Friday, August 23, 2019

Weather forecast for last Midsummer Nights in Midway of 2019 says rain will end just in time, bring cool temps

This year's final edition of Midsummer Nights in Midway will start at 6 p.m. this evening and run to 10 p.m. Temperatures are forecast to be 71 to 67 degrees, with the chances of rain ending by 6.

The Midway Renaissance event includes live music from Superfecta, stores open longer hours, and a long list of vendors, including Wagon Bones barbecue, Deaner’s Wieners, West Sixth Brewery, Rooster’s Whistle Coffee Co., Ashley Curtis (baked goods), My Creator’s Hands (vinyl lettered crafts), Midway Makers (crafts of all sorts), Whither Wander (handmade jewelry), Horsefeathers (fabric crafts), Two Ladies & A Kettle (kettle corn).

Restaurants will have specials, and the Railroad Drug & Old Time Soda Fountain will have ice cream. The St. Matthew's AME Church will have a fish fry.

The Midway Presbyterian Church Backpack Program will have face painting for kids; the Midway Community Garden volunteers will be on hand with information; and the Midway Branch Library will have crafts for children. The Versailles Lions Club will sell Woodford County throws.

Council to have special meeting for first reading of open-carry ordinance so it can take effect for fall meet

Google map adapted by Midway Messenger uses Xs to show
the limits of the proposed entertainment destination center.
Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has called a special meeting of the City Council for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall to hold first reading of the proposed "entertainment destination center" ordinance that would allow open containers of alcoholic beverages in a designated area at certain times.

"No action will be taken," the mayor said in an email, adding that second reading will be at the next regular meeting on Sept. 3 (a Tuesday due to Labor Day). An ordinance can pass after two readings.

Vandegrift said the special meeting is needed because state law requires a 30-day notice before the law can take effect, and he wants to have it in effect by Oct. 5 for the beginning of the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, to justify the $2,800 cost of the special permit. "Otherwise the permit application price seems imprudent until we could get a pro-rated price in January," he wrote.

All council meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

City plans lower real-estate tax, online water-bill payments; council delays open-carry ordinance

Midway citizens would pay a slightly lower tax on their real estate, and be able to pay their water bills online, under plans laid out at the City Council meeting Monday evening.

The council heard first reading of an ordinance to set the real-estate tax at 7 cents per $100, down from the 7.5 cents levied last year. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the lower rate would generate the same amount of money, because real-estate values are up, including demand for property.

"I don't see why we should punish poorer folks because we don't have enough housing," Vandegrift said. The council has an Affordable Housing Committee looking at the issue.

The tax rate on personal property would remain 7.5 cents per $100, under a separate ordinance. Second readings and passage of both ordinances are scheduled for Sept. 3, a Tuesday because of Labor Day.

Last year the council reduced property-tax rates 25 percent because the city is receiving so much more from its occupational taxes on payrolls and net profits as a result of business expansions, mainly in Midway Station.

Water bills: The mayor can institute optional electronic payment of water bills without council approval, but Vandegrift said he wanted to make sure the members had no objections. The fee for electronic payment is expected to be 3 to 4 percent of a bill. The mayor said he would move forward as long as the change could be smoothly integrated into the city's software.

While there was no dissent about online payments, Council Member Logan Nance said he didn't think the city should assess a penalty for late payment of water bills. Council Member Bruce Southworth said the late fee is an incentive to pay. Council Member John Holloway said he thought more time could be allowed before the penalty is charged.

Vandegrift said he had no objection to giving customers more time to pay. He said the penalty was probably adopted "when the city didn't have any money . . . so the city could pay the water bill" from Kentucky American Water Co., its wholesale supplier.

Open-carry law: The council delayed first reading of an ordinance for an "entertainment destination center," which would allow drinkers to go in and out of licensed premises with alcoholic beverages as long as they stay within the designated boundaries of the EDC.

Vandegrift said he delayed the reading until Sept. 3 because city attorney Phil Moloney didn't think the ordinance should specify the hours, in case the "open carry" ordinance presents a security problem and a quick change is needed without waiting for two readings of a revised ordinance. The council had informally agreed to make the hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"His concern was, we may get into this and realize that we don't have adequate security to truly man this," because at any given time the Versailles Police Department has no more than one officer assigned to the Midway area at any given time, and "We need to have the ability to pull this back quickly," Vandegrift said. The ordinance would allow the mayor to do that without council action.

Second reading and passage of the ordinance would be Sept. 16. Vandegrift said it wouldn't take effect until Oct. 1. "It would be ideal," he said, to start it before the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, which runs Oct. 5-26.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Midway University invites local businesses and non-profits to campus to get acquainted with students Wed.

Midway University is hosting its annual "Meet Me at MidwayU" event Wednesday, Aug. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the McManis Student Center.

The event is open to all students, faculty and staff at the university, and is held to connect students with local businesses and to make connections with organizations that might need volunteers or will be looking to hire part-time employees.

Interested businesses and organizations are asked to register at secure.qgiv.come/for/mmmubrf/. The cost is $20 per organization, $15 for non-profits. All registrants will get a table to distribute information, coupons, educational materials, and job descriptions.

Questions can be directed to MacKenzie Hanes at (859)846-5385 or Tracy Spots at (859)846-5399.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Funeral for Donna Booth Farmer set for 2:30 today in Lexington; reception 4 p.m. at Midway Presbyterian

Donna Booth Farmer
Funeral services in Lexington today for Donna Booth Farmer of Midway will be followed by a reception for family and friends at 4 p.m. in the Midway Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall.

Farmer, 65, died Aug. 6, 2019 at The Homeplace in Midway. She was the first president of Midway Renaissance, organizing the committee that wrote its bylaws and helping it incorporate as a non-profit, Renaissance said in a Facebook post: "Her ability to lead a large group, keep them focused and moving forward was inspiring to watch and learn from."

Farmer was a graduate of the University of Kentucky. After her retirement from Lexmark International she pursued her lifelong love of photography and art. She was a member of the Creative Camera Club and Midway Presbyterian Church. Survivors include her husband, Doug; a daughter, Katie Farmer; a brother, Jamie Booth of Virginia; and a niece, Taylor Booth. The full obituary is here.

Funeral services will be held 2:30 p.m. today at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Road in Lexington, with Midway Presbyterian Church Pastor Pastor Mary Weese officiating. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Women’s March, https://womensmarch.com, or the American Cancer Society, 1504 College Way, Lexington, KY 40502.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Work starts on new Weisenberger Mill bridge

Work began this week on the new bridge over South Elkhorn Creek at Weisenberger Mill. This photo, looking south from the mill side, shows construction of a temporary road for a crane that will be used to remove the 1935 bridge for replacement with one of a similar style. The state Transportation Cabinet says the work by Louisville Paving Co. is expected to be completed by May 2020. The bridge has been closed for safety reasons since July 1, 2016, and its replacement was delayed mainly by required historical and environmental studies.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Holly Hill Inn spotlights Silas House in fourth installment of Poetry Dinners; buffet with live music Saturday

House (Berea College photo)
Appalachian poet and award-winning author Silas House gets the spotlight in the fourth installment of Holly Hill Inn's Poetry Dinner series, which runs through Oct. 5.

House is the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College and the author of six novels: Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, Eli the Good, Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani), and most recently Southernmost, which was listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. He has co-written a book of creative nonfiction, Something's Rising, with his husband Jason Howard; and three plays: "The Hurting Part," "This Is My Heart for You," and "In These Fields," with Sam Gleaves.

The dinner series will spotlight "Hazel Dickens," House's poem about how he cooked a meal and reflected on the 2011 death of the iconic bluegrass musician from West Virginia who was a feminist and labor-union advocate. The dinner, which does not include any poetry readings, is $35 for a three-course menu and $50 for a six-course tasting menu.

Menu for Saturday outdoor buffet
The menu, taken partly from the poem, includes sweet-potato biscuits and skillet cornbread; Whitley County soup beans with sweet onion and chow chow; pickled cucumber, onion and sliced-tomato salad; a house-smoked salmon patty; hand-pinched tomato pie; pork belly with roasted chiles, creamed corn and redeye gravy; and for dessert, "Smudge This," made of cake, peanut-butter fudge and marshmallow cream; or Alice's apple dumpling.

On Saturday, Aug. 17, the restaurant will host a special celebration of House's poetry and the music of Dickens with an outdoor buffet from 6 to 9 p.m. The Local Honeys will perform on the front porch beginning at 6:30 p.m. The price is $50. Wine and cocktails will be available. Outdoor seating is available for up to 100 people. In case of rain, it will move inside. Make a reservation by calling (859) 846-4732 or going online.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Joint meeting of councils and Fiscal Court creates Youth Council and committee for an 'age-friendly community'

The officials are pictured just before the start of the meeting. The Midway City Council and half of the Fiscal Court sat on the left; the Versailles council and the other magistrates sat on the right. The executives and clerks sat at the middle table.
The first joint meeting of the Midway and Versailles city councils and the Woodford County Fiscal Court had a short agenda but longer-than-expected discussions Tuesday evening.

Mayors Grayson Vandegrift and Brian Traugott, and County Judge-Executive James Kay, had drafted resolutions creating a committee for an "age-friendly community" and a Youth Council with members from each jurisdiction. Each governing body passed the resolutions, but on the Fiscal Court there was dissent from its two Republicans. (City offices are nonpartisan.)

The age-friendly initiative was explained by Bill Frederick, who said he was a semi-retired workforce and economic-development consultant who moved to Versailles with his wife Jane from northern New Jersey two years ago. He said having a committee would make the county part of a network that has 363 members, including Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro and Berea.

One goal of the network is to help people live in their own private homes as long as possible. "Aging in place is an alternative preferred by many to living in a retirement community," he said.

Mary Crowley Schmidt of the Bluegrass Area Development District told the officials that a 55-question survey in Lexington got 1,048 responses and more than 800 written comments, and resulted in construction of a 32,000-square-foot senior center with 225 participants per day, age-friendly language in the comprehensive plan that guides local planning and zoning, and a current effort to allow accessory dwelling units, sometimes called "granny pods" or "granny flats." She called the work "the most exciting" she has done in her 33 years with the regional planning agency.

"The Bluegrass is turning gray," she said, but added that making communities livable for the aging can also help younger people: "What's good for a wheelchair is also good for a stroller."

Frederick said the committee would assess local seniors' needs in eight "domains of interest" (housing, transportation, communication, health services, responsiveness and inclusiveness, outdoor recreation, social participation and civic participation) and develop a three-year action plan, using "flexible guidelines" by AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.

AARP's Kentucky lobbyist, Scott Wegenast, said the organization provides technical assistance, research, training and consultants to communities in the network.

The involvement of AARP was questioned by Magistrate Mary Anne Gill, who called it "an insurance company" and suggested that it was seeking "more opportunities to sell insurance."

Wegenast said the group does not sell insurance but does advertise for insurance companies with which it negotiates, and has "a significant firewall" between its business activities and its "social outreach." The group does not make political contributions or endorse candidates, but has been supportive of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare."

The other Republican magistrate, Matt Merrill, said the work could be done without the involvement of an outside group, and he objected to creating "an entity beyond the voters and ultimately past the elected," and asked the names of the 121 stakeholders identified by the advocates. He was handed a list, which Frederick called "a draft, provisional list." Frederick said names could be added or deleted at the advice of the three governing bodies, which would have representation on the committee.

Kay told Merrill and Gill that the committee "is designed to answer the questions you're bringing up," and couldn't spend any taxpayer money without Fiscal Court's approval. "I believe your concerns are valid," he told Merrill, "but any concerns will be resolved through this committee."

Magistrate Liles Taylor of Midway said the process "is about self-awareness of needs for seniors, not a new layer of government." His motion to approve the resolution creating the committee passed the Fiscal Court 5-3, with Magistrate Jackie Brown also voting no; the councils approved it unanimously.

Taylor also made the motion to create the Youth Council, which Merrill, a retired teacher, said is vague ("youth" is not defined) and "fortifies a culture of the power elite . . . that is causing so much problems in our country today," with appointments coming from groups such as 4-H and FFA.

Kay said Merrill's remarks were "over the top," adding, "I don't know when 4-H and FFA have been considered the power elite."

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, whose youth council is the model for the new one, said "I resent a little bit the 'elite' comments," adding that the adjective isn't appropriate for high-school students. "If the structure doesn't work, we can change it."

The resolution passed with one clarifying amendment. Merrill cast the only vote against it.

In their final piece of business, the three governing bodies recognized the efforts of firefighters and other first responders who dealt with the fire at the Jim Beam warehouse in Millville.

The meeting was a victory for Vandegrift, who had sought regular such meetings soon after he was elected mayor in 2014 but was spurned by John Coyle, then the judge-executive.

Vandegrift called the meeting "an important steppingstone. . . . I think our working relationships are great." The three governing bodies held a joint town hall in February at the Kentucky Community and Technical College system headquarters, where the joint meeting was held.

Kay said, "Our cities are not our rivals. They are not our political enemies, They are our people. And we seek every chance to work together to make us all better for the people of Woodford County."

The 77-minute meeting included some good-natured jibes. Traugott joked that the meeting "almost didn't take place for a couple of reasons," including that "We had to schedule it real quick before Mayor Vandegrift changed his mind."

Vandegrift, who ran for state representative for a week last month before dropping out, countered, "How late were you up last night with that joke?"

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

New Weisenberger Mill bridge set for completion by May

A new Weisenberger Mill bridge should be open by May 2020, the state Transportation Cabinet announced today after meeting with the contractor on the project.

"Preliminary operations begin Monday, August 12," the cabinet said in a news release. "The public will be informed of progress toward the replacement bridge through advisories furnished to media outlets." The first step will be removal of the old bridge, which has been closed for more than three years, blocking a popular tourist and commuter route and delaying emergency responses.

Louisville Paving Co. Inc. was the sole bidder for the project through two rounds of bidding. Its latest bid of $877,000 was almost 42 percent above the state engineers' estimate, but that was a big improvement over the first bid of $1.95 million, 2¾ times a somewhat higher estimate.

The cabinet decided Friday to accept the bid; it will spend an additional sum for "soil nailing," insertion of reinforcing bars into the banks of South Elkhorn Creek. That part of the work was removed from the bid documents and made part of an overall contract the state has issued for such work.

1935 photo of the bridge (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet)
The bridge was closed July 1, 2016, after state inspectors found advanced deterioration in the lower chord of the truss. The new bridge will be a "pony truss" style like the current one, which is 72 feet long and 12 feet wide. The truss spans about 40 feet. 

Replacing the one-lane span, which dates to 1935, has been complicated. The first plan, in 2013, was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to a one-lane pony truss in response to public concern that a modern concrete span would detract from the scenic nature of the site and encourage speeding, causing accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

"The newly constructed bridge will fit within the context of the environment," the news release said. "It will also provide a solution for safe travel to be utilized by citizens and emergency management vehicles."

Since the bridge has historical significance and is a state responsibility, the project had to undergo review by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council, as well as an environmental impact report to federal officials. Initial bidding on the project was delayed a month by negotiations over construction easements.

The bridge links Woodford and Scott counties. It is nominally Woodford's responsibility, under a longstanding agreement between the counties, but the state agreed to take responsibility for it several years ago.

The bridge's closure has further isolated the largely African American community of Zion Hill, at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Pop-up market and movie set for Friday evening

The pop-up market and movie will be held in this greenspace between East Main and Martin streets.
About 15 artists, crafters and commercial vendors will be part of a "pop-up market" in the greenspace behind the Historic Midway Museum Store and Damselfly Gallery Friday from 6 to 10 p.m.

There will be food trucks, drinks and music, and the movie "Captain Marvel" will be screened, beginning around dusk. Seating will NOT be provided, but the Museum Store rest room will be open to the public, co-owner Leslie Penn said. The event is sponsored by Sporthorse Properties.

"I really think it'll be fun," Midway Business Association President Cortney Neikirk said at today's MBA meeting. But she advised, "Bring your Off," to repel mosquitoes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A photograph of the Weisenberger Mill, by Jesse Hurt, that looks more like a painting than a photo

Eleven months ago today, after a late-afternoon storm, Jesse Hurt of New Washington, Ind., took this photograph of the Weisenberger Mill on South Elkhorn Creek. We publish it with his permission.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Council plans to allow open containers of alcoholic drinks outdoors until 10 p.m. in downtown area

Google map, with Xs added by Midway Messenger to show limits
of the proposed "entertainment destination center," where the city
would post signs banning open containers beyond those points.
The Midway City Council tentatively decided Monday night the boundaries and rules of a proposed "entertainment destination center," in which drinkers can go in and out of licensed premises with alcoholic beverages as long as they stay within the center's boundaries.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift called the proposal, which the council heard July 15, an "open container ordinance." It is possible under a recent state regulation that allows cities to buy a license for $2,800. The rationale stated by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is to reduce the enforcement load on ABC agents and police, and to help localities promote tourism and economic growth.

The Versailles City Council recently adopted the idea, allowing the mayor to set and change the dates when its center will be effective. Vandegrift said Midway council members "seem to be more in favor a permanent, set time" that the council would establish with an ordinance.

"The point of the ordinance is to allow people to walk around and shop," Vandegrift said, but later asked how many shops are open at night, saying he was "playing devil's advocate." Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher mentioned a couple of shops, adding later that even if shops were not open, they would still attract window shoppers.

Council Member Logan Nance asked if more stores might stay open later if the council passed the ordinance, which he said would give the city "kind of a unique feel." Council Member John Holloway said, "If it turns out badly, we could just stop doing it."

The council agreed to end the open-container hours at 10 p.m., the discussed what the containers would look like. Versailles requires beverages to be in an unbreakable, "non-clear" container, such as a plastic Solo cup, perhaps in a style all the restaurants could use.

Council Member Stacy Thurman said her husband Ian, an ABC agent, said one reason for such a rule is that it is "kind of tacky" to see what someone is drinking. Council Member Sara Hicks said, "I kind of like the idea of a special cup; it could be a collector's item."

Vandegrift, a former restaurateur, called it "a great idea" but ultimately "untenable" because use of the cups would likely be inconsistent. The mayor said he would leave the "non-clear" provision out of the ordinance that he would present to the council Aug. 19, but "You all can put it in."

If the ordinance is enacted and the city buys the license, it would have to post signs marking the limits of the "entertainment destination center."

Vandegrift presented a map of the proposed boundary where open containers would be allowed, and the council made one adjustment, to allow them on Dudley Street in front of The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's. The other limits would be the corner of Gratz and Martin streets, Winter Street and the end of East Main Street. In response to a question, Vandegrift said the parking lot at the end of East Main is private property and cannot be included in the boundary.

Midway Station: John Soper, chair of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, reported that recent closings of property sales in Midway Station had enabled EDA to make the annual interest payment on the bonds used to build the industrial and commercial park, relieving the city and county of the responsibility, and that if sales continue as expected and the bonds are refinanced this year, EDA will no longer need an appropriation from the city, which was $15,000 last year and is budgeted at $12,000 this year.

The most recent closing was on 9 acres sold to Journey Ministries, which plans to build a church and other facilities, including a day-care center that will be open to anyone. "I feel very encouraged about where we're heading," he said, adding later, "I think we've got a great location, and in the real-estate business, that's what matters."

Soper did not mention something he reported at last month's EDA meeting, that Barnhill Chimney had decided not to buy a lot for a factory to make chimney caps.
Receiving certificates of appreciation from the Midway Veterans Committee were, from left to right, City Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee; city employees James Downs, Terry Agee, Tim Agee and  Tim Spencer; and Sonya Conner, assistant city clerk. Retired clerk-treasurer Phyllis Hudson also received a certificate.
Good works: The Midway Veterans Committee, created 20 years ago to establish a monument to veterans in the Midway Cemetery, presented certificates of appreciation to several city employees as it prepared to disband, having accomplished its purpose and turning its functions over to the city.

One of those workers, Assistant City Clerk Sonya Conner, received an award for her recent completion of three years of municipal-clerk training. Vandegrift read a letter of recognition that said she had "sincere dedication to her work and the people of Midway," demonstrated "consistent, sound judgment and fairness to all" and "in the face of adversity" often did the jobs of two people, as recently retired clerk-treasurer Phyllis Hudson had health issues.

Vandegrift also recognized the contributions of Mark Roberts, a retired employee who continues to work for the city as a contract laborer, and Wastewater Superintendent Jack Blevins, who "has done a great job bringing our sewer plant back up to specifications," probably extending its useful life by 10 to 15 years. The city recently paid off the bonds it sold to build the plant almost 20 years ago.

Later in the meeting, Holloway said it was time to buy a $1,700 monument-moving machine for the cemetery. Vandegrift said he had already told city employee Terry Agee to order it.

Mayor breaks a tie: The council turned down a request from Midway University's tennis program to sponsor a regional tournament to be held at the school Aug. 9-11. The request was for $600, but Hicks moved to give $300, the sum the council provided last year, and Gallagher seconded the motion, noting that this year's event is expected to be larger.

Holloway said "I kind of feel iffy" about the sponsorship because the city recently gave the university $5,000 for improvements at the baseball field that is owned by the city but is "pretty much" exclusively used by the school. Nance, noting that the council had exhausted its donations budget by giving $5,000 toward a van for The Homeplace at Midway, said it would be irresponsible to go beyond the budget.

On the roll call, Council Member Bruce Southworth voted yes with Hicks and Gallagher, and Council Member Stacy Thurman voted no with Holloway and Nance -- who, like her, were elected for the first time last November. Vandegrift, who was elected to his second four-year term as mayor in November, voted no, denying the request. The mayor votes only in case of a tie.

In other business, the council:
  • Approved paying $1,100 for extra police during the Midway Fall Festival, the amount that the city is saving because the Iron Horse Marathon is providing portable toilets for the newly combined events. The Midway Business Association, which runs the festival, will pay the rest of the cost, estimated by coordinator Elisha Holt to be a maximum of $1,560.
  • Voiced no objections to Vandegrift's plan to allow electronic payment of water bills, with a fee of 3 to 4 percent for the vendor, which would be paid by those who choose the electronic option. "Three to four percent is still less than a late fee," Nance noted.
  • Heard Vandegrift report that the sidewalk work is almost done and street work is expected to start in a week or two.
  • Heard Assistant Police Chief Rob Young report that in July, Versailles police "definitely stepped up a lot of the traffic enforcement . . . at the request of the city."
  • Appointed Assistant Fire Chief Joe Campbell to the county's 911 board.

Friday, August 2, 2019

State accepts sole bid for Weisenberger Mill bridge; job to take 6 to 9 months but starting date is not set yet

The bridge, the historic mill and the creek in June
The state Transportation Cabinet decided Friday to accept the sole bid of $877,000 for the long-delayed replacement of the Weisenberger Mill Bridge.

Louisville Paving Co. was again the sole bidder. Its bid was almost 42 percent above the state engineers' estimate of $618,959, but that was much closer than its first bid: $1.95 million, 2¾ times the estimate of $709,889. The estimate was lowered because part of the project was made part of an overall contract the state has issued for certain work.

Construction is expected to take six to nine months, but a starting date has not been set. That will be discussed at a pre-construction meeting at the cabinet's District 7 office in Lexington, said Natasha Lacy, public information officer for the district.

The bridge across South Elkhorn Creek, the border of Woodford and Scott counties, is nominally Woodford's responsibility, under a longstanding agreement between the counties, but the state agreed to take responsibility for it several years ago.

Heavy trucks taking shortcuts have been blamed for wearing down the bridge. The state closed it July 1, 2016, after inspectors found it was not safe for a load of three tons.

Replacing the one-lane span, built in the early 1930s, has been complicated. The first plan was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to one lane, with the pony-truss style of the old bridge, to assuage public concern that a modern concrete span would detract from the scenic nature of the site and encourage speeding, causing accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

Since the bridge has historical significance and is a state responsibility, the project had to undergo review by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council, as well as an environmental impact report to federal officials. The project was delayed at least a month by negotiations over construction easements.

The bridge's closure has further isolated the largely African American community of Zion Hill, at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Winchester columnist tells the story of the Grants and their model railroad of Midway, recently restored

Laurine Grant and daughter Jeanine Lister watched the trains run.
By Bill McCann
The Winchester Sun

I grew up with a limited view of the arts—theatre, dance, art, music, and writing, each in their various forms. But I am coming to realize that the arts are actually much wider—from painting a sermon to building a scale-model railroad layout.

Heritage Day, July 27, in Midway honored Laurine Grant of and her late husband Bill for their construction and donation to Midway of an N-scale (9mm track width) model railroad of the town.

Grant, 83, moved to Winchester in August 2018. Before that she lived in Vermont for 15 years. And before that, from about 1997 to 2000, she was a citizen of Midway.

Laurine was married for more than 50 years to William Grant. Bill Grant was a heavy equipment operator in Connecticut for more than three decades, a union member who was able to provide well for his family—particularly during the period from March to November of each year. But during the long Northeast winters, when he was laid off, he was a model railroader.

Bill and Laurine Grant raised four daughters—Shannon, Lisa, Jeanine, and Anne—who after high school mostly scattered to the four winds: Connecticut (Shannon); Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado (Anne); Kentucky (Lisa); Arizona and Kentucky (Jeanine). In the course of time grandchildren came, Bill retired, and the couple followed—not the swallows to Capistrano, but visited or lived near their daughters and grandchildren.

During the 1980s, while Bill still worked, Lisa and her family lived in Midway and Bill and Laurine came south for visits. And almost immediately, the model railroader was hooked: Midway, the city a railroad runs through. Suddenly he had a vision: of an N-scale model of Midway for his trains.

After retiring from his construction job, Bill and Laurine moved to North Carolina to be near Anne, her husband and children. Still, Bill was a model railroader. And in 1997, they moved to Midway to be near Lisa and her family; Jeanine and her family lived in Lexington, but the pull of Midway’s trains and ongoing work on the train layout was in their minds when choosing where to live.

By 2000 the layout was complete. So before Bill and Laurine hit the road full-time in an RV camper, they donated their N-scale model of Midway to the town.

In the years since, the layout was stored away. However, this year the Midway Community Model Railroad Project’s plan to restore and expand the layout generated a lot of local support.

Finally, on Saturday at high noon, Mayor Grayson Vandergrift had a dedication ceremony where he began by saying that the community of Midway “embraces its history” as a railroad town. Then he thanked Mrs. Grant for the hard work of she and her husband and the donation of the layout to the community of Midway, before thanking the many local people and businesses that had helped restore and expand the model.

That’s the story of what happened. And as a story, it’s a pretty interesting one.

But by now you must surely have the same question I had when going to the dedication of the layout: Why is this art? You buy some plywood, paint it green, add some tracks, buy plastic buildings and trees and tape or tack them down and you have a model train set. Not so!

Truly, great art, and a large amount of time, was involved in this effort.

Jeanine Grant Lister, who now lives in Winchester, explained that tiny little spikes—“You have to use tweezers and a tiny hammer” to put the spikes in—hold down the rails. “And the buildings were made and painted by my parents, though I did make trees and helped paint the silo.” The silo, she said, was made from “part of a toilet paper roll.”

Pictures of the layout which accompany the article may give you some sense of the artistry involved in painting objects that are scaled between 1:148 and 1:160, so a 6-foot man would be roughly 1/3 of an inch tall! A train car in this scale is only a bit more than an inch tall and a few inches long. The buildings require a delicate touch and great care. Building and painting such people, buildings and scenery is truly an artistic undertaking.

Mayor Vandergrift finished speaking by saying that the Midway railroad layout would have a permanent place of honor in the town “soon.” Then he asked Mrs. Grant to speak.

“Thank you” was all she said, to great applause.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Former Messenger intern explores communication in Midway; social-media posts can drive news events

Sarah Ladd discussed her research on April 29.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

For a town of 1,800 and a ZIP code of about 3,000, Midway is well covered by news and information media. The Midway Messenger provides continuous online coverage of events and issues, with a print edition about twice a year; The Woodford Sun regularly covers City Council meetings and other events in the town; and the Midway Musings social-media site has a large following.

All that was ideal grist for the mill of Sarah Ladd, who interned as a Messenger reporter last summer, recently graduated with honors from UK, then joined the Louisville Courier Journal as a reporter.

For her honors capstone course, she studied mass communication in Midway. The town is a good test bed for “The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism” defined by Steve Outing of The Poynter Institute in 2005, Ladd said in presenting her study after the monthly community dinner at Midway Christian Church on April 29.

For Midway residents, some of her more interesting findings were the results of an online survey she conducted. It had 62 respondents. Asked where they get daily news, 22 said the Midway Messenger and 22 said Midway Musings, a “secret” Facebook group that has almost 700 members and has become an important communication platform for the town.

Chart by Sarah Ladd; for a larger, clearer version, click on it
After the top two, at 35 percent, came The Woodford Sun’s print edition, at 16.1% (10 people); the Residents of Northridge Estates closed Facebook group, 6.45% (four people); other social media, 3.23% (two people) and the Sun online, 1.6% (one person).

The impact of Midway Musings was illustrated in late July when Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he would appoint a City Council committee to study changing the official name of Main Street to Railroad Street, which it was once called and is still called by some people. The idea was proposed on Midway Musings by local historian and merchant Bill Penn.

Vandegrift told the Messenger, "I hesitated to bring something from Midway Musings straight into potential policy without appearance by an individual at a council meeting, but this really isn’t the first time the idea has come up, and the Musings post helped show how much support this might have."

He told Ladd for her paper that he primarily gets news from the Messenger and The Woodford Sun. “I follow Musings and Northridge as well, but consider it communication more than news.” Ladd put it this way: "It’s a nice platform that people are using to facilitate news."

In her paper, she noted that the Northridge site spread word of a burglary and the official response, "breaking news." Midway Musings discourages political content, but a posting encouraging members to attend a City Council meeting to support resolution welcoming refugees to Kentucky stirred such controversy that city leaders delayed action until they could hold a public forum on the issue.

Ladd told the after-dinner crowd, “It was really interesting that a social-media group and a newspaper tied for first place,” she said. Anticipating that, she included in her survey this question: “If you used social media more than five years ago for any reason, how has it affected your knowledge of what goes on in the Midway area?” The result: 82 percent said it had increased their knowledge.

Musings founder Blake Jones said, "I want to always support forums where people can disagree without being disagreeable. I love Midway so much, and I think it is a town of exceptional people. Our diversity is our strength. "Social media gives people an anonymity at times that is not healthy, in my opinion. . . . We must all remember to measure our words, and remember that they can have consequences. Even online."

Midway Musings’ competitive impact, at least among people who voluntarily took the online survey, has been greatest on the Sun. Asked whether they had paid more or less attention to the Sun in the last five years, 39% said they paid less attention, 43% said they paid the same amount of attention, and 18 percent said they paid more attention.

Asked the same question about the Messenger, 68% said they paid more attention to it than five years ago. Ladd didn’t provide exact figures for the other respondents, but had a chart showing that by far, most of the rest said they paid the same amount of attention.

Ladd's paper noted that Sun Editor John McGary used "open sourcing" through social media to get sources for a story. "It’s so much different than having a straight, pre-approved list of experts you might call for something," she told the dinner crowd.

Ladd concluded in her paper, "The success of Midway’s current communication systems seems to be largely thanks to its size. The education levels and the sense of community trust cause the level of quality communication the small town enjoys."

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

City leaders meet with Frankfort water officials, discuss pipeline; initial estimate of cost is about $1.25 million

City Council Member John Holloway, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift
and Council Member Bruce Southworth posed for a picture during
their tour of the Frankfort water plant. (Photo provided by Vandegrift)
Midway city leaders held their first meeting yesterday with Frankfort Electric and Water Plant Board officials about the city's plan to build a pipeline to Frankfort, to replace Kentucky American Water Co. as its wholesale water supplier.

"All are in agreement that it is a very doable project with benefits to both entities," Mayor Gayson Vandegrift said in an email. "This was just an initial discussion, so we didn’t nail down absolutes, but we are going to continue moving forward with this project to potentially become a wholesale customer of the Frankfort Plant Board no later than 2025."

Vandegrift toured the Frankfort water plant with City Council Members John Holloway and Bruce Southworth. "All agreed that it’s very impressive," the mayor wrote. "While the current treatment facility was built in 1974, the only things that old are the concrete; they’ve been very diligent about continually investing in technology, most things in the plant are less than 20 years old, with a significant portion newer than 10 years."

The mayor said the next meetings "will involve more engineering and discussions of probable cost"of a 12-inch pipeline to the Frankfort system at Duckers. "Initial estimates are around $1.25 million. However, as previously mentioned, the FPB wholesale rate of $2.55 per 1000 gallons is significantly less" than Kentucky American, even more so since the state Public Service Commission recently gave the company 18.5 percent of the 21.5% rate increase it requested, Vandegrift said

The new rate will be $4.796 per 1,000 gallons. The current rate is $4.053, plus a tax of about 16 cents a gallon that is passed through to the Kentucky River Authority. The tax would apply to water from Frankfort, which also gets its water from the river.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

'There are times when I feel like I'm spread too thin,' says Ouita Michel, who now has eight restaurants

Ouita Michel watched the start of the monthly community dinner at Midway Christian Church Monday evening.
By Collin Kruse
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Whether it be managing her eight restaurants or coordinating the supper program at Midway Christian Church, Ouita Michel always has a lot on her plate. Michel discovered in high school that she wanted to become a chef; little did she know that the skills she would inherit along the way would someday lead her to become a successful business owner and restaurateur.

After her time in cooking school, Michel took her first steps in the restaurant business in 2000, when she and her husband Chris purchased the historic Holly Hill Inn that would go on to re-open as
a fine-dining establishment in May 2001.

Michel had already decided that if she was going to have her own restaurant, that it would only use fresh local ingredients. “It’s part of our mission for our company to increase farm income in Kentucky,” she told the Midway Messenger, “because without a strong farming community it’s hard to be a great chef.” Over the last 18 years, Michel says, her restaurants have purchased $3 million in Kentucky meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

Photo from Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants
After Holly Hill Inn’s success, Michel gradually established what is now known as the Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants: The Midway Bakery and Cafe, Wallace Station Deli and Bakery in greater Midway, Windy Corner Market and Restaurant in Lexington, two Smithtown Seafood locations in Lexington, Glenn’s Creek CafĂ© at the Woodford Reserve Distillery outside Versailles, Honeywood in Lexington, and Michel’s newest restaurant, Zim’s Cafe and The Thirsty Fox in Lexington.

The restaurants Michel purchased kept their pre-existing names. Of the latest two she established, Honeywood, in The Summit at Fritz Farm, was named after Honeywood Parrish Rouse, who grew up in the house that is now the Holly Hill Inn; Zim’s, in the recently restored Fayette County Courthouse, is is named for Michel’s great-grandfather, Aaron Rufus Zimmerman.

Michel's first taste of the culinary business wasn’t the sweetest, but it would give her the formative experience needed to begin her career. Michel was offered a chef position at John Clancy’s, a New York seafood restaurant. Her first assignment was to fillet a fish, which she had never done before. With some help, she succeeded. “They stuck with me. Knowing what I know now I probably would’ve fired me,” she said. Her time at John Clancy’s was full of learning moments that would lead her to success.

Michel credits her time with the University of Kentucky’s debate team during college as an experience that would later prepare her for the challenges that she faces today. “It helped quite a bit. You have to do a lot of writing and research, which ended up helping me write my business plan. It helped me become an effective public speaker, it helped me with time management, and it gave me confidence too,” she said. In 1986, Michel’s senior year, the debate team won the National Debate Tournament, which she recalls as one of her proudest achievements. The win made Michel the second woman to win the title.

Now that Michel has eight restaurants, her biggest current challenge is maintaining the quality of their service and dining experiences. She has about 200 part-time and 50 full-time employees.

“There are times when I feel like I’m spread too thin,” Michel said, “but we have an excellent group of people running each restaurant, and my real job is to support them and their work.”

Michel said she has each day of the week planned out in advance, where she visits each one of her restaurants to hold staff meetings and to go over any other issues with the chefs.

When she isn’t checking up on her restaurants, Michel spends most of her time in Midway, where she’s either coordinating the free community dinner each month at Midway Christian Church or cooking in the Holly Hill Inn kitchen. Chris and Ouita Michel still live next to their first restaurant, where they have been for the last 19 years.

Looking back, Michel explains how her success came to be. “You have to be willing to work really hard. You have to use your hands, your head, and your heart all at one time.” She said, “It’s definitely not a desk job, but I never wanted that. You can’t be afraid to fail.”

The chef said she is done opening new restaurants for now, but hinted that a podcast and cookbook may be in the works. Her pace seems unlikely to lag. “Running a restaurant, you have to learn fast," she said. "With hard work and persistence, one thing led to another, and I never looked back.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

Jones fifth overall in state breeders' awards; in Midway ZIP code, he's first; KatieRich and Three Chimneys next

KatieRich Farms' big, new barn is a familiar sight to motorists on Leestown Pike east of Midway.
By Abbey Huffman and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Last year, thoroughbred breeders in Midway earned $615,319, or 4.3 percent of the $14.2 million total, from the state incentive fund that rewards breeders of Kentucky-bred horses, based on the horses’ winnings.

The big winner in Midway, and one of the biggest winners overall, was Brereton C. Jones of Airdrie Stud, who earned $202,745. He was the leading owner in partnerships that earned another $16,286.
Katie Rich Farms, just across the county line in Scott County, was second among individual breeders in the Midway ZIP code, earning $61,180.

Three Chimneys earned $42,153 and was leading owner in partnerships that earned another $29,210. Susie Shoemaker’s Lantern Hill Farm, just outside the Midway city limits, earned $39,742 plus $8,874.50 in partnerships as lead owner.

Other winners in the Midway ZIP code with more than $5,000 in awards were Paul Van Doren and Adreana Van Doren, $21,680; Jones’s son, Bret, $16,370; Sheltowee Farm and partners, $14,274; Russell L. Reineman Stable, $14,270; Hurstland Farm and partners, $12,240; Glencrest Farm, $10,685; Nicholas J. Sibilio, $10,175; and Elizabeth J. Valando, $7,090.

Brereton C. Jones
Among the long, overall list of breeders who put in for awards, Jones ranked fifth. First place went to Woodford County’s WinStar Farm, $285,300, not including $14,210 with partners; it was a partner in last year’s Triple Crown winner, Justify.

Calumet Farm was second in awards with $267,455, followed by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, $222,097; and Godolphin, $208,378.

Godolphin is the racing stable of the Maktoum family that rules the Arab emirate of Dubai. The crown prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, owns Shadwell Farm, which includes a large farm west of Midway on Leestown Pike (US 421); it received $97,048 in awards.

Close behind Jones’ $202,745 in the overall awards standings were Ken and Sarah Ramsey of Nicholasville at $190,952.

Nicholasville breeders’ total ranked close behind that of Midway breeders, with a total of $546,985 in awards. Lexington breeders received the most at $4,491,859. Breeders with Versailles addresses received $1,700,588. For the full spreadsheet, with Midway and some other breakdowns, click here.

Jones, as governor in 1991-95, was instrumental in establishing breeders’ awards, with the goal of maintaining Kentucky’s leadership in Thoroughbred breeding. The current program was adopted in 2005. Several other states have such programs.

The program started under Jones was funded by off-track betting revenues and was “much more restrictive,” said state Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, who write the 2005 legislation.
The main purpose of the program is to encourage owners and breeders to do business in the state, to ensure strength and growth of its thoroughbred industry. It also benefits Kentucky’s economy when owners and breeders breed and raise thoroughbreds in Kentucky.

To be considered “Kentucky bred” and eligible for awards, a horse must be foaled on Kentucky soil. The awards are distributed to those who board their mares in Kentucky from the first cover with a stallion to foaling. The final payments are based on the foal’s earnings on the racetrack. The fund receives 80 percent of the state tax on stud fees.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Photos from Midsummer Nights in Midway

Here are some photos by Messenger contributor Mary Massie from last night's Midsummer Nights in Midway event, sponsored by Midway Renaissance:
Young dancers on East Main Street, the north side of which was closed for the event
The Conch on the Half Shell band invited
participation from the audience.
Wagon Bones Barbecue came from Versailles.

Video of steam locomotive arriving on Saturday

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Railroad scale model a big hit at Midway Heritage Day

People attending Midway Heritage Day on Saturday pretty much knew what the big steam engine would look like, but not necessarily what to expect from the old scale model of Midway, recently restored, with double tracks and trains. It was a pleasant, fascinating surprise, the culmination of a community project that reflected the spirit and heritage of Kentucky's first and still iconic railroad town.

The layout was done in the early 1980s by Laurine and William Grant, who donated it to the city in 2001. A few months ago, Midway Renaissance and several community volunteers joined forces to put it back in shape, and it went on display in the old bank building on East Main Street owned by Amy and Mike Stinnett, who erected a temporary partition to facilitate the display.

View is from north. Card on control box lists volunteers (left column) and sponsors (right column, with in-kind contributions)
Those who played key roles in the restoration included Tommy and Susan Kidwell, who provided the layout benchwork and material that formed the base of the project; and Jim Hoppin, who did the custom modeling of three additions to the layout: Midway Christian Church, the mansion at Parrish Hill Farm and the Kentucky Female Orphan School, now Midway University.

View from northwest shows Parrish Hill, added, in foreground.
"We've been working on it probably since the first of February," said Hoppin, whose experience with dollhouses made him the builder of the three additions. His wife Teresa also worked on the project.

Others listed on the display's volunteer-and-sponsor card were Tom Bensberg (engines), Thomas Bookout (details and supplies), Ron Chesser, Joel Damron, Charles Diamond, Midway Christian Church, Midway Renaissance, Steve and Julie Morgan, National Model Railroad Association Division 10, Bill Penn, Amy Perry, Christy Reaves, Brian Roslowski, Kenny Smith (photographic enhancements), Frank Stevenson (buildings and supplies) and Stew Winstanley (engines and rolling stock).
Model maker Laurine Grant, with hand on chin, watched the trains run from the far end
of the model with her daughter, Jeanine Lister of Winchester. (Photos by Al Cross)

Laurine Grant, who now lives in Winchester, said in an interview that her late husband was an N-scale (9 mm track width) railroad modeler, and they decided to build a model of Midway because one of their daughters lived in the town. They lived in Connecticut at the time but later moved to West Higgins Street in Midway.

Grant said the project took about two years, done in bits and pieces, starting with photographs of buildings when they were in town to visit their daughter. "If you are a model train person or a train person, Midway was the ideal place to model," she said.

Jim Hoppin
The model was the usual 4x8-foot module used in N-scale shows, in which modules are arranged in an oval and are connected by tracks over which trains run through them. The first step in restoring it was to make it an independent display, with its own trains.

That required a whole new base, which the Kidwells provided "Without them, we would have never had it," said Reaves, who is a model railroader and calls herself "the Midway train lady." The new layout had extra room, so the volunteers decided to add the three buildings Hoppin built.

Grant said, "I thought it was wonderful. They did a very good job. . . . It's tremendous. I was very impressed and very honored."
View from the west, with history of the railroad, which was established in 1833 and reached Midway in 1835.

Old steam engine, restored scale model of Midway with trains highlight Midway Heritage Day

It's Midway Heritage Day, and trains abound in Kentucky's first and still iconic railroad town. Chesapeake & Ohio Steam Engine No, 2716 arrived from Frankfort shortly after 9:30 and will be here until 1, when it leaves for Lexington, Winchester and Ravenna, its permanent home.
The other special treat of the day is the restored scale model of Midway, complete with the old double tracks and trains. More later on that, but here's a photo. More will appear later.
The day will include this evening with the second installment of Midsummer Nights in Midway.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Midway Heritage Day will start with a steam engine, end with the latest edition of Midsummer Nights in Midway

Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Steam Engine No. 2716 is scheduled to be on display in Midway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturday, January 27, is Midway Heritage Day, a festival centered around the visit of a historic locomotive that hasn’t visited the region in more than 60 years.

The City of Midway, Midway Renaissance and the Midway Business Association are sponsoring the day in conjunction with the morning arrival of Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad steam locomotive No. 2716. The event will include live music, food vendors, historical displays and walking tours, including a look at the massive engine.

The 400-ton locomotive is scheduled to be on display in Midway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The schedule is subject to change. It is scheduled for display in Lexington from 3 to 6 p.m. A full schedule of events and public display locations is available at www.kentuckysteam.org.

The engine is being moved from the Kentucky Railway Museum at New Haven to be restored at the new Kentucky Rail Heritage Center in Estill County, a project of the nonprofit Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. The locomotive’s move is a mobile kick-off for the project. The journey will end with a ceremony in Ravenna at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Collaborators are CSX Transportation, which owns the railroad bed, and RJ Corman Railroad Group, which leases it. “Working with Midway is always a pleasure, and their willingness to host this unique and fun event brings us even more excitement for the move,” Corman President Ed Quinn said.

A photo of the Midway scale model before restoration
The engine will be accompanied by two other pieces of CSX heritage, both recent special projects of the company's locomotive shop in Huntington, W.Va. The train will be led by a 1948 Clinchfield 800, an F-7 diesel-electric locomotive that was restored and repainted by CSX and is operated by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum. The train will have a 50-year-old caboose that was donated to Kentucky Steam earlier this year after a complete restoration in Huntington.

Displays will include a 1950s scale model of Midway that Reaves and others have been restoring for several months.

Engine 2716 was built in 1943 and visited the Bluegrass Region frequently until its retirement in 1956. It was one of the largest locomotives to ever run on the line between Louisville and Ashland. After being retired, it was donated to the Railway Museum. Kentucky Steam Heritage leased it in 2016 with plans to run it on excursions and use its operation as an educational tool in Ravenna.

Saturday will also be one of Midway Renaissance's "Midsummer Nights in Midway," with entertainment and vendors from 6 to 10 p.m. Renaissance President Christy Reaves said the news of the locomotive’s visit prompted the idea of Midway Heritage Day to revolve around the history and culture of Midway, Kentucky's first town created by a railroad.

Both nonprofits will have booths at the event, promoting rail tourism on both sides of the state. For more info about the Kentucky Railway Museum, visit www.kyrail.org. Further information on Midway Renaissance is at http://MidwayRenaissance.com.

Latest Midway Messenger print edition has stories that haven't appeared online yet; available at many locations

The Summer 2019 print edition of the Midway Messenger has been distributed to dozens of locations in the Midway area. The front page has a feature on chef-entrepreneur Ouita Michel and a comprehensive update on what's been going on at and near the Midway Station industrial park.

Unlike most print editions of the Messenger, this one has articles that have not yet appeared online. They include the Michel feature, a report on state awards to thoroughbred breeders in the Midway area, and one on a study that former Messenger intern Sarah Ladd did on mass communication in Midway. The Midway Station story is a compilation of material that has been reported and not reported.

The edition was printed at the Georgetown News-Graphic with support from Wesbanco. It is downloadable as a compressed 2.3 megabyte PDF, here. If you need a copy or copies of the print edition and can't find one, email al.cross@uky.edu.

Weisenberger Mill bridge project gets same bidder, lower price, but still well above engineer's estimate

The second round of bidding for a new Weisenberger Mill bridge drew the same lone bidder, who bid much lower but still well above the estimate of state Transportation Cabinet engineers.

Louisville Paving bid $877,000 for the work, almost 42 percent above the estimate of $618,959. Still, that was a big improvement over the first bid: $1.95 million, 2¾ times the estimate of $709,889. The estimate was lowered because the soil-nailing part of the project, insertion of reinforcing bars into the creek bank, was removed and made part of an overall contract the state has issued for such work.

The Transportation Cabinet is expected to decide in about a week whether to accept the bid for the long-delayed project to replace a bridge that was closed more than three years ago.

After the first bid, Woodford County Magistrate Jackie Brown said Kelly Baker, the chief engineer at the cabinet's District 7 office in Lexington, told him that Louisville Paving bid on foundation work they would not have to do, and expected that a rebid would be much closer to the estimate.

The bridge across South Elkhorn Creek, the border of Woodford and Scott counties, is nominally Woodford's responsibility, under a longstanding agreement between the counties, but the state agreed to take responsibility for it several years ago.

The state closed the bridge July 1, 2016, after inspectors found it was not safe for a load of three tons. The state had already lowered the limit twice in an effort to turn away heavy trucks whose drivers used the bridge for a shortcut to or from Interstate 64.

The bridge's closure has further isolated the largely African American community of Zion Hill, at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Replacing the one-lane span, built in the early 1930s, has been complicated. The first plan was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to one lane, with the pony-truss style of the old bridge, to assuage public concern that a modern concrete span would detract from the scenic nature of the site and encourage speeding, causing accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

Since the bridge has historical significance and is a state responsibility, the project had to undergoreview by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council, as well as an environmental impact report to federal officials. The project was delayed at least a month by negotiations over construction easements.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Mayor to appoint panel to study changing name of Main Street to Railroad Street, as many have suggested

Do you call it Main Street, which the signs say, or Railroad Street, its original and still often-used name?
For many people, the name of the main business street in Midway is Railroad Street, and a logo sign on Interstate 64 once used that name. But the street signs say Main Street, and that is used by the businesses on East Main and the homes on West Main. Now the City Council may change that.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger, "I am going to move forward and ask an ad hoc committee of the council to study the prospect of changing the name of Main Street back to Railroad Street," which it apparently was called before "Main Street" signs went up decades ago.

The issue was raised on Midway Musings, a "secret" Facebook group that has almost 700 members, by local historian and merchant Bill Penn. On July 2, he wrote: "I would like to make a motion that Main Street be renamed 'Railroad Street' to recognize both the fact of its being the street's original name from 1835 through about the 1950s, and would also honor the town's origin as being founded by a railroad."

The comments on Midway Musings were overwhelmingly favorable. Main Street merchant Kenny Smith said, "We have Railroad Drug and Railroad Street Framing but no Main St. anything! Proof enough for me!" Smith once headed the Midway Business Association, which before his time had a logo sign on I-64 advertising "Railroad Street Shops."

Former police officer and council member John McDaniel said on Musings that he checked the council minutes, and "Railroad Street's name has never been officially changed to Main Street. If I remember, the Main Street sign never went up until the late 40s or early 50s, from what I heard the elders say. . . . The mayor at the time suggested ordering Main Street signs as Railroad Street made the name too long and it would cost extra money to have them made." McDaniel said he heard the story from his father, police officer John Willie McDaniel, who headed the sign crew.

Vandegrift told the Messenger, "I hesitated to bring something from Midway Musings straight into potential policy without appearance by an individual at a council meeting, but this really isn’t the first time the idea has come up, and the Musings post helped show how much support this might have."

The mayor added, "Despite some initial hiccups at changing a street name, I think this could have a very positive impact on the city," he wrote. "I think that Railroad Street could become an identifying feature that could be beneficial to our merchants," like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Michigan Avenue in Chicago and Broadway in New York.

"Plus, I think it’s important that we play up our history as the state’s first railroad town," Vandegrift wrote. "Obviously, it’ll need a lot of study and input from citizens, especially occupants of east and west main, but I’m supportive of the idea."

The biggest complication could be delivery of goods. Regular mail does not seem to be an issue. Former council member Dan Roller noted on Midway Musings that the businesses on East Main get their mail at the post office, not through street delivery. He also said, "Another reason it needs to be done is when you go to a countywide meeting and someone say 'Main Street.' it means something totally different to Midway residents than to Versailles residents."

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Bob Gibson is running for open seat in state House

Bob Gibson
The race for the open seat of state representative for Woodford County again has a candidate.

Bob Gibson, chief information officer and technology director for the Woodford County Schools, said in a press release, "I am running because I want to give everyone the opportunity to succeed. My focus has always been to advance high-quality education, promote personal development and ensure fair treatment of all. I would be proud to stand up and fight for you in an open manner, listening to your needs."

Gibson, 49, is seeking the 56th District seat of Democratic Rep. Joe Graviss, who is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by former governor Julian Carroll of Frankfort. All are Democrats. So is Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, who entered the House race July 12 and withdrew July 19. No other candidates have announced.

The 56th District includes Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties. "Throughout our district, I have heard that, while people have been happy with our representation in Frankfort, they also have noticed the dysfunction that consumes politics in state government," Gibson said. "Dysfunction is disastrous for taxpayers."

Gibon said he would use "a common sense approach" to focus on "quality lifelong learning; fiscal responsibility, protecting workers, properly funding education and pensions;" promoting 'farming, manufacturing, trades, and tourism;" and "statesmanship -- restoring civility and bipartisanship."

He said his 25 years of "collaborating with others and building our community through teaching, educational administration, and civic involvement . . . has given me a unique perspective of our community and how state government influences our everyday lives."

Gibson is a graduate of Woodford County High School and Centre College, where he played basketball, and of Eastern Kentucky University, where he earned a master's degree in instructional leadership in 2005. He has been a special-education and social-studies teacher and a basketball coach, and was athletic director and assistant principal at WCHS from 2006 to 2013.

Gibson ran unsuccessfully for Fiscal Court magistrate in 2006. He founded the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2008 and chaired the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce in 2017-18. He is married to Elizabeth Burge Gibson, an English teacher at WCHS. They live in Versailles.