Saturday, August 31, 2019

More videos and photos from the 'pick' of the Weisenberger Mill bridge

This video was taken from just above the mill dam. For the completion of the "pick," as the move was called, go to Midway Messenger reporter Dalton Stokes' story, below or here.
Crane operator Joe Fisher (yes, really) of Taylorsville fished as he waited for other workers to finish preparations for the pick. He said he had fished in all manner of waters, never in Elkhorn Creek, but when he visited the site the day before, he said to himself, "I'm going to make a few casts." In ideal conditions, he caught five largemouth and one smallmouth bass, all too small to keep.
Jay Weisenberger waited at his vantage point for the work to begin. His family has operated a mill at the site since 1865; the current building was erected in 1913, partly with stone from the original mill. It is no longer directly powered by water; water flowing from the creek behind the dam drives a generator that contributes to the electric power used to run the mill.
Below, a wider shot taken at about the same time, showing the crane, the mill, the dam and the creek.

Friday, August 30, 2019

After 84 years, there is no bridge across South Elkhorn Creek at Weisenberger Mill; new one to be done by May

Story and Vimeo video by Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

After six years of debates and preparations, the Weisenberger Mill bridge was removed from its moorings with a 550-ton crane at around 11 a.m. Friday.

A handful of spectators gathered to watch the crane lift the 84-year-old bridge over the corner of the mill and onto a trailer bed. Many spectators were part of the Weisenberger family who had come to see the bridge that they had known all their lives to be lifted and hauled away.

Among them was Phil Weisenberger, who manages the family-owned mill. He said the bridge “had always been there, and it was strange to leave, but time marches on.”

Doug Elam, a neighbor to the bridge on the Woodford County side of South Elkhorn Creek, said  “It Looked like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with a balloon” as the crane slowly swung the bridge through the air on a sunny morning.

Crane operator Joe Fisher visits with Kristey and Susan
Weisenberger after "picking" the bridge. (Photo by Al Cross)
The crane that "picked" the bridge, as engineers say, was from Sterett Crane and Rigging, based in Owensboro, and manned by crane operator Joe Fisher of Taylorsville, who caught a few bass in the creek before his part of the job began.

He said the crane measured the bridge’s weight at 52,300 pounds,  much heavier the 37,000-pound estimate given by Roger Wade, a structural engineer for Louisville Paving and Construction, the main contractor on the project. He said there were more asphalt and probably less rusted steel than he estimated.

The job wasn’t as easy as just picking up the bridge with the crane, putting on the truck bed and hauling it off. The tractor-trailer was too long to turn around, so the tractor and trailer were separated, and while the tractor turned around, Fisher and workers flipped the trailer around. Kentucky Utilities also had to de-energize overhead power lines for safety.

The bridge is to be rebuilt by May 2020 as most in the community requested, as a pony truss one-lane bridge much like the original. It was argued by some of the community in the decision-making process that the bridge should stay a one-lane bridge as opposed to a two-lane bridge to force southbound drivers to slow down for the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

The bridge has been marked for either renovation or replacement since 2010, and required public meetings and studies because it is a state project. Woodford County is responsible for the bridge, but the state assumed control in return for the county doing some work for the state several years ago. Before any decision could be made, the damage from heavy trucks forced state engineers to close the bridge on July 1, 2016.
When the work was done, the view from above the mill dam looked very different than it had since 1935. (Photo by Al Cross)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Removal of Weisenberger Mill bridge is set for Friday

Thursday evening, the crane was in place for Friday's work. (Photo by Al Cross, Midway Messenger)
The steel structure of the Weisenberger Mill bridge will be removed by a crane Friday to make way for the new bridge, the state Transportation Cabinet announced in a press release.

"Louisville Paving Co. Inc. will take out the steel truss between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. tomorrow. The time frame for lifting by crane to transfer truck is approximate," the release says. "Kentucky Utilities will de-energize the overhead power lines pending appropriate weather and temperature conditions." The weather is forecast to be sunny in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon, with temperatures rising from 66 degrees at 8 a.m. to 87 degrees in late afternoon.

Louisville Paving will move the bridge, which was built in 1935, to its yard. The new bridge will be built in a similar "pony truss" style because the State Historic Preservation Office deemed the site to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge has been closed since July 1, 2016 because of damage caused by heavy trucks. Its replacement was delayed by required hearings, historical and environmental studies, and right-of-way acquisition.
A Transportation Cabinet photo earlier in the day shows the lifting supports installed across the top of the bridge.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mayor: Stephens Street sewer work, followed by paving there and elsewhere, is to be done in time for festival

Street paving on and near Stephens Street, following storm-sewer work on the street, is expected to be completed by Sept. 20, just in time for the Midway Fall Festival, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email this morning. He gave this schedule:
  • 8/26-9/1: Storm sewer pipe work on East Stephens Street
  • 9/2-9/9: Concrete curb work on North Winter Street (near City Hall) and E. Stephens
  • 9/10-9/13: Milling and paving on E. and W. Stephens, Starks Alley, N. Winter (near 421)
  • 9/13-9/20: Clean up and finish
"This is obviously tentative," the mayor wrote. "Weather and unforeseen circumstances could delay this schedule, but this should be wrapped up by Fall Festival," which will be held Sept. 21-22. "Each of these areas is going to be much improved with more functional storm sewers, better storm-water flow, and better roadways."

Vandegrift said workers ruptured a gas line last Friday "due to the 'spaghetti' nature of lines that were buried a long long time ago without adequate mapping. That is all fixed up now, though, and the project is off to an otherwise smooth start. I’ll keep you apprised if anything changes or new developments occur."

Monday, August 26, 2019

Supplier says Midway water tastes different because it switched sources, and maybe for seasonal reasons

Midway's water has tasted differently lately because Kentucky American Water switched sources, and perhaps due to seasonal factors, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email today.

"In response to some residents questions about an 'earthy' taste and odor in our water in the last week, Kentucky American Water has advised us that the water is safe to drink, but two issues are causing the difference in taste and smell," Vandegrift writes. "One reason relates to a source change last week when the Owenton plant went down and KAW began pumping to us from a different reservoir. That source apparently is known to have a different taste, but the water is still safe to drink."

Also, KAW told the city in an email, “Changing weather conditions can lead to earthy or musty tastes and odors. This occurs seasonally, typically during the warmer weather from spring thru fall. The perception of tastes or odors in water varies widely between individuals. Some customers are more sensitive and may perceive minor differences in the water. The water remains safe to consume and continues to meet all water quality standards. When variations in our source water occur, we adjust our treatment processes accordingly.”

Vandegrift added, "If you have any questions please feel free to holler as usual."

Friday, August 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All council meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Work starts on new Weisenberger Mill bridge

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

New Weisenberger Mill bridge set for completion by May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pop-up market and movie set for Friday evening

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

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

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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