Tuesday, April 30, 2019

PSC schedules public meeting Monday, formal hearing May 14, on Ky.-American Water rate hike requests

Adapted from a Public Service Commission news release

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will conduct a meeting in Lexington Monday evening, May 6, to provide information on and receive public comments about the rate increases requested by the Kentucky-American Water Co., including a 21.5% increase in wholesale water sold to Midway.

“This meeting will allow the public to learn about the PSC’s ratemaking process and Kentucky American Water’s application and to present their views directly to members of the Commission as we prepare to consider whether the proposed rates are fair, just and reasonable,” PSC Chairman Michael Schmitt said.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 6 at Bryan Station High School, 201 Eastin Road.

The formal hearing of the case, with presentation of evidence, will be held at the PSC offices at 211 Sower Blvd. in Frankfort, beginning at 9 a.m. May 14. The hearing, which may last several days, will be open to the public. Written comments will be accepted through the conclusion of the hearing. The evidentiary hearing may be viewed live on the PSC website.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said when the rate hike was proposed in November that it was "absurd" and he planned to protest it.

Kentucky American says it needs the added revenue to recover increased operating costs, continue replacement of aging infrastructure and bolster sagging rates of return for its investors.

The company is also seeking authorization for an annual rate-adjustment mechanism that would impose a surcharge to cover the cost of infrastructure repairs and replacement. The annual adjustments, which would be a separate line item on customer bills, would be subject to PSC review and approval, but through a process less extensive than that in a rate case. In its application, Kentucky American Water says the adjustment mechanism would lead to less frequent and smaller base rate adjustments. The PSC, in a 2013 rate case, rejected the idea, saying it would not accelerate the pace at which the company is replacing aging water lines. The proposal was removed as part of a settlement agreement in the 2016 rate case that increased average residential bills by about 8.5 percent.

In August 2018 the PSC decreased Kentucky American’s rates to reflect the reduction of the federal corporate income-tax rate which took effect in January 2018.

The Kentucky American application and related documents are available on the PSC website, psc.ky.gov. The case number is 2018-00358. Written comments will be accepted at the meetings. Written comments also may be mailed to the PSC at P.O. Box 615, Frankfort KY 40602, faxed to 502-564-3460 or e-mailed from the PSC website.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dr. Jim Roach's second book, Vital Strategies in Cancer, reflects his integrative-medicine approach

Dr. Jim Roach
By Kristi Fitzgerald
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

“Wow, I’m a doctor now. Now, what?” So said Dr. Jim Roach when he got the title. He wanted to be more than just a typical physician, so he became active in Habitat for Humanity, then focused on smoking, a sensitive subject in a big tobacco state. “The next decade was philosophy, and finally I’m headed on this pathway.”

That pathway is integrative medicine, a form of medical therapy that combines practices and treatments from alternative medicine with conventional medicine. It led him to write his latest book, Vital Strategies in Cancer, which focuses on integrative medicine strategies to combat cancer.

It dives into the spiritual and holistic methods of healing, characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease. Roach places emphasis on de-stressing, cultivating a sense of peace within oneself, forgiveness, energy work, proper nutrition, botanicals, and more.

“Learning those strategies and connecting in spiritually can be transformative and that’s what I try to do with all my patients,” Roach told the Midway Messenger. He called Vital Strategies in Cancer  “the most comprehensive book, to date, that has been written on this topic.” It is available on Amazon.

“This book has 630 references, 458 pages so it’s very comprehensive, but perhaps the most important aspect is the incorporation of spirituality,” said Roach. That connects with his previous book, God’s House Calls, about his patients’ near-death experiences.

He explained why spirituality can be such an important component to healing: “My mother died in a car wreck New Year’s of 1994 and I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. I’ve been able to spiritually work through that and I’m fine with it now, but at the time it was tough,” said Roach. “With cancer, you have a chance to mend fences; you have the opportunity to share with special loved ones and with family how much you care about them. You can live in the moment.”

Asked why more medical professionals don’t take a holistic or spiritual approach to cancer, he said, “There are financial incentives to go the pharmaceutical route, to go the chemotherapy route because it makes money for hospitals.”

Roach says he has seen the results in numerous patients that he has treated over the years and would like to share his cancer-fighting methods with cancer patients, doctors, and anyone who would like to learn about preventative measures one can take to live a healthier life. “If you stop worrying about dying,” he said, “that’s the perfect catalyst for healing.”

Roach said he has cancer patients from Rhode Island, Maryland, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. “Overall, I have had patients with many different health conditions from perhaps 30 states,” he said. “Having twelve years of clinical experience, I have seen the results with my patients.” He operates the Midway Center for Integrative Medicine.

Roach said he has “trained under some of the top cancer specialists in the country,” been published in Nutrition and Cancer: An International Journal and the Cancer Strategies Journal, spent over 13,000 hours studying and researching various topics, and seen over 10,000 patients, who have granted him a deeper understanding of cancer and how to heal people, according to the book's website. “I want to see what other doctors can’t fix because by being thorough you can accomplish so much more,” he said.

Roach said Vital Strategies in Cancer can be beneficial for everyone: “This book helps you to appreciate life while you’re here, how to get the most out of life, and how to stop worrying.”

At 67, Roach, says he has no plans for retiring. He continues to work to create better lives for his patients and to inform the public about spiritual and holistic ways to live a healthier and happier life through his book and medical practice.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Midway University Spotlight Awards May 30 will raise money, honor chef Ouita Michel and engineer Lyle Wolf

By Akhira Umar
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University’s annual Spotlight Awards is “under construction” and will be unveiled May 30. This year will mark the school’s sixth time hosting its largest annual fundraiser.

The theme for this year is “under construction” because arriving guests will be led through a “living construction gallery” showing short videos of the various projects the university is undertaking. It is hoping to get visitors to embrace the renovations underway around campus, said Ellen Gregory, the university’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Ouita Michel
As its name implies, the Spotlight Awards is an award ceremony as much as it is a fundraiser. Two active community members will be honored at the event. This year the honorees are Midway chef and restaurateur Ouita Michel and civil engineer Lyle Wolf.

Michel will receive the Pinkerton Vision Award, given to someone who has had a positive impact on improving women’s lives either directly or as a role model who displays great leadership, innovation and influence.

As the owner of multiple Kentucky restaurants, including Holly Hill Inn in Midway, recipient of local and national accolades, and an active member in several organizations, Michel is an easy fit for the Pinkerton Vision Award. Gregory said the school is honoring Michel for “all that she’s done in her career, as a mentor to others, and as a strong female leader in our community.”

Lyle Wolf
Wolf, co-founder and former president of Lexington-based GRW Engineers and 35-year trustee of the university, will receive the Midway University Legacy Award. This is an honor given to someone who has “given of time, money, service to the university over the years,” Gregory said.

As president of his company from 1967 to 1991, Wolf grew the firm to a multi-million-dollar business regularly listed in the Engineering News Record’s Top 500 Design Firms. He has served on the board of numerous organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Rotary Club. He joined the university’s Board of Trustees in 1983 and is one of the longest-serving current trustees. Five other Midway University committees have had Wolf as a member, and he also served as vice chair of the campaign that helped raise funds for the construction of the Anne Hart Raymond Mathematics and Science Building.

The Spotlight Awards invitation calls for all the university’s supporters to come enjoy a night of food and socializing while also encouraging them to continue contributing to the community.

“It’s to raise funds for the university, for student support, student scholarship,” Gregory said. “You know, Midway, we rely on our donors and our partners to fund our scholarships and help us.”

The evening will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Piper Dining Hall, located in the McManis Student Center. A buffet-style, sit-down dinner will follow with the award ceremony starting at 7 p.m. A live auction will accompany the event, offering “experiential” items like a two night stay in Boca Grande, Florida, and a dinner for eight made by Spotlight Award honoree Michel and her chef friends.

Tickets are on sale for $150 each and $1,200 for a table of eight, payable through online registration, which ends May 15. More information about the event is on its website and its Facebook page.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Church plans to locate in Midway Station and provide child care, something long sought by city officials

Midway Station, which is finally meeting Midway's economic and budgetary needs, is about to fill another need: a day-care center that would be operated by a church that wants to buy and build on six acres in the development.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority board voted Friday morning to pursue the sale to Journey Ministries Inc., which has a church on Leestown Road in Franklin County, near the Woodford County line. It is not affiliated with Journey Church on Lexington Road in Versailles, EDA Chair John Soper said.

Soper told the EDA board that the church plans to build a facility that will seat 400 people and include an "educationally based child-care center modeled after the facility started by Pastor Gary L. Brown in Georgetown," Journey Ministries said in a news release that Soper distributed at the board meeting. Brown said in a telephone interview that the facility is at Grace Church, pastored by his son.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the board, "I don't think I can overstate how important this is going to be for our city. . . . People are literally driving 30 minutes in the opposite direction from their work to get good day care."

The release said Journey Ministries also "wants to create and offer private-sector business options at the site; these may include a coffee shop, a doughnut shop and other entrepreneurial opportunities." Soper said the various enterprises are expected to create 70 jobs in two to three years, exceeding EDA's goal of 10 jobs per acre.

EDA Chair John Soper points to the lots in Midway Station
that would be optioned for sale to Journey Ministries Inc.
Journey would pay EDA $300,000 for 6.128 acres, less than EDA's target price of $65,000 an acre, but Soper said the "slight discount" is justifiable because it would buy multiple lots and some common property that would have otherwise gone to a pending property owners association.

The tracts were already in the process of being rezoned from professional-office and residential to highway commercial. A church can locate in any zone with a conditional-use permit, zoning director Pattie Wilson said. The EDA board voted to be a co-applicant with Journey Ministries to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for the permit.

Soper said that when the idea of a church in Midway Station was first suggested, he thought, "What are you talking about?" but then saw that with the other enterprises, "They'll have activity in that park seven days a week," which would encourage development of highway-commercial lots nearer Georgetown Road and allay any weekend security concerns of industries in the park.

Soper and other EDA members also cited the benefit to families in Midway. Maria Bohanan said it would make the town more attractive to families with children, perhaps boosting enrollment at Northside Elementary School.

Vandegrift said his wife Katie, who chaired the Child Care Task Force that the City Council created in 2017, feared that its work had gone for naught, but he said Journey Ministries had cited the survey that the task force had taken to establish the need for day care in Midway.

"This is a big deal for us, and really, for the whole county," he said.

County Judge-Executive James Kay said Midway Station or Versailles could be a potential location for a pediatric mental-health group that has made the county its prime target for its third location, which would bring 20 jobs.

Kay said the group has facilities in Benton and Elizabethtown, and wants a facility that would be closer to Eastern Kentucky, to address great needs there. One plus, he said, is the relocation in Versailles of Frontier Nursing University, which has a psychiatric degree program with a child specialty.

Kay said the facility would have 48 in-patient beds, requiring an agreement with the county schools for education of the young patients. He said the the county school board is to discuss the idea Monday night.

Soper said the cost of land in Midway Station "might seem daunting to them," but if the group is interested, he would be willing to consider granting unusual six-month option for purchase of property while the facility obtained a certificate-of-need permit from the state because "the upside to the community on this would be so great."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Carroll says he will retire, endorses Graviss to succeed him in Senate; Vandegrift considers run for the House

State Sen. Julian Carroll (Legislative Research Commission photo)
By Steve Stewart
The State Journal

Former governor and current state Senator Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, won’t seek re-election next year and has endorsed state Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, as his successor.

Graviss, a former McDonald’s franchisee who won election to the state House in November, told the Frankfort Rotary Club on Wednesday that he plans to run for the seat, which covers Franklin, Woodford, Anderson, Owen and Gallatin counties.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger Wednesday night that he may run to succeed Graviss. " I’d love to bring my experience as mayor of Midway to Frankfort in representing the 56th District," he said in an email. "There’s still nine months until the filing deadline, and I need to discuss it more with my family, but I’m strongly considering it."

Carroll said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon that he informed members of the Senate Democratic Caucus several months ago that he would retire at the end of his current term on Dec. 31, 2020, and that he would support Graviss in the 2020 election.
State Rep. Joe Graviss (LRC photo)

“I told Joe some time ago that I thought he was the most qualified candidate who had talked to me about running,” Carroll said. “He’s done an outstanding job already as a new member of the House. He has been very knowledgeable with the ability to stand on his feet and express himself well and I know that he would be very helpful to our caucus in raising funds and helping elect and re-elect members of our caucus. For that reason, I told him I felt like he was the most qualified candidate that I could think of and that he would have my support.”

Carroll’s retirement will mark the end of a political career that has spanned nearly six decades, including service as governor from December 1974 to December 1979.

A Paducah-area native who turned 88 on Tuesday, Carroll served five terms in the state House, including as speaker from 1968 to 1970. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1971 and assumed the governorship in 1974 when Gov. Wendell Ford was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1975, Carroll sought and won a full four-year term as governor.

After many years of practicing law in Frankfort, and running in the 1987 Democratic primary for governor, he returned to elected service by winning the Senate District 7 seat in 2004. He was re-elected three times, twice without opposition. The other time, he beat Graviss in a primary.

In 2017, the Senate Democratic Caucus removed Carroll as caucus whip after Spectrum News reported allegations by a male photographer that Carroll had groped him and propositioned him for sex in 2005. Carroll refused Senate Democrats' call for him to resign.

Graviss represents House District 56, covering Woodford County and parts of Franklin and Fayette counties. He succeeded Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, who did not run for re-election last year, opting instead to run unopposed for Woodford County judge-executive. Graviss won 57 percent of the vote in beating Republican Dan Fister.

Information for this story was also gathered by the Midway Messenger.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Council hears more good news on Midway Station, holds first reading of cemetery ordinance

By Korrie Harris
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway probably won’t have to resume paying interest on Midway Station after all, due to pending property sales, the City Council heard Monday evening.
The council also heard first reading of an ordinance that will raise cemetery-lot prices to fund upkeep of the two largely abandoned African American cemeteries in the city.

Midway Station: Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper said the EDA has approved three tentative sales of property, with one other contract waiting for approval at the EDA meeting this Friday.

EDA Chair John Soper spoke to the City Council.
“We’ve got $800,000 in contracts that we’re in various stages of doing,” Soper said, adding that the buyers could employ more than 100 people in two to three years.

Soper said the sales prospects mean that the city and county probably won’t have to resume paying interest on the Midway Station debt, as was expected in February when developer Dennis Anderson terminated his option on the property, which he maintained by paying the interest.

“We may not be able to pay it July 1,” Soper said. “You all may have to pay it, but I think of these four, that by August or September we’ll have at least two of these closed so we can reimburse you.”

Soper said from the $800,000 in sales, about $480,000 will go toward the principal of the note and the remaining balance should be around $300,000. That cash on hand will allow the EDA to maintain the property.

Recently, Midway agreed to do one or two rounds of mowing at Midway Station while the EDA bid out the work. The city will be reimbursed for fuel and labor, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said it took the mowers 23 hours to get Midway Station to “where it is now.”

Soper said, “It looks like something somebody is wanting to sell.”

Midway Station, developed in the 1990s, was largely a failure for 20 years, leaving Midway and the county with $6 million in debt borrowed to buy and develop the land.

Soper quipped, “In my former life, I was a banker and we loved to see development loans paid out in 15 to 18 months and this is going on 15 to 18 years so it’s time, it’s time.”

Vandegrift said, “You’ve done an amazing job, and I think that it’s becoming pretty clear that after all this time, 20 years, that Midway Station has turned into a success story and everything looks like it’s going in the right direction.”

Soper said the EDA is concentrating on the industrial side of Midway Station because the EDA thinks the “demand is there” and is starting to put “feelers” out on the commercial lots, zoned B-5, but plans to address that after the industrial side gets moving.

“The more we get in on the industrial side, the B-5 will become more valuable as we go on,” Soper said.

Cemeteries: Vandegrift said first reading of the proposed cemetery ordinance could wait, due to some council members having concerns about it, but he went ahead after Council Member Sara Hicks made the request to read the ordinance. 

Hicks chairs the Cemetery and City Property Committee, which proposed changes to the cemetery ordinance. For example, the cost of a single grave would increase to $750 from $650; and opening and closing a grave would cost $700, instead of $600.

Vandegrift said the idea was to get some money to help create a perpetual-care fund to help maintain the two closed African American cemeteries in Midway that “can’t generate revenue on their own,” the Sons and Daughters of Relief and Saint Rose Tabernacle graveyards; and to install markers for unmarked graves.

The extra revenue wouldn’t be dedicated directly to the replacement of markers, Vandegrift said, because the council should be able to discuss each budget cycle to “determine the needs of the budget and the needs of the cemetery” to decide how much to put in the perpetual fund “going forward.”

He added, “You can’t really compel future councils to adhere to this, I’m afraid. I mean, you can try, but I think it gives future councils more leeway to decide each budget cycle how much money goes into the perpetual fund.”

Former Council Member Johnny Wilson, who drew attention to the African American cemeteries in January by donating $1,000 for their restoration, presented two $250 checks to the council to go toward the Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery and Walter Bradley Park.

Wilson told Council Member John Holloway that he would like a tree named after him, “a crabapple or persimmon tree, to fit my personality.”

“Persimmons are great trees,” said Holloway, who manages the park.

In other business, the council:

   Approved Vandegrift’s nomination of Cynthia Bohn, owner of Equus Run Vineyard in Midway, to the county Tourism Commission for a three-year term.

“She’s really a kind of expert in all things tourism, so she’s a good pick,” Vandegrift said.

   Heard the mayor say that the application deadline for cooperative sidewalk repairs ended on March 31, and 10 projects signed up.

“The ones who needed to do it the most stepped up,” Vandegrift said.

He said the city will get measurements of repairs, take photos and present them to the council for approval. Once approved, there will be a request for contractors to work the project.

   Heard Jeffrey McGuffey, representing the U.S. Census, say that census takers are needed.

The job has three parts, he said: validating addresses, helping people to go paperless, and going to the homes of people who don’t respond.

McGuffey said the “temporary, part-time, flexible” work will start in July and the pay will be $14 an hour.

“The count is very important,” he said.

To apply go to www.2020census.gov/jobs or call 855-562-2020.

   Accepted bids totaling $3,582 for equipment that the council had declared surplus.
Tom Walton and Lauren Lancaster both bid $500 on a mower, and Vandegrift broke the tie with a coin flip. Walton was the winner, but Lancaster was the successful bidder on three other items, all $20 or less. The bid tallies are in the council packet, available here.

   Heard Elisha Holt, representing the Midway Business Association, announcing that “pop-up markets” would be held in Midway from 7 to 10 p.m. June 14, July 12 and Aug. 9, all Fridays for “artists, craftsmen and strolling musicians.” 

   Approved an event permit for the American Diabetes Association Bicycle Race. It will be on June 4 from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The cyclists will start at Keeneland and finish at Keeneland, riding through Midway and stopping at Walter Bradley Park.

In the roundtable that ends each council meeting, Council Member Stacy Thurman, manager of the Midway Public Library, announced that the history of Walter Bradley Park will be discussed at the library on April 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Bourbon War unlikely to reach Derby, as Saturday's races make him 25th, but stablemate wins the Ben Ali

UPDATE, April 13: Saturday's Derby preps moved Bourbon War down to 25th in Kentucky Derby points, but it was overall a good day for Midway's Bourbon Lane Stable. Bourbon Resolution, its four-year-old son of New Year's Day, won his first stakes race with an upset win of the $200,000 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. Bourbon Resolution, going off at 18-1 under Chris Landeros, won the 1 and 1/8-mile race by four and a half lengths over Nun the Less in 1:38:45. Bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stables, he was bought for $125,000 by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, which races as Bourbon Lane Stable, at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale in July, The BloodHorse reports.

By Abbey Huffman
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway-connected horse Bourbon War is still pointing towards the Kentucky Derby after a fourth-place effort in the Florida Derby March 30.  Based on the points system that limits the Derby to the top 20 horses, Bourbon War is on the bubble of getting into the May 4 classic at Churchill Downs.

Bourbon War’s connections think he is a better horse than his performance in the Florida Derby, where he picked up 10 points for a total of 31, ranking him 21st.

Jockey Luis Saez rose after Maximum Security beat Bodexpress
in the Florida Derby. 
Bourbon War, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, is shown
finishing a close fourth.
(Photo by Derbe Glass via Paulick Report) 
The eventual winner, Maximum Security, was the pacesetter and set slower fractions, which was to his advantage.  Bourbon War, being a closer that comes from off the pace, benefits from a faster pace set by speed horses.  Trainer Mark Hennig said he thinks a faster pace and cleaner trip could have helped Bourbon War finish in the money and pick up 20 points or more. 

"I don't think there's any doubt (the pace) had a large impact on us at least not being third, for sure,” Hennig told a BloodHorse reporter.  “I'm not saying we were going to win the race or anything, but I'd like to think with a little pace we could have been a little closer.”

This year’s Kentucky Derby trail has been wide open.  Out of 24 prep races so far, there have been 22 winners, and only two horses have won twice. War of Will, No. 10 in points, won the Lecomte and the Risen Star, and Tacitus, No. 1 in points, won the Tampa Bay Derby and last Saturday’s Wood Memorial. No. 9 is Haikal, owned by Shadwell Stable, which has a large farm on Leestown Pike west of Midway.

Bourbon War’s connections say they like his chances if he makes it to the Derby on points.

"We'll see how things will shake out, but we don't want to go to the Kentucky Derby unless we can win it,” said Jamie Hill of Bourbon Lane Stables, based in Midway. They co-own the horse with Lake Star Stable, and Bourbon War would be the first Kentucky Derby horse for either.

“Getting a fancy box seat to watch the race sounds nice, but we won't go unless it's the right thing to do for the horse,” Hill said. “The horse takes you to the Derby, you don't take him there.”

Looking ahead, Bourbon War’s chances of making it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May are out of his control.  The final two prep races are Saturday; the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park offering 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth; and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland offering 20-8-4-2..

Any horse above Bourbon War in the standings might not enter the Derby due to injury or another reason, but there are a few horses that could leapfrog Bourbon War on Saturday.  One is Improbable, a talented Bob Baffert-trained colt who has 25 points and is in the Arkansas Derby.  A finish of fourth or better would put him in the top 20.

Alternatively, the Arkansas Derby could be as simple as a new name winning the 100 points, and this year’s Derby trail trends suggest that could very well happen. 

In the Lexington Stakes is Anothertwistafate, which has 30 points.  Just a fourth place finish would earn him two points and allow him to leapfrog Bourbon War. Saturday may be decisive.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

50 attend, 17 speak at forum on refugee resolution; 8 favor, 5 oppose, 4 are skeptical or offer alternatives

Former city council member Johnny Wilson addressed the council and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, right.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Seventeen people stood up Monday evening and gave arguments for, against and skeptical of a proposed Midway City Council resolution that would endorse resettlement of refugees in Kentucky without discrimination.

About 50 people who attended an hour-long City Council forum at Northside Elementary School heard advocates argue that the resolution would reflect Midway's values as a compassionate community, and opponents argue that the city has better things to do and shouldn't follow the lead of an outside group that is running a national campaign.

There were other arguments on both sides. Eight of the 17 speakers supported the resolution and five opposed it, while four expressed skepticism or suggested alternatives.

Amnesty International representative Lee Birdwhistell started the discussion by explaining the resolution, offered by Council Member Logan Nance. The group has been asking local governments around the country to pass such resolutions since January 2017, when President Trump took office after a campaign that made immigration a central issue.

Birdwhistell said the Midway resolution is intended "to educate, to help counter narratives of anger, hatred and fear. . . . We're trying to facilitate a dialogue about what it means to be a welcoming community for all people."

She noted that the resolution wouldn't require anything, commit any resources, or bring any refugees to Midway, but she made arguments aimed at addressing fears of them. "Refugees are the most vetted group to be admitted to the United States," she said, because a typical case takes 18 to 36 months and involves at least six federal agencies. Most are children, she said: "These are not dangerous bad actors."

To arguments that the issue isn't Midway's problem, Birdwhistell said, "It's a reality for 22.5 million people, and that's too high a number to say it doesn't matter to us." The United Nations says there are 25.4 million refugees, 5.4 million of them Palestinians.

A rebuttal came from the first local citizen to speak: Johnny Wilson, who recently served an unexpired term on the council. He said, "I'm not against refugees coming in, I'm against the resolution," because "They're already coming in" and "We don't have the housing here, or the money." The resolution does not call for resettlement of refugees in Midway.

Wilson said the national situation with immigration is "volatile," and "There's a lot of troubles in this world, and we can't solve them all. Let's do what we can for the city first."

Doug Elam of Weisenberger Mill Road said likewise: "This community struggles with enough issues, much less somebody coming in and wanting to impose this kind of stuff. We can't take care of the world."

Peggy Richardson of the 100 block of South Turner Street challenged the council to "work toward affordable housing and transportation, so that we can invite not only refugees, but other diverse populations to our community." She said the resolution would be "hollow and shallow if we're not willing to follow it up by really being a welcoming community by providing affordable housing and transportation. Fix those two problems first."

Becky Fisher, of the 200 block of South Gratz, earlier mentioned the need for more and better housing. "Be careful to take care of the people who are here," she said. "We don't have places for people to live. . . .You need to make a lot of resolutions if you're gonna do this one."

Her husband, Sam Fisher, said earlier that refugee matters are best handled by individuals, churches, charities and communities, not local governments, because it is a divisive political issue. "It's going to create further polarization of our community," he said.

But David Shaw, of the 100 block of West Stephens Street, said passage of the resolution would point out that compassionate feeling our community has. Shaw said he has worked with a refugee family for two years and they are "among the nicest people I've ever met."

Several others spoke likewise, including longtime civic activist Helen Rentch, who said welcoming people from other cultures "brings a tremendous richness to our lives, to see how people look at the world," and the area's horse farms couldn't survive without immigrant labor.

Some speakers objected to Amnesty International's involvement, but Rentch said she sends the group $25 every December because it "speaks for the people who are political prisoners around the world."

Cindy Karrick of Northridge Estates said the organization has become more political, getting into issues such as arms control and climate change, and a small, nonpartisan government shouldn't align itself with such a group.

"Perhaps a sensible compromise for Midway would be to draft our own welcoming declaration, with actions behind it," Karrick said. "It seems as though we need a little more accepting and welcoming of ourselves in accomplishing our goals of inclusiveness."

Nance said after the forum that he didn't plan to change the resolution because it wasn't solely an Amnesty International product. "I worked with them to write this," he said.

Nance, an Army veteran of Afghanistan who was elected in November, said he was "overwhelmed by the turnout, overwhelmed by the great conversations that were started here today. This is one of the proudest moments of my life, to have these kinds of conversations in this kind of setting. . . . I'm very proud of my city tonight."

Vandegrift said afterward that he would let the council decide when to vote on the resolution. In opening the forum, he said that no matter the outcome, some citizens will be disappointed  and others will be thrilled, "But that should not be the end of the story." He said it should be that "We disagreed on an issue passionately but peacefully."

The mayor had likened the forum to one he held on the city's 2015 ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He said after last night's forum, "There never was as much public opposition to the fairness ordinance as there is to this, and I don't know what that means." He acknowledged that the national political situation is different than it was four years ago.

The forum was moderated by Tad Long of the Kentucky League of Cities. Each citizen speaker was allowed three minutes.

UPDATE, April 10: Amnesty International field organizer Tony Goodwin, asked to reply to remarks about the organization, said in an email that it "is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization working to defend the human rights of all people. As the world faces a global refugee crisis, Amnesty International USA members and supporters are committed to building communities that are welcoming to refugees. Support for refugee rights is not a political issue. Unfortunately, however, it has oftentimes become politicized."

Friday, April 5, 2019

Legislative report: Graviss lauds failure of bills on teacher-retirement board, private-school funding

By Joe Graviss
State representative, Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties
Legislative sessions are mostly remembered for laws that are enacted, but for some people, keeping a bill from the governor’s desk is a victory, too.
            When the General Assembly wrapped up its work late last month, for example, teachers were especially pleased to see that two of the bills they strongly opposed never even came up for a vote in the House, much less the Senate.
            The most significant of those would have changed how the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System’s Board of Trustees is chosen.  In that case, teachers would have seen their authority to nominate seven of the 11 trustees drop to one, with another nominated by retired teachers.  The others would have been nominated by several educational organizations, bankers and CPAs, even though current law already requires two trustees to have investment experience.
            KTRS is one of the state’s best-funded public retirement systems and measures up well when compared to its counterparts in other states, so this proposal was simply unnecessary.  We shouldn’t tinker with a formula that is working well.
            The same can be said of another misguided education bill, which in this case would have provided up to $25 million in tax credits for those who donate to private-school scholarship funds that are used to help families afford tuition costs.
            There is a serious legal question whether this could even be allowed under the state constitution, and at a time when the current two-year budget has no money at all for new textbooks or professional development for teachers, this bill is not something we can remotely afford. Think KERA and why all that happened.
            Sometimes, bills that are popular in one legislative chamber fail to gain traction in the other.  This year, three major bills cleared the House with near-unanimous support but failed to move any further in the Senate.
            One bill would have increased the state income-tax exemption for all retirees to $41,100, which is what had long been on the books before being dropped by one-fourth as part of last year’s major tax overhaul, which I opposed.
Older Kentuckians fully affected by the 2018 change saw their income taxes go up by $500.  Unfortunately, we will have to wait another year before being able to help these citizens, many of whom live on a fixed income.
Just as the Senate was hesitant to pass this bill, it also blocked legislation that would have rolled back some of the $215,000 raise – that’s right, a six-figure raise – that Gov. Bevin gave last year to a longtime friend of his who serves as the state’s chief information officer.  This puts that official’s salary well above anyone else’s in a comparable position in other states.
A third House bill (one I co-sponsored) that the Senate chose not to act on would have improved harassment laws for the Legislative Branch.  Had this bipartisan and reasonable response to two scandals over the past five years passed, those who serve in or work for or with the General Assembly would have had greater protections from harassment.
Some bills that weren’t approved this year appear to be gathering steam.  Perhaps the most popular would have legalized medical marijuana, which would have added Kentucky to the 30-plus states that have already taken this or similar steps.
More than half of the 100 House members signed on as co-sponsors, and a committee approved the bill overwhelmingly, and yet it still never came up for a vote in the House.  This legislation was a reasonable compromise and would have given some needed relief to many citizens who suffer from such things as seizures.  This could also have played an important role in fighting Kentucky’s ongoing opioid epidemic.
Sports wagering is another activity spreading to a growing number of states, following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made this form of gaming legal outside of Nevada.
If this year’s bill had passed, it would have set aside most of state government’s portion to help pay down the long-term liabilities facing our public retirement systems.
            One of the regrets I have about this legislative session is that many worthwhile bills were never even given serious consideration.  One would have raised the state’s minimum wage, which hasn’t been increased since 2009, and another would have given voters a chance to restore voting rights to felons who have served their full sentence.  This has garnered widespread support in the House in recent years, and it’s past due to be approved, since only one other state – Iowa – is still enforcing rules as tough as Kentucky’s.
            Overall, this year’s 30-day legislative session covered quite a lot of ground, and while the time to pass new laws is over for the year, the General Assembly’s work will continue when House and Senate committees begin meeting jointly in June.  During this interim, which runs through early December, other legislators and I will review issues affecting the state and prepare for the 2020 legislative session.
            With that in mind, it is never too late to let me know your views about this work.
            You can email me at joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 is available each weekday.  If you have a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305.
The General Assembly’s website, meanwhile, is www.legislature.ky.gov
Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

City council changes budget to expand street repairs

The Midway City Council approved Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's request to spend more money on streets by approving a budget amendment at a special meeting this evening.

As discussed on first reading by the council Monday night, the change adds $75,000 to the street budget, to cover up to $200,000 worth of paving and other work. The money will come from unanticipated revenue, unused snow-removal money, and the budget for building a pavilion in the cemetery, which was delayed by rainy weather.

Vandegrift wants to add curb installations and storm sewer repair on Stephens Street, paving of Starks Alley and curb repairs on North Winter Street. Engineer Joseph Mosley told the Messenger that a larger project would more attractive to contractors, perhaps resulting in more competitive bids.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Council creates housing task force, starts to expand this year's street work, discusses sidewalks and trees

By Korrie Harris
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media 
       The Midway City Council created a task force Monday evening to help with the lack of affordable housing, and affordable land for housing, in Midway.
       The council also took the first step toward expanding this year’s street work, heard Mayor Grayson Vandegrift say he will keep taking applications for sidewalk-repair subsidies, and had a lively discussion about removing trees as part of fixing sidewalks. 
       Vandegrift said the affordable housing task force will make recommendations and suggestions to the full council on a “difficult topic.”
Midway Council Member Stacy Thurman, chair of the new
Affordable Housing Task Force, listened as Mayor Grayson
Vandegrift talked about the need for it and how it would work.
       With the council’s approval, Vandegrift appointed Council Member Stacy Thurman, who will serve as chair; Freeland Davis, who the mayor said has worked with Lexington on similar projects; Xon Hostetter, a public defender who lives in Midway; Rob Mills, the owner of Damselfly Gallery; and possibly Susan Cottingham, who works for Kentucky Housing Corp. and is waiting on her general counsel’s approval to serve, Vandegrift said.
       Asked after the meeting why the task force was needed, the mayor said he has heard many people say they wish they could find affordable housing in Midway. “A lot of people end up moving to Versailles because it’s cheaper,” he said. “It’s cheaper to buy, it’s cheaper to live.”
       One thing the task force will look into, Vandegrift said, is what affordable housing means in Midway. “Everybody seems to have a different definition for it. So, what do we need as Midway?”
       He had part of the answer, saying that affordable housing in Midway shouldn’t be defined as Section 8 housing, in which rent is subsidized by the federal government. “We don’t mean Section 8. Sometimes people think we mean that, and we don’t mean that,” he said. There are a few Section 8 apartments in the city.
       Also, Vandegrift said he isn’t looking for the development of new subdivisions. “Our focus is going to be on infill, to not expand the urban service boundary,” inside which housing can be built, he said. “We actually have quite a bit that’s even zoned residential, believe it or not, but whether it’s for sale or not is another question right now.”
       “We need to establish what kind of housing do we need, what do we mean by affordable housing,” to see if there are ways to “help facilitate people to build within an urban service boundary where they’re able to build right now,” he said.
       Vandegrift said he would stay out of the task force's work, and chose Thurman as chair because she “showed an interest and she has the leadership.”
       Thurman said her interest comes from the lack of moderately priced housing. “We’ve looked for something between North Ridge [Estates] and kind of a little step up, then you get to these $300,000 homes – there’s not a lot in between,” Thurman said.
       She also said that when Lakeshore Learning Materials located in Midway, several workers or prospective workers came by the local library, which she runs, to ask about housing.
       Thurman, who got the most votes in the last council election, said the task force will take “a lot of ground work . . . face-to-face, and having conversations.”
       Asked if the task force would take an inventory, she said, “That’s the first thing I’d like to see, is where all those lots are and who the property owners are.”
       Vandegrift said, “I think this task force work is gonna take some time.”
       Street project
       The council heard the first reading of an ordinance to increase the street-repair budget by $75,000 to include up to $200,000 worth of additional projects that Vandegrift proposed at a special meeting last week.
       The money will come from unanticipated revenue, unused snow-removal money, and the budget for building a pavilion in the cemetery, which was delayed by rainy weather.
       Vandegrift wants to add curb installations and storm sewer repair on Stephens Street, paving of Starks Alley and curb repairs on North Winter Street.
        Joseph Mosley, an engineer with HMB Professional Engineers, said all the planned street work could be completed by June 30, the end of this fiscal year, at a cost of no more than $200,000.
       “If for some reason we got into to the project and it took longer than June 30, we would just have to reflect that in our next fiscal year budget,” Vandegrift said. Mosley said the contract could include a completion date to “discourage them from going past that date.”
       In expanding this year’s street work, the city might get more value. Mosley told the council that he expected the work to attract “some people who haven’t bid here before,” and he told the Messenger that was because the overall project would be larger and more attractive to contractors.
       The mayor said he would like to have a second reading of the ordinance in a special meeting this week. UPDATE, April 3: The meeting has been set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4.
       “I would hate to waste two weeks just waiting for the projects,” Vandegrift said.
       Sidewalks and trees
       The mayor said he plans to extend the application deadline for cooperative sidewalk repairs, which was March 31, for another week because people are still inquiring about it.
       “I think we’ve got about seven or eight applicants so far. We can do as many as 15, theoretically. So, we might as well add as many people into this as we can,” he said.
       Nance asked if there are some property owners who need to be “targeted” to apply because of the “dangerous nature” of their sidewalks. Vandegrift said he wrote a letter to the owner of property across from the post office and told them that “it was in their best interest to apply because it can save them money.”
       “Otherwise, it would be up to the council and the council has the right for ordinance to force the work to be done and we can basically put a lien on their property for it,” he said.
        The mayor brought up the need to cut down some trees, which have caused sidewalk damage, in order to make repairs and that would be controversial.
       Council Member John Holloway expressed his concern about “cutting down a lot of trees on Winter Street” and suggested a new sidewalk could “bump into the trees and “then go around.” Vandegrift said that would be difficult in most cases, unless the property owner is willing to move a fence back.
       Council Member Logan Nance said the sidewalk on Winter in front of Midway Baptist Church has become a hazard for parents attending Midway events with children in strollers. “I see families doing it,” he said. ”"It’s dangerous and embarrassing,” he said.
       Holloway told Vandegrift, “I’m just asking you to be sensitive to the fact that, I mean, some of those trees are hundreds of years old. So, there’s no one in this room that’s gonna be alive when a new tree would be as big as that.”
       Vandegrift quipped, “I know if we cut down a tree in Midway, my phone’s gonna start blowing up because I cut down a tree. I know it. I’ve seen it happen before.”
       He said the city would replant “street trees,” but Council Member Sara Hicks said they didn’t have to be ornamentals such as dogwoods, and could include slightly larger trees.
       Mowing for others
       The mayor said Midway has worked out an agreement with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority to do one or two rounds of mowing at Midway Station while the EDA bids out the work. The city will be reimbursed for its labor and fuel, he said.
       He said the interest in Midway Station is “remarkable right now” and there are three contracts of property sales about to be signed, with many others looking at the industrial and commercial park.
       However, two businesses that expressed an interest have expressed concern about how the property hasn’t looked so good in the last five years, Vandegrift said. “Why would you want to buy a property knowing that the property next to you looks terrible?” he asked.
       The mayor said he planned to continue mowing at the recently opened ambulance station this summer on the city’s dime. At the end of last year, when the station opened, Midway mowed as a “courtesy,” Vandegrift said. 
       “I think it’s a reasonable request,” he said. 
       Council Member Bruce Southworth said he didn’t have a problem with the mowing but preferred to have a written contract.  The mayor said Midway and the Woodford EMS will work up a contract and bring it to the council.
       Upcoming events
       The council agreed to a request by Elisha Holt and Jon Maybriar, with Francisco’s Farm Arts Fair, for city employees to help them set up the event, which has been done in the past.
       The event will take place on May 18-19. Holt said it will include Kentucky Proud food vendors, artists from several states, music and a student art display. For more information on the event, see www.franciscosfarm.org.
       Vandegrift went over arrangements for the public forum on the proposed resolution endorsing refugee resettlement in Kentucky, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9 at Northside Elementary School.
       The mayor said he will give a brief welcome, then someone from Amnesty International will give a five-to-10-minute explanation of the resolution, and a moderator from Kentucky League of Cities will continue the remainder of the forum.
       “It’s intended for it to be a listening session for all of us,” Vandegrift said. “We will sit together but separate from the audience.”
       The mayor said the tentative plan calls for citizens to speaks no more than three to four minutes each.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Weisenberger Mill bridge ready for bids, except for construction easements, held up by lingering issues

Last June, weeds grew in the road near the bridge, which at that time had been closed for nearly two years. (Sarah Ladd photo)
This story, originally published April 1, has been updated.

By Kristi Fitzgerald
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet wants to advertise the new Weisenberger Mill Bridge for bids this week, but lack of temporary easements for construction could delay the project.

The bridge was among the projects in the cabinet’s April 26 bid letting, with a tentative advertisement date of Saturday, April 6, and a deadline of April 3 to be in the ad. Negotiations for the final two construction easements continue, according to Natasha Lacy, a public information officer at the cabinet’s District 7 office in Lexington.

Lacy said the project has been moved to a May 24 bid letting, with a tentative advertisement date of May 3. If the easements are not purchased three weeks prior to the letting date, the project will be moved to August.

That would push completion of the new bridge until 2020. Construction is estimated to begin about one month after the bid letting and to be completed six to nine months after construction begins, Lacy said. Two of the four construction easements have been purchased, she said.

The holdouts are Mac and Sally Weisenberger, owner of the historic mill for which the bridge is named, and Bryan and Julie Pryor, who live in a recently built home catercorner across South Elkhorn Creek from the bridge. Both couples have issues with the state that go beyond its need for the easements.

Bryan Pryor said at a public hearing in August that he is obligated by a historic easement to preserve the wall surrounding his property, made partly of worn-out millstones from the mill. He said this week that the easement extends his property line to the middle of the road.

The rock wall on the Pryors' lot uses worn millstones from the mill.
At some places, the wall is within inches of the pavement.  It was damaged a few years ago by one of the many tractor-trailers that have been guided to the bridge when their drivers seek shortcuts without regard to the bridge’s weight limit or the limited capacity of the roads leading to the bridge.

The Pryors said they need to be cautious about public statements because their situation is more complicated than it appears.

“We are not prepared to have construction right-of-way discussions with the state until protective solutions for the wall and issues concerning the usage easement across our property, to the bridge, are resolved with Woodford County,” they said in an email. “The state Transportation Cabinet has repeatedly said the project is from bridge end to bridge end, and that approachways were not part of the project.  Conversations with Woodford County are still in process but not concluded.”

Woodford County Magistrate Liles Taylor, who represents the Midway area, said he and County Judge-Executive James Kay and County Attorney Alan George are not only trying to work out those issues, but find an overall solution that will get the bridge built as soon as possible.

Mill owner Mac Weisenberger declined to comment other than to say, “I am hopeful that the bridge will be completed this year.”

Weisenberger has voiced concern that plans for the new bridge call for its opening to be two feet narrower than the current one, raising fears that his mill would be in greater danger of water damage when the creek is in flood. When he raised that concern with Project Manager Casey Smith last June, Smith said state engineers looked at that, and “They did not see a significant rise out of it.”

Weisenberger then wrote the state, “Where is the proof this won’t cause additional flooding? We haven’t see any report. We will wait until you present us with a No Rise Certification and proof that vibration won’t cause ANY damage now or in the future to the Mill building, equipment, machinery, employees and/or dam. Do you really think we, Weisenberger Mill, will just sit back and not demand reasonable answers?” In capital letters, he added, “We have a business to protect!”

Weisenberger also wrote, “We have been frustrated beyond belief throughout this project. . . . Everyone who utilizes the bridge is totally frustrated with the delays of this project.”

The replacement of the bridge has been a topic of concern for about six years and even more so since its closing on July 1, 2016. The bridge was built around 1930 and was closed due to its old and unsafe steel infrastructure, damaged by trucks crossing while exceeding the weight limit.

The bridge is on a county road, but the state is doing the project in return for Woodford County doing a bridge project in Millville several years ago. The creek is the Scott-Woodford county line; under an agreement with Scott County, Woodford is responsible for maintaining the bridge.

The process of replacing the one-lane bridge has undergone several changes drew the attention of and surrounding residents.  The state’s first plan was for a two-lane bridge, but changed that to one lane after the public voiced concerns that would detract from the scenic, historical site and cause accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side of Weisenberger Mill Road.

The design of the bridge, and the delay in replacing it, have sparked much debate. Since the bridge has historical significance and would be replaced by the state, 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, all of which have pushed back construction.

Mapquest map, adapted, shows how the bridge closure has isolated Zion Hill.
Last year, state officials said they expected construction in 2020, but said there was a chance it could be done in 2019.

“I’m thrilled that we are this much closer to getting this project started and hopefully completed this year — three years after the bridge was closed,” Taylor said.

“With recent flooding on Browns Mill Road, the isolation of area residents is more clear than ever,” Taylor said. “Completion of this project is first and foremost vital for public safety, impacting emergency response times and access on both sides of the bridge.”

Browns Mill Road, Old Frankfort Pike and Paynes Depot Road have been used as alternate routes to access Zion Hill, a largely African American community, since the bridge was closed.

Isaac Hughes, a Zion Hill resident, expressed his concerns about the possible delay of the project, saying that he is “worried that the easements for the right of way will hold things up even further.”