Wednesday, July 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Photos from Midsummer Nights in Midway

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

Video of steam locomotive arriving on Saturday

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Railroad scale model a big hit at Midway Heritage Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Bob Gibson is running for open seat in state House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Brereton Jones is the honoree for the Thoroughbred Club of America's 88th Testimonial Dinner Sept. 27

Brereton and Bret Jones (Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt)
Directors of the Thoroughbred Club of America have chosen former governor Brereton C. Jones of Midway, a leading American horse breeder, as the TCA's 2019 Honor Guest, to be honored at the club's 88th Testimonial Dinner at Keeneland Sept 27.

"Governor Jones' commitment and success in the Thoroughbred industry, along with the state of Kentucky, make him a deserving recipient of the Honor Guest award," TCA President Katherine LaMonica said in a news release.

Jones, 80, was governor in 1991-95. He served as a Republican in the state legislature in his native West Virginia, then moved to Kentucky and became a Democrat in 1975 when he married Elizabeth "Libby" Lloyd. With their son Bret, they operate Airdrie Stud, which has bred more than 150 stakes winners (including more than 20 Grade I winners) and earners of nearly $100 million.

In recent years, the Joneses have raced more, and they and trainer Larry Jones (no relation) won the Kentucky Oaks in 2015 with Lovely Maria, in 2012 with Believe You Can and in 2008 with Proud Spell, who also won the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and earned an Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding three-year-filly.

As governor, Jones was instrumental in creation of the Kentucky Breeders' Incentive Fund, which uses sales tax from Kentucky stallions as awards to benefit all types of Kentucky-bred horses. He is a founding member of the Breeders' Cup and the Kentucky Equine Education Project. In 2008 he received the Warner L. Jones Horseman of the Year Award for outstanding service to the industry.

The TCA Testimonial Dinner was begun in 1932, the year the club was founded, to recognize distinguished contributions of leadership and success in the industry. Winners include owners Alice Chandler and Josephine Abercrombie, three generations of the Hancock family of Claiborne Farm, trainer Shug McGaughey, jockey Chris McCarron, and retired Keeneland Association president Ted Bassett, the Joneses' closest neighbor on Old Frankfort Pike.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Mayor leaves state House race, citing 'unsettling feeling in my gut' every morning since he entered it a week ago

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Although no one in this field likes to “flip-flop,” I’m going to own up to this one. One week after declaring my candidacy for state representative -- a week where each morning greeted me with an unsettling feeling in my gut, I’ve decided to stay where I am and remain mayor of Midway for at least the next three and a half years.

I came to this conclusion solely on my own. The outpouring of support and even money that flowed in this week is truly humbling, but I have to go where my heart wants me to go, and my heart wants me to stay put. To those who were excited for this prospect of me running for state representative, I sincerely apologize, but I know you understand that I can’t be me if I can’t be authentic. While I will likely want to follow my passion for public service into higher office someday, I don’t want to leave the current office I occupy anytime soon. I love it too much, and my heart is in finishing the job I was elected to do.

Therefore, I am retracting my letter of intent for state representative, returning the money I’ve raised, and settling in to continue what we’ve started with no distractions. I will continue to push the agenda of major infrastructure repair, of sustainable growth, of lower utility bills, of better services, of better housing, of fairness for all people. And, I will continue to work to improve the relationships within our county, particularly between Midway, Versailles, and the greater community. And, as I have for the last four and a half years, I will continue loving the honor and privilege of serving as mayor of the greatest small town in America.

Toastmasters set special public meeting in Versailles

Midway Toastmasters say they will hold a "bonus meeting" for the public Saturday, July 27, from 10 a.m. to noon at Woodford County Public Library in Versailles.

Cynthia Lanham will facilitate a viewing and a discussion of Darren LaCroix’s winning speech in the 2005 World Championship of Public Speaking. "Learn how to take your speech from the ordinary to extraordinary," they say.

Arlynn McMahon, Rick Sebree and four others will also speak. "Arlynn believes that we don’t have to be standup comedians to find the humor in life and she’ll be using her husband as a case point," the Toastmasters say. "Rick will be tackling a more serious subject as he encourages his audience of factory employees to shape up or the factory will close."

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

City councils, Fiscal Court to have 'historic' joint meeting Aug. 13 to discuss 'age-friendly' ideas, youth council

The city councils of Midway and Versailles will hold a joint meeting with the Woodford County Fiscal Court from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System headquarters in Versailles.

The topics for the meeting are on making the county an “age-friendly community,” with a presentation by representatives of that effort, and discussion of creating a county youth council, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

"One more topic may be added to the discussion prior to the meeting," Vandegrift added. "I want to thank Judge-Executive James Kay and Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott for their cooperation and their leadership in the matter. The three of us hope this is the beginning of more joint meetings to come."

Soon after becoming mayor in 2015, Vandegrift sought a joint meeting of the three governing bodies to discuss topics of mutual concern, but John Coyle, then the county judge-executive, resisted the idea. In an email, Vandegrift called the meeting "historic."

Monday, July 15, 2019

Council hears plan for 'entertainment destination center' with relaxed drink-carrying rules; donates to Homeplace

Midway could have an "entertainment destination center" with relaxed rules for consumption of alcoholic beverages in a limited area, under a proposal offered to the City Council Monday evening.

The council deferred action on the idea, but took action on other matters, giving The Homeplace at Midway $5,000 to help buy a bus for residents and adopting a resolution supporting communication about land-use planning among local governments in the Bluegrass region.

Alcohol: About a year ago, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board enacted a regulation allowing cities to buy a license for an entertainment destination center, in which customers of private licensees can go in and out of their licensed premises with alcoholic beverages as long as they stay within the center's boundaries.

The licenses had previously been available only to businesses, but are slowly being bought by cities for a fee of $2,800. Versailles recently passed the necessary ordinance for one, and Frankfort is working on one, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

The rationale for the license is to reduce the enforcement load on police and ABC agents, and help localities promote tourism and economic growth, said ABC Agent Ian Thurman, the husband of City Council Member Stacy Thurman. She asked him what the city's obligations would be as licensee.

He said the city would be liable for anything in the common area, inside the boundary and outside the privately licensed premises, that was not directly tied to a business, including someone with a beverage from that business.

Council Member Logan Nance asked about the possibility of drinkers being "overserved." Thurman said that has not been a problem in the two cities that have entertainment destination center licenses, Maysville and Owensboro. He said police and licensees say "It's one thing off the plate, about people walking in and out, that they don't have to worry about, and thus can focus more on over-service.

Cortney Neikirk of the Midway Business Association said allowing customers to go in and out of restaurants with alcoholic beverages "is a huge deal for all the restaurants." She said they work together to spot drunks who should be denied service.

Vandegrift asked the council to consider the proposal and put it on the agenda for the next meeting, on Aug. 5. He said he favored a provision in the Versailles ordinance, which requires beverages taken into the common area to be in a standard size and color plastic cup, for safety reasons. Neikirk said she was sure the restaurants would agree to that.

Other business: Business association coordinator Elisha Holt asked the council to pay half the cost of overtime for two police officers who would provide security and traffic help during the Midway Fall Festival. Vandegrift said "It makes perfect sense to help out with this," but the council deferred a decision to the next meeting.

The council adopted the regional planning resolution after a presentation from Rob Rumpke of Bluegrass Tomorrow, which he said is focused on protecting farmland and advocates growth along major transportation corridors. The resolution supports continuation and expansion of the Regional Land Use Partnership that has been meeting regularly since November 2017 to improve communication among governments and planners in the 18-county region.

"We're trying to build some consensus and partnership in the region" for better communication, Rumpke said. "It is in no way about creating a regional planning commission."

The resolution, supporting documents and other materials for the meeting, including a photo of the bus The Homeplace wants to buy, are downloadable as a PDF here.

The Homeplace bus would cost $25,000 and would hold 12 passengers and two wheelchairs. Representatives of the nursing and assisted-living facility said they had raised $8,000. Mary Lynn Spalding, president and CEO of Christian Care Communities, which operates the 48-bed facility, said the bus they want to buy is eight years old.

"I am 100 percent behind this idea," Vandegrift said. "I want to see a City of Midway sticker on that bus." He said the Homeplace generated more than $32,000 in occupational tax for the city last year, "and this is a one-time purchase." He noted that the newly adopted budget allocates $5,00 for donations. Council Member John Holloway moved to give that amount, and Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

The council also approved an encroachment permit for Tru Blue Hemp Co. to locate in Midway Station. "They're kind of the middlemen for the farmers and the oil processors," Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift reported that he and Southworth plant to meet with Frankfort Plant Board officials next week to discuss building a pipeline that would make FPB the city's primary water supplier, as the mayor announced recently that he wanted the city to do.

He also announced that the sidewalk project is scheduled to begin Wednesday, weather permitting, and take about two weeks. When it is done, he said, "eleven new sidewalks" will replace broken ones, "including the worst of all," which he didn't specify.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Vandegrift announces for state representative

Grayson Vandegrift
Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced today that he is running for the state House seat held by Rep. Joe Graviss of Versailles, who announced in April that he is seeking the state Senate seat held by former governor Julian Carroll of Frankfort, who is retiring. All of them are Democrats.

"This was not a decision I came to lightly," Vandegrift said in an email. "I love being the mayor of Midway, and I will continue to serve as mayor as diligently as I ever have during the forthcoming campaign of 2020. Ultimately, I decided to run for this open seat because I love public service, and my record and my passion indicates that I am suited for it."

The part-time offices are quite different, but Vandegrift indicated that for now, at least, he is running on his record of four and a half years as the town's nonpartisan executive.

"When I entered the office of mayor, Midway was in danger of becoming insolvent unless we found new revenue sources," he wrote. "We immediately got to work, casting aside politics, willing to work with anyone. Under my leadership as mayor, we’ve created over 400 new jobs, tripling our revenue, which we’ve used to expand our services, invest in critical infrastructure, and pay off debt.

"This record-setting job growth not only enabled us to improve our community but also allowed us to return to our residents a 25 percent cut in property and sewer taxes. The Commonwealth of Kentucky faces a similar situation with our serious pension crisis, our woeful underinvestment in education, and our lack of sufficient revenue. It takes outside-the-box thinking and an ability to work with everyone, regardless of political party, to get things done. And Frankfort desperately needs leadership like that to get things done for the 56th House District and all of Kentucky."

The district includes all of Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties. No other candidates have announced. The filing deadline for the May 19, 2020, primary election is Jan. 2810. The next election for mayor is in November 2022.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Message from the mayor: Asphalt firm buys new lot in Midway Station, absolving city of interest due this year

Map projection at March EDA meeting showed lot sold this week. 
By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway
    I’m excited to welcome Imperial Asphalt as our newest addition to Midway, at Midway Station. Owners Seth Christian and Aaron Gillund have purchased 4.01 acres at the “nose” of McKinney Avenue, address 775 McKinney Ave.
    This closing, which occurred late yesterday afternoon, comes with additional good news. Because the 4.01 acres was not originally platted with Midway Station, the bank does not claim a release price towards the principal. For this reason, the Woodford County Economic Development Authority has agreed to use the proceeds, close to $120,000 after closing costs, to use towards paying the interest due at the industrial park.
    Because of this, as expected, we will not need to make an interest payment this year, as EDA will make that payment for us. This is not only a sign of goodwill from EDA to both the City of Midway and Woodford County, but also signals as new phase where our EDA is beginning to become self-sustaining, a fact that is good for the entire county.
    This also means that the $40,000 we have budgeted for this fiscal year in our general fund for paying interest is now freed up. My recommendation is that we let it sit for now as a rainy-day fund in case we have an unexpected expense this year, and if we should not need it, let it roll into our projected surplus at the end of June 2020.
    I want to thank the EDA board and Chairman John Soper for their diligence and excellent work, as well as their continued cooperation with the City of Midway.

Health Dean Barbara Kitchen retires from Midway Univ.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift proclaimed June 28 as Barbara Kitchen
Day in honor of her service. Dr. John Marsden, president, is at right.
Dr. Barbara Kitchen, longtime dean of health sciences at Midway University, has retired with honors.

The university Board of Trustees granted Kitchen the title of Faculty Emerita, which was presented to her at the May commencement ceremony. At a June 28 reception, a plaque honoring her was unveiled in the Anne Hart Raymond Building, where she worked.

Kitchen first came to Midway in 2001 as a faculty member in the nursing program. In 2004, she was appointed chair of the nursing programs, and in 2005, chair of the Nursing and Science Division. In 2014, when the college became a university, she was appointed dean of the School of Health Sciences.

Dr. John P. Marsden, university president, said Kitchen has run a highly respected program and been an ambassador for Midway University in the health-care industry. “She has had a tremendous impact on the education and preparation of numerous students,” Marsden said. “She has developed and fostered many community partnerships so that our nursing students could have clinical experiences as well as community service projects.”

Kitchen was highly involved with the task force that helped establish The Homeplace at Midway, a nursing home and assisted-living facility.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Recommendations for affordable housing may include accessory dwelling units, apartments above businesses

Rich Schein, Midway's member on the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission, points to a zoning
map of Midway as Lori Garkovich and City Council Members Logan Nance, left, and Stacy Thurman, right, look on.
Midway has been asked to join Versailles in asking local planning officials to allow accessory dwelling units in residential areas and apartments in commercial zones, and make other changes in the county's zoning ordinance to encourage more affordable housing.

The city's Affordable Housing Committee heard the request Monday from Lori Garkovich, a member of its counterpart committee in Versailles that has already developed recommendations. She said a joint request from both towns to the countywide Planning Commission would "have more traction."

"I think if we went together, it would be more persuasive, and it would be easier to sell to the public," said Garkovich, a retired University of Kentucky sociology professor who has long been active in land-use issues in Woodford County.

The Versailles group also wants other measures, such as a community land trust to lease land to homebuyers, but those will take more time and effort, and allowing accessory dwelling units "was something they could act on right away," Garkovich told the Midway group.

ADUs can be part of a home or detached from it, and can be occupied by renters, adult children, other family members, caregivers and so on. "We had a vision there would be a mix of private homes, townhomes and apartments," to give people a wide range of choices and flexibility when their living arrangements need to change, Garkovich said.

City Council Member Stacy Thurman, chair of the committee, noted that there are many details to work out, such as whether detached units should resemble the main house and whether off-street parking should be required. Before the meeting, Thurman distributed an article from a land-use planner about accessory dwellings, which can be downloaded here.

"I certainly don't think accessory dwelling units are the answer to affordable housing in Midway altogether, but it's a good start," Thurman said. She asked Garkovich what the downside of allowing such units would be.

Garkovich said the usual issue is that people next door to an accessory unit fear it will reduce their property's value, but added that she didn't think that would be a problem in Midway because it has such as small supply of available housing. She said the Versailles plan calls for "quality standards consistent with the neighborhood."

Thurman said, "Most of the people who would be against something like this would be people who don't want Midway to grow at all."

The lack of affordable housing has been a concern in Midway for several years, but gained more currency with the addition of about 300 jobs, and more to come, at the Midway Station industrial Park. Committee member Dan Rosenberg said the city could ask Midway Station employers to provide financial support to affordable-housing efforts.

Garkovich said Midway has a choice: have people commute to the town, work here and leave their payroll taxes behind, or capture their consumer spending and reduce traffic by creating housing for them in the area. "You need economic growth, but how do you want it to happen?"

She said some towns, when expanding their urban service areas for development, require "that a certain inventory of workforce housing" be included in developments in the expanded area.

Rich Schein, a UK geography professor who is the city's representative on the Planning Commission, said the fundamental question facing those who want more affordable housing is how local governments can encourage property sales by owners who aren't now willing to sell.

Garkovich said the two committees might want to have a meeting for property owners, developers, bankers and other citizens to discuss the issue.

The Affordable Housing Committee's next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at City Hall. Its meetings and all meetings of committees created by the City Council are open to the public.

This story replaces the meeting notice posted this morning.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Midway Christian Church celebrates 175th anniversary

Rev. Heather McColl opens the service that marked the anniversary. On the wall above her was the beginning of a
video from Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, general minister and president of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
"This moment has been 175 years in the making," Rev. Heather McColl told a nearly full sanctuary as Midway Christian Church celebrated a landmark anniversary Sunday. Later in her sermon, she said, "That sense of history continues to define us as a community of faith."

"Not many congregations can claim that longevity," Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, general minister and president of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), told the congregation in a video greeting.

The church on Bruen Street was dedicated on Christmas Eve in 1844, 12 years after the Lexington merger of two religious movements that still couldn't quite agree on a name. Three years later, Midway church leaders founded the Kentucky Female Orphan School, which is now Midway University. Pieces of that rich history were traced at Sunday school by John Batts, who noted how the church and its ministers led others into ministry.

From left, Sandy Gruzensky, Adele Dickerson, Rev. Heather McColl and
Cindy and John Batts talked at Sunday school about the church's work.
At Sunday school, 91-year-old Lois Redden recalled her baptism in 1942 by pastor Ronald Lorimer, who was only 22 but organized food and scrap-metal drives and victory gardens during World War II and died of a heart attack two months before the war ended in 1945. The church's broad sense of community service continue with relief efforts after floods and hurricanes, Batts noted.

Today, the church's monthly community dinner "has become one of our main missions for this community," McColl told the group in the fellowship hall, where the dinners began in August 2011. She said the dinners are boons to food-insecure people and elderly people on fixed incomes.

"It's like going to a restaurant," she said. "You see people from all walks of life," including people who don't need a free meal but want the fellowship. "It's been for me and for this church a wonderful, eye-opening mission. She said the church has never asked for donations, "but people do donate, and we're not turning those down."

At the worship service, McColl announced that the church was starting a three-year capital campaign to raise $175,000, half of of which is to be used for capital projects. The other half would be placed in the church's endowment.

At Sunday School, Adele Dickerson talked about the environmental work that has earned the church a designation as a certified Green Chalice congregation in the denomination, and Sandy Gruzensky discussed the "Food for the Soul" dinners the church has on first and third Sundays "to help us develop spiritually but also to discern some of the major issues that play in the world we're living in."
After the service and before a barbecue lunch, the congregation gathered for a group photo in front of the church.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Opinion: State Rep. Joe Graviss, fellow Democrat offer alternative to Republican governor's plan for pensions

By state Reps. Joe Graviss, D-Frankfort, and Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington

With Gov. Bevin expected to call a special legislative session soon to pass his public pension plan, we are reminded of Henry Ford, who famously said his customers could have cars painted “any color, so long as it’s black.”

For weeks now, the debate has focused solely on the governor’s bill and a few tweaks he’s made. Legislators have been told that he wants an up-or-down vote on his bill, specifically, and that we would be free to make additional changes in 2020. But there are other, less bumpy routes leading to the same destination.

The two of us serve on the General Assembly’s Public Pension Oversight Board and have a thorough understanding of the damage the governor’s bill would do if enacted. We share the same goal of protecting our public health departments, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, regional public universities and other quasi-governmental agencies from a crushing 68 percent increase in pension costs, starting in July. This bill, however, is not the way to do it.

Governor Bevin’s bill offers these critical agencies and universities massive debts; costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars; harms the nation’s worst-funded public retirement system; and it would severely undermine retirement security for potentially thousands of career employees who have dedicated their lives to public service – not to mention it would face likely legal challenges which would put us all back to square one.

The governor’s plan freezes these agencies’ payments to Kentucky Retirement Systems for a year, and we agree on that. It’s the long-term fix we differ on.

Our recommendations – think of them as different colors on Henry Ford’s Model T – are faster, cheaper, and far more legal.

The first necessary change is slightly increasing the projected investment target that KRS uses for the fund that these quasi-governmental agencies and state government pay into.

The KRS Board of Trustees dropped the rate dramatically in 2017 to the lowest in the country, when that decrease should have been phased in over years. We propose moving it up slightly, where it still remains the lowest public retirement plan target in the country, but more closely aligns with KRS’s actual investment experience over the last decade.

Second, our plan recommends an annual payroll growth of 1%, versus the 0% KRS now uses. State government has already shrunk to levels not seen since the 1970s, but basing pension contributions on 0% growth over the next 24 years is unrealistic and unfair, given a growing population and the need for employee raises to combat inflation.

A third hallmark of our plan is a five-year shift in excess payments from the retiree health insurance fund to the pension side of the ledger. All normal costs continue to be properly funded to maintain the health fund.

This will not put at risk current or future benefits – the fund would have all it needs during those five years and still be fully funded by the end of the amortization period – and we have already set aside much more money for retiree health insurance than most other states. Many retiree health systems, in fact, have no savings at all, choosing instead to pay for actual costs month to month.

Finally, we think it is prudent to freeze the employer contribution rates that the quasi-governmental agencies currently pay KRS. They are paying KRS almost 50 percent of their payroll now and can’t afford anything higher.

This is very reasonable because this retirement fund is seeing a positive cash flow. We can revisit this freeze in the future, if KRS investments ever suffer a sustained downturn. Using a 20-year investment horizon also helps smooth the peaks and valleys.

Taken together, these proposals erase the long-term liabilities faster than the governor’s plan, and they do it without illegally reducing employee benefits or harming the quasi-governmental agencies that are already in a precarious financial position.

We did not get in this situation overnight, and it will not be solved overnight. Public employee retirement plans are similar to a 30-year home mortgage. While it would be great to have 360 monthly payments in the bank, the reality is that we don’t have it or need it all right now.

Our plan is much like restructuring the mortgage so that the bank does not take the home. By making modest adjustments to the terms of the loan to lower payments, we can still pay it off within a year of what the current law already calls for.

Unlike the governor’s bill, our recommendations maintain current services in a way that still meets the long-term goal of making KRS more solvent. Our plan won’t be tied up in court because of legally questionable actions; it won’t force some of our most critical agencies to close their doors; and it allows a quality workforce to continue serving you.

At the very least, members of both parties and stakeholders should be able to sit down and discuss this as a viable alternative. We stand ready and willing to work with any of our colleagues who are seeking to do the most good for the most people at the best price.

Kentucky taxpayers and those with a vested interest in the outcome deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

'Sparks in the Park' starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday; mayor urges thoughtful use of fireworks July 3-5

Midway's annual "Sparks in the Park" event will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, in Walter Bradley Park.

The city will provide a dinner of barbecue, buns, coleslaw and baked beans for 250 people, and activities for children, including a bounce house.

As he reminded the City Council of the event at its Monday meeting, Vandegrift was asked if he was ready to start getting telephone calls at 11:01 p.m., the first minute after the end of the period for legal use of fireworks on July 3, 4 and 5.

He turned the jest into a serious point, urging citizens to "be a little more mindful" about where and when they use fireworks.

"We have veterans in Midway with PTSD," post-traumatic stress disorder, he said. "I just wish more people would think about that." 

Council accepts sidewalk bids, raises city's maximum share on each project to $2,000 from $1,000

The most expensive project will replace 160 linear feet of walk
at 105 S. Winter St. at a cost of $8,800. (Photo by Casey Parker-
Bell, UK School of Journalism and Media, November 2015)
The Midway City Council voted Monday night to accept the low bid for sidewalk work and to double the city's potential cost-sharing on projects to $2,000 each.

ADE Contracting Inc. of Lawrenceburg bid $39,790 to do the 11 projects. RT Infrastructure Inc. of Winchester bid $42,177, including a $1,345 bond fee that wa not part of ADE's bid. Council Member John Holloway and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the fee seemed high for such a relatively small project. Holloway also noted that RT lists itself as a sewer contractor, and ADE seems to have more experience with sidewalks and is re-qualified with state government.

Council Member Logan Nance moved to award the bid to ADE, and Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded. The motion passed 4-0. Council Member Sara Hicks was absent due to illness, and Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher abstained, since one project will be on her property.

For the last two years, the city has shared in the cost of sidewalk repairs, up to a maximum of $1,000 in city funds. The council voted 3-1 to increase the maximum to $2,000, which will reduce the remainder to be paid on eight of the 11 projects. On the four most expensive projects, that reduced the owners' shares by $1,000 each.

Holloway said after the meeting that he voted against paying more of the cost because he thought it was too much. "I've had to replace my sidewalks, and nobody gave me any money," he said.

UPDATE, July 5: Vandegrift told the council that "No tree will be cut down or altered as a result of the project. In some cases, the sidewalk can be tightened by a foot and still meet code, and in other cases in can be diverted around the tree."

At a special meeting June 27, the council voted to accept the low bid of Randle-Davies Co. of Frankfort, $155,525, for blacktopping projects. The other three bids ranged from $188,355 to $223,875. These bids and those for sidewalks are in the council meeting packet, downloadable here.

The council also declared surplus a house and lot at 426 S. Winter St. that was once used for the local library and is now used for storage by a local business. The declaration will allow the city to advertised for sealed bids for the property.

Holloway, who joined the council in January, suggested that the city could get more for the property by putting it on the open market. Vandegrift said the city can always reject bids as too low, and city attorney Phil Moloney said state law requires sealed bids. Gallagher, a retired state employee, told Holloway, "Welcome to government." The vote was 5-0.