Thursday, January 31, 2019

I-64 rest area facilities in Woodford close until May 3

Facilities at both rest areas on Interstate 64 in northwest Woodford County will be closed for the next three months, the state Transportation Cabinet announced tonight.

The cabinet said the closures are needed in order to make repairs to the sewer lift stations that serve the facilities. "In addition, renovation operations for both rest areas will be underway," the cabinet said in a news release.

The rest areas will remain open to semi-tractor-trailer drivers for "temporary accommodations," the cabinet said. The facilities are scheduled to open at 8 a.m. Friday, May 3 – the date of the Kentucky Oaks, and the day before the Kentucky Derby, at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Cemetery committee to discuss ordinances and funding, inspect damaged graves and headstones at 9 a.m. Sat.

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3 at City Hall, and continue its meeting at the cemeteries in the city.

The meeting notice says the committee will "discuss ordinance changes and address [the] problem of maintenance funding" for graves that are 100 or more years old, and will drive to the cemeteries to look at damaged graves and headstones.

At last week's City Council meeting, former council member Johnny Wilson reported that 71 of the 303 headstones in the two old African American cemeteries need resetting, repair or replacement, and donated $1,000 for that purpose.

All committee and council meetings are open to the public, regardlkess of location.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Renaissance planning a bigger Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, more Midsummer Nights; seeks members

By Kristi Fitzgerald
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

“This is a growth year,” Elisha Holt, event coordinator for the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, told the crowd at the annual Midway Renaissance meeting in the fellowship hall of Midway Christian Church.

Holt said artists from all over the country have applied to be part of the festival, May 18-19 at Midway University. In the university amphitheater, a new “Flavors of Francisco” offering will feature plenty of “Kentucky Proud” products, food trucks, and local wine. “A lot of sponsors are jumping on board,” Holt added.

Renaissance President Debra Shockley explained the group's
mission with a quote from Paul Patton, governor in 1995-2003.
Renaissance's annual meeting takes place after the chili cook-off at the Christian Church to take advantage of the large crowd. Some at the cook-off were unaware of the purpose of Midway Renaissance, but President Debra Shockley offered background and past projects in hopes of encouraging the public to be excited about what is to come.

Shockley said this quote from then-Gov. Paul Patton, during his 1995-2003 term, sums up the goal of Renaissance: “All Kentucky communities should have downtown centers thriving with activity to pass on local traditions and treasures to future generations.”

Shockley mentioned projects completed by Renaissance since its founding in 2001, including a $2 million streetscape project that redid storm sewers, sidewalks, streets and utilities, and financed purchase of the building that is now City Hall. She said Renaissance is a non-profit and volunteer-only organization that has channeled $2.4 million through the City of Midway.

Shockley said Renaissance board members are developing a historical walking tour. The group has a Living History Committee that makes displays and presentations.

Aside from the arts festival, Renaissance’s main events are Midsummer Nights in Midway, on Friday nights in June, July and August. “There is lots of dancing in the street” at the events, Renaissance Secretary Peter Fisher said.

Renaissance members staff City Hall during weekend events to provide a restroom for the public because the city has no other public restrooms. They will be at City Hall handing out chocolate, hot chocolate, and coffee during the Midway Chocolate Stroll, a Midway Business Association event, Saturday, Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Shockley said the Renaissance board has room for five additional members. Each member serves a three-year term. The boatrd will hold elections at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 in the community room of the Midway library. The public is invited, and potential new members should attend or email Shockley at dshockley@RossTarrant.com.

On Thursday, March 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the library, the board will hold a strategic planning session, moderated by Bud Ratliff of The Solarity Group. "We will be discussing Midway Renaissance as it currently exists and what the future holds," Shockley said in an email.

Big crowd at chili cook-off judges Alex Woodruff, 16, to have the best chili for the second year in a row

By Kristi Fitzgerald
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Hawaiian chili of 16-year-old Alex Woodruff beat out 19 other recipes to win Midway Christian Church Chili Cook-Off for the second year in a row Monday night.

Winners Glass (second), Woodruff (first) and Burchell (third)
The excitement could be seen in Samantha Dare’s face as she took photos of her smiling daughter, Woodruff, holding up her prize, a $25 Cheesecake Factory gift card. Woodruff said she acquired her winning chili recipe from her grandfather. The Hawaiian chili veered off the path of a typical, chili recipe with the addition of ingredients such as pineapple and carrots.

The second- and third-place winners, respectively, were Amanda Glass’s pulled-pork chili and a "bourbon breakfast" chili by Phil Burchell, who usually does well in the contest.

Chili testers lined up at crockpots. (Photo by Kristi Fitzgerald)
The cook-off drew a good crowd on a night when rain threatened and began during the event. The church’s Fellowship Hall was filled with people of all ages. Stephanie Dare, Woodruff’s aunt, said she enjoys the “sense of community” that accompanies the cook-off.

Chili testers shuffled along a table lined with crockpots, filling cups and casting their votes for the chili each of them enjoyed most. Some of the entries included vegetarian, several versions of turkey chili and chili with spaghetti, a no-no for chili purists but still tasty.

Teresa Raglin sat at one of the five large community tables with her children, tasting the various chilis, “I enjoy the friendly competition. People look forward to it.”

The cook-off is part of the series of free community dinners the church holds on the last Monday night of each month at 6:30.

One chili tester sampled about a dozen entries and reported that blending the three winners with an overly thick chili produced a very tasty hybrid. (Photo by Kristi Fitzgerald)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Big load coming through: Police will escort 27-foot-wide load on US 62 and Interstate 64 sometime Wednesday

Motorcade route is marked in blue. Disregard the times and two possible alternate routes determined by Google Maps.
Police will escort a huge piece of industrial cooling equipment, 27 feet wide, through the Midway area Wednesday on its way from Northern Kentucky to Tennessee. Lanes and roads will be blocked in the Georgetown area before the load enters Interstate 64 in southern Scott County.

The tractor-trailer load is scheduled to leave the Interstate 75/71 rest area in Northern Kentucky at 9 a.m. and head south on I-75 to US 62 at Exit 126. It will take the Georgetown bypass and US 62, then enter westbound I-64 at Exit 69. After passing through Midway on I-64, it will take Exit 53 at Frankfort to US 127, then follow the Bluegrass Parkway and I-65 to Tennessee.

The state Transportation Cabinet said in a news release that timing of road and lane blockages is not yet available but it will provide updates "as often as possible to help motorists avoid traffic delays."

"The motorcade will occupy the entire width of the route or all lanes in its direction of travel," so police will block traffic on US 62, US 460, I-64, US 127 and the parkway, the cabinet said. "On I-75 and I-65, which have three lanes in each direction, the load will span the center and right lanes as well as part of the shoulder."

The escort for Derenz Transport of Kiel, Wis., will be provided by the Kentucky State Police’s Division of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, in cooperation with local law-enforcement agencies, the cabinet said. Two marked vehicles will travel in front of the load and two will travel behind.

The news release concluded, "All overweight/over-dimensional travel is subject to change depending on weather conditions, emergencies and factors beyond the control of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet or Kentucky State Police."

Message from the mayor: Two companies are bringing 40 more jobs to Midway Station

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

I hope you’re ready for the cold spell that’s coming in. Here’s some good news to keep you warm: two new companies and more new jobs at Midway Station!

The smaller of two job providers is a plumbing supply company that has already closed on a lot along McKinney Ave (between Reid Utilities and Epiphany Foam), we expect this to be around 10 jobs.

The larger user is one I’ve talked about somewhat here and there over the last few weeks, and it now appears we are about to cross the finish line as we’ve worked out the concerns the user had. That closing is scheduled for later this week, and until the ink is dry on the paper I’d rather not divulge the user publicly, for their own sake, but it’s an exciting and yet another diversifying find for our local economy. 

This user is expected to build in early 2020 and will bring 22 new jobs initially, and is expected to eventually employ around 30 full time workers.

These are exactly the type of job providers we’ve been seeking at Midway Station since attracting Lakeshore Learning Materials. While we’re extremely proud of our largest ever job provider, we’ve strategically shifted our focus to smaller, owner-operated companies that will provide good jobs, and thus generate good payroll, but will also allow us to avoid the “all eggs in one basket” scenario.

As always, with the larger company, nothing is 100 percent until the closing is complete, but I am confident in its prospects based on recent developments.

This was discussed publicly at last week’s EDA meeting, so I am also sharing this email with the Midway Messenger, as it is of importance and in the public’s interest. As soon as all details are finalized we will be sharing more.

Again, I think these two companies reflects our next steps in developing Midway Station in a strategic and sustainable matter. Furthermore, it will mean that more dirt will soon be turned over at Midway Station, only making our shovel ready land even more attractive to future potential clients. Thanks, and stay warm!

This message was emailed to the city council and the Midway Messenger.

Kentucky American Water, Midway's wholesale water supplier, offers tips for protecting pipes from the cold

Kentucky American Water Co. news release

With bitterly cold temperatures forecast for the next couple days in the Bluegrass, Kentucky American Water reminds customers of ways to help prevent their water pipes from freezing and potentially bursting.:
  • Make sure you have disconnected garden hoses from all outside spigots. 
  • If you are going way, set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees. 
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing overnight through faucets supplied by pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces or along outside walls. This will help prevent the water in them from freezing. 
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around these pipes. 
  • Make sure you know where your main water shut-off valve is located inside your home so that you can shut off your water quickly in the event of a water pipe leak and prevent costly damage. This valve is often located in a utility room or closet or in the basement. 
If your pipes do freeze, take these steps:
  • Shut off your water immediately. 
  • Thaw pipes with warm air, with a hair dryer or space heater. Do not leave space heaters unattended and do not use kerosene heaters or open flames. 
  • Be careful turning water back on. Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check pipes and joints for any cracks. 
Visit Kentucky American Water’s website at kentuckyamwater.com for more tips on water-related matters.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

City council gets audit report showing occupational-tax windfall, discusses several other topics in long meeting

By Korrie Harris, Akhira Umar and Kristi Fitzgerald
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway collected much more occupational tax than it budgeted in the last fiscal year, improving its finances substantially, according to an audit report the City Council heard Tuesday evening.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift hands Deputy Clerk Sonya Conner the $1,000 check
that former council member Johnny Wilson, standing at left, had just given the
city to help with restoration of the two African American cemeteries in the city.
The council also heard about a joint "town hall" meeting of local governments and restoration of African American cemeteries; discussed the future of the old wastewater treatment plant; endorsed a proposed two-day water competition for dogs at the dog park; and discussed other topics in a long meeting.

Audit report: Thanks mainly to new industries and businesses, Midway collected $662,524 in occupational taxes on payrolls and net profits in the fiscal year that ended June 30, well over the $500,000 the mayor and council had budgeted. They budget conservatively; this year's estimate was $550,000. In 2016-17 the budget was $400,000; in 2015-16 it was $275,000.

In 2017-18, the city took in $265,758 more in 2017-18 than it spent, according to the audit. The occupational-tax windfalls have allowed the council to reduce property taxes 25 percent thanks to the influx of occupational taxes.

The audit noted three "significant deficiencies" in the city's financial procedures, all of which were essentially dismissed by Jason Strange, a certified public accountant for Stiles, Carter and Associates in Elizabethtown, who presented the report.

In one case, five credit card transactions didn’t include source documents such as receipts. In another, the city clerk-treasurer was paid a week's sick leave in advance. “It was not any sort of malfeasance from what we understand,” Strange said. All city expenses are public records and can be accessed by filing an open-records request.

The other deficiency involved insufficient "segregation of duties over receipts, disbursements and reconciliations." For example, "The clerk-treasurer accepts cash receipts and also records the amounts . . . has check-signing authority and performs bank reconciliations without review."

Last year's audit noted some of the same items. "They're very common with what we see in small governments and small cities," Strange said. "Most folks live with this because the costs outweigh the benefit to add a layer of folks to deal with this."

Multi-government meeting: Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced that the councils of Midway and Versailles will hold a "Woodford Town Hall" with the county Fiscal Court form 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System office in Versailles.

Vandegrift said the event is meant to “engage the public in what the governments are here to do for them.” He said each one will give five minutes of introductory information, followed by an open forum for citizens to make comments and ask questions. If the town hall is successful, it could lead to more like it, the mayor said.

“I think this can be a really exciting thing,” he said. “I don’t think this has ever been done in Woodford County, or if has, it’s been a long time.” Vandegrift had pushed for a joint meeting of the governments, but the idea was quashed by the fiscal court, which is now under the leadership of County Judge-Executive James Kay.

UPDATE, Jan. 30: The town hall, called "We Are Woodford," will include state Rep. Joe Graviss.

African American cemeteries: Former council member Johnny Wilson, appearing in the opening "Citizen's Comments" segment of the meeting, proposed that the city set aside money to repair and replace headstones at the two African American cemeteries, Sons and Daughters and St. Rose.

Wilson reported that 71 of the 303 headstones need resetting, repair or replacement. He suggested that volunteers could do the repairs. Saying he was speaking "from the heart," Wilson have Vandegrift a check for $1,000, which he said represented the $450 in pay he got as a council member filling an unexpired term, plus $550.

Vandegrift said the check would be earmarked for the intended purpose. "I appreciate all your research on this," he told Wilson. "It's very meticulous." The council and the audience gave Wilson a round of applause.

Old wastewater plant: Retired Kentucky State University professor Steve Mims has leased the property from the city for several years to raise fish. He pays around $50 a month in rent and gets treated water from the current plant at no cost.

Midway paid off the debt for the sewer plant last year, which Vandegrift said changed the situation. "In my opinion, it is not worth the city being the landlord," he said. He suggested the council declare the property to be surplus and seek bids for it, which would allow Mims to buy it. “You don’t have to go with the highest bidder,” he said. “You can go with the bid that fits the property best."

The council then held a 10-minute executive session with City Attorney Phil Moloney to discuss "future acqusition or sale of real property when publicity would be likely to affect the value," a stated exception to the state Open Meetings Act. No further action was taken.

Including the executive session, the council meeting lasted an hour and 47 minutes, one of the longest in some time.

Dog event: The council endorsed the Midway Business Association's proposed “Dock Dogs” competition, which would be held at the dog park on a summer weekend -- if the MBA works out arrangements with the commercial vendor who does the events, in which dogs jump off a dock into a large pool, among other things.

The city Parks Board had approved the idea, but didn't have authority over questions about water, vendors and permits, said new Council Member John Holloway, a board member and Walter Bradley Park's unpaid manager.

The council discussed the cost and source of water, necessary permits, liability insurance, parking and other questions with MBA representatives Justin Werner and Steve Morgan. They predicted that the event would draw 2,000 to 3,000 people, with competing dogs coming from other states as well as Kentucky. DockDogs is a “premier canine aquatics competition,” its website says. 

Council roundtable: At the end of each meeting, council members are offered chances in turn to bring up other matters.

New Council Member Logan Nance requested an update on the Midway Child Care Task Force and a look into online payment of water-sewer bills.

Vandegrift said get would get the council an update on the task force. He said online credit card payments would carry a 4 percent surcharge, which has made him hesitant about residents' reactions, but "I'm all for it . . . if you all feel a hunger out there for it." He endorsed Nance's suggestion for a survey of city residents about the idea.

Monday, January 21, 2019

New state Representative Joe Graviss reports on legislative session, with a focus on education issues

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and parts of Franklin and Fayette counties

Each legislative session may be different, but nearly all share a common trait: They spend a considerable amount of time focused on education.

This year’s meeting of the General Assembly is certainly no different, with nearly a fifth of all bills filed so far falling into this category. Many more will almost certainly be added when my fellow legislators and I return to the Capitol on Feb. 5.

Two bills expected to draw significant support this year are House Bill 1 (of which I’m a sponsor) and Senate Bill 1, which are identical school-safety measures. It’s rare if not unprecedented for each chamber to designate the same bill as its top priority, but that just further underscores this issue’s importance.

This legislation is largely built on the work of a bipartisan group of legislators and stakeholders who met for much of last year. Legislative leaders brought them together following the tragic Marshall County High School shooting that claimed the lives of two students and injured more than a dozen others last Jan. 23.

In short, the legislation’s goal is to increase the number of school resource officers, mental-health professionals and school-safety coordinators within our school districts and to improve school-safety training and assessment across the state.

These bills are just starting their legislative journey, but two others are already halfway to the governor’s desk after clearing the Senate in just four days. Unfortunately, there are serious concerns with both of these proposals.

Senate Bill 3 seeks to weaken our school-based decision making councils by giving superintendents the councils’ authority to hire principals. This undermines local control and represents a fix where no solution is needed. These councils have worked exceptionally well over the years and should not see their influence diminished. If anything, we should allow them to grow by adding a seat for classified staff.

Should Senate Bill 8 becomes law, meanwhile, teachers who are fired would see a change in the tribunal system that handles their appeals. Many worry this would undermine due process and make firings less objective.

Another major education bill expected to filed this legislative session would establish a funding source for charter schools, which were authorized in 2017 but are in limbo until state financing is established.

At a time when the state can only afford about a dime extra per day for each student – and not even a single dime more for new textbooks or teacher training – we cannot afford to remove any money from our public schools. I believe we need to end this charter-school experiment even before it gets a chance to begin.

If those last few bills take public education in the wrong direction, two others I’m also sponsoring would put our children on a much better path. House Bills 112 and 113 would have Kentucky provide all-day kindergarten and preschool for every four- and five-year-old child.

Kentucky already covers half-day costs for kindergarten, but most school districts pay the other half-day themselves at a cost of about $170 million. As for preschool, Kentucky also covers half days for young children who meet income or disability requirements. Less than half of school districts extend that to full-day, however.

Budgetary matters are generally not considered during odd-year legislative sessions, but I think we need to make an exception this year for our youngest children. With many eligible preschool children staying at home, and with half of all kindergarten-aged children not fully ready when school starts, we must re-dedicate ourselves to early childhood development and not wait another 12 months. This investment will more than pay for itself in the years ahead and give our youngest generation a stronger academic foundation.

Outside of the legislative process, but still important to our children, Kentucky got a dose of good news earlier this month when state officials announced the opening of nearly 30 family resource youth services centers. That brings their total number to more than 850.

FRYSCs are an integral front-line player in our schools, because they help students with non-classroom needs like clothing, food, tutoring and health services. There is no telling how many children have succeeded in the classroom because of these centers’ help, and those running and supporting them have truly earned our appreciation.

As I mentioned, the General Assembly will return on Tuesday, Feb. 5, to complete the remaining 26 working days of this year’s legislative session. I’ve heard from many of you, but would love to hear from many more, because your input is critical to the legislative process. You can always email me at joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, and the toll-free message line – which is open during normal business hours – is 1-800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305. The General Assembly’s website has a lot of information, too. It can be found online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

Thanks for all you do, and holler anytime.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Michel offers free lunch today, spaghetti dinner Mon. to federal workers to show appreciation during shutdown

Ouita Michel
Midway restaurateur Ouita Michel is lending a hand to federal employees who didn't get paid last week because of the shutdown of about one-fourth of the Government of the United States.

Today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., federal workers can get a free "Federal Super Saver Lunch" by present their official identification at Wallace Station Deli at 3854 Old Frankfort Pike, or most of Michel's restaurants in Lexington: Zim's Cafe, 215 W. Main St.; Windy Corner Market, 4595 Bryan Station Rd.; Smithtown Seafood, 501 W. Main St.; and Smithtown at the Summit at Fritz Farm, 119 Marion St., Suite 160.

From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, the Holly Hill Inn at 426 N. Winter St. in Midway will have a free spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner for federal employees and their families. To attend, please call (859) 846-4732.

Michel told WKYT-TV that the free food won't come close to making up for the lack of pay, but will show appreciation to federal workers at a time when they need it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Two local students make Midway University dean's list

By Midway Messenger staff
Two students from Midway landed spots on Midway University’s dean’s list for the fall semester.

Adriana Dennington and Kristina Thompson met the two requirements of obtaining a semester grade-point average of a 3.6 or above and maintaining full-time status at the university.

The list named 237 students, including eight from from Versailles: Hannah Brown, Sydney Buck, Savannah Carl, Sandy Pecina, Elizabeth Pecina, Juan Perez, Cortni Troublefield and Madison Turner.

Georgetown had 13 students on the list: Alexandria Allen, Emily Bailey, Gracie Bowling, Samantha Caudill, Samantha Chambers, David Coleman, Latavia Gadberry, Mary Hamner, Jacob Hawkins, Alexis Hoffman, Sarah Onderko, Kathryn Rios, Casidy Stoltz and Madeline Wasson.

Also making the list were 28 students from Lexington and 15 from Frankfort. The list also included many students from out of state: six from Tennessee, five from Ohio, four from Texas, three from Indiana, two each from California and Georgia, one each from Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming; one each from Peru, South Africa and Spain; and 16 of the 24 Panamanian students who earned degrees in a special program.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mayor: Annex Freeney property before rezoning, clean out sewers without borrowing, pass anti-blight ordinance

New City Council members Logan Nance,
foreground; John Holloway, opposite;
and Stacy Thurman talked as holdovers
Sara Hicks and Bruce Southworth listened
before the meeting. (Click for larger view)
The Midway City Council will be asked to annex a 137-acre farm next to Midway Station before the property is rezoned, so the council can have final say on the rezoning, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Monday night.

The fate of the Homer Freeny property, which was originally supposed to be considered by the county planning commission in November, was one of several points Vandegrift made in his annual report to the council as he began his second four-year term. He said it should be annexed first "to ensure that future development will have a very significant impact on city revenue and thus on our opportunities to improve infrastructure all over the city." Vandegrift also said:
  • The city will spend "roughly $160,000" to video and clean out all the old sewer lines, without having "to borrow any money or to dip into any reserves."
  • He will renew his efforts to pass an ordinance making it easier for the city to crack down on owners of blighted property, with a new code enforcement board to handle cases.
  • Stephens Street will get edge and center lines when warn weather arrives, as part of the city's plan to slow down speeders.
  • He will appoint an affordable-housing task force to provide suggestions for infill development of housing rather than new subdivisions. "There is no appetite for new development of housing or for any kind of residential sprawl," he said.
  • City employees will be slated for a 5 percent pay raise in the budget he will offer this spring, up from the recent 3 percent annual raises.
"We've got a lot going on, and a lot left to do," Vandegrift said as he began to read the report. In closing, he said, "We’ve so far laid the groundwork to be able to improve infrastructure, to enhance our quality of life, and to truly reach a goal I talked about 4 years ago and which I now believe is firmly within our grasp: to become the model for small cities in the 21st century."

For the full text of the mayor's report, click here.