Friday, May 31, 2019

Spotlight Awards at Midway University draws record attendance and amount of money for scholarships

Advancement Vice President Tim Culver addressed the crowd at the beginning of the dinner in the gymnasium.
Midway University's sixth annual Spotlight Awards dinner Thursday night drew 275 people, the most ever, and raised a little over $100,000 for scholarships, also a record, Vice President for Marketing and Communications Ellen Gregory said. Last year's attendance was just under 200, she said.

Chef Ouita Michel received the L.L. Pinkerton Vision Award, for her positive impact on improving women’s lives and as a role model who displays great leadership, innovation and influence; and civil engineer Lyle Wolf received the Legacy Award for the time, money and service he has given to the university. He has served as a trustee for 35 years, which Michel called an unparallelled legacy.

Dessert bowls were miniature baseball helmets, alluding
to the baseball field that is under construction.
The theme of the $150-a-ticket event was "Under Construction," representing current building projects. In a video about them, President John Marsden noted recent gains in enrollment and said, "We're building so students will stay, not so they will come."

Michel told Marsden, "You have transformed this campus, you have healed divisions between the community and the university," and made it a university. She also expressed thanks to the president's wife, Margaret Marsden.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Midway to pay Versailles more for police because of one-time upgrades to that city's police department

Midway will pay about $27,000, or 16.5 percent, more for police services from Versailles in 2019-20 under figures that the Versailles police chief gave Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift today.

Vandegrift had budgeted $166,000, the same as last year, for police in the budget that he submitted to the council, but he noted at the last budget workshop that he had not received updated figures from Versailles. Under the cities' contract, Midway pays 4.25 percent of Versailles' police budget.

"Last year, our share came in at just under $166,000 of the $4,181,440 total. This year, the VPD overall budget is $4,550,880, which means our share is $193,412," Vandegrift said in a note to the council and news media today. He said the increase stems from four line items that will not recur next year. "Therefore, we can expect next year's total to go back to a number we're more used to."

He continued, "The additions are one-time costs for phone and computer system upgrades, as well as new furniture and office upgrades for the new police station. None of our portion pays for the new building itself. I support this temporary increase because the VPD does an excellent job serving and protecting us, and Chief [Mike] Murray and Assistant Chief [Rob] Young have demonstrated time and time again their commitment to continually creating a better and better police force. The officers, in my experience, are professional and polite, and any complaints that have been filed have been dealt with in a timely and forthright manner."

Vandegrift noted a Lane Report story today about a Safewise report of the 20 safest cities in Kentucky, based on crime statistics. "Because we don't have our own police force, Midway's data is included with Versailles and the county, but based on the reports for Midway that the police provide each month, if we were separated out and therefore included in this study, we would rank as one of the safest, if not the very safest city in Kentucky," he wrote. "This is no doubt in part due to the excellent service of the VPD, and I firmly believe that this request is reasonable and prudent. The new police building will only improve the service that this institution can provide, and will give our officers the most modern equipment and tools in law enforcement. I believe that we must support our police department and the officers that protect us, especially on this temporary basis."

The council's next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Its third and probably final budget workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at City Hall, with passage likely June 17. All council meetings are open to the public. The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for revenue of $1,847,813 and a surplus of $446,743, or 24 percent of revenue.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

City Council stretches out cemetery pavilion project to start funding improvements at city's three cemeteries

Two of the largest trees in the St. Rose Tabernacle Cemetery, next to the Midway Cemetery, have upended tombstones.
The Midway City Council decided this evening to stretch out construction of a pavilion at the Midway Cemetery over two years, to fund other work at the cemetery and start fixing up the two historically African American cemeteries for which the city has taken responsibility.

At its second workshop on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the council also discussed other budget changes, and a suggestion that it seek bids for engineering services on the proposed budget's single biggest item, a sewer-improvement project estimated to cost $200,000.

The council plans to finish drafting the budget at a third and final workshop at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, and enact it at its regular meeting on June 17.

The pavilion, which would provide shelter in inclement weather, is estimated to cost $45,000. The council voted to put $20,000 in the budget for pouring its concrete footers and pad, and use the other $25,000 for other improvements at all three cemeteries.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Public Works Supervisor Terry Agee has a list of work needed at the main cemetery and at the other cemeteries, including removal of trees that have upended tombstones. The mayor said Agee sees the tree removal as a five-year process, partly because removal of too many trees would upset the public.

Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee, said all the tree work in the St. Rose Tabernacle Cemetery should be done first, "so you can start to re-erect the tombstones." The work there and at the Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery will also include installation of lines and taps for watering.

Engineering firm's map of project (click on image to enlarge)
Sewer project: The council agreed in February to use up to $200,000 of its half-million-dollar-plus General Fund surplus for a project that would send a camera through the city's oldest sewer lines, east of Winter Street, to see how they need to be repaired or replaced, and then remove sludge, tree roots and other obstructions. Vandegrift put the project in the budget he proposed to the council.

Council Member John Holloway noted that $62,000 of the estimated cost is for engineering services, which presumably would be performed by HMB Engineers of Frankfort, the city's longtime consultant. "For sixty-two thousand dollars, I think we should bid out the engineering," Holloway said. He also said he didn't understand some of the terminology in HMB's description of the project, some of which seemed duplicative.

Vandegrift said "All those questions can be answered by HMB," and "I have no problem with bidding whole thing out. . . . We can ask HMB those hard questions." He said the project was originally planned for this summer, but "It's looking more like the fall."

In other sewer-system business, the mayor noted that his budget continues to invest in improvements at the city's wastewater-treatment plant, and said that he has been impressed with the work of plant operator Jack Blevins. He said when the budget was tighter, the plant was not as well kept up.

The sewer budget calls for $60,000 in capital expenses. The water budget has the same amount, up from $43,000 in the current fiscal year. Vandegrift said lot of water-line replacements are needed, as well as a gearbox replacement.

The mayor said he expects the state Public Service Commission will give Kentucky-American Water Co., the city's water supplier, a 10 percent increase instead of the 21.5 percent hike it is seeking. He reiterated that unlike last year's increase, the city will not be able to absorb the increase and will have to pass it on to customers. The city cut water and sewer rates 25 percent last year.

Other items: The city's contract for police services from the City of Versailles is budgeted at $166,000, the same as currently; the contract calls for Midway to pay 4.25% of the police budget, and for the Versailles Police Department to be in Midway 16 hours a day. From 11 p.m. to 7 a.m, police are in the Midway-Millville area, but not in the city unless they get a call, Vandegrift said.

Council Member Logan Nance said those hours are when crime might be most likely, so "It might be worth looking into them doing some overnight [patrols in the city] as well."

On another public-safety issue, Vandegrift said his estimate of $50,000 for bulb-outs, or curb extensions, at two major intersections on Winter Street is "just a guess," and the work might be done for less. The bulb-outs at the Stephens Street and Bruen Street intersections will be designed to slow traffic by reducing street width.

The budget also calls for $10,000 for new signage. Vandegrift said about half of that would go for a promotional sign directing traffic from Interstate 64 to downtown, requested by merchants. He said that it would face traffic coming off KY 341 (Midway Road) at US 421 (Leestown Road), and that he thinks the state Transportation Cabinet would allow it to be placed in the right of way.

Holloway wondered if a sign would be visible enough to guide motorists before they chose the left-turn or right-turn lane from 341 to 421. Vandegrift said it would "if you put it in the right spot." Hicks said, "If it's big enough, you would see it before you got to the lanes."

Council Member Stacy Thurman said the city needs a sign for the charging station for electric cars behind City Hall. Shown an example, Vandegrift said he would have Agee order one.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day crowd asked to 'pick up that torch' of the fallen, honor all who 'left something on the battlefield'

After the ceremony, attendees waked among the stone tablets engraved with names of Midway residents killed in wars.
Citizens at today's Memorial Day ceremony at the Midway Cemetery were asked to remember the lost potential of the lives given for the nation, to elect officials who understand "the real cost of going to war," and to "pick up that torch that these gallant people have handed to us."

So said speaker Carl Rollins, former Midway mayor, magistrate and state representative, and Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, a controversial conflict.

Carl Rollins, Vietnam veteran and former public official, spoke.
"I wasn't thrilled about going, but back then, we had the draft," Rollins recalled, noting that some made another choice: "I had no qualms about those who went to Canada."

Noting the 1.3 million American lives lost in war, Rollins told the crowd, "You think about the potential that's lost every time we lose one life." Later, he said today's Americans should pick up the fallen ones' torch "and make this country, our state and our community, live up to its potential."

Memorial Day is meant to honor the fallen, but its observances often include recognition of others who served. Rollins said Americans should also remember those wounded in battle: "There are a lot of people who returned home and left something on the battlefield."

He said that includes those with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doesn't place them on the official list of wounded. "They brought the battlefield home with them," Rollins said, "so we need to keep them in our prayers."

Before Rollins spoke, City Council Member Logan Nance, an Army veteran of Afghanistan, passed around a microphone for attendees to remember veterans in their families.

Doris Buckler of Lexington recalled her brother, Navy veteran
Edward "Pete" Woodroof of Midway, who died March 26 at 74.
"There is no bigger showing of love than to give your life for someone else," said Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, the master of ceremonies.

Rollins said the event marked the first time he had spoken to a group at the cemetery since July 4, 1997, when he was mayor and the city dedicated its memorial to Midway veterans after more than $30,000 was raised to fund it.

"I wish we could stop adding names, because I wish we could stop fighting wars," he said.

Rollins recounted the history of America's wars since the Civil War, which spawned separate Union and Confederate "decoration day" observances that became unified after World War I.

He said his grandfather and step-grandfather fought the Germans in the same unit in that war, and fought each other when his step-grandfather would get a letter from his grandmother.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Mayor's budget has 5% raise for city workers, $50,000 for curb extensions; council starts making changes

The Midway City Council has begun what Mayor Grayson Vandegrift called its "number-one legislative function," preparing the city's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The mayor led the council's first budget workshop, Thursday evening. The second workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. Under state law, a mayor proposes a budget for revision and approval by the council. The workshops are open to the public, just like any other meeting of a quorum of the council, are streamed on the Midway Government Meetings page on Facebook.

Vandegrift said his proposal is "by far the heaviest-spending budget" of the five he has proposed, "reflecting our improved position and our desire to invest in infrastructure."

The proposed budget anticipates revenue of $1,847,813 and a surplus of $446,743, or 24 percent of revenue. The city's position is improved because it is collecting much more occupational tax, mainly due to payrolls in the Midway Station industrial park.

The current budget anticipated $550,000 in occupational tax, but the city collected more than that in the first nine months of the fiscal year, about $623,000, Vandegrift said. His proposal anticipates occupational-tax revenue in the next fiscal year of $650,000, which he called "very conservative." Last year he proposed, and the council approved, a 25 percent cut in property-tax rates.

The other big percentage jump in expected revenue is from alcohol license fees, which are budgeted at $5,000 for the current year and $8,000 for the coming year, apparently due mainly to the success of The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's, the restaurant-bar combination on North Gratz Street.

On the expense side, Vandegrift said he wants a 5 percent pay raise for city employees instead of the usual 3 percent, because the city has the money and "Our employees do such a good job."

An example of bulb-outs, or curb extensions
The mayor proposes spending $50,000 for bulb-outs, or curb extensions, that would shorten pedestrian crossings of Winter Street and intersecting streets, and narrow Winter at angles to discourage speeding. Vandergrift has said the bulb-outs could be landscaped to “beautify the city.”

The budget also calls for $5,000 for new City Hall computers, $10,000 for repairs at the fire department (up from the current $5,000) and an extra $11,058 to the county Planning and Zoning Commission for use of its geographic information system, which Vandegrift said would help the city keep better track of the water and sewer system, especially after long-serving employees retire.

The council had questions about the information system, which Vandegrift said he would try to get answered at the next workshop. He said he has another motive for the move. Based on population, the city has one of the nine commission members, and the mayor said he would like it to have an additional member, but "I don't think we can get there unless we put our money where our mouth is." 

In a similar vein, he defended a proposed $1,000 contribution to the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, up from the current $500. Some on the council don't think the chamber does much if anything for Midway, but Vandegrift said refusing to help it "would send the message that Midway is isolationist."

The chamber has provided support for the county Tourism Commission, which Midway gave $1,000 last year. Vandegrift said he included no money for the commission in the proposed budget because the agency is now collecting lodging taxes from the county's first hotel, in Versailles.

The council agreed to give $5,000 to the Court Appointed Special Advocate program, which helps children involved in court proceedings. It recently expanded to the county but needs more funding to meet state requirements for supervision of volunteers. Vandegrift said his proposed appropriation of $3,350 was based on the city's difference in population with Versailles, which is giving the program $20,000. The Lexington-based program is also hoping for funds from Woodford County.

The second biggest new line item among expenses, $40,000 for interest on the mortgage on Midway Station, is expected to be only temporary. Vandegrift said he expects the Woodford County Economic Development Authority to repay the city with proceeds from land sales by the fall.

The council has three new members who are working on their first budget: John Holloway, Logan Nancy and Stacy Thurman. Holloway was the most talkative, mainly because he is also the unpaid manager of Walter Bradley Park, which has received a $10,000 grant for a performance stage. The proposed budget has an additional $12,500 for park improvements, down from $17,000 in the current fiscal year.

The stage project has become more complicated; Holloway estimated its total cost at $19,750. He said spending $9,750 of taxpayer money on it would leave enough for invasive-species control at the park, but made clear that he could take or leave the stage project. "I've been trying to get out of the entertainment business," he said, alluding to his work as head of the Lexington stagehands local.

Looking at the cemetery budget, the council discussed stretching construction of a long-planned pavilion over two fiscal years to facilitate repairs and improvements at the two historically African American cemeteries for which the city has taken responsibility. "This is going to be a giant undertaking," Holloway said.

Former council member Johnny Wilson, who brought the condition of the two cemeteries to the council's attention and donated more than $1,000 toward repairs, attended the workshop and said he was satisfied with the budget. "It's a start," he said.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

City Clerk/Treasurer Phyllis Hudson will retire May 31

City Clerk/Treasurer Phyllis Hudson, right, and Mayor Grayson
Vandegrift sit at the head of the table at City Council meetings.
City Clerk/Treasurer Phyllis Hudson, a fixture at Midway City Hall for more than two decades, will retire at the end of the month, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told City Council members and the news media today.

"Phyllis has served the City of Midway diligently and consistently for 21 years, more than a decade of that as city clerk/treasurer," Vandegrift wrote. "She leaves the city in the best financial shape it’s ever been in, and on behalf of the citizens I want to thank her for her incredible service and wish her the happiest of retirements."

Vandegrift wrote that the job opening "will begin being posted next week."

An earlier version of this story quoted the mayor as saying Hudson had been with the city 23 years. He said he spoke in error.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Council mulls bids on old sewage-treatment plant, now a fish farm; OKs cemetery ordinance, event permits

Aquaculturist Steve Mims fed his largemouth bass after the City Council meeting Monday evening. (Photo by Al Cross)
The Midway City Council faced a tough choice Monday evening: Accept the high bid offered to buy the city's old wastewater-treatment plant, by a contractor who would use the property for storage? Or a much lower bid from the retired aquaculture professor who has been leasing it for use as a fish farm?

After a closed session so they could talk about the still-secret appraisal of the property, council members punted, tabling the issue. They could consider the bids again, or advertise for new bids.

The high bid of $20,000 came from Buchanan Contracting, a Mount Sterling company that the Woodford County Economic Development Authority recently hired to do maintenance and reconstruction work on the Midway Station industrial park.

The other bid, $13,100, came from Advancing Sustainable Aquaculture Performance for Fish, a company owned by retired Kentucky State University professor Steve Mims, who has leased the facility for the last four years.

Council Member John Holloway said both bids were below the appraised value of the property, but after Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the appraisal shouldn't be discussed publicly, the council met privately for six minutes in a back room to discuss the bids. That is allowable under an exception to the state Open Meetings Act, which allows closed sessions "when publicity would be likely to affect the value" of the property being sold.

After the closed session, Vandegrift said the discussion was about what the property is worth, and Council Member Bruce Southworth moved to table the issue. The council agreed unanimously.

Before the closed session, Mims told the council that he started the small-scale fish farm because most fish supplied to Kentucky come from out of state and the state needs local suppliers. He also is promoting a hybrid bass and paddlefish, sometimes called spoonbills, whose eggs are a competitor to caviar, the eggs of sturgeon. He said ASAP Fish one of only two paddlefish hatcheries in the nation.

Sims said he got grants for a liner that stopped leaks in the plant's 160,000-gallon tank, has put more than $20,000 into the plant's pumps, plumbing and electrical wiring; and has received informal approval to take water from Lee Branch instead of the new treatment plant across Leestown Road.

Under its lease, ASAP Fish pays the city 5 percent of its gross revenue. Vandegrift said after the meeting that last year's payment was about $800, indicating revenues of $16,000. Sims acknowledged that he has a small operation, and said he has tried to focus on the "highest-value species."

"I'd really like to keep it," Mims said. "I bid what I thought I could, based on how much money I've put into the place." He said he would continue educational programs for students and businesses, and presented letters from state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and county extension agent Adam Probst endorsing his efforts to buy the property. No one from Buchanan Contracting spoke.

Holloway said the property "looks really unkempt and awful." Mims said city workers dumped some old equipment on the property, and "I didn't feel like it was my job to have the place manicured."

On another type of bid issue, the council accepted a bid of $30,856 from Paramount Roofing of Frankfort to put a new roof on the maintenance building at the Midway Cemetery. Vandegrift said the delayed project is to be completed by June 30.

Wickey Pole Buildings of Owingsville had a slightly lower bid of $30,500, but Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee, said Paramount would remove the old roof, install insulation and batting, and remove trash, work that under the Wickey bid would have to be done by city employees.

Budget workshop: Vandegrift announced the was calling a special council meeting for 5:30 p.m. Thursday to hold a workshop on the budget he has proposed for the fiscal year beginning July 1. He said the council might take action on line items.

Cemetery ordinance passed: The council enacted the new cemetery ordinance, which raises fees slightly to help restore the city's two historically African American cemeteries. Vandegrift said the increases still leave Midway competitive with Versailles and cheaper than Lexington.

Midway Station zoning: The council held first reading of an ordinance to rezone the remaining professional-office and residential property in Midway Station to industrial or commercial.

Events: The council approved a permit allowing closure of the north side of East Main Street for the Midsummer Nights in Midway series to be held by Midway Renaissance, and for the block party planned this Saturday by the Midway Business Association.

MBA President Cortney Neikirk said the event would have nine booths, including two food booths that won't compete with local restaurants. She said retailers in Midway are "struggling" due to competition from online vendors, so "We're trying to get as many people to see what we've got her in town."

The summer events have been held on Fridays, but this year the July event will be on a Saturday, July 27, because a historic steam engine will be spending the day in town as part of its trip from the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven to the railyard in Ravenna, where it will be restored by the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp.

July 27 will be promoted as Heritage Day, running from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The locomotive, ona flatbed railcar, is scheduled to be in Midway from 10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for viewing and tours. Debra Shockley of Renaissance said 300 to 400 steam-engine enthusiasts are expected, and the 1950s model of Midway, which is being restored, will be unveiled that day.

Vandegrift, who expressed concern at the last meeting about "event fatigue," suggested that Renaissance work with the MBA on its plan for pop-up markets featuring local artists and crafters. Shockley said she would discuss that with Neikirk, who by that time had left the meeting.

Woman's Club building: After some discussion, the council approved a quitclaim deed disavowing any interest in the Midway Woman's Club building at 230 S. Gratz St., to clear the way for the club to sell it. The woman who donated the house to the club in 1952 for use as a "community house" said that if the club disbanded or failed to maintain the property, it would become city property.

Club members said they are spending too much on maintenance, limiting their charitable activities. Their attorney, Jim Rouse, said proceeds of the sale would go to those activities, under the oversight of Woodford Circuit Court.

Citizen complaint: At the start of the meeting, Vandegrift had a lively discussion with Dickie Jones, who wanted more police focus on speeders in front of his home at 6832 Midway Road, and a sidewalk on the road. He said a radar speed sign at the site hadn't slowed down traffic, but Vandegrift said that was not so. The mayor said any sidewalk would have to be built by the state, since the road is US 62.

Combs also asked if the city was going to have a committee to deal with blighted property. Vandegrift replied, "Yes, when we pass the blighted-property ordinance," something the mayor has been trying to do for almost two years. The full discussion can be seen on the Midway Government Streaming Meetings page on Facebook.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Francisco's Farm Arts Fair gets no rain but some wind

This year, the music area was moved to the amphitheatre. Food booths lined the area next to the McManis Student Center.
One vendor held the frame holding up the roof of his tent as the wind
billowed the cloth on his table at mid-afternoon. (Photos by Al Cross)
The 16th annual Francisco's Farm Arts Fair went off well and windy this weekend at Midway University. Midway Renaissance volunteers said the Saturday crowd was normal, but Sunday's was down a little due to threatening weather,  which wound up being only some moderately high wind. As a result, the fair closed at 4 p.m., an hour early to protect artwork, after 350 cars had entered. Saturday, 545 entered. The average was two to three per car, Renaissance President Debra Shockley said.
Haley and Nathaniel Wyatt of Midway watched woodworker Richard Adams of London turn a maple bowl.
John and Carolyn Malarkey of Lexington talked with weavers Petty Shepard and Mary Otieno of Kingsport, Tenn.

Robert H. Conway of Georgetown, Midway churchgoer, 1 of 2 Democrats seeking ag-commissioner nomination

UPDATE: Conway won the Democratic nomination, getting 60 percent of the vote.

By Collin Kruse and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

One candidate in Tuesday’s statewide primary elections has a strong Midway connection.

Conway (left) and Trigg (Photos by Glasgow Daily Times)
Robert Haley Conway of Georgetown, who attends Midway Presbyterian Church, is one of two Democratic candidates for commissioner of agriculture.

The other Democratic candidate is Joe Trigg of Glasgow.

The job is held by Ryan Quarles of Georgetown, who is opposed by Bill Polyniak of Lexington in the Republican primary.

Conway said in an interview last month that he has been traveling throughout Kentucky, fighting for farms and their businesses.

“We’ve lost over 11,000 farms since the beginning of the decade, and bankruptcies on farms are at an all-time high,” Conway said.  “I feel like there are some problems that need to be addressed.”

Conway says he is looking to break a trend in Kentucky politics by spreading awareness of the financial troubles that state farms are experiencing. “The Republican Party, for the last 16 years, has used the office of commissioner of agriculture as a platform for their young talent to get into the state government. Farmers deserve better.”

Quarles was preceded by James Comer, who ran for governor in 2015 and is U.S. First District representative. Comer followed Richie Farmer, a former basketball star who served two four-year terms, ran for lieutenant governor in 2011 and went to prison for misusing his office.

Conway says he is an eighth-generation farmer, part of a family that has been farming in Kentucky since 1780, before it was a state. He was an executive at the General Electric plant in Louisville, but says he grew up on his family’s farm, where his grandfather stressed the importance of lending a helping hand. “It’s how we were raised as a family, and looking back on it I was very lucky to have that upbringing,” he said.

Conway, who raises cattle with his son, compares his campaign to the story of David and Goliath. “I’m not delusional,” he said. “I know I’m not going to have the type of money to win this election, but I have the message.” That message is to give Kentucky farmers the opportunities to become financially stable, and in some cases, to save their farmland.

One of the first solutions on Conway’s agenda is medicinal marijuana. “It finally got out of committee in Frankfort, but once it got out neither the House or the Senate would vote on it, and I thought that was horrible,” he said.

Conway also says legalizing recreational marijuana would give farmers another value-added crop, and ease jail overcrowding. He said he would use taxes on the crop to strengthen school and community programs.

“My concern right now is that small farmers are going to have to have somebody be a watchdog,” Conway said. “Since the first of January this year, Big Tobacco has bought into the hemp industry, setting themselves up for the near future. If that happens, it will not go well for your small farms.”

Conway said that his campaign experience has been humbling, and that there’s still a lot more work to be done. “I’m looking forward to the day when politics will be about doing what’s right, rather than choosing a side.”

Trigg said at the Fayette County Democratic dinner last month that he is for medicinal marijuana and hemp, but would limit production under a quota system like the one that was used for tobacco from 1940 to 2004, to help small and medium-sized farms.

Trigg, 60, is a member of the Glasgow City Council and an African American. He said he is a first-generation farmer with 50 beef cows, two greenhouses and the beginnings of a hemp crop. He said he retired from the Air Force after 30 years, which included 15 deployments to 10 combat zones.

For a KET story and video about the Republican and Democratic primaries for agriculture commissioner, click here. For a story from the Lexington Herald-Leader, click here. For a story about the Democratic race, from the Glasgow Daily Times, click here.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

16th annual Francisco's Farm Art Fair Saturday, Sunday

The 16th annual Francisco's Farm Art Fair will be held Saturday and Sunday at Midway University. Sponsored by the university and Midway Renaissance, the fair will have more than 100 juried artists from several states, live music and a student art display.

The event will have some new features this year. In the university amphitheater, a new “Flavors of Francisco” offering will feature “Kentucky Proud” vendors and local wine.

Midway Renaissance named the event in 2004 for for Col. John Francisco, original owner of the land on which the city of Midway was laid out by Kentucky's first railroad.

The fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Parking is $5 per vehicle, cash only. Visitors will enter through the "Delivery/Farm Entrance" (marked with signs) and be directed to park in grassy fields. Those with handicap permits will have access to surface lots. Golf-cart shuttles will be available.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

State gets final construction easement, will advertise new Weisenberger Mill Bridge for June 21 bid letting

Last June, weeds grew in the road near the bridge, which at that time had been closed for nearly two years. (Sarah Ladd photo)
By Al Cross and Kristi Fitzgerald
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The state Transportation Cabinet is preparing to advertise for bids to replace the Weisenberger Mill Bridge, after purchasing a construction easement from mill owners Mac and Sally Weisenberger — and deciding it didn't need an easement from Bryan and Julie Pryor, who live catercorner from the historic mill and the bridge across South Elkhorn Creek.

The project is in the cabinet's June 21 bid letting. That means it likely won't be completed until 2020, disappointing those who are upset about the fact that it has been closed since July 1, 2016, but it will bring to an end a controversy that has lasted most of the decade.

In any event, the Weisenbergers and the Pryors are still not happy with the state.

"I got tired of arguing with them, or just dealing with them," Mac Weisenberger told the Midway Messenger. "And the community here needs a bridge. I didn't want to be accused of holding this thing up."

Weisenberger's easement became the only remaining obstacle to the bid letting after the Transportation Cabinet decided that it could do the project without a temporary construction easement from Pryor.

The Pryors' rock wall is only inches from the road in places.
Pryor said state officials came to an April 26 meeting with a letter saying his easement was no longer needed, though "We were there to talk about solutions to my concerns. They quickly changed the conversation." The cabinet said it does not comment on negotiations.

Both couples have issues with the state that go beyond its need for the easements. 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 today that he is concerned about construction taking place near the wall, which is being undercut by drainage from the road.

The drainage is an issue for the Woodford County Fiscal Court, because Weisenberger Mill Road is a county road. The county is responsible for the bridge, but the state is doing the project in return for Woodford County doing a bridge project in Millville several years ago.

The 89-year-old bridge, a popular scenic spot, was closed on July 1, 2016 due to its old and unsafe steel infrastructure, damaged by trucks crossing while exceeding the weight limit.

The Weisenbergers have voiced concern that plans for the new bridge call for its opening to be two feet narrower than the current one, raising fears that their mill would be in greater danger of water damage when the creek is in flood. When Mac Weisenberger raised that concern, Project Manager Casey 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!”

He 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 process of replacing the one-lane bridge has stirred controversy and undergone several changes. 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, which is expected to take six to nine months.

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. They put it in the April 26 bid letting, with a tentative advertisement date of Saturday, April 6, and a deadline of April 3 to be in the ad. Then they moved it to the May 24 letting, but the Weisenberger easement wasn't ready in time, so the project now set for letting June 21.

"I’m optimistic that the project is moving forward and will not see any further delays," said Magistrate Liles Taylor, who represents the Midway area on Fiscal Court.

The bridge closure has complicated access for residents of Zion Hill, a largely African American community at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I-64 rest areas will be closed until June 11, state says

The rest areas on Interstate 64 near Midway will remain closed until June 11, the state Transportation Cabinet announced today. "The renovation operations for both rest areas continue," the cabinet said in a press release from its District 7 office in Lexington.

The rest areas, between mileposts 60.7 and 60.2, were supposed to reopen on May 3, but did so only with temporary restrooms. They are now scheduled to reopen at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 11. "Semi-tractor trailer drivers may continue to utilize the rest areas," the release said. "Temporary accommodations are in place for semi-truck drivers. All work is subject to change depending on weather, emergencies and other factors beyond the control of the Department of Highways."

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mayor objects to Kentucky American Water rate hike request, says he's shopping for another supplier for city

A concrete vault at Coach Station and Leestown roads holds Midway's supply connection to Kentucky American Water Co.
Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift formally objected to Kentucky American Water Co.'s latest rate-increase request today, and announced that he is looking for another water supplier for the city.

"I am actively talking with other water providers, to look into switching water providers, so that we can provide the same quality at a better price, free of continuing rate increases," Vandegrift said in an email to the City Council, the Midway Messenger and The Woodford Sun.

Vandegrift told the Messenger that Midway and Kentucky American are in the 30th year of a 40-year contract that the city could leave early without penalty.

"I don't want to continue to basically watch the city be held hostage by Kentucky American's latest rates," he said, adding that he expects the company to seek increases from the state Public Service Commission every two years unless the PSC denies the current request, which would be the company's sixth in 12 years.

"I want to have a backup plan," the mayor said. "Even if they get half of what they're looking for, it's ridiculous." Kentucky American's plan calls for Midway to pay 21.5% more.

Getting a new wholesale water supplier would require a new supply line, which Vandegrift said would be expensive but could easily be financed by a long-term bond issue. "I think it's a lot more doable than people might realize," he said.

Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer System map (adapted) shows
it serves a small part of Woodford County that is close to the Midway
city limits, south of the section of Elkhorn Creek that appears in red
Vandegrift declined to name cities with which he has had discussions, but Frankfort and Georgetown are obvious possibilities. The PSC does not regulate rates of cities' water systems.

Midway did not pass along Kentucky American's 2017 increase of about 10% to the city's retail customers, but in his letter to the PSC, Vandegrift said, "We will not be able to absorb another rate increase. Additionally, the hard work and planning that went into lowering our rates by 25%, all while improving our ability to invest, will effectively be offset by another rate hike."

He asked the PSC to consider "the toll these continual rate increases take on the people who are footing the bill. I watch as people come in to Midway City Hall and literally pay their water and sewer bill with pennies." The PSC will hear the rate case starting tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Vandegrift said the company's dealings with Midway undercut one of its arguments for the rate increase, the need to repair its infrastructure. "KAW has made it no secret that they wish to purchase our aging system," which needs $10 million to $20 million in upgrades over the next 20 years, he wrote. "Why would a company that needs more money to fix infrastructure also want to purchase some that they know to be ready for investment? Why would a company want to take on more debt if it can’t meet its current obligations?"

Kentucky American also says it needs the rate hike to cover increased operating costs and bolster sagging rates of return for its shareholders.

The mayor's letter concluded, "I believe it’s time KAW be told in no uncertain terms that they can no longer run a business model predicated upon the concept that they can ask, and be given, a rate increase every two years. I urge you to protect the public from unnecessary tax increases, to help Kentucky American Water take a longer look at their operations and to adjust accordingly, as we all do, whether we’re an individual, a business owner, or a city. If we, a city of 1,800 people with limited resources can make it happen, so can a publicly traded company like Kentucky American Water."

Library marks 10th birthday with ice cream social

The Midway Branch of the Woodford County Public Library held an ice cream social to celebrate its 10th anniversary Saturday afternoon.

At left, Blake Jones on guitar and Bill Penn on mandolin entertained in the reading garden behind the library, next to Walter Bradley Park.

Immediately below, Katie Porter scooped ice cream for an unidentified woman from Versailles and her daughter.

Photos by Mary Massie
(More below; captions have been corrected)

At left, Caroline Glass deals with her shoes outside the bounce house that provided a safe play place for children.

Below, in center of photo, Meghan Garrison and her daughter Millie (with back to camera) enjoyed a mobile art studio.

At bottom, Laurel Hostetter and her daughter enjoy the library.

More photos may be published later. Thanks to Mary Massie for providing these. The Messenger welcomes contributions from citizens, especially this summer, when no University of Kentucky students are available to provide coverage.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Saturday is a big day for events in Midway: Cleanup, university commencement, library's 10th birthday party

There is no shortage of things to do in Midway tomorrow.

At 10 a.m., the annual Cleanup Day effort will begin, with volunteers gathering at Northside Elementary School.

Dr. Ardis Hoven
At 11 a.m., Midway University will hold its commencement ceremonies. The featured speaker is Dr. Ardis Hoven, the first woman president of the Kentucky Medical Association. She has also been president of the American Medical Association and most recently was chair of the World Medical Association. Hoven is a University of Kentucky professor, a consultant to the state Department for Public Health and medical director of the Harm Reduction Initiative, a UK-DPH collaborative to prevent spread of HIV, hepatitis C, substance-use disorder and overdose deaths. Her father was a Midway College trustee from 1955 to 1983.

From 2 to 4 p.m., the Midway Branch of the Woodford County Library will have its 10th birthday party with an ice-cream social, local musicians Blake Jones, Bill Penn and Happy Accident, a bounce house for children, and a mobile art room, the On the Move Art Studio.

The Midway Messenger reported when the library was dedicated in 2009 that it was built at a cost of just under $1 million. It replaced the Midway Free Public Library, which had been established in 1989, originally in the all-purpose room of the Midway Presbyterian Church. It started with 1,000 books donated by the county library and was staffed by volunteers.

Charlann Wombles, a City Council member at the time, said in the concluding speech at the dedication that the libraries were examples of Midway's volunteer spirit. She said volunteers go unpaid "not because they are worthless [but] because they are priceless," and famed anthropologist Margaret Mead "may have had Midway in mind" when she said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Woman’s Club sets second annual Historic Homes Tour for Saturday, June 8, with lunch option; tickets limited

Parrish Hill at Southern Equine Farm, a repeat stop from last year's inaugural tour (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
Adapted from a press release

The Midway Woman’s Club is giving visitors an intimate look inside more interesting homes in the Bluegrass during its second annual Historic Homes Tour, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 8.

Homes chosen for this year’s tour were owned by longtime Midway families, including the Starks family, creators of Starks' Headache Powders; the Parrish and Roach families, distinguished thoroughbred breeders and supporters of what is now Midway University; and the Hicks family, noted farmers and business owners.

Also on the tour are the Midway Presbyterian Church, ca. 1870, and the nearby Sons and Daughters of Relief cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Midway, the burial place of veterans and several prominent African-American community leaders who were former slaves. The cemetery is also believed to be where famous horseman Edward Dudley Brown is buried in an unmarked grave.

Stops on the tour are:

Benson Bungalow, c. 1870s — The home’s interior, designed by owner Judi Benson, has been featured on HGTV.

Starks-Thurman Home, pre-1835 — One of Midway’s oldest residences, this home was occupied for decades by Richard S. Starks, who created Starks’ Headache Powders, a popular medication in the late 19th century and well into the 20th century.

Cooper-Wilder House, 1908 — This American Foursquare house was built by an editor, owned by educators, and lived in by prominent Midway families.

Hicks Home, 1923 — Built by Ben and Hallie Gay Parrish, this home has been loved by the Walden and Hicks families for many years. It was constructed in the Federal style with a lovely front porch.

Southern Equine — Another look at this grand home and former Parrish Hill Farm, where several thoroughbreds of note were bred, including Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic. This home was one of the most popular stops on the inaugural Historic Homes Tour, and is seen in the new film "Midway to Love."

Midway Presbyterian Church, 1870/1909 — This Gothic Revival edifice, constructed of stucco on brick, with stunning stained-glass windows, has been a Midway landmark since it was built. The lot was deeded in 1840 from the Lexington-Ohio Railroad to be used as a school and a church lot for this new town built by the railroad.

Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery — the oldest cemetery in Midway and final resting place of veterans as well as former slaves who became leaders in the town’s African-American community.

Tour tickets are $20 with lunch ticket option (details below) and are available online at Eventbrite, bit.ly/2VV7mdd, and at Railroad Drug and May & Co. on Railroad Street; Marketplace on Main, 116 E, Main St., Versailles; and The Rag Peddler, 250 Walton Ave., Lexington. At the store locations, only cash or checks will be accepted.

The Woman’s Club is also offering Tour with Lunch ticket, which includes the tour and a three-course gourmet lunch at the Holly Hill Inn, another former Parrish family home (not on the tour). Seatings will be at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Tour with Lunch tickets are $50 each (includes tax and tip), and are available on Eventbrite only.

The number of tickets is limited. Houses are not handicapped-accessible, and the tour is self-directed. It begins at Northside Elementary School, 500 Northside Drive in Midway, where ticket receipts must be redeemed for admission booklets. No photography is allowed.

Proceeds will benefit the Woman’s Club, a non-profit group dedicated to helping Midway families and the community. For more information, go to bit.ly/2VV7mdd, Eventbrite.com, the Midway Woman’s Club Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MidwayWomansClub/, or email midwaywomansclubky@gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Midway U., Ky. Community and Technical College System announce agreement to help students transfer

Midway University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which is based in Versailles, have signed an agreement to facilitate transfer of KCTCS students to Midway.

The agreement calls for, among other things, identifying students likely to consider transferring, and improving advising services and transferability of credits. Upon a student’s acceptance to Midway University, he or she will be enrolled in the Midway Connection program, providing access to a degree-audit system. The program is available to students aiming for the traditional day-undergraduate program or the evening and online program.

“We are pleased to provide an ease of transferring process to KCTCS students,” Dr. Mary Elizabeth Stivers, the university's academic vice president, said in a news release today. “We have always worked with KCTCS students and have had many graduates who first attend or earned a degree from KCTCS and have valued our partnership over the years.”

KCTCS Chancellor Kris Williams said providing more transfer opportunities for students is of utmost importance. “We want to make sure KCTCS graduates have as many options as possible for a seamless transfer experience,” she said. “We are pleased that Midway understands our students and their needs and will provide specialized advising and other services for them during the process.”

Monday, May 6, 2019

City Council passes resolution endorsing resettlement of refugees in Ky.; meanwhile, mayor fears 'event fatigue'

With some disagreement but not much debate, the Midway City Council passed a resolution Monday night endorsing the resettlement of refugees in Kentucky and asking other towns in the state "to join them in supporting a stronger national effort to resettle refugees around the world in need of a home."

The vote was 4-2, with Council Members Bruce Southworth and Kaye Nita Gallagher voting no. "Sorry, Logan," Gallagher told the resolution's sponsor, Council Member Logan Nance, as she voted.

Southworth said the resolution wasn't needed. "This is a federal issue, not a local issue," he said. "This is an issue more for the churches than the government, at a local level."

Logan Nance
Nance, an Army veteran of Afghanistan, replied that there's nothing wrong with a city saying "We welcome you . . . It would be very weird to live in a place where I don't speak the language and I don't have a home. So for some place to say 'Hey, we welcome you,' it is a symbolic thing, but at the same time I think it's a powerfully symbolic thing."

Earlier, Nance said refugees' world has changed, "and they're just trying to find a place . . . they find a place here that is now their new home, so anything we can do to make them feel welcome, I think, is a great thing."

Gallagher, saying she was relaying questions citizens had posed to her, asked Nance why Midway would be the only city in Kentucky to pass such a resolution, and if refugees "do end up moving here . . . who is going to help pay for them to be here?"

Nance said cities like Louisville and Lexington "are probably afraid [to pass such resolutions] because of the backlash they would get." He said refugees are self-sufficient after six months, and are helped by Kentucky Refugee Ministries every day, teaching them English and American culture.

Council Member Sara Hicks said she had worked as a family therapist with refugees, and "They were very honorable and good people." As a child-abuse investigator, she added, "I never had a refugee case, ever. I never had a juvenile-delinquent case."

Council Member Stacy Thurman said, "Gestures like this have to start somewhere," and Council Member John Holloway said, "Absolutely." Thurman said "Logan could have easily backed off of this," but took under advisement comments made at a public forum on the issue.

Nance said he redrafted the resolution in partnership with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. An earlier version was modeled after one prompted by Amnesty International, a group criticized by some opponents of the original resolution.

The public reaction to the original resolution surprised city officials. Gallagher said she thought when she first heard of it that it would pass without controversy, but "We've gotten more flak over this than we did about the Fairness Ordinance, which I think is weird."

In 2015, soon after Mayor Grayson Vandegrift took office, the council passed 4-2 an ordinance he offered to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Gallagher and Southworth voted for it, as did Hicks, the only other current member who was on the council at the time.

Vandegrift said he also was surprised at the opposition to the refugee resolution, but said, "The political situation in America is different" than it was in 2015.

The closest the resolution comes to political commentary is: "The number of refugees allowed into the United States has been slashed to the lowest number in decades," though "there are more refugees in the world today than at any time in recorded history." Last year, President Trump, who made immigration a central issue of his campaign, limited U.S. refugee admissions to 30,000, a record low.

The resolution supports refugees' resettlement in Kentucky "no matter their religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or country of origin" and says Midway "is a welcoming community that celebrates diversity and inclusivity."

About 15 people attended the council meeting. Vandegrift opened the floor for comments, but suggested that those who had spoken at the forum defer to others. No one rose to speak.

Vandegrift, who took no public position on the issue, said before the vote, "The democratic process won out again," and "This city will move forward as a united city."

Other business

The council tabled the Midway Business Association's application for an event permit that would allow it to close the north side of Main Street for pop-up "Makers' Markets" and roving musicians on May 25, June 14, July 12 and Aug, 9, after no representative of the association appeared and Vandegrift said, "There's already talk about event fatigue this year."

The mayor said the schedule, along with Midway Renaissance's Midsummer Nights in Midway, would result in the closing of one side of Main Street every two weeks. He also said he wanted to know "who's benefiting from this financially."

The application says the purpose of the event is to "promote downtown Midway." When MBA event coordinator Elisha Holt discussed the plan with MBA members at their monthly meeting last week, she said they would mean that an event would be scheduled somewhere in the county "every single summer weekend."

The council also:
  • Approved this year's sidewalk-repair program, which will involve 11 projects in which the city will pay up to $1,000 of the cost. Vandegrift said some walks to be fixed are among the worst in town, and "I think everyone's going to get a good deal because this is a lot of sidewalks." The city will issue a request for proposals by contractors; Vandegrift said it would include provisions for protecting as many trees as possible. Pictures of the sidewalks to be repaired are in the council meeting packet, a 10-megabyte PDF downloadable here. Gallagher abstained from the vote; one of the properties is hers.
  • Appointed Dan Rosenberg and Rich Schein to the Affordable Housing Task Force, chaired by Thurman (who abstained), bringing its membership to seven. Vandegrift said Rosenberg, a bloodstock agent, can reflect horse-farm interests, and Schein will serve "ex officio" because he is the city's representative on the Woodford County Planning Commission.
  • Appointed local architect Kevin Locke to the county's Board of Architectural Review, the planning body that considers applications for zoning variances in historic districts.
  • Heard Vandegrift announce that former mayor and state representative Carl Rollins will speak at the Memorial Day ceremony in Midway Cemetery, set for 10 a.m. May 27. (An earlier version of this story gave the wrong time; Vandegrift said he misspoke.)
  • Heard Nance say that several names will be added to the veterans' monument in the cemetery, "one of the best veterans' monuments in the state, bar none," and that there is still time to submit additional names to the local Veterans Committee.
  • Heard Vandegrift say that he hopes to have a proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 late this week or early next week.
The council heard an appeal for funding from Melynda Jamison, executive director of CASA of Lexington, which runs the program for court-appointed special advocates for children involved in court proceedings in Woodford County. She said the nonprofit recently expanded to the county, with $20,000 in funding from Versailles, and is "very hopeful" for funding from the county. "We are there for what's in the child's best interest," she said.

Jamison said the program expanded to Bourbon County about three years ago, and is fully funded by the county and Paris, but the Woodford County position is not fully funded. She said the county has 26 volunteers and state law requires such agencies to have one supervisor for every 30 volunteers. She said 79 cases of child abuse were documented in the county last year.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Ex-council member continues effort to fix up old African American cemeteries; fee hikes would fund some work

Google Maps image, labeled by Midway Messenger
By Tyler Parker
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The old saying “Put your money where your mouth is” is something previous Midway City Council member Johnny Wilson has no problem doing when it comes to the town’s historically African American cemeteries.

At a council meeting in January, just after he had serve out an unexpired term, Wilson raised the issue of the St. Rose and Sons and Daughters of Relief cemeteries.

Wilson reported to the council that 71 of the 303 headstones in the cemeteries need resetting, repair or replacement, and gave $1,000 to help fund the work.

 “I know what little money I put in is not good enough to fix everything, but it’s a start,” Wilson said in an interview. “There’s history there. You want to respect the people that come before you and what they’ve done in Midway.”

Another recently departed council member, John McDaniel, said in an interview, “John definitely put the pressure on them, when he handed them that money.”

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift thanked Wilson for his dedication to the cemeteries, but in a later meeting said that the process of getting them fixed up “will take time.” Meanwhile, a committee of council members concluded that the upkeep of the cemeteries will be more complicated than it initially seemed.

Johnny Wilson
Wilson kept up his campaign at the April 15 council meeting, donating another $250, this time earmarking in for work at Sons and Daughters. He also gave $250 to have a tree planted with his name in Walter Bradley Park, “a crabapple or persimmon tree, to fit my personality.”

Wilson also said he thinks there will be funding for the cemeteries in the upcoming budget.

Vandegrift told the Messenger that he plans to fund the work with part of the extra revenue from increasing cemetery plot prices, which would be raised by an ordinance the City Council is considering.

St. Rose Cemetery is located on West Stephens Street just past the Midway Cemetery, while Sons and Daughters is located at the end of West Bruen Street. and the two cemeteries are about two-thirds of a mile apart, along the northwestern limits of the city.

Wilson said in the interview that a Memorial Day walk through the city’s three cemeteries prompted his eagerness to get the stones repaired. “Compared to the main one, the African American cemeteries were in really bad shape,” he said. “The tombstones were down and some were broken. Trees had even taken over some of the gravesites.”

Generally, upkeep of the two African American cemeteries has been the sole responsibility of the families of the deceased. Wilson and McDaniel contend that since the last burial in either cemetery was in the late 1980s, and many family members of the deceased are no longer in Midway, the cemeteries should become the responsibility of the city.

 “I’m disappointed that the city couldn’t take care of them,” Wilson said. “It was very disappointing to see the shape they’re in and no money to fix it.” He said the costs will surpass “well over $1,000.”

McDaniel said, “Some of the stones are difficult to read now. I would like to figure out who is there and at least put a marker to recognize those people.”

Both Wilson and McDaniel mentioned that markers on the stones are an ideal goal for them, as well as regular maintenance and repairs to the stones that no longer have a base and that have been heavily damaged by weather.

The chair of the council’s Cemetery and City Property Committee, Sara Hicks, proposed at the committee meeting on May 1 that the city provide markers for graves in the Midway Cemetery, if one hasn’t been provided after one year.

The committee added the provision to the proposed ordinance that would increase the price of a single grave from $650 to $750 and increase the cost to open and close a grave to $700 rather than $600. Vandegrift had already approved temporary markers for each grave, which will be provided to families of the deceased two days before the funeral, but with an expectation that each family will provide a permanent marker.

UPDATE: Due to the amendment, second reading and possible passage of the ordinance will be delayed until May 20, Vandegrift told the Messenger.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Restrooms, but that's all, open at I-64 rest areas

UPDATE, May 3: The eastbound rest area is open again closed, due to  now that plumbing issues have been resolved, the state announced at 2:11 p.m..

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced Thursday the east and westbound rest areas on Interstate 64 in Woodford County are open temporarily on a limited basis. A renovation project began in January for both facilities that was expected to be completed Friday.

Temporary restrooms are open at both facilities, but until 7 a.m. Monday, the lobbies in both facilities will remain closed, and vending machines cannot be accessed, the cabinet said.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Council Member Logan Nance revises resolution endorsing resettlement of refugees in Kentucky

Midway City Council Member Logan Nance has revised the resolution he introduced to have the city endorse the resettlement of refugees in Kentucky. The action part of the resolution remains the same, but some of the "whereas" paragraphs giving the reasons for it have changed.

For example, the first paragraph of the original resolution said refugees "are forced to flee their country because they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group." The new version simply says they "are individuals forced to flee their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster."

The second paragraph, which refers to children, adds that "some [are] traveling alone, and none . . . can return home due to extreme vulnerability." A later passage that said some refugees are "torture survivors, people with severe medical conditions [and] LGBT individuals" no longer appears. Also deleted was a paragraph about few refugees allowed to come from certain countries, all but one with Muslim majorities.

The new resolution removes other material and adds information about the economic benefit of refugee resettlement and says "Refugees who resettle in Kentucky communities are a reliable, eager, legal labor force for employers and industry" and "offer determination, grit, perseverance, and a strong desire to succeed and build a better life for their families."

It also adds that refugees live in Woodford County, says "churches and community members in Midway have sponsored the resettlement of several refugee families in the area," and calls Midway "a welcoming community that celebrates diversity and inclusivity."

Nance explains his thinking in a piece submitted to the Messenger. The council is scheduled to consider the resolution Monday, May 6.

Nance explains why he is sponsoring resolution

By Logan Nance
Midway City Council member

On Monday, May 6, I will be reintroducing a resolution to the rest of the City Council. The crux of the resolution is the following:

“The City Council of Midway, Kentucky, declares its support for the resettlement of refugees no matter their religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or country of origin in Kentucky and calls upon other Kentucky communities to join them in supporting a stronger national effort to resettle refugees around the world in need of a home.”

Logan Nance
This resolution, which I wrote, has the support of Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM), a local organization that coordinates refugee resettlement in central Kentucky and provides integration assistance services for them. KRM believes that such a resolution will go a long way in making refugees in the region feel more welcome and will allow Midway to publicly proclaim that we set the standard for what it means to be a welcoming community.

As a United States Army veteran I have seen up close and personal the plight of displaced persons who are forced to flee their homes to seek refuge because of war, natural disaster, and persecution. When I learned about similar resolutions that have been done in many other cities across the country, but never in Kentucky, I knew that it would be perfect for Midway. The resolution commits us to do nothing more than we are already doing. We have several churches and families in Midway that have sponsored the resettlement of refugees and we have refugee families who have joined churches in our community. Writing and introducing this resolution in Midway made all the sense in the world.

As I researched more about the data behind the refugee crisis I was surprised by several things. I had no idea that refugees granted resettlement in the United States are the most vetted individuals to come into our country. At a minimum it takes three years for numerous government agencies to perform the necessary background checks on refugees selected for resettlement, and often it can take longer than a decade. All through this process the refugees are forced to remain in the country to which they originally fled, often in camps with little access to food, water, and medical aid. I also had no idea that the average refugee pays the U.S government around $21,000 more in taxes than they ever receive through any kind of welfare payments, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

When the resolution was first introduced many people thanked the council for tackling such an important subject, and several people vocalized or wrote their objection to the resolution. Some of the objections I anticipated, while others I did not. A common objection I heard was simply misinformation. For some people they hear or see the word “refugee” and they think “illegal immigrant,” when in fact the two are complete opposites. Another objection was the inclusion of Amnesty International (AI) in the discussion, or the role Midway should play in tackling this topic.

I could never change everyone’s mind to come around to my way of thinking, and that's OK; there are some issues of which I could not be swayed to see differently. That being said, after the public forum on the resolution I took the time to think about some of the comments and rewrite the resolution to better fit Midway and without the assistance of AI. I support the work that AI does in support of refugees, and while I may not support everything they do or believe in, I can at least find good in their desire to help others. As far as Midway’s role in discussing a global issue like the refugee crisis, I believe that our communities’ importance can not be overstated. In times like these I believe that small-town America is more important than ever. Midway is the best community in the world, I truly believe that, and it is up to us to lead the way for the rest of the world by showing them how we treat each other.

The new resolution, which includes some new language, maintains the same "resolved" section as before. I am going to do my best to post the resolution around town so that people without social media can view it before we vote to adopt it, or not adopt it, on May 6.

This resolution was not my attempt to tackle some heavy partisan issue; it just seemed like the right thing to do. Several thousand refugees, predominantly from the Congo, have been resettled in the region, including Woodford County. 25.4 million refugees worldwide are in need of resettlement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Only about 1% of those refugees will ever be resettled.

The goal of this resolution was to educate citizens on refugees so that they can better understand their plight and if so moved find an organization like KRM or AI to volunteer with, and for Midway to lift its voice with other like-minded communities to call on a stronger national effort to resettle refugees around the world who are in need of a home.