Thursday, October 31, 2019

Weese family scores big in pumpkin carving contest

Jill and Joel Damron won for most creative pumpkin in the adult category. For a larger version of any photo, click on it.

These pumpkins were judged to be the scariest of the lot.
Members of the Weese family were half the winners in the pumpkin carving contest that the Midway Presbyterian Church held to promote awareness of the Midway Community Garden.

Church Pastor Mary Weese and her son, Zeb Henry Weese, won the adult and children's prizes for scariest pumpkins, which made use of evergreen cones for teeth and horns.

Zeb won the prize for most creative carving by a child, his Civil War pumpkin (he was dressed for trick or treat as Gen. John Hunt Morgan); the adult prize in that category went to Jill and Joel Damron, who did a Cinderella carriage that was, in fact, a pumpkin.

Debra Shockley won the adult Halloween Spirit award.

The Halloween spirit awards went to Debra Shockley, who put a little pumpkin into a cat skeleton, and Maggie Walden, who did a traditional jack-o-lantern.

After the entries were judged, trick-or-treaters came by to look.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

US 60 in Versailles to be closed at railroad crossing from 9 a.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday for work

The state Transportation Cabinet has scheduled a closure of US Highway 60 at the railroad crossing in Versailles from 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1, through 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2 for RJ Corman Railroad Co. to perform track and crossing maintenance. A signed detour will be in place.

Midway University to host author of bestseller that is first-year students' common-read book 7 p.m. Nov. 7

Jennifer Teege, author of My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, Midway University’s "common read" book for the year, will give a lecture to all first-year students and the public at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 in the Duthie Auditorium of the Anne Hart Raymond Building, followed by a book signing.

The general public is welcome, but priority seating is for enrolled Midway University students. First-year students in their first semester use the book for class discussions, projects, and writing assignments in the MWY 101 Pathways and Perspectives course. "The culminating experience is for students to be able to meet the author in person and have their books signed," said Ellen Gregory, vice president for marketing and communications.

Teege’s memoir was hailed as “haunting” by The Washington Post, “unforgettable” by Publishers Weekly and “stunning” by Booklist. Subtitled A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past, the book tells how Teege responded to the discovery that her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant so chillingly depicted by Ralph Fiennes in the movie Schindler’s List. The film was shown in MWY 101 classes recently.

"When Teege, a German-Nigerian woman, randomly picked up a library book from the shelf, her whole life—her whole sense of self—changed forever," a Midway University press release said. "Recognizing photos of her mother and grandmother in the book, she discovered a horrifying fact they had kept from her."

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Behind the scenes of judging the Midway Woman's Club annual Halloween Decorating Contest

The overall winner was at 211 South Winter Street.  For a larger version of any photo, click on it.
By Kennedy Sabharwal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

For the past four years the Midway Woman’s Club has held an annual Halloween Decorating Contest among the homes in town. This year 12 awards were given, ranging from Scariest to Best Spider Web to Most Kid Friendly.

On Sunday evening, members of the Woman’s Club drove around town and took a look at all of the decorated homes. The judges were quite surprised that only a few businesses decorated this year. The judges said they gave the award to Commotion! At 104 E. Main St. because of its “festive window display” that consists of skeletons and a bat hanging above the front entrance of the business.
The judges gave the Most Fun award to a family that set up a full Wizard of Oz scene in their front yard. 121 Carriage Lane won because it was “very creative and fun,” a judge said. “The characters, you could tell exactly which they were, and even the witch was melting!” The excitement this house brought to all of the judges was reason enough for the award.

318 North Winter Street won for Best Daytime decorations.
Some other awards and reasons included the Best Daytime award at 318 N. Winter St. for being “eye catching when driving through town and being impressive, comprehensive, having thought of design, and use of multiple elements,” the judges said.

One of the hardest awards to give was the Best Spider Web, because so many homes had neat and diverse webs. Some had webs across bushes, trees, and the lawn, while others had webs covering their entire porch. The award went to 223 Johnson St. because of its creativity and intricate webs on its porch, the judges said.

Best pumpkins: 106 Cottage Grove
The Best Pumpkin award at 106 Cottage Grove won for its “pumpkins being artfully carved and arranged,” a judge said.

The award for Best Overall décor went to 211 S. Winter St. because of its “spectacular Halloween display… It’s creative, it’s a little scary, they continue to use lights every year,” a judge said. “It’s cool in the daytime as well in the nighttime. It’s just a lot of fun.”

During the car ride around town, one judges spoke about how hard it was for her to choose winners. “It’s difficult,” she said. “I mean you see how difficult it is to choose who wins each award … Everyone’s home just looks great in their own way.”

Many homeowners in Midway went all-out and allowed their Halloween spirit to shine through each decoration. The judges said they want to add more awards next year, such as Best Porch, because of how many amazing decorations they saw during the judging process.
The judges gave the award for Scariest display to the residence at 119 East Stephens Street.
The Messenger thanks the club for letting us ride with the judges, whom we granted anonymity.

128 S. Winter St. won a Halloween Spirit Award.
These homes received awards:
Most Kid Friendly - 111 Turner St.
Scariest - 119 E. Stephens St.
Best Use of Technology - 323 S. Winter St.
Best Spider Web - 223 Johnson St.
Best Pumpkins - 106 Cottage Grove
Best Use of Inflatables - 231 Higgins St.
Creepiest - 245 Higgins St.
Best Overall - 211 S. Winter St.
Most Fun - 121 Carriage Lane
Best Daytime - 318 N. Winter St.
Halloween Spirit Award - 218 219 W. Higgins (below), 128 S. Winter, 232 W. Higgins

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tourist commission formally hires Emily Kay Downey as executive director at $2,500 for 100 hours per month

From left: Samantha Aiken of Brainbox, Executive Director Emily Downey, member Neil Vasilakes (hidden), member Lee Howard, chair Maria Bohanan (wearing a birthday tiara), unofficial member Elisha Holt, Midway member Cortney Neikirk
By Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Woodford County Tourist Commission unanimously approved the appointment of Emily Kay Downey as its first executive director at its monthly meeting Friday morning. The commission tentatively agreed to approve a contract calling for Downey to work 100 hours per month, for $2,500 a month, as an independent contractor.

In other business, a representative from Brainbox, the Lexington digital marketing company, updated the commission on the progress of their marketing campaign, and there was a brief discussion on including Midway more heavily in next year’s Bourbon Chase.

Friday's meeting was the commission’s first in the City Council chamber at the Versailles Municipal Building, signifying its move from the Chamber of Commerce, which had provided staff and facilities. With the recent increase in bed-tax revenue from the new hotel in Versailles, the commission has money to hire its own staff, something Commission Chair Maria Bohanon said it should have done long ago if it had the funds.

Downey was chosen a week earlier by the five members of the commission who interviewed six of the 11 people who applied for the job. Because a quorum of the commission met to discuss and act on the personnel matter, that constituted a meeting under the Kentucky Open Meetings Act. The law allows public agencies to discuss hiring in private, but requires them to do it in a closed session called during an open meeting. It prohibits taking any final action in private.

Bohanon said at Friday’s meeting said she issued a press release announcing the choice soon after the decision Friday because she “thought it would be nice for people to know ahead of time.” She added, “We had six high caliber people that we interviewed. We have some real talent in Woodford County.”

Downey will remain North American marketing manager for Alltech, a agricultural-products firm in Nicholasville, and will take the second job with the company’s support, Bohanan said.

“Emily, I’m thrilled,” Bohanon said. “I cannot wait for you to bring your skills, and your contacts, and your love for this place to this board.” She said one of the most important things that the commission was looking for in a candidate was passion, and “You have passion for this.”

Downey said, “I really look forward to telling the story of Woodford County to the world.”

Downey is married to William Downey, a magistrate on the Fiscal Court, and is the sister of James Kay, the county judge-executive. Bohanon said earlier this week that those ties may cause “perception issues.” The judge-executive appoints some commission members.

Bohanon noted at the meeting that Downey was chosen with a scoring system in which each candidate is given a certain number of points in different categories, and “Emily had the highest score.”

The one commission member who didn’t participate in interviews was Neil Vasilakes, who said at the meeting that he was busy with the grape harvest at his vineyard and his absence “wasn’t making a statement.” He expressed his support for Downey and the commission’s process.

At the last commission meeting, Vasilakes said, “There are some rumors going around that we’re not following a process and we have a shoo-in person.” He said of the Messenger’s story about that meeting, “I felt like that article maybe insinuated that I was not for the process, but I am, totally.”

On a motion by Midway member Cortney Neikirk, the commission unanimously approved Downey’s contract, pending legal advice from County Attorney Alan George, and gave Bohanan the authority to make any necessary changes.

Bohanan said Kay had suggested that George be consulted because the commission’s attorney, Bill Moore, won’t be available until after Nov. 1, the day Downey is supposed to start work. George said Friday afternoon that he told Bohanan after the meeting to have a private attorney do the work.

Bohanan said the contract was modeled after the one used to employ John Soper as paid chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, of which she is a board member. It calls for Downey to "develop and supervise plans to promote Woodford County as a regional visitors destination" and lists 18 specific duties, including supervision of "day-to-day activities in the visitors center(s)" and "ensure that all visitors' inquiries from are answered promptly and courteously."

The contract refers to working in Versailles and providing services to the city, but Bohanan said in an email that she copied that language from the city's agreement with Soper and it will be changed to say Woodford County. The contract is to be for a one-year term beginning Nov. 1, extendable by mutual agreement of the parties. It can be terminated by either party for any reason on 30 days' notice.

Other business: The director of digital marketing at Brainbox, Samantha Aiken, updated the commission on the progress of the commission’s geotargeting marketing campaign. The firm’s website says, “Brainbox Intelligent Marketing is an experiential and digital marketing company based in Lexington” that handles marketing campaigns for three branches of the U.S. military, Valvoline and John Deere.

The commission contracts Brainbox to advertise Woodford County online and handle its social media marketing. Bohanon said the commission has a six-month contract with Brainbox and was paid $3,818 this month for its services.

Aiken reported that their campaign is “going really well,” according to Google and Facebook analytics. According to her handout the cost per click is $1.53, which is “on par with CPC rates of travel and tourism companies.”

She also talked about the newsletter the commission is putting out with the help of Brainbox, which has 85 subscribers.

Bohanon asked Aiken for a beginning-to-end report when the six-month contract is over so the commission can “see how to spend our money” amid the transition to a higher budget organization. “We’ve got to have as many performance indicators as we can,” Bohanon said.

Bohanon requested reimbursement from the commission for doughnuts she bought for the Bourbon Chase, a running relay of around 200 miles that goes through Kentucky’s historic Bourbon Trail. “We had gobs of people come into town,” she said. The commission voted to reimburse her $182 for the doughnuts.

 “Next year, hopefully, the Weisenberger Mill Bridge will be back up and running and I would like us to really make a presence not only in Versailles but also Midway,” Bohanon said after the vote. “It’s a great way to … show people our community.”

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Council starts cleaning up blighted-property ordinances

The Midway City Council plowed through old and new verbiage Wednesday evening as it considered ordinances Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wants in order to crack down on owners of blighted property.

One ordinance would create a board to enforce the city's existing rules on nuisances and blight; the other, which contains those rules, would be updated to include the code enforcement board. Vandegrift said the existing ordinance is basically obsolete because a 2016 state law requires a local board to handle appeals of citations issued by a code enforcement officer.

The council spent much of its 75-minute special meeting cleaning up parts of the existing ordinance, which Vandegrift said "has been piece-mealed together for probably a century." But it also tentatively agreed on changes to the ordinance that would create and govern the code enforcement board, such as:
  • A one-term limit for the three members of the board, which would also have up to two alternates to fill in when regular members are not available.
  • Allowing the council, not just the mayor, to remove a board member, but requiring the votes of five of the six council members to do so.
  • Allowing different lengths of time for property owners to respond to notices of violation, which if not corrected would result in a citation.
  • Some sort of limit on how often citations could be issued to repeat violators.
The latter point was raised after the council discussed how the city could deal with property owners who resist repeated efforts to get them to alleviate blight. The existing ordinance allows the city to place a lien on the property for the amount of unpaid fines and any costs the city has if it goes onto the property to correct the problems. A lien must be satisfied before a property can be sold.

Council Member John Holloway asked, "How often can you give ‘em a citation?" Vandegrift replied, "I think you can give ‘em as many citations as you want. … We can make it too expensive for them to not to the work, or to sell the property." Holloway said there needs to be a limit on how often; he said can’t be five minutes, and it can't be 10 years. Vandegrift agreed.

The ordinance would also follow a state law in creating an "abandoned urban property" class of real estate, which could be subject to higher taxes. Vandegrift said that in extreme cases, the city could use its power of eminent domain, or condemnation, which would require council action.

Discussing the existing ordinance, the council and mayor agreed on removing several provisions that are outdated, or that have become part of the state building code applying to interior matters.

"The intention here is for things on outside of the house," Vandegrift said.
"Because those are nuisances to other people," Holloway said.

Holloway added later, "I have just been appalled at the conditions people are living in and the houses they’re living in," and asked Vandegrift how often the city gets complaints about such matters.

The mayor said it depends on the time of year, but "There’s some kind of complaint about once every week." He said he increasingly hears complaints about abandoned buildings. The Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimated in 2017 that Midway had 89 abandoned housing units.

Vandegrift has been trying to get blighted-property ordinances passed since he became mayor in 2015. He said early in the meeting, "A compromise version of this could come out and be perfectly fine with me." He added, "I do feel like we need to move as rapidly as possible." He said he plans to call another special meeting next week to continue work on the ordinances.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Emily Downey of Alltech, sister of Judge Kay and wife of magistrate, chosen to be county's first tourism director

By Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Woodford County Tourist Commission has announced its choice for its first executive director. After interviewing six candidates, five of the commission members unanimously recommended Emily Kay Downey, according to Chair Maria Bohanan.

A press release from Bohanan identified Downey as the North American marketing manager for Alltech, a developer of agricultural products based in Nicholasville, and said she has “extensive experience with the World Equestrian Games” in 2010 and 2014. She is married to William Downey, a magistrate on the Fiscal Court, and is the sister of James Kay, the county judge-executive.

Emily Kay Downey and her brother, County
Judge-Executive James Kay (Twitter photo)
The judge-executive appoints some commission members. Downey's family ties created “perception issues,” Bohanan said in an interview. In a written statement that she said was made on behalf of the commission, she said:

“The tourism commission board followed a meticulous process to individually score each interviewee. Emily Downey had the highest score of all. Her educational background and extensive international marketing experience with Alltech made her the best candidate for the job. Regardless of optics, it would be a disservice not only to the citizens of Woodford County but to all the participants who applied to not pick the best-qualified person. We had the pleasure of interviewing a group of high caliber candidates and feel Ms. Downey will do great things promoting Woodford County.”

A quorum of the commission met to discuss and act on the personnel matter, which constitutes a meeting under the Kentucky Open Meetings Act. However, the commission did not announce any meeting for that purpose, despite receiving a written request from the Midway Messenger to be informed of all its meetings.

The open-meetings law allows public agencies to discuss hiring in private, but requires them to do it in a closed session called during an open meeting. It prohibits taking any final action in private.

Bohanan’s initial press release said that following a “unanimous recommendation from an interview panel, and pending board approval, WCTC recommends Emily Downey as the Woodford County tourism director.” She said five of the six commission members served on the “interview panel,” and agreed on Downey and the press release.

The commission has planned to hire an executive director since it received a large increase in revenue, allowing it to stop using the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce as operational staff.

The county imposes a 3 percent tax on all overnight stays in the county; until the first modern hotel in the county opened last September, the only revenue generated by the tax came from bed-and-breakfasts. Now, with the new Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Versailles, the commission has about $100,000 available to spend.

Eleven people applied for the job of executive director, including Elisha Holt, an events promoter and online contractor who serves as an unofficial member of the commission. She was among the six interviewees, Bohanan said.

The last interviews were held last Friday, and a decision was made by the five members immediately afterward, Bohanan said. They then agreed to issue a press release without holding a public meeting.

Bohanan said, “The whole commission was on the panel if they could make it,” and when the decision was made Friday, she and members Lee Howard, Cortney Niekirk, Ken Kerkhoff, and Aaron Smither were in attendance. She said Neil Vasilakes couldn’t make either interview session.

At the last commission meeting, Vasilakes said, “There are some rumors going around that we’re not following a process and we have a shoo-in person.” Bohanon replied by noting the plan to score candidates and said, “Whatever we do we want it above board.”

She reiterated that point in a telephone interview on Tuesday.  “It’s not confirmed yet; we’ve got to confirm it on Friday,” at the commission’s regular monthly meeting, she said. “That’s why it says it’s a recommendation. It’s not an appointment.”

Asked if she would release the scoring of the candidates, Bohanan said she would prefer not to, and would have to consult attorneys about that.

“I think there could have been perception issues with a few of the candidates we interviewed,” she said. “We put a lot of things in place to ensure that everything was done right. We went above board.”

She added, “Coming out of the gate, we wanted to come our strong. We interviewed six highly talented people, but Emily had the highest scores. . . . She’s amazing . . I’m beyond thrilled.”

Downey holds an executive MBA and completed Alltech’s mini-MBA program through the University of Dublin, according to the press release. The Woodford Sun reported that she plans to keep working for Alltech because the tourism job will be part-time.

Vandegrift asks state to widen Georgetown Road; City Council discusses residential rental issues

By Garrett Burton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wants the state to widen Georgetown Road (KY 341) from the Interstate 64 interchange to the Scott County line due to the increase in traffic due to growth at Midway Station.

In Monday’s City Council meeting, Vandegrift referred to a letter he sent Thursday to Department of Highways District 7 Coordinator Natalia McMillan.

With the expansion of Lakeshore Learning Materials on part of 138 acres that the council recently annexed and zoned for industry, he wrote, “I believe there will need to be adjustments made including but not limited to widening of the road, lowering the speed limit, and any and all measures to protect human life.”

At the meeting, Vandegrift said road improvements were discussed in 2016 when Midway first landed Lakeshore, which is expanding and adding 100 jobs to the 250 or so it already has.

“We haven’t seen any accidents yet, but 341 is narrow, and there’s a lot of blind spots on 341, especially if you’re coming in from Scott County,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to see that be a situation where we wish something would have been done before someone gets hurt.”

In the meeting, the council approved two measures relating to Lakeshore. The first gives Vandegrift authority to sign closing documents on the new Lakeshore expansion; the other changes an erroneous date in a previous resolution.

Residential rentals: In what Vandegrift calls the “final thoughts” segment of the meeting, Council Member Logan Nance said Midway residents had reached out to him about opening their property as an Airbnb or Vrbo (vacation rentals by owners). Currently, residents need permission from the Board of Adjustments and must live full time in the residence.

Nance asked if there was a way to make this process easier for people. Vandegrift replied, “I think it’s completely a planning and zoning matter at this point.”

Council Members John Holloway and Kaye Nita Gallagher said they know of houses being rented out that don’t have the owners living in them. There’s people renting them out to the college kids” at Midway University, Gallagher said. Vandegrift said they may have a permit, or approval of the Board of Adjustments.

To Nance’s point, Vandegrift said “I’ve heard more concern over unregulated Airbnb’s than I have heard people wishing we had more of them.” He recommended that anyone interested in this topic make a stop at the planning and zoning office at the courthouse in Versailles and talk to Planning Director Pattie Wilson or Kim O’Reel, the administrative assistant.

Pumpkin contest: Pastor Mary Weese of Midway Presbyterian Church asked council members to participate in a pumpkin carving contest to be held on the steps of the church on Halloween to “help raise awareness for the community garden.” She said there will be prizes for children and adults.

Vandegrift laughed as he said it will be the first time that he has carved a pumpkin.

The display of the pumpkins will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday Oct. 31 (Halloween night). The categories to be judged are scariest. most creative, and Halloween spirit.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Spark Community Cafe of Versailles receives Community Spirit Award from Midway University

By Megan Parsons
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

For the first time, Midway University gave its Community Spirit Award to an organization outside Midway.

“It can be anyone in Woodford County. . . . That was the original concept,” President John P. Marsden said before the award presentation in the Anne Hart Raymond Center Thursday evening.

From left: University President John Marsden and Spark
Community Cafe co-founders Tristan Ferrell and Kyle Fannin
The award went to Spark Community Cafe, a pay-when-you-can cafe in Versailles that focuses on serving food-insecure people in Woodford County. People from all financial situations can dine at the cafe, co-founder Kyle Fannin said after accepting the award.

Those who can afford their meals have their tips go towards paying for the meals of food insecure people, Fannin said. If you cannot pay any amount for your meal, you can volunteer at the cafe. If you can only afford pay half, that’s fine.

Tristan Ferrell, the other co-founder, said the idea started in Fannin’s Community Interaction course at Woodford County High School in 2014. It started as a pay-when-you-can “pop-up” cafe, then Ferrell asked Fannin to “start this thing for real” and make it a full-time café, Ferrell recalled.

The university’s vice president of advancement, Tim Culver, said the award recipient is selected “by looking around at what’s going on and happening in our neighborhood and around the community, and identifying those we feel are making a difference.”

Spark Community Cafe has been open for six months. It has seen 15 percent of meals going to the food-insecure, and its goal is 20 percent, Fannin said. The cafe is able to stay open, he said, due to donations and their catering company.

He said the cafe strives to be as locally sourced as possible, serving food from eight to nine farms from five counties within 30 miles of the cafe, and “We are working on adding more.”

“Everybody deserves a great meal and to be waited on,” Fannin said. “To see the look on their faces when they eat that amazing food and we wait on them, they’ve probably never been waited on in their lives, and you’ll never know while you’re in there who the food-insecure is and that’s the way we like it.”

The award was presented during the university’s annual “Day for Midway” celebration, which is held “to increase the relationship between the town of Midway and Midway University,” Marsden said.

The award started after Marsden became president. One of his tasks was to develop a stronger relationship between the school and the town.

Previous Community Spirit Award winners have been prominent Woodford County volunteer Lillie Cox (2018), the Midway Woman’s Club (2017), Joyce Evans and the late Joel Evans (2016), and the Midway Christian Church (2015).

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Library's Everything Equine event at Midway University showed visitors the ins and outs of all things horses

Midway University students showed how they groom horses and allowed the children to help take part in the process.
Stacy Thurman, head librarian at the branch library and a City
Council member, described Everything Equine as an “event that
gives people an idea of a day in the life of a horse.” She said
afterward that about 150 attended the 11 a.m.-1 p.m. event.

Story and photos by Grant Wheeler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University and the Midway branch of the Woodford County Public Library partnered to host the third annual “Everything Equine” event Saturday at Midway University’s equestrian center. The event featured demonstrations from Midway’s equestrian students as well as the Lexington police department’s mounted unit.

Suzanne Conrad of the branch library was responsible for coordinating much of the event. “We aim to show the folks here on exactly what all that goes into caring for these horses,” she said, “and provide an entertaining as well as an educational experience for everyone involved.”

In addition to the demonstrations, folks who partook in the event were given the opportunity to visit numerous outside vendors and learn the ins and outs of all things horses.

The Lexington police department’s mounted unit came to demonstrate how horses can be used in a law enforcement setting. Officers Eckhardt and Sullivan showed how their horses Huston and Remington are used for a variety of purposes – mainly for crowd control. Eckhardt said he has been on the force for 20 years but only on the mounted unit for seven: “I love my job wouldn’t do a daggone thing different.”

Right: A young lady sits in a saddle to get the feel for what it is like to be riding on horseback.

Midway University sophomore Haley McCullah described this exercise as a way to “get them comfortable in the saddle and it helps teach a lot of confidence.”

McCullah and an admissions counselor at Midway University, Melody Small, came to speak to event goers a little about the university and equine program. The university had one of the many booths set up around the large building where the event was held.

The walls of the equestrian center displayed the anatomy of a horse, giving a better understanding of the animal’s internal workings and how distinctive they are. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

Amy Parker, an equine nutritionist, describes the digestive tract of a horse to interested event-goers.

Jenna Moline, a veterinarian for Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, explained her role as an ambulatory veterinarian.

Moline said often has to go out on calls for an array of issues regarding horses. At right, she is pictured showing the leg bone of a horse to a few interested youths. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

Thad Gouge, from TG Forge Inc., a farrier service based in Wilmore, Kentucky explained the process behind crafting quality horseshoes for all variety of hooves and horses. Gouge is responsible for horseshoe maintenance on “roughly half of the horses at Midway University,” he said.

Everything Equine provided people with a firsthand look at horse care and use – one of Kentucky’s premier and proudest traditions.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Benefit concert for Katy McDaniel, and blood drive, set for 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 3 in Northside Elementary gym

Katy McDaniel of Midway continues her recovery from the attack she suffered at her home Oct. 6. Members of the community have organized a benefit concert and blood drive; for the event's Facebook page, click here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

UK expert gives Woman's Club the facts about hemp

University of Kentucky agronomist Tom Keene spoke to the Midway Woman's Club at Midway Presbyterian Church Oct. 10.
Story and photos by Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

“I’d liken it the gold rush of the 1840s and 1850s,” Tom Keene said. “Everybody thinks there's a pot of gold if you grow hemp.”

Keene, an agronomy specialist researching hemp at the University of Kentucky, spoke Thursday night to the Midway Woman's Club to inform curious members about one of the most talked-about crops of the decade – and dispel any misinformation.

Keene continued his goldrush analogy: “Everybody is racing to get there, but nobody’s got a map, nobody’s got any GPS coordinates, and for sure most people don’t ask how to get there. They’re just jumping in.”

Keene said hemp is like no other crop he has ever seen, because newly trending crops usually get attention only from farmers and other stakeholders in agriculture. “Everyone’s interested in hemp,’ he said. “Grandma’s interested in hemp, soccer moms are interested in hemp, athletes … students, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers. It goes across all spectrums of society.”

One of the first things Keene pointed out is that hemp is the “exact same plant as marijuana,” contrary to common references calling them “cousins.” Both some from the species Cannabis sativa. The only thing that separates the two is the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. To be considered hemp, and thus be legal nationwide, it can contain 0.3% THC or less. At that level and above, it is marijuana, and is illegal in Kentucky.

Keene also dispelled talk that hemp is some “magic crop,” that it can be grown anywhere, it doesn’t need fertilizer, it doesn’t need insect or disease control, or it will outgrow weeds. He called all of these wrong, and said capitalism will not allow the production of hemp products unless money is being made.

“If it doesn’t make money,” he said, “it doesn’t make sense.”

Keene brought visual aids: a hemp stalk, seeds and fibers.
Keene cited three primary uses of hemp: grain, fiber and cannabidiol, or CBD. In an email interview, UK hemp researcher David Williams said “Cannabinoids are plant-generated molecules, like capsaicin in peppers or nicotine in tobacco.”

CBD is a cannabinoid like THC, but it is not psychoactive and does not cause euphoria or a high.
It is commonly advertised as treating a myriad of medical problems, but has only been scientifically linked to a few. It is most effective at treating tremors and seizures. A CBD firm, Kentucky Cannabis Co., is relocating to Midway.

A myriad of other cannabinoids have shown medicinal potential, but scientific research on them is nowhere near conclusive. Keene said that around 15 to 20 years ago, scientists discovered a system of endocannabinoid receptors in the brain. CBD, THC and all other cannabinoids interact with our bodies through these receptors, meaning our body has a built-in avenue to interact with cannabinoids.

Hemp seed can be used for human or animal consumption, like other grains, or cold-pressed for oil, which can be used as a cooking oil or replace the fossil-fuel oils used in plastics. Keene said the seeds have good nutritional value and are high in protein and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and taste like almonds, only oilier.

Hemp fiber can be used for building materials and textiles. Cannabis has one of the longest natural fibers known to man, and it presents two major fibers, Keene said. The exterior fiber, the bast, is a longer fiber that can be woven into textiles like cotton. The interior fiber, the hurd, is a shorter fiber that can be used in building supplies, insulation or ground up for composites.

Keene brought in a stalk of hemp to show for visual aid. After his presentation, he gathered everyone around the plant to show its individual uses and the parts of the plant they come from.

This year, U.S. farmers applied to grow 500,000 acres of hemp, half of which was actually grown, and around 60,000 of which Kentucky farmers applied for, Keene said. They planted 26,000 acres.

Keene said 500,000 acres may sound large, but doesn’t compare to other U.S. crops like corn, which covers around 90 million acres this year.

Keene said demand for hemp will grow as the grain of the plant is ”allowed for use in animal feed and is integrated into our diets” as other seeds have been.

The Woman’s Club hosted Keene because members were curious about hemp and CBD, club President Genie Graf said. Also, the coming of Kentucky Cannabis Co. adds to the buzz.  “Our members were interested because it’s everywhere,” Graf said. “Everybody’s doing CBD.”

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Vandegrift revives proposals to crack down on blight, establish code enforcement board; predicts passage

By Grant Wheeler and Megan Parsons
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The wheels are again in motion to resolve a longstanding issue in Midway: blighted property.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift is asking the City Council to pass two ordinances – one new and the other revised – to crack down on property owners who don’t meet city codes. He delivered them to the City Council and the news media on Oct. 7 and said after that night's meeting that he expects them to pass.

The new ordinance would create a code enforcement board, an idea that Vandergrift has struggled to get a majority of the council to embrace. The ordinances got a first reading in 2017, but never came back up for passage. Vandegrift said he wants to have "several workshops" on the issue before action by the council, half the membership of which has changed since 2017. He said Oct. 14 that he would call a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, to discuss the issue.

116 E. Main St. may be the most prominent example of blight.
“I do feel like this council will agree, especially with all these code-enforcement boards that exist” in nearby towns under a 2016 state law, Vandegrift told the Messenger. “If you don’t, the circuit court will throw out any appeal because it doesn’t comply with state law.”

Vandegrift said the new law made useless a Vacant Property Review Board that the council created in 2012 under his predecessor, Tom Bozarth. He said in the email that he hopes the council will put the board into effect by the end of the year “if not sooner,” he said in an email Oct. 7 to the council and the news media.

“There are property owners who are taking advantage of their neighbors, their tenants, and the city, and it's high time they be held to an acceptable standard so that no one suffers from another's neglect,” he said.

The ordinance defines “blighted” as any vacant structure or lot that is “dilapidated, unsanitary, unsafe, vermin infested, or is lacking in the facilities and equipment required by the city’s housing or maintenance codes, or has been designated by the building inspector as being unfit for human habitation,” or that meets one of seven other criteria, including three years of tax delinquency, violation of local code or presenting a fire hazard.

Blighted property code enforcement would begin with an enforcement officer, who Vandegrift said should be the county building inspector.  When the officer found a property to be blighted, he or she would give notice to the property owner, with a time period to correct the violations.

If the property owner fails to correct the violations, the inspector would determine if the property is complying with the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances. If not, the officer would refer the matter to the code enforcement board, which would fine the property owner.

The ordinance lays out fines for violations; the first offense for an unsafe and unfit structure is $100; the second and subsequent offenses would be $125 and $150, respectively. If a violator doesn’t measure up, the city can fix the property and bill the owner, creating a lien on the property.

The ordinance would also take advantage of the 2016 law by creating a new class of property, “abandoned urban property,” that could be subject to higher taxes.

Long-vacant house at corner of Higgins and Turner streets
Midway had 89 vacant housing units in 2017, as well as some commercial buildings, so many structures in the town would likely be in violation of the proposed ordinance. Notable examples are the old Masonic hall at 116 E. Main St. and a house at the corner of Turner and Higgins streets that has been abandoned for nearly 60 years.

The proposed code enforcement board would have at least three members, all residents of the city for at least a year before creation of the board, and they “shall reside there throughout their term in office,” the proposed ordinance says. Members of the board would be appointed by the mayor and approved by the council.

The 2012 ordinance for blighted property created a Vacant Property Review Board. Vandegrift said that about a year into his administration, the legislation changed the law on blighted property rules, and “the city was out of sync,” according to city attorney Phil Moloney.

In 2017, Vandegrift made essentially the same proposal he made last week, but had difficulties passing it because the previous council didn’t like the idea of a code enforcement board. Since then, the six-member council has three new members.

Vandegrift said in the email that he wants to hold “several workshops” on the ordinances and to vote on them by the end of the year, “or sooner.”

 “I haven’t whipped the votes or anything, but I can’t imagine there would be a majority against it, especially with the demand for it,” he said. “It’s the one thing I’ve not been able to get done yet that I said I was going to get done.”

Halloween outdoor decorating contest judging Oct. 27

Friday, October 11, 2019

Robert Clay of Three Chimneys Farm gets award from Bluegrass Tomorrow for farmland preservation work

Robert Clay
Robert Clay, founder of Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, received the Bluegrass Legacy Award of Bluegrass Tomorrow, the farmland-preservation group he co-founded in 1989, at its 30th anniversary dinner Thursday night.

Clay accepted the award from former Three Chimneys manager Dan Rosenberg, who said "This work would be his longest, truest legacy."

Former BGT chair Alex Warren, who was senior operations vice president at Toyota, recalled that Clay and Joe Graves came to him in 1989, saying that the Thoroughbred industry "was at a low ebb" while Toyota was expanding, driving growth, and they were concerned that all or part of Calumet Farm would become a commercial or residential development. He said Clay was "the man who started this, and has been the backbone all the way through it."

Clay gave Graves credit for the idea, and recognized original BGT directors who were at the dinner, including Midway lawyer Hank Graddy.

The group inspired the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government's Purchase of Development Rights program and the Bluegrass Land Conservancy, which Clay said have protected more than 15,000 acres of Bluegrass land from development. He said leaders in the region "continue to embrace the idea of saving its cultural landscape and quality of life."

The group originally focused on seven counties, but now includes 18. "County lines in Kentucky were drawn for very outdated reasons," and have been barriers to cooperation, Clay said. "We cannot compete as 18 separate communities, but we can as a region."

The dinner at Fasig-Tipton was catered by Ouita Michel of Midway, who told the crowd of 200, "Agriculture in Kentucky is so tied to how we see ourselves in the world, and I try to put that on your plate." The entree was all-natural Kentucky Proud roasted chicken with distillers' mixed grain pilaf and roasted Brussels sprouts, with a Happy Jack's kabocha squash salad, including local lettuces with a thin slice of Broadbent country ham.

I-64 rest areas to shut 6 hours each Mon. and Tue. night

The Woodford County rest areas on Interstate 64 will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the first two nights of next week for follow-up work from their recent renovation project, the state Transportation Cabinet announced Thursday afternoon. It said semi-tractor trailer drivers may continue to use the rest areas because temporary accommodations are in place for them.

The areas will be closed from 11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, until 5 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, and from 11 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15 to 5 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, the cabinet said.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Katie Vandegrift takes job at CommerceLex; moves up

UPDATE, Aug. 3, 2020: Vandegrift was promoted to director of marketing and research for Commerce Lexington's economic-development team.

Katie Vandegrift
Commerce Lexington, the chamber of commerce for Fayette County, has hired Katie Vandegrift of Midway as an administrative and marketing assistant. She has been a personal banker at WesBanco Bank, the latest iteration in a series of ownership changes at Midway's only bank.

Vandegrift is a graduate of Midway University and has worked in administrative roles in the equine and banking industries and has served on several boards, including the Woodford County Economic Development Authority and Midway Renaissance. She is married to Mayor Grayson Vandegrift; they have a son, Jackson.

"I’m thrilled to join the economic development team at Commerce Lexington," Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger. "As a Woodford countian, it is exciting to work within the organization that supports the Bluegrass Alliance, a partnership that promotes economic development in Central Kentucky."

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Producer of cannabis oil, products moving to Midway

Kentucky Cannabis Co. will bring 20 employees to the building that once housed Robin's Nest Bakery.
By Kennedy Sabharwal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Kentucky Cannabis Co. is consolidating its offices and moving from Fayette County to downtown Midway. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Monday that the company is moving into the building formerly known as the Robin’s Nest Bakery.

KCC says it introduced cannabidiol to Kentucky in 2013 and was one of the original six companies approved to legally cultivate hemp in the state in 2014. It grows hemp in Mercer County, and produces CBD oil and incorporates the oil into products.

Bill Polyniak and Dave Hendrick founded the company in 2013 in hopes of legalizing hemp for Polyniak’s son, who was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Adriane Polyniak
Polyniak’s wife, Adriane, executive director of KCC, said in a telephone interview that they chose to move the office because “We loved the atmosphere and we are really intrigued by that. … I mean, it literally fits every aspect of it being a vertically integrated hemp business. … it just really fit all of our needs.”

Polyniak said she and her husband think the move will benefit Midway by attracting people seeking high-quality CBD products from their retail shop and tours of the company. She said about 20 current employees will make the move, and once the Midway office opens at least three or four more jobs will become available, depending on production and the company’s needs.

Vandegrift said in announcing the move, “We are extremely excited to have this innovative, health-focused company in downtown Midway, and look forward to them becoming a part of our business community.”

Polyniak said she expects the Midway retail store in late October or early November, and the fully functional office to be open by January 2020.

KCC’s facilities, scattered across Fayette County, include administration offices, labs, extraction buildings, research cultivation spaces, and a retail store.

Polyniak said KCC’s considerable growth in the past five years prompted the move to Midway, and it’s in their best interests to combine all their offices under one roof since it will aid with cost savings “above all else.”

Polyniak said the company hasn’t put pen to paper to calculate the exact increase in profit that the move will generate, but is expecting a 400% increase in production from the move.

Polyniak said KCC is the only hemp company in the Eastern U.S. that uses hydrocarbon distillation to extract CBD oil. According to The Essential Chemistry Industry, hydrocarbon distillation uses heat to separate chemicals. With hemp, CBD oil is separated from shorter-length carbon compounds by their different boiling temperatures.

Unlike many other cannabidiol companies, KCC does not sell any vape products. Polyniak said the company’s products vary from oils to balms, lotions, honey, soaps and bath balms.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Annexed land zoned industrial; dissenter says it has to stop at some point; Stephens St. traffic concerns voiced

The tract annexed in March, effectively two tracts joined by a small strip, is now zoned industrial. Click on map to enlarge.
Issues of a growing town dominated the discussion at Monday's Midway City Council meeting.

The council approved rezoning from agricultural to industrial a 138-acre tract next to the Midway Station industrial park, part of which will be used for Lakeshore Learning Materials' expansion. Council Member Logan Nance dissented, saying "At some point we have to stop our industrial development."

Logan Nance
Nance said he supports Midway Station and the work of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, but said he made clear in his campaign for a council seat last year that he didn't support development beyond Midway Station. He said the rezoning could make it more like that a future council could extend industrial zoning across Georgetown Road. A farm is for sale there.

"I never talked to anybody who said they moved here because of industrial land," Nance said. He said earlier that he had voted against annexing the property and wanted to be consistent.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Nance's points were "very well made," but earlier, the mayor said "Midway is a preservationist town" and always will be, but the best way to preserve it is with "wise development."

Stacy Thurman, another first-year council member, said she agreed with Vandegrift, but wants the city and EDA to fulfill the promise of public access to South Elkhorn Creek by way of the rezoned tract or adjacent property.

EDA Chair John Soper gestured to the Imperial Asphalt lot at
the east end of Midway Station, a possible creek access point.
Vandegrift said, "It's going to happen," because landowner Homer Freeny Jr., who is selling the property to EDA, has kept other promises he has made -- and there is an alternative access, through the four-acre Midway Station lot bought recently by Imperial Asphalt, which says it plans to store equipment there. EDA Chair John Soper said likewise, and showed the council possible access points on the Midway Station map on the wall of City Hall.

The rezoning creates an industrial area from Interstate 64 to the Brown-Forman whiskey warehouses along the creek, the county line. (The concrete warehouses are being built under a conditional-use permit in an agricultural zone, on the presumption that whiskey is an agricultural product.) The rezoned tract is in Midway's urban-services area in the county's comprehensive plan.

Vandegrift said when the land was annexed in March, “If we don’t do this, it’s gonna get developed and we’re gonna lose all that revenue,” which EDA needs to pay off Midway Station and pay the city the $600,000 it owes on natural-gas and water lines built on the property. “There’s not gonna be enough in Midway Station to pay us back,” he said then.

The City Council approved two other ordinances, giving MetroNet a non-exclusive franchise to provide television and internet service in the city, and giving Lakeshore Learning an incentive for location of a planned warehouse. The additional net-profits tax generated by the warehouse will be reduced by one-fourth for five years after it employs 100 people.

The council also heard from Todd Graddy of Mill Road Place, who said the recent growth of Midway University has created dangerous traffic on East Stephens Street and its county extension, Weisenberger Mill Road, which will get worse when the new bridge at the mill opens in May.

"Midway's changed 180 degrees," she said, saying that walking on the thoroughfare is "taking your life in your hands."

Vandegrift said, "I do think we're going to need to construct a sidewalk, at least on the Mill Road side," and it would probably be funded in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2020. He said double yellow lines will soon be painted on newly paved Stephens Street, but white edge lines that could help slow traffic or help bicycles might have to wait, because the street width varies.

"I think we are getting there," the mayor told Graddy. "It may not be at the pace you would like." Later, he said, "The city, for 40 or 50 years, didn't invest in anything." The money for recent improvements has come from the growth in occupational-tax revenue, mainly from Midway Station.

Vandegrift said he would schedule a special council meeting to discuss late fees and cut-off policies for water customers. When Nance said Sept. 2 that the city shouldn't cut off water users who don't pay, the mayor asked the Public Works and Services Committee to discuss the issue. Council Member Bruce Southworth, the committee chair, said the panel met Friday and decided that it was "probably better" for the issue to be aired at a council meeting.

In other business, the council set trick or treat for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31, extended the contract for snow removal, and approved event permits for the Christmas-season schedule of the Midway Business Association:
  • A kickoff event Saturday, Nov. 9, with Ms. Claus and five to 20 booths.
  • A chili cook-off on Nov. 16 , co-sponsored by Midway Renaissance, with five to 30 booths.
  • "Sip 'n' Shop" Nov. 23, designed to take advantage of the new "open carry" ordinance that allows customers to take alcoholic drinks off the sales premises. MBA hopes local restaurants will have drink specials and people will "come shop and get tipsy," President Cortney Neikirk said.
  • Arrival of Santa Claus via train Nov. 30, with placement of Christy Reaves's "Joy Land" model-train layout in the old bank building, perhaps with Santa there too.
  • Candy Cane Stroll, similar to the Chocolate Stroll in February, on Dec. 14.

Midway man faces first-degree assault charge after Sunday morning incident; wife in critical condition at UK

A Midway man faces a charge of first-degree assault on his wife, who is in critical but stable condition at the University of Kentucky hospital, according to Assistant Versailles Police Chief Rob Young.

Doug McDaniel, 31, was apprehended in Floyd County, Indiana, around 2:30 or 3 p.m. Sunday, about six hours after his wife, Katy McDaniel, 29, called 911 from their home in the 200 block of West Higgins Street, Young said.

"It was pretty quick," Young said of the apprehension. "We really got lucky." He wouldn't give details of it, or the crime, other than to say the Floyd County Sheriff's Office got "a report of a suspicious individual at a gas station."

Kenneth Doug McDaniel, who goes by his middle name, was lodged in the Floyd County Jail in New Albany. He awaits extradition to Woodford County, where County Attorney Alan George has prepared a warrant changing him with assault.

The main definition of first-degree assault is one causing serious physical injury by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. It is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.

The incident left many in Midway, a town with little violent crime, shaking their heads. As he opened the City Council meeting with the usual moment of silent reflection Monday evening, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said, "Keep all people suffering from domestic violence in your thoughts, too. You know who I'm referring to."

Burn ban over; leaf collection, water-main flushing set

The rain yesterday and today prompted Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift to rescind the ban on open burning that he issued Sept. 19. He said in an email, "This is a good time to remind folks though that any recreational burning must be in a contained structure like a fire pit, and burning brush or vegetation is prohibited."

Meanwhile, leaf collection in the city will begin Monday, Oct 14, Vandegrift has announced. "Please leave your leaf piles in the right of way and city employees will pick them up," he said. "Please don’t leave any sticks or brush in leaf piles; they can damage our chipper."

Also on Monday, city employees will begin their periodic flushing of water mains by opening fire hydrants to clean the water system of mineral deposits and sediment. Residents may notice cloudy tap water for a short time. The water will be safe to drink, but residents should avoid doing laundry until the water clears.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Council's Public Works Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Friday to discuss water late fees and cut-off policies

The Public Works and Services Committee of the Midway City Council will meeting at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at City Hall to discuss late fees and cut-off polices for water customers. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

At the Sept. 2 council meeting, Council Member Logan Nance said shutting off water for unpaid bills “does not need to be a policy of ours.” He called such action “draconian” and said “Clean water is a basic human right; this policy only effects those who are impoverished.”

Council Member Bruce Southworth, who heads the Public Works and Services Committee, was noncommittal about the idea in an interview after the meeting, and Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher sounded skeptical. She asked, “How far are you going to let them get behind?”

Council Member Stacy Thurman, who like Nance is not on the committee, had another view. “It does seem harsh to shut someone’s water off if they simply cannot afford it,” she said. “I believe we must balance effectively running the city with some grace for people who are having a hard time, as there are some people who truly need help.”

The other committee member, Council Member John Holloway, did not attend the Sept. 2 meeting.

The city sends customers who haven't paid their monthly bill get a delinquency notice five business days after the due date, telling them the last day to pay and the cutoff day if payment is not received by then. "Generally, the cutoff day is the 26th of each month and last day to pay is one day before," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. "There is a reconnect fee of $25 for turning water back on."

UPDATE: On the Midway Messenger's Facebook page, Nance and others discuss alternatives.