)
Building extension request: Greg Rawlings requested an encroachment permit for an addition to the house at 400 S. Winter St. that would need an entrance for parking. Rawlings said the property was originally platted for townhouses but will remain a single-family residence. The council approved the permit 6-0.

Traffic update: Vandegrift said edge lines and center lines will be painted on Stephens Street when the weather stays consistently warm. He said he will include in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 money to build sidewalk bulb-outs at the Winter Street intersections of Bruen Street (the post office) and Stephens. Bulb-outs are designed to make streets narrower, create more space designated for pedestrians, and discourage speeding.

Holiday schedule: The council also discussed the upcoming holiday-season events. On Friday, the tree- and street-lighting ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Santa Claus will be visiting via RJ Corman Railroad at 11 a.m.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Chili cook-off draws shoppers and diners to downtown

Chip Guillot with his winning chili before the judging.
By Ana Neal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Stephanie Blasenak, describing her favorite at Midway’s chili cook-off, said chili made by Carrie Scott “had a really good flavor to it; it was a hometown, like home-cooking taste.”

This was a distinction many had to make Saturday afternoon at the cook-off presented by the Midway Business Association. The annual cook-off is meant to draw people to downtown to shop and dine. While it wasn’t crowded, there was a consistent flow of attendees. Many of the chili tables ran out before day’s end.

Scott said it was her first time entering the cook-off and she decided to use a family recipe: “It’s a recipe our mom fed us and I make it for all my sons and they seem to like it pretty well.” Scott had been to the cook-off in years’ past and decided this year that she wanted “to get in on the fun.”

Debra Shockley's chili won third place in the cookoff.
Many contestants said they entered because they like competition and the charity that the cook-off donated to, the Midway Area Ministerial Association.

Attendees paid $5 each to enter the cook-off and were able to sample the 20 chilis, varying from mild to spicy, and vote for their favorites from noon to 3 p.m.

Blasenak, who lives in Midway, described the event as “a really great opportunity to see and socialize with very friendly people.” She said many people come back year after year to try their chili recipes for the coveted trophy.

A little before 3:30, the winners were announced. First place went to Chip Guillot, manager of Southern Equine Farm. “I have one more place for a trophy, on my trophy shelf for cooking,” he said. “I have one spot so I need to go ahead and fill that up.”

The Rev. Mary Seeger Weese, in turkey hat, had her
chili stand in front of the Thoroughbred Theater.

Guillot said he has a history of winning cook-offs in Louisiana, California, New York, Florida, and Kentucky, and is known for his gumbo. He won a $50 cash prize that donated it back to the ministerial association.

Second place was won by Phil Burchell. His chili recipe earned first place in Midway Christian Church's competition in 2016.

In third place was last year’s winner, Debra Shockley with her Mexican-inspired chili. Asked about her history of success in chili making, she said it’s “more luck than anything.”

This year’s cook-off was helped by volunteers from Midway Renaissance, who staffed City Hall so there were public restrooms available for the contestants and attendees.

Cortney Neikirk, co-owner of Sweet Tooth, said “Anything we do brings new people to town. I believe that it just tells people that we’re here and we do fun things.”

Shockley, Guillot and second-place Phil Burchell pose with MBA's Steve Morgan, wearing Guillot's medal.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Chip Guillot wins chili cook-off, which draws good crowd

Chip Guillot of Southern Equine Farm holds high the cup he won by having the most popular chili today in the Midway Business Association's annual Chili Cook-Off, part of its series of events designed to bring shoppers and diners to downtown Midway as Christmas approaches. Phil Burchell, right, won second place; Debra Shockley, left, last year's winner, was third. Also pictured is MBA Secretary Steve Morgan, wearing Guillot's medal. The event produced a good crowd. The Messenger will have a story on it tomorrow. (Photo by Ana Neal, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Citizens vote to give Walter Bradley Park $10,000 from Woodford Co. Community Fund for boxcar stage in park

The application for funding of a boxcar stage in Walter Bradley Park was the top winner as Woodford County citizens met at Midway University last night to hear and vote on applications to the Woodford County Community Fund.

Friends of Walter Bradley Park asked for and got $10,000. All other applications were fully funded, except the project to place chairs made of bourbon barrels around the county as a "Sense of Identification Public Art Project," and a donor "stepped forward to make up the difference" for that project, Midway Renaissance President Debra Shockley said on the Midway Musings Facebook page.

The other applications were from the Life Adventure Center, $5,000 for "Opt Out: Opportunity to Stay off Opioids;" Big Spring Park in Versailles, $5,000 for a deck with seating and cable railings in a city-owned area above the park; Spark Community Cafe in Versailles, $2,500 for funding of 280 meals for people facing food insecurity; $2,300 for a project to preserve the history of Huntertown as an African American community; and $2,250 to create a Council of Neighborhood Associations in the county.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

MBA accepts Iron Horse Half Marathon as part of next Fall Festival; Rentch mulls donation of strategic tract

By Desiree Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Business Association accepted the Iron Horse Half Marathon’s offer Wednesday to move the race up about a month and make it part of the Midway Fall Festival Sept. 21-22.

Runner's World magazine on the race
The race is owned and operated by John’s Run/Walk Shop in Lexington. It has donated part of the proceeds to the city of Midway, the Midway Area Ministerial Association and the Versailles Police Department, which patrols Midway.

Zach Beavin and Riley Marshall, representing the race, said the change would bring more traffic to the race and festival, and allow cost-sharing for things such as entertainment and porta-potties.

One area of concern for the association was parking. The festival and the race have used Chip Guillot's Southern Equine Farm for parking in the past, and plan on doing the same for the coming year. They hope that by having the race on Sunday, the slower day for the festival, it will work out.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift had positive feedback on the idea: “It’s your all’s decision, but I think it’s worth trying. . . . Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Chip parked like thirteen hundred cars on Saturday but only like three hundred on Sunday, so I think we have the capacity there.”

2019 will be the Iron Horse’s 10th year. The race has begun at 8 a.m. but with the earlier date will be moved up to 7 a.m. The race has agreed to provide additional porta-potties and live music until 10 a.m.

This corner could become the site of a thematic entrance to Midway, highlighting its railroad heritage.
Thematic entrance for city: MBA Secretary Steve Morgan said Helen Rentch is planning on talking to the city about donating a small tract at the corner of Midway Road (US 62) and Leestown Road (US 421). It is a triangle formed by the two roads and a small creek.

Morgan said Cynthia Bohn of Equus Run Vineyards has been in touch with RJ Corman Railroad Co., which is willing to place train equipment on the site as a thematic entrance to Midway, which advertises itself as Kentucky’s first railroad town.

Rentch told the Messenger that she is also interested in promoting Midway as a key spot on a trail that would run from Frankfort to Lexington.

Advertising: Elisha Holt, the hired marketer for the MBA, gave an update on the holiday advertising and assured the association, “It’s going beautifully.”

Holt also reported on the website, www.uniquelywoodford.com, intended to be a collective site for the whole county. She said the county’s Falling Springs Center has agreed to pay to have signage put throughout its building and be a bronze sponsor for the site.

She said the tourism commission is working on a sponsorship as well, but she has to guarantee them that their dollars will be spent outside of the county so they can be partially reimbursed by the state.

Midway projects: Boxes for Toys for Tots are placed and at their select locations for the holidays. Morgan said about six boxes of toys are already in storage.

Leadership: The nominating committee nominated officers for the new year: Leslie Penn to remain treasurer, Katie Hicks to become secretary, Steve Morgan to become vice president and Steve Simoff to become president. The election will be held at the final meeting of the year on Dec. 5.

President Peggy Angel, who is hanging up her presidential cap due to health issues, told the group. “I would like to stay actively involved and hopefully bring some positive things to the table if you all will let me.”

Friday, November 9, 2018

Midway University VP Gregory receives public relations award from UK Department of Strategic Communication

Ellen D. Gregory
Ellen D. Gregory of Midway, vice president of marketing and communications at Midway University, received the Excellence in Public Relations Award this week from her alma mater, the University of Kentucky.

The annual award, to an outstanding Kentucky public-relations practitioner, is sponsored by the Department of Integrated Strategic Communication in UK's College of Communication and Information and the UK Journalism and Media Alumni Association. 

During nearly 10 years at Midway, Gregory has been coordinated all of the school's marketing and public relations, including rebranding of the institution, its change to university status and transition of its women’s college to a co-educational institution in 2016.

Earlier, Gregory spent 12 years at the Preston-Osborne marketing, PR and research firm in Lexington, serving the last nine years as chief operating officer.  While there, Gregory twice won the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award, considered the Pulitzer Prize in public relations.

Gregory's UK degrees are a bachelor's in political science and a master's in public administration. She and her husband, Eric, have three children, Ginny, Duncan and Sarah. The family spends much of their time restoring Victorian homes, like the one where they live at the corner of Winter and Stephens streets, and last year won the Service to Preservation Award from the Kentucky Heritage Council.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Midway University breaks ground for $3.2 million field house to accommodate growing athletic programs

Midway University trustees turned sand at the ceremony, which also included local officials.
Midway University held a ceremonial groundbreaking today for a new $3.2 million facility to accommodate its burgeoning athletic programs. The 20,000-square-foot facility will be named Hunter Field House, to honor the primary donors, Jan and Richard Hunter of San Diego, Calif.

Jan Hunter, a university trustee since 2000, announced two years ago her intention to donate $2 million to the school. She told the crowd at yesterday's ceremony, "This is an institution worth investing in." She and her husband own Hunter Industries Inc., which manufactures irrigation systems.

The other major donor recognized yesterday was Trustee Belinda Betzger. Donna Moore Campbell, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the event was "a wonderful way to celebrate what has been accomplished" at the school in the last few years.

President John Marsden said the school faced great challenges in 2016, when the trustees opened daytime enrollment to men. He said daytime enrollment, which had shrunk to 266 women, is now 571, more than 400 of them athletes, and total enrollment is 1,668.

The field house will house most of the university's athletic staff and have an auxiliary gymnasium, an elevated walking track, two locker rooms, a recruitment conference room and a weight and cardio room. Construction is to begin immediately and be completed by the end of 2019 so it can be ready for the spring semester of 2020.

The project is part of the university's "Campaign of Opportunities," which it launched in 2016. "The main goals of the campaign are to raise funds for improvements to some existing facilities and construction of new facilities," the school said in a news release. "Aside from the new field house, the campaign already has funded some renovations to the existing residence halls and, when the campaign closes out, another groundbreaking will occur for an on-campus baseball stadium. To date, the University has amassed over 90 percent of the pledges needed to successfully complete the campaign."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

EDA delays application for industrial rezoning of 138 acres adjoining Midway Station and Brown-Forman

By Thomas Franconia
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority has postponed its application to rezone property owned by Homer Freeny Jr., north and east of Midway Station, likely for a month. The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission had scheduled a public hearing on the application for Thursday night, Nov. 8.

The application seeks light-industrial zoning of 138 acres of agricultural property that is in the middle of commercial and industrial users. If approved, the rezoning would provide an industrial area that reaches from Interstate 64 to South Elkhorn Creek, the county line, including the Brown-Forman whiskey warehouses being built in an agricultural zone under a conditional-use permit.

EDA Chair John Soper said, “We felt as if we were getting too ahead of ourselves” and “needed to resolve all issues” before moving on to the next step.

The issues addressed are sewer and water hookup locations. Soper said EDA is looking at different areas than previously planned, but needs more geographical detail in order to know the best alternative.

Over the next month, a plan should emerge to implement appropriate and efficient utility areas, and push the application through its current stage. As soon as this happens, a date will be scheduled for a public hearing on the application. The next commission meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13.

The property is not in the city limits, but the city is expected to annex it. It is just inside the urban-services boundary set in the county's recently revised comprehensive plan.
Vision Engineering map, labeled by Midway Messenger, shows in red (and a small block of green) the property that  the Midway City Council recently rezoned. The county Fiscal Court would have final say-so in rezoning the large green tract.

Democrat Liles Taylor elected magistrate by 2.2 percent of vote, on strength of support in city precinct

Liles Taylor
By Christie Netherton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Democrat Liles Taylor won the race for fiscal court magistrate over Republican Joseph Greathouse, his next-door neighbor in Northridge Estates, in Tuesday's election.

The results were close, with Taylor winning by 32 votes, 744 to 712 – a margin of 2.2 percentage points. Greathouse won the county precinct 312 to 233, while Taylor won the larger city precinct 461-367.

“That’s how people voted, and that’s all right with me,” Greathouse, 44, said shortly after the results were posted. “I’ve served for 16 years, and I’ve loved doing it, and I will continue to serve my hometown and Woodford County.” He is a farmer and an officer in the Woodford County Fair Association.

Taylor, 31, the political coordinator for the state AFL-CIO labor federation, attributed his win to his supporters who showed up at the polls, and to his campaigning.

“I knocked on over 550 doors multiple times in town, and I burned up a lot of shoe leather,” he said. “So I feel like that was a big impact on the race.”

Taylor also ran in a contested primary this spring, which may have given him a head start. One voter he saw in the spring was Brandon DeMoss, 33, a business analyst for the state, who said he voted for him because “He’s the only one who showed up at my door and talked to me.”

Joseph Greathouse
In interviews at the polls, voters generally said personal knowledge of the candidates, or affinity with them, drove their choices in the race.

Thad Kesters, 44, a registered Republican who works for a video production company, said he voted for Greathouse because “My in-laws are farmers, and he’s a farmer.” Geologist Ray Daniel, 63, a registered Democrat, said he chose Greathouse because “I’ve known him and his family along time, and I trust the man.”

Taylor said before the election that some of his major concerns on Fiscal Court will be working on the Weisenberger Mill Bridge replacement (a state project) and flooding on Williams Lane, as well as addressing traffic issues in downtown Versailles in ways that do not increase traffic on Midway Road, US 62.

He said other priorities will be maintaining an economy that preserves the county’s roots in its agricultural community, improving Midway’s relationship with the rest of the county, and increasing transparency and accessibility of county government by live-streaming Fiscal Court meetings and creating an online portal for citizens to report and track road problems and repairs.

Taylor will succeed Linda Popp, whom he defeated in the May primary. “I think that a lot of folks are really excited about what we’re going to do to move forward in the community,” Taylor said.

Mayor coasts to re-election, credits accomplishments

Vandegrift spoke at his Aug. 14 campaign kickoff.
By Hannah Woosley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift won a second term as mayor of Midway with 588 votes over his challenger and School Board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV, who got 239 votes.

After his 71 percent win, Vandegrift said he thinks Midway residents re-elected him because he showed he had a “very inclusive administration” that has accomplished a lot.

“We brought in so many new jobs and all of a sudden our economic future went from . . . uncertain, and now it’s clear our economic path is set for the future,” he said. “Also, the work we did around town on our parks, our infrastructure, our storm and sewer work.”

Vandegrift announced his candidacy for a second term more than a year before the election, in October 2017. Wilson, 67, entered the race on the Aug. 14 filing deadline, and stressed his experience in business and state government.

In an interview, Wilson said he thinks the future of Midway is bright. “I congratulate Grayson on his victory and I look forward to working with him and the new city council in any way I can,” he said. “I look forward to helping in any way I can to move Midway forward.”

Vandegrift said he thinks people were happy with his first four-year term. “Now I look forward to trying to do even better the next four years,” he said.

The mayor said his hard work and conversations with residents helped, ending with his second city-wide canvass on Nov. 3. “I knocked on every door in town again,” he said.

That sort of attention pleased Melissa Wilson, 46, who is disabled. "Vandegrift came to the house, addressing concerning topics such as updates to the cemetery and speed limit," she said.

Generally, most voters interviewed at the polling place said they saw no reason to change mayors.

“I thought he did all right,” said retiree Sharon Staff, 67. “I’ve got no complaints.”

Justice Heltzel, who lives across from Northside Elementary School, the polling place, said after he voted, “The mayor has done a lot of good stuff since we moved here two years ago, and he’s been very personable, and every time you see him out, he says ‘hello’ and I feel like that’s really important.”

Information for this story was also gathered by UK journalism student Thomas Franconia.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stacy Thurman leads council voting as two other newcomers are elected; John McDaniel loses seat

By Al Cross, Sierra McLean, Thomas Franconia and Ana Neal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

As Mayor Grayson Vandegrift was being re-elected, City Council Member John McDaniel lost his seat in Tuesday's election.

McDaniel and political newcomer Danielle Doth were the losers among eight candidates running for six council seats.

Stacy Thurman
Stacy Thurman, manager of the Midway branch of the county library, had the most votes for council, making her the vice mayor. Thurman had 556 votes, followed by Council Member Sara Hicks, the current vice mayor, who had 474.

Thurman said, “I’m excited! Excited for those who have been elected, excited to get to work and excited for Midway!”

Thurman's job may have been an advantage. Brandon DeMoss, a state business analyst, said Thurman was the only council candidate he "really wanted to vote for," because he knows her from his son's visits to the library. "I know she's a good person," he said.

Others elected to the council were political newcomers Logan Nance (405 votes) and park manager John Holloway (401); and Council Members Kaye Nita Gallagher (405) and Bruce Southworth (403). McDaniel got 384 votes and Doth 238.

In May, McDaniel ran third in the Democratic primary for Midway-area magistrate on Woodford County Fiscal Court, which had a late-January filing deadline. The filing deadline for local nonpartisan races such as mayor and council was Aug. 14.

Council Member Steve Simoff did not seek re-election. Council Member Johnny Wilson, whom the council named to fill a vacancy, was appointed with the proviso that he would not seek a full two-year term. So, the council was guaranteed two new faces and got three: Thurman, Nance and Holloway.

Generally, voters said their choices for council were driven mainly by the names they recognized, but some had more details with which to pick and choose.

In selecting six candidates, John Colder, 68, operations director for Kentucky Wired, said "I wanted to make sure there was a variety, a wide spectrum of society, from young to old. We have a tendency to stick with our peers."

City voters lined up late Tuesday afternoon as the smaller county precinct polling place was less busy.
Other races: Democrat Joe Graviss was elected state representative for Woodford County, part of Franklin County and a small part of Fayette County. He defeated fellow Versailles resident Dan Fister 11,343 to 8,365. He carried both Midway precincts and won Woodford County 6,938 to 5,728.

State Rep. James Kay was unopposed for county judge-executive. County Clerk Sandy Jones, a Democrat and Midway resident, was re-elected over Republican Kent Miller, 7,326 to 5,261.

In the race for Congress in the 6th District, Republican Rep. Andy Barr lost only Fayette and Franklin counties in defeating Democrat Amy McGrath. He carried Woodford 6,932 to 5,878, or 53.6 percent to 45.5 percent. Minor candidates got 112 votes. In the city, McGrath won 507-330; in the county precinct, Barr won 295-249.

Republican Sharon Renee Muse of Georgetown was elected commonwealth's attorney over J. Keith Eardley of Georgetown, 23,113 to 17,783. Muse won Woodford County 6,193 to 5,940 and carried the Midway county precinct 269-255. Eardley won the city 412-359.

In other races in the Bourbon-Scott-Woodford County judicial district:
  • Sarah Hays of Versailles was elected to one of the district judgeships, defeating Kelli Duffy Kearney of Georgetown, getting 52 percent of the vote and carrying Woodford and Bourbon counties. She carried Woodford 5,478 to 3,416 and won both Midway precincts. Mary Jane Wilhoit Phelps was unopposed for the other district judgeship.
  • Appointed Circuit Judge Jeremy Mattox won an eight-year term, by defeating fellow Georgetown resident Ethyle Noel, 21,922 to 9,842. Mattox won Woodford County 5,925 to 2,833 and carried both Midway precincts.
  • In another race for an unexpired term, appointed Circuit Judge Brian Privett of Paris beat three candidates. The vote totals, with Woodford's in parentheses, were Privett 10,729 (2,936), Perry Ryan 7,508 (1,997), Jimmy Brannon 5,631 (1,470) and James "Cam" Cantrill II 6,944 (1,940). Cantrill carried the city and Privett won the county precinct.
Rob Johnson, the former circuit judge whom Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to the Court of Appeals, lost to Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine, who got 56 percent of the vote in the state's 5th Appellate District. In Woodford, Johnson got 5,607 votes to Goodwine's 4,772. He won the county precinct 222-192 and lost the city 294-377.

Council OKs street entrances for 2 small industries in Midway Station, permit for beer trailer at chili cookoff

By Hannah Woosley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council voted Monday to approve permits for three entrances to newly rezoned land in Midway Station that will be home to two small industries.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said one company will bring 22 jobs, and the other 10. So far, one company has closed on a deal to buy the property.

Neither industry has been disclosed, but Vandegrift said after the meeting that neither will be an auto-parts factory, like the American Howa Kentucky plant in Midway Station that supplies the Toyota plant in Georgetown.

The permits were issued to the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which still owns the property but has optioned it to Lexington developer Dennis Anderson. Tony Barrett, of a Lexington landscape-architecture firm working for Anderson, said they hope to close the sale of the other tract in about a month.

Barrett said the three entrances will come in two phases. The first phase will include one entrance from Bradley Street and one from McKinney Avenue. The second phase will add an entrance from McKinney Avenue.

Board of Architectural Review: The council voted to reappoint Phil Keppler to the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Board of Architectural Review for two more years. Keppler was originally appointed as a citizen member in 2014. He was reappointed in January 2017, and his term is set to expire Dec. 31.

Vandegrift complimented Keppler’s work, saying he had been recommended for reappointment by others on the five-member board. Its duties include consideration of applications for variances from stricter zoning requirements in historic districts.

Chili Cookoff: The council approved a civic-event permit to allow a beer trailer from Alltech to set up during the Chili Cookoff on Nov. 17. Steve Morgan of the Midway Business Association told the council, “We are going to try to position it so it’s not competing directly with the restaurants selling the same type of beer.”

Applications to join the cookoff are being accepted until Nov. 11, said Morgan. He can be reached at morganstv01@gmail.com or 552-1377. He said six quarts are required this year because some four-quart entrants ran out last year.

Contestants will set up along Main Street and serve chili from noon to 3 p.m. Patrons will pay $5 to get samples and vote for their favorite. Prizes, starting at $50 for first place, will be awarded at 3:30 p.m. Proceeds will support the Midway Ministerial Association.

Here’s an updated list of upcoming Business Association events:
  • Nov. 10: Shop and Dine, with store and restaurant specials and sales 
  • Nov. 17: Chili cookoff, noon to 3 p.m. 
  • Nov. 23: Christmas tree lighting 
  • Nov. 24: Santa Claus visits, via RJ Corman Railroad Co., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., mini-train rides for children noon to 4 p.m.; store specials and sales; sidewalk craft vendors 
  • Dec. 1: Shop and Dine, with store and restaurant specials and sales 
  • Dec. 8 and 15: Model train exhibit from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., children’s activities including mini-train rides, noon to 4 p.m.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Correction: Hicks, not Southworth, is vice mayor

Sara Hicks
Because of an error by the editor, a candidate-profile story in the Midway Messenger's print edition, which also appeared online, incorrectly said that City Council Member Bruce Southworth is vice mayor because he received the largest number of votes in the last election. That was true in 2014, but not in 2016, when Sara Hicks received 457 votes and Southworth ran second with 438. They informed the Messenger of the error this evening. "Thanks for the bonus," Southworth said with a grin.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Midway Business Association kicks off holiday season after winning Business of the Year award from Chamber

The Midway Business Association kicked off the holiday season today, hours after winning the Business of the Year award from the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce.

Above, shoppers began strolling Main Street at or before the official opening time of 10 a.m. for street vendors, who were numerous.

City Hall and its restrooms were open, thanks to volunteers from Midway Renaisssance, and elements of Midway's history were on display.

Last night, MBA Treasurer Leslie Penn and Secretary Steve Morgan posed with the award at the annual Chamber Gala at The Galerie in Versailles.

Penn said the association was nominated by attorney Whitney Dunlap. The award is given to a Chamber member who has contributed greatly to the county. The citation said the MBA "has contributed to the success of the numerous events held annually in Midway through their promotions, ideas, and volunteers. These efforts have drawn thousands of people to Midway and Woodford County."

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Parents of addiction victims, including some who died of ODs, gather to support each other at Kay Combs' home

By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A warm scene in a Georgetown home Monday night turned the focus of persons with addictions from alcohol bottles, pill bottles and needles to the intimate struggles those people’s families face.

The group gathered in the home of Kay Combs, Midway University’s interim director of graduate, evening and online admissions. They sat in a circle in the dining room and took turns sharing about their love and loss as they spoke, sometimes tearfully, about their sons and daughters who struggled and continue to struggle with various addictions.

The group of a dozen or so sat in a circle in the dining room and took turns sharing about their love and loss as they spoke, sometimes tearfully, about their sons and daughters who struggled and continue to struggle with various addictions.

They are members of PAL, Parents of Addicted Loved ones, an organization that “provides hope and support through addiction education for parents dealing with an addicted loved one,” says its website. The members gathered Monday said that as a result of PAL, their journeys have “totally changed” and helped them feel like they’re not alone.

Karen Butcher, the group’s PAL facilitator, referred to the times parents try to help their children out of addictions: “You think at first you can love them out of it, talk them out of it.” Others around the table chimed in with, “pray them out of it, buy them out of it,” but, Butcher said, “you can’t.”

The group laughed, cried and allowed themselves to be vulnerable by each sharing how alone, ashamed and hurt their children’s addictions has made them feel.

One couple, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy in the situation, shared their story and journey as they’ve poured energy, love and financial resources into fighting their child’s alcoholic addiction. Through taxes, rent and bonds, they lost over $20,000. They also lost two houses because their child was not responsible with bills.

“You cannot change them,” they said. “They have to change themselves. But you change too, in your approach.” They said not answering phone calls from their loved one has been a “major accomplishment,” as they learn they can’t fix everything.

Joshua Todd Hall
This meeting, a detour from the group's normal schedule, was held in Combs’ home in honor of her son, Joshua Todd Hall. He died in 2016 after a relapse following two clean years that Combs described as her “miracle” years.

The group wrote inspirational and meaningful messages on rocks painted blue in honor of Hall’s favorite color, and gave them up to the care of Combs’ backyard memorial garden in honor of her son. They sang, “They will know we are Christians by our love” and prayed together after placing the rocks in the garden.

“I don’t think I could have shared last year,” Combs said, telling the group about her struggle learning of her son’s “two lives,” taking time to heal, and finally, “It feels like a blessing this year” after joining PAL and releasing a lantern for her son in Nashville. She said her healing experience has reflected her desire to know “what it looks like to survive.”

“What I learned about this disease was the evilness behind it,” Combs said, citing ways people can acquire drugs, such as the dark web and illicit sources of prescription drugs.

Many said the hardest thing they’ve faced with their children’s addictions are the lies that the children tell their families. “Every day, it’s a different story,” one person said.

“You know they lie, they cheat, they steal, but Jesus loved them anyway,” Combs said. “All through the Bible, he loved them anyway.” She said this was her motivation for loving her son through all he faced.

Many said their children’s addictions started with what they passed off as “college partying” or marijuana use and spread to methamphetamines, heroin and opioids.

“I thought it was just normal college behavior,” one person said, sharing with the group how he was in the dark for 15 years about his child’s addiction. “It’s amazing how you keep learning more and more.”

The group noted a book that has helped them all through their journeys, The Four Seasons of Recovery for Parents of Alcoholics and Addicts, by PAL founder Mike Speakman. Many said they related to the content of the book, which made them realize their journey wasn’t unique.

The book outlines stages of grief,  “But it doesn’t always happen like that,” Combs said. “You have to do what you can live with.” 

Combs read from her son’s 1996 school journal, in which he wrote that he had three wishes: to stay young forever, have a beautiful wife and have a job “that I love and can make a great living at.”  He was an associate youth pastor at Grace Christian Church with his wife when he died at 34. He will indeed be “young forever,” Combs said.

“I believe all our children are treasures,” she told the group, reading from a speech she gave at her son’s funeral: “'He is a diamond in the rough' is a familiar way of saying somebody has potential to become far more than he is right now,” she read as the night came to a close.

“But we are much more like opals than diamonds," Combs said. Opal comes from "desert dust, sand and silica, and owes its beauty not to its perfection but to a defect.”