Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Henry Wombles, whose varied life took him from Ky.'s eastern coalfield to Midway's restaurant row, dies at 82

Henry Wombles signed copies of his book, Under
the Flagpole, outside Heirloom on Sept. 20, 2015.
Henry Wombles, who helped his son Mark start the Heirloom restaurant in Midway after a very varied life in work and business, did peacefully at his home Thursday, March 26. He was 82.

"He was one of the kindest men I ever knew," Mark Wombles said on Facebook. "He always had a clever story, a gentle voice, and a hopeful smile. I’m devastated I won’t hear more of his stories, but I’m eternally thankful for the ones I have. I’ll cherish them as I tell them to my children as I age. His influence over me, as I now father two children is extraordinary. He always had words of encouragement for me. He always told me I was the most handsome boy he ever saw. He believed in me, way before I started to believe in myself. . . . I’m really going to miss him."

After high school, Henry Wombles worked several years in coal mines for his father. Henry Elliott Wombles, then for an engineering company in Hazard, then helped a Florida engineering firm with restoring the home of Samuel Lerner, who owned the Lerner Shops, into the Compleat Angler Hotel, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas.

After several years in Florida, Wombles returned to Kentucky to help his father, but lived in Lexington, and when the coal business slowed, he joined the Lexington Herald-Leader in single-copy sales, late making and directing training films for new employees. He retired at 63 to a small farm on the Woodford-Fayette county line, but had many projects, and partnered with Mark Wombles to open Heirloom in 2006. He frequented the top-rated restaurant long after he no longer owned an interest in it, and was a familiar figure to locals and visitors who enjoyed his stories and sense of humor.

His heart remained in Eastern Kentucky, and in 2015, he published a novel set in Appalachia during World War II, Under the Flagpole, which he described as a "work of love" for the people he grew up with. He hosted tours of Hazard for friends who had enjoyed his book. "I’m so thankful he wrote a book in his late years," Mark wrote. "It holds many of his childhood memories . . . and recounts the story of an overlooked region of America during the turn of the century."

His survivors include his wife of 61 years, Jeanne Cox Wombles; three children, Shayna (Gary) Cooper of Warsaw, Ind., Jeanne (Dave) Gillespie of Leland, N.C., and Mark (Kyla) Wombles of Lexington; and two brothers, James (Charlann) Wombles Sr. and Bobby (Joy) Wombles of Lexington.

The family says a celebration of his life "will be planned for a later date when circumstances permit," but a scholarship is being established in his name for students in his hometown. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to Hazard High School, 157 Bulldog Lane, Hazard KY 41701, for the Henry "Buzz" Wombles Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Monday, March 30, 2020

City Council adds downtown water station to budget, discusses alternatives for large sidewalk project

The Midway City Council added a downtown water station to the proposed city budget and discussed how to handle a much bigger project, new sidewalks, at its first workshop on Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Meeting by online videoconference, the council approved a motion by Bruce Southworth and seconded by Stacy Thurman to put into the budget $5,000 for a water station on East Main Street, as suggested and priced by Logan Nance. He said it would have a standard fountain and spouts for water bottles and pet bowls. The city has a public water fountain only when City Hall is open.

In his initial budget proposal, Vandegrift proposed spending $50,000 to build a sidewalk on Stephens Street to Sexton Way, which leads to The Homeplace at Midway. Last week, he suggested waiting a year to find grants to expand the project to Brand Street, while assessing the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Today he said the pandemic's impact would be uncertain, but noted that the city was already expecting to exceed its occupational-tax forecast by $175,000. He said the city's largest employer, Lakeshore Learning Materials, gave 100 employees two weeks off with pay, and the second-largest, Midway University, is still working (though the campus and farm are closed to the public).

The latest price for the Stephens Street sidewalk is $75,000. Vandegrift said it would have to be built on the north side of the street, because drainage is on the south side, requiring a crossing, and would also require a "fairly long" footbridge over a low spot. Nance said a crossing with lights and signs would help slow speeders, long a problem on Stephens.

Black dots mark original idea for large sidewalk project.
(Google map, adapted) 
Vandegrift said, "We're probably not going to be able to find a grant," for the Stephens sidewalk, and that it would be more economical to have a later, larger project that would include Brand Street, reaching Dudley Street (where another footbridge would be needed) and tying into Walter Bradley Park trails leading to Northside Elementary School. That would qualify the project, or at least part of it, for a Safe Walk to Schools grant, he said.

Thurman said she saw the logic in a combined project, but "We have to really let people know the big picture if we’re gonna put it off a year." Nance said waiting would save $25,000; Vandegrift agreed, noting that the grant would cover 80 percent of eligible costs.

"Part of me thinks we should build the one on Stephens and look for grants later on." Vandegrift said.

John Holloway questioned whether there is room for a sidewalk in the railroad underpass on Brand, and suggested that the grant application could say the route to the school is via Gratz Street, which already has sidewalks. Vandegrift said the engineer he consulted wasn't certain the underpass is wide enough, and the Gratz route could be an option.

"I’d like to see that sidewalk as quickly as possible," Vandegrift said, but "I was worried we might not get the best bang for our buck . . . Going to Gratz might be way smarter. . . . We can do either one."

The mayor agreed with Kaye Nita Gallagher's suggestion that if the project needs extra money, some could be taken from the $25,000 snow-removal budget, most of which has not been used, except to stockpile salt.

The other major point of discussion was the proposed budget of $30,000 for attorney services, up from $21,000 in the current year. Questioned by Nance, Vandegrift said new city attorney Sharon Gold is one of the best lawyers in the state and is charging the city $274 an hour instead of her regular fee, which is more than $300 an hour.

Vandegrift said part of Gold's work is done by lower-priced associates, and the city has less work for its attorney than before because he has six years of mayoral experience and new City Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Foster can write ordinances.

In other business, the council approved a resolution commending Gov. Andy Beshear for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, citing "great leadership" that has been "nonpartisan," a "swift response and a "calm demeanor" in his daily updates, and actions that "protected the most vulnerable" and encouraged citizens "to maintain good social distance and personal hygiene." Vandegrift said the resolution was suggested by an unnamed citizen and written by Nance.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Message from the mayor: Don't gather to eat or drink; businesses allowing such behavior could lose license

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with our community’s seriousness in the midst of this pandemic. However, a few are not taking it seriously enough and I want to be very clear about this: There should not be, for any reason, groups of people sitting on a restaurant patio drinking together. There should also not be any group of people sitting in any street-facing view collectively drinking either, as has also been reported. As hard as it is, we need to take extremely seriously these social distancing guidelines. In fact, people in general shouldn’t be gathering in closed areas where social distancing can’t be practiced.

This is a serious, infectious disease, and to be frank, we’re not likely to see the peak for another three weeks to a month. We are trying to protect every life that we can, and this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Please don’t be the business that allows the virus to spread unnecessarily. Please don’t be the individuals that work against the great work the majority is doing.

We’re going to get through this, and the more we take it seriously, the quicker we’ll be done with this intrusion into our lives. We all love the liberty we possess in this country, but in the name of saving lives, we have to adjust our behavior and practice social distancing at all times right now, without exception. If I get any further reports, like I received tonight, I will have the police break up the party, and we will consider pulling the business license of any place of business condoning irresponsible behavior if we have to.

We want our businesses to make it through this, and we want our citizens to feel as much normalcy as possible, and we’re doing our best to assist in both, but when it comes to protecting Midway citizens and slowing down this spread, I will use the full emergency powers at my disposal and the authority granted me by the governor, if necessary. Please don’t make me do that.

We’re doing a great job, and I’m so proud of how well most everyone is handling this. You are saving lives. Don’t be the person not participating, don’t be the one hurting the common good. We will get through this, but we have to do it together.

Legislative update: Graviss notes health-care, alcohol and unemployment measures in covid-19 response bill

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and part of Franklin County
Hi everybody,
During an emergency, one of the most important things leaders need is added flexibility to do their job.  Some rules that are necessary when life is normal can become hurdles when lives and livelihoods are on the line.
            With that in mind, the General Assembly voted unanimously Thursday evening for Senate Bill 150, which will give Governor Andy Beshear, health-care providers and others the leeway they need as we continue the state of the emergency the governor called March 6 to address the covid-19 pandemic.
            A key provision in this legislation is the expansion of our unemployment insurance program.  Those now eligible include such groups as independent contractors (including barbers, stylists, nail technicians, restaurant staff, etc.), small business owners, substitute teachers and those who may not have lost their jobs but have seen their hours significantly reduced.
More than three million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent days, and in Kentucky, this number is approaching 50,000.  If you are among this group and haven’t already applied, please visit the state’s website at https://kcc.ky.gov/ to learn more about changes made to handle the increased caseload.  Each day of the week, for example, has been set aside to process claims based on the first letter of your last name.
Another element of Senate Bill 150 is that businesses will see rules relaxed when it comes to licenses issued by the state.  In addition, this bill also allows restaurants to sell basic staples like milk and bread and, where already allowed, to deliver alcoholic beverages as long as they are properly sealed and sold to those of legal age.
For our health-care providers, Senate Bill 150 expands tele-health options to limit the need for in-person visits, and it extends Good Samaritan protections for those providers acting in good faith to provide care.  Similar protections also apply to companies that have changed their normal production to manufacture emergency items like hand sanitizer.
While legislators have sent Senate Bill 150 to Governor Beshear for his signature, we are still finalizing a two-year state budget.
In January, when this work began, it appeared that we were poised to pass the first two-year spending plan not to have across-the-board cuts since 2006-08.  It is too soon to say what the upcoming budget will include, but there is broad agreement that it will be difficult to do more than maintain current-year spending if we’re lucky, since tax revenues are expected to decline significantly.
There are two other unknown factors as well.  First, we don’t know exactly how much Kentucky will receive from the just-approved federal stimulus, and with the income tax filing deadline moved to July 15, there will be a delay in receiving this money next fiscal year.
Although Senate Bill 150 was the highlight of the legislature’s work on Thursday, there were several other noteworthy bills sent to Governor Beshear that day as well.
House Bill 2, for example, makes needed improvements to Kentucky’s human-trafficking laws.  That includes requiring airports, bus stations and truck stops to post the hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, to increase the likelihood that victims will be able to get the help they need.
HB 484 will give more autonomy to our local governments when it comes to running their public retirement system, something our city and county officials have been wanting for several years.
HB 415, an important measure to our distilleries, will make it possible for those manufacturing alcoholic beverages to ship their product directly to adult consumers here in Kentucky and across the country, as long as sales where they live are legal.  There are limits on how much can be shipped, too.
When legislators return to the Capitol April 1, our primary focus will be to vote on a budget compromise.  While I believe this could have been handled in a special session later this spring, especially since the public is currently barred from being at the Capitol as a healthcare precaution, my hope is that we can take this vote quickly and head back to our home offices until the legislative session’s final days in mid-April, when we return to consider any vetoes that Gov. Beshear might issue. [Editor's note: Beshear vetoed two bills Saturday.]
As always, please continue letting me know your views and concerns on these legislative matters.  My email is joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, and the legislative message line is 1-800-372-7181.
Thanks for all you do, be well, and holler anytime.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Open-container ordinance is temporarily suspended

Midway's recently passed ordinance allowing open containers of alcoholic beverage to be carried outside licensed premises has been suspended temporarily by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, to whom the ordinance grants such authority.

"A recent executive order by the governor allows restaurants who are selling curbside to also sell packaged liquor or beer to accompany the meal, but it strictly prohibits selling ready-made drinks in to go containers," Vandegrift said in an email to the City Council and the news media. "This has understandably caused some confusion, and in the interest of a unified, consistent approach, I am suspending this ordinance temporarily."

Vandegrift noted that the ordinance was intended to increase downtown commerce, but "with the health crisis, all retail shops are ordered closed and restaurants are operating under limiting parameters; therefore, the intention of the ordinance cannot be fulfilled."

Also, he said, "While we encourage people to walk outside, while practicing social distancing, allowing this practice to continue during this time would contradict the governor’s order and would serve no purpose to our goal of flattening the curve.  Patrons who purchase food can still purchase packaged liquor, wine or beer per the order but it is intended for consumption at home."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Message from the mayor: 'We're doing a good job . . . Be prepared to do this for another month, maybe longer'

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

This is another weekly reminder that we’re doing a good job and that we’re going to get through this. The caring nature of this community continues to shine every day, and that’s what it’s going to take to keep us focused and dedicated to do what’s right and to beat this, which we will do. While there are still no known cases in Midway or Woodford County as this is being recorded, the consensus is that there likely are people with the coronavirus in the county. This shouldn’t cause alarm; it just reminds us of how important it is to have good personal hygiene and to keep practicing social distancing so that we keep that number as low as possible.

Remember that if you need assistance with errands or the like, you can call the Midway Christian Church at 846-4102 and volunteers will assist you. You also have an additional option, as the county’s resource helpline is now operational – you can call them for assistance at 859-753-8228.

While our shops downtown have had to close temporarily, there still may be ways you can support them, if you’re able. Check for special offers like online shopping or purchasing a gift card for future use. Our restaurants are remaining as resilient as can be, but if you’re able to support them, even if just once a week, it can make a difference in keeping someone employed. Many have been very creative in the services they’re offering to keep them afloat and you supplied, so be on the lookout for their offerings as well.

I continue to remain impressed with your resiliency and determination to get through this, as well as your practice of social distancing. That is, bar none, the most effective weapon we have against this virus at this time.

We are keeping a close eye on how our local economy will be affected, and I am very confident our city coffers will be fine. How this affects our downtown shops and restaurants remains to be seen, but with our purchasing support, when and if we can offer it, we can help make sure they’re still here when this is all over. But there is nothing more important right now than protecting people’s lives, and that remains our number-one priority as a city, and certainly as a county and a commonwealth as well.

When this will be all over is still unknown. While it’s true that most people who get the coronavirus are just fine, not everyone fares so well with it. People of all ages have struggled with it, and people over 60 or with serious underlying conditions are the most vulnerable of us, and we have to protect them. But don’t think that just because you are 22 or 32 that this won’t affect you, because it could, and obviously, you could pass it on to someone who might struggle with it.

But it’s also so important not to panic, and not to let your fears overcome you. This is a difficult time for all of us, and that’s why we have to be there to support each other, however we can. As the weather gets warmer, get out and walk, go to the park, enjoy the sunshine. Just practice social distancing, and don’t get a basketball game or soccer match going. There’s also some things you can participate in that are kid-friendly. Here are the upcoming community window walks: March 25 is silly faces, March 28 is flowers, April 1 is jokes, April 4 is yard art, April 8 is encouraging words, and April 11 is Easter eggs. During these events feel free to place the corresponding items in your windows for kids to walk by and spot as they count how many they can find. They start by 4 p.m.

The more seriously we take this, and the better we practice social distancing, the less time we’ll have to do this. And again, if you’re sick, stay home. If you need a doctor, call your local physician, but don’t just show up. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. But remember that we as humans tend to think our worst fears will come true, and tend to think we won’t be able to handle it. So don’t overestimate your fears or underestimate your toughness. You’re tougher than you think, but you’re not invincible either, so use caution, wash your hands, practice social distancing. And be prepared to do this for another month, maybe longer. If we truly do this to the best of our abilities we may end up being pleasantly surprised. I know there have been some rumblings at the national level of a quicker timeline, but luckily states do have rights, and I think our Commonwealth will do the right thing based on what our situation is. Our governor has made it clear that setting arbitrary timelines are not appropriate right now. So let’s keep doing the absolute best we can, let’s continue staying calm, let’s continue taking care of ourselves, and let’s continue helping each other get through it. Because we will get through it. Thanks, and God bless.

Fred update: Model vulture shoos away the real birds

Fred the vulture is visible above the chimney in this photograph provided by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.
The model vulture Fred, which the city had hung in a tree amid a vulture roost on Feb. 17 to mimic a dead one, appears to have done the job, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reports.

"We’ll take good news where we can find it," Vandegrift wrote in an email with a photo., above. "This was taken by the homeowner and she’s reporting that after we moved Fred to a little higher spot in the tree, the vultures left. Another neighbor reported seeing them circling it and then flying away. We’re going to monitor to see if they roost somewhere else in town, but other than the tin man, that seemed to be their spot." Here's a Messenger photo, taken Tuesday, from another angle:

Monday, March 23, 2020

Mayor wants to expand sidewalk project to park for school access, delay it a year to make sure of money

The Midway City Council will hold its first workshop to work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 via teleconference Monday, March 30, at 5 p.m. The meeting will stream live via Facebook, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email to the council and news media.

Vandegrift said the availablity of grants has prompted him to propose building a sidewalk not only along West Stephens Street from Brand Street to the Homeplace, but to the north along Brand, "ultimately connecting it to Dudley, and to the trails at Walter Bradley Park." He said that would require a footbridge over Lee’s Branch parallel to the Dudley Street culvert, but that would fulfill a request made by Council Member Sara Hicks and parents and teachers of Northside Elementary School students who use the route. "What that does is open us up to more grant opportunities because it ties into a park, and provides a safer walk to and from school. I’ve already walked this with our engineer and he says it’s very doable."

However, Vandegrift said he would ask that the project wait until fiscal 2021-22, to allow more time to get grants and "more time to assess the economic toll the pandemic will cause. Though I’m hopeful it won’t greatly affect our income projections for FY 2020-21, it might. I’m fairly certain it will, however, affect our current year’s budgeting. While our two largest job providers (Lakeshore and Midway University) continue to operate with the proper precautions, there’s no doubt our current pace of occupational tax collection will decline, and we need to be prepared for that. We also don’t know the long term effects this could have on our economy. Couple that with the fact that we have to make sure we can execute our sewer project this year, I submit my proposal to you."

Council holds brief meeting fully online due to pandemic

Screenshot of Facebook page that carried the meeting, with dialog box for Zoom, the platform used by the mayor and council 
In its first meeting conducted online, the Midway City Council approved changes in the leave policy for city employees to conform to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It was conducted by way of Zoom, an online meeting platform, and streamed on the Facebook site Midway Government Streaming Meetings.

The meeting was a special one, in more ways than one. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he expects the regular meeting on April 6 to be conducted online due to the restrictions in place for the pandemic. Council Member Bruce Southworth, who always makes the motion to adjourn and has said this is his last council term, suggested that the council just keep on meeting that way.

That would require a change in state law, because the Kentucky Open Meetings Act requires that a public agency “precisely identify a primary location of the video teleconference where all members can be seen and heard and the public may attend” and “provide meeting-room conditions, including adequate space, seating, and acoustics, which insofar as is feasible allow effective public observation of the public meetings.”

Public agencies in Kentucky are meeting without such arrangements under an emergency order from Gov. Andy Beshear and an opinion from Attorney General Daniel Cameron that says, “For a public agency to identify a primary physical location to conduct a video teleconference and invite public attendance at that location would contravene all of the guidance from the president of the United States, the governor, and public-health officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In this state of a proclaimed national emergency and under a similar declaration by the governor, it is the opinion of this office that it is not currently 'feasible' for public agencies to be required [to] 'provide meeting-room conditions'—in the sense of a physical location where observers would be in close proximity to each other.”

Legislative report: As General Assembly moves toward recess, Graviss reports on its work and covid-19 impact

By Joe Graviss, state representative for Woodford County and part of Franklin County

Hi everybody,

It may have been more than 160 years ago that Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities,” but the novel’s well-known opening line – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – seems especially relevant today, given what we have lived through this month.

I will of course update you further on what develops, but for now, here are some important websites and phone numbers you may need. To access the state’s public-assistance programs, please visit https://benefind.ky.gov or call 1-855-306-8959. For Medicaid, the customer-service line is 855-459-6328, and the website is https://healthbenefitexchange.ky.gov.

For unemployment insurance, the website is http://www.kewes.ky.gov/, while the main number for claimants is 502-564-2900. Governor Beshear has also announced more regional phone numbers.

Be aware that, due to sudden spike in unemployment payments, applications are being accepted this week on a staggered basis based on last name. Each day is focused on several letters through Friday, and if you miss your day, you can use Friday as well.

This information and more can be found on a new website the administration has created as a single source listing every state order and action. That website is https://governor.ky.gov/covid19. It’s excellent and I urge you to sign up for automatic updates.

We all know the challenges we’ve faced both here in Kentucky and around the world. At the same time, we have also seen countless examples of others reaching out to help, so to speak, even as we do what we can to stay apart.

Our health-care workers and first responders deserve considerable credit for what they have done to keep us well, while our teachers and school staffs are to be commended for making sure our children are still able to learn and have access to nutritional food while they are at home.

Those running our grocery stores and restaurants have overcome their own challenges to continue serving us, and our small businesses and civic and charitable organizations have found ways to help many of us navigate situations our country hasn’t seen since the days of World War II and the Great Depression.

I want to thank everyone who has gone above and beyond for our community – and I appreciate the willingness of so many to stay home and, when out, to practice social distancing and good hand washing to limit the spread of this illness.

At the Capitol this past week, it also was the best of times and the worst of times. On the positive side, Gov. Andy Beshear and his administration have kept us informed and taken the tough but necessary steps needed to “flatten the curve” so that our health-care system can weather the growing number of covid-19 cases, which going into the week numbered around 100 but unfortunately rising, so please follow all the health guidelines.

The state has also eased rules to accommodate those who have lost their jobs as a result of the various closures and now qualify for such programs as Medicaid and unemployment insurance.

On Thursday, the House moved two significant bills forward that will build on this relief. Senate Bill 177 would give our schools the flexibility they need to finish the school year as they and their students cope with the prolonged absence, and Senate Bill 150 would do something similar in other areas so Gov. Beshear and health officials have more authority to do what is necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus and help employees.

Those were the high points of our legislative work last week, but there were regrettably some low points, too.

Many of my legislative colleagues and I questioned whether we should even be at the Capitol at all. In Georgia, one legislator who tested positive for covid-19 led to a call that every legislator there self-isolate. More than a dozen other state legislatures left their capitals altogether.

Gov. Beshear promised to call the General Assembly back into special session in the weeks ahead to enact emergency measures and the state’s budget, but legislative leaders chose not to go that route.

As a result, and with the Capitol complex closed to the general public, the House and Senate considered numerous bills that had no relevance to the crisis at hand, including one that dealt with the definition of hair stylist and another on how to dispose of deer meat.

Several bills from this time would, if ultimately enacted, have a negative impact on hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

One of the more significant is Senate Bill 2, which will add another hurdle by requiring a photo ID to vote. Current law already requires voters to show some form of ID, but this bill won’t even allow a valid out-of-state driver’s license to be used.

Even though free IDs are part of this bill – a cost that alone could reach into the millions of dollars – this is still unnecessary when there has not been a single example in at least 20 years of in-person voter fraud. If we’re going to consider voting legislation during a crisis, it should be to extend hours at the polls and allow early, excuse-free voting.

This week, legislative leaders will work on a compromise state budget that the House and Senate are scheduled to vote on this late this week or early next. I’m hoping that some aspects of the Senate budget, which was approved this past week, do not survive.

One proposal would potentially withhold more than $1 billion from the teachers’ retirement fund if unspecified changes are not made in the next two years to limit benefits for new teachers. TRS doesn’t need this, and certainly teachers have told me loud and clear they do not want this.

Inexplicably, the Senate budget also scales back tens of millions of dollars our public health departments and quasi-governmental agencies desperately need to make their retirement contributions more manageable. At a time when the critical role teachers, public health departments, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and crucial mental health organizations play is more evident than ever, I cannot understand how any legislator, much less the majority of the Senate, could support these plans.

Finally, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns about these or other legislative issues. My email is joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, and the toll-free message line for all legislators is 1-800-372-7181.

Thanks for all you do and are doing, stay well and holler anytime.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Mosquito presentation put off, but council will still have special video meeting to change employee leave policy

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has postponed a presentation he planned to make at a special City Council about a mosquito prevention program, but the council will still have a special meeting late Monday afternoon to amend city-employee leave policies to conform to new federal guidelines.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and will be held by video teleconference. Since the meeting will be so short, Vandegrift said in an email, "It would be silly to send everyone in. . . . The attorney general recently issued an opinion allowing us to do this, and we can still record it like normal."

The state Open Meetings Act requires that a public agency “precisely identify a primary location of the video teleconference where all members can be seen and heard and the public may attend” and “provide meeting-room conditions, including adequate space, seating, and acoustics, which insofar as is feasible allow effective public observation of the public meetings.” Attorney General Daniel Cameron's opinion says, “For a public agency to identify a primary physical location to conduct a video teleconference and invite public attendance at that location would contravene all of the guidance from the president of the United States, the governor, and public-health officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In this state of a proclaimed national emergency and under a similar declaration by the governor, it is the opinion of this office that it is not currently 'feasible' for public agencies to be required [to] 'provide meeting-room conditions'—in the sense of a physical location where observers would be in close proximity to each other.”

Monday's meeting will be held via the online meeting platform Zoom, which observers can download for free. The meeting's login code is here, but Vandegrift said he may be able to livestream the meeting on Facebook. "Monday’s meeting is our trial run, as we’re figuring out all our capabilities," he wrote. One bit of advice from a Zoom user: Mute your microphone. You can also turn off your camera.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Midway Business Association members list how and when they're operating due to the pandemic

The Midway Business Association has compiled, and is updating, a list of Midway businesses and how they are dealing with the covid-19 pandemic. This list will be updated. Here are their responses as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, in alphabetical order:

Commotion! So far we are open like normal (we mostly ship or have dedicated clients versus random walk-ins anyway).
Fisher’s Antiques: We are in Florida still and Cortney is running our show. We have told her to do whatever she likes. I know that is wishy-washy, but she needs to be flexible. I suppose if someone comes to Midway and needs something, they can always call her and she can arrange to meet them if she is not open.
Freedman’s: Closed to walk in traffic but we are still shipping all phone and web orders as well as being available via phone. We can always be found by our website, FB and IG pages.
gigi&george: By luck or appointment. Plan to be in the shop everyday. Also online orders via Instagram, Facebook (website launching soon). Gift certificates also available.
facebook: gigi &george
giftcards: https://squareup.com/gift/TJZQ0M60TV0VH/order
Heirloom: Tuesday through Saturday, all-day curbside delivery and to-go.
McDonald’s: Drive-thru only, per the governor
Mezzo: Curbside service
Midway Boutique: Open, but all doing phone orders and orders off Facebook. Will ship.
Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants
Holly Hill Inn: Sunday to Go Suppers, Friday-Sunday
(859) 846-4732 or order online
Wallace Station
Call (859) 846-5161 or order online
The Midway Bakery
Call (859) 846-4336
Southern Sunday: I'm now closed to walk in traffic but still selling online. All online orders are 20% off with code SUPPORTLOCAL and shipping is free for orders over $75. The website is shopsouthernsunday.com, Facebook is facebook.com/shopatsouthernsunday and IG is shopsouthernsunday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Message from the mayor: Starting a weekly update as we deal with the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

This is a weekly reminder that we’re going to get through this. I commend everyone who is doing such a great job practicing social distancing and taking more care to keep good personal hygiene – you may be saving someone’s life by doing so.

Some people are understandably starting to ask when we can expect life to go back normal. The short answer is we don’t exactly know yet for sure, but we should be prepared for this lifestyle change to have to last for months. The better we adhere to the guidelines recommended by health officials, the more likely we’ll get through this sooner.

In a conference call with other mayors today and Gov. Beshear, it became clear the governor wants us to expect to practice these new techniques well into the time we see the cases spike, and then we’ll even need to wait a bit longer once they decline to make sure we’ve beaten this thing on the first try. How long that is, is hard to say. But, be prepared to buckle down for weeks and months.

I also encourage you to think about your mental health right now. 100 percent of us are experiencing high anxiety at times, some more often than others, and that’s completely normal. What I want to ask each and every citizen of Midway is: How are you doing? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you giving yourself time when you need it? Are you letting yourself process, are you making sure you’re not beating yourself up over trivial things? It’s so important that we take care of what’s going on in our own minds so that we can be motivated and optimistic, so that we can beat this thing together. As Midwegians (or Midwayans), as Kentuckians, as Americans, and as humans, we will beat it. Let’s keep looking after ourselves and each other – you’ve done a great job so far.

There are many resources for those who need help right now. Midway citizens have formed a volunteer group to run errands for those in need. If you need assistance call the Midway Christian Church, who is offering the office space for this volunteer program, at 859-846-4102. If you’d like to volunteer, e-mail Melissa Scheier at mscheie0@georgetowncollege.edu.

If you would like to visit Woodford County’s page for resources and information, we have a link to that on our homepage at meetmeinmidway.com. We have many options for you to support our local restaurants: Mezzo (curbside 846-4077, closed Mondays), Brown Barrel (takeout, pickup, and delivery, meats, and retail package goods, closed Sunday, 859-403-2003), Heirloom (curbside, gift card lottery, 846-5565, closed Sunday and Monday), Darlin' Jeans (takeout, 846-9485), Goose & Gander (carryout and curbside, 846-9933), Holly Hill Inn (order and pay online, curbside pickup, 10% off for medical professionals, 846-4732), Wallace Station (order and pay online, curbside pickup, free delivery in Woodford County, 10% off to medical professionals, 846-5161.), Midway Bakery (curbside service, online ordering, 846-4336). Midway Corner Grocery has many canned goods and other groceries (846-4712).

We as a city government are looking into other ways we can help our citizens and our businesses, and those details will be shared once they’re hammered out more and as the situation becomes more and more clear. But if you need anything, you can call me on my cell at 859-361-6320.

Our employees are still working and all functions are still in place. City Hall is open for appointment only, but you can still pass items through the drop box or leave them there overnight. And you can still call City Hall between 8:30 and 4:30 at 846-4413. We will not be doing water cut-offs this month, but we ask that you pay your bill to the best of your ability.

No one likes uncertainty, but we deal with it in our normal lives more than we think, so remember not to overestimate your fears and underestimate your abilities. We are all capable of getting through this, but we must protect the most vulnerable among us.

Keep practicing social distancing, but when it’s nice out, go to the park, take a walk, just don’t get together in close circles or play basketball or soccer together. If you’re sick, stay in, and stay six feet from your loved ones in the home if you’re ill.

If you need emergency assistance you can still call 911. If you feel ill you can still call your local physician. Railroad Drug is open and is also offering curbside service and free delivery, at 846-4146. Ken Glass ensures that there will be no supply-chain issues on medicine, so there’s no need to order months of it at a time; he’s got your back too.

If you need anything, please call me. I’m here for you, and we’re here for each other. I’ve said it many times through this, but I think it rings true: we have to stick together, even if we’re forced apart. Great job, and God bless.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Kids getting stir-crazy? Get them out for a walk. That's what Robin Taylor thought, and she did it for lots of them

Robin Taylor poses with her husband Liles and their children, Jolee and Bennett. (Photo by Katie Vandegrift)
By Katie Vandegrift
Special to the Midway Messenger

Late Monday night, Robin Taylor had an idea. After learning about an event being planned in neighboring Georgetown, where she works for the Scott County schools, Taylor began quickly putting together an idea that proved welcomed and successful in the Midway community.

The niece and nephew of a Midway resident enjoyed
the Stroll while their mother, a health-care worker,
was on duty. (Photo by Chrystal Thompson)
The event would have a St. Patrick’s Day theme, encouraging parents and children to walk around town looking for previously placed shamrocks. Amid the covid-19 outbreak, she felt this would be a way to give citizens a good excuse to get out and enjoy some fresh air and a walk, all while entertaining the community’s children while schools are closed.

On Tuesday morning, she and her husband Liles, who is a magistrate on the Woodford County Fiscal Court, quickly organized by crafting various shamrocks and gathering a few volunteers to help place them around town. Homeowners put them up in their windows, business displayed them from their storefronts, and volunteers placed them in various other locations for the young shamrock detectives to go out looking.

And, despite the late notice, dozens of families got out to participate, with many other walkers enjoying the event, which still practiced social distancing on a day that turned out nice: temperatures in the mid-50s with the sun finally fighting through the clouds by the time the event started at 4 p.m.

Melinda Caldwell and Scout, two of the many volunteers who
displayed shamrocks outdoors for kids to spot. (selfie photo)
Robin Taylor, clearly worn out from a day of planning and organizing an event she cooked up not 24 hours before, was already asleep by the time this was written Tuesday night, but her husband Liles gave part of the reasoning for the Shamrock Sighting Stroll: “Our kids haven’t left the house since Friday after school, so they’ve been getting a little stir-crazy. When Robin saw something similar happening in a Georgetown neighborhood, she suggested she try it. When I came up with the name, she decided to float the idea this morning on our neighborhood Facebook group to see if there would be any interest. We just went from there.”

Photos posted to Facebook by various families showed the fun that was had, particularly by the kids, with one resident sounding especially thankful: “Thank you to everyone in our neighborhood and community. . . . My niece and nephew are here from out of town; their mom is a health-care worker, and a single mom at that. They are young and confused over all of this. Being able to get them outside and moving made their day and they had lots of fun. They found 112 shamrocks.”

They found some normalcy, too.

Katie Vandegrift is administrative and marketing manager for economic development at Commerce Lexington and the wife of Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. The Messenger thanks her for writing this story, and invites more journalism from citizens. We like to say that every American has the First Amendment right to commit journalism, and we aim to help Midwegians do it.

Restaurants get designated parking spaces for pickup and delivery; officials brief council on covid-19 response

Business was slow on Main Street's restaurant row around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, despite spaces reserved for pickup.
What does a restaurant-heavy town do when a pandemic hits and the governor says no one in the state can eat inside a restaurant? City officials make it easier for restaurants to offer pickup and delivery.

That's what the Midway City Council did Monday night, setting aside three parking spaces for each restaurant and their customers to use until Gov. Andy Beshear lifts his order closing bars and restaurants to inside service.

The council also heard updates from first responders about how Woodford County is dealing with the new coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes, covid-19.

The council approved Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's plan to put signs on three parking spaces in front of each Main Street restaurant for customers to pick up takeout orders. He said the bicycle racks in front of the Goose and Gander would be removed to create shared parking spaces for delivery vehicles.

"It gives them some semblance of authority to do this, and encourage people to use that service," Vandegrift said. "If we need to tweak this as we go, I think that's fine." Asked how it would be enforced, he said police could check a vehicle's license plate and track down the owner. He said he would "use public pressure" to keep restaurant owners and employees form using the spaces.

Vandegrift said the idea is to encourage people to support the restaurants. They rely on out-of-town trade and bring traffic to other businesses. He said Cortney Neikirk, president of the Midway Business Association, consulted "every merchant she could find" about the plan and they all agreed with it. He said other steps may be needed later to help retailers.

Holly Hill Inn on North Winter Street won't offer delivery, but its sister restaurant, Wallace Station on Old Frankfort Pike, will deliver all over Woodford County, owner Ouita Michel said in a Facebook video Monday. She said she is giving give health-care professionals a 10 percent discount, will keep buying local food, "and I want to encourage you to do the same," by shopping at farmers' markets.

The Woodford County Tourism Commission is gathering and publishing information from restaurants and retailers on its Facebook page.

Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler talked about priorities in responding to the coronavirus.
Emergency report: County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler, in his report on the county's reaction to the pandemic, reminded the council of the reasons for the governor's order.

"We're dealing with something that has rapid spread and no vaccine," unlike the flu, he said. "Our health care has so much capacity. You've seen reports out of Italy, where they have to choose who gets the ventilator and who passes away. We don't want that to happen. That's why we're implementing the social distancing," to slow the spread of the virus. "If we can prolong the period of time, the system can respond better."

Vandegrift said, "People need to take the social distancing very seriously. . . . We're going to be in this for the long haul. It's going to be uncomfortable. By the long haul, I mean it could last through the summer. I think the more we practice social distancing, the more we take these recommendations . . . the shorter the time's going to be," and the fewer people will die.

Chandler said, "It's important while we're social distancing that we not isolate ourselves and get stir-crazy." Council Member John Holloway later advised, "Go walk in the park," which he manages.

Holloway spoke after Council Member Stacy Thurman reported that a group of Midway citizens has organized to help "people who are very isolated right now and are high-risk and may not be able to get out of their house at all." She said they are planning to hang notices on all doors or porches in town, offering help with errands.

Chandler said the main effect of the state of emergency that local government executives declared last week is to "open up procurement" so goods and services can be obtained quickly. When he found that police were having to bring hand sanitizer from home, he said, the county got some from the state.

Versailles Police Chief Mike Murray said his department, which patrols the whole county, would maintain all services but has taken some steps to reduce personal contact, such as investigating petty crimes by telephone. He said the shoplifting he feared hasn't happened, and "Our call volume, overall, has kind of declined a little bit."

Chandler said the county road department increased its bulk fuel purchases to guard against shortages, and fire departments are being cautious about possible exposure on medical-assistance calls, assessing patients "from a good distance" so they don't have to waste any personal protective equipment, supplies of which are expected to run short.

"The biggest thing we can do right now," Chandler said, "is to maintain situational awareness." Chandler said someone in the county probably has the virus but there have been no positive tests. Beshear has said every county will eventually have a case.

In other business, the council formally accepted the recent audit report for the 2018-19 fiscal year, and held a public hearing and first reading on an ordinance to replace the telephone-line fee for 9-1-1 emergency service with a $59 fee on each residential address, to be placed on county tax bills. "Everyone seems to be behind this idea," Vandegrift said.

Thurman, chair of the city's Workplace Housing Task Force, said it has concluded that the city needs a professional assessment of housing needs and wants in the city, not only seeing what citizens think but getting the opinions of out-of-towners who work in Midway and might move here.

Monday, March 16, 2020

City Hall business by appointment only starting Tuesday

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced this morning that public visits to City Hall will be by appointment only starting tomorrow.

He said City Clerk Cindy Foster and her assistant, Sonya Conner, "will still be there working, but in an effort to protect our employees, and to protect the most vulnerable among us, we ask that you call if you have any questions, and use the night drop to make payments or otherwise. If you do need an in person meeting, please call ahead to schedule."

Vandegrift concluded, "All of our actions are out of an abundance of caution, and to protect each other. Everyone is working together wonderfully, and that’s how we’re going to get through this."

Friday, March 13, 2020

Mayor declares state of emergency for pandemic, plans to offer council plan to allow curbside restaurant service

Screenshot of first page of emergency declaration
Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has joined the other two government executives in Woodford County in declaring a local state of emergency due to covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The declaration was made quietly. It was included in the packet for Monday night's City Council meeting. Vandegrift told the Messenger that it was "procedural," to make sure the city is eligible for any funding related to the pandemic.

The declaration says it allows the mayor to waive "procedures and formalities otherwise required by law pertaining to performance of public work, entering into contracts, incurring obligations, employment of permanent and temporary workers, utilization of volunteer workers, rental of equipment, appropriation and expenditure of public funds."

Later today, Vandegrift said he was adding to the meeting's agenda "a plan I’m working on with our restaurants and the business association to allow restaurants to offer curbside service during the pandemic. Details are still being worked out." Restaurateurs have voiced concern about the ban on spectators in the first half of the spring meet at Keeneland Race Course, one of their busiest times.

Gov. Andy Beshear, asked at this afternoon's press conference if Kentuckians should eat at restaurants this weekend, said "You need to avoid crowds. Now, does that mean you can go to a restaurant, as long as people are spread out? We're going to be putting up guidance for food service and that here soon, but again, you need to practice good judgment. If you're going to a place and you see a large crowd, with people close together, not six feet apart, that's not what we should be doing."

UPDATE, March 14: Asked the same question at Saturday's press conference, Beshear said, "Order takeout," and said he would. "We want to support that restaurant industry." About two hours later, the Holly Hill Inn sent out an email blast offering chicken and steak dinners for takeout Sunday from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Mayor endorses health department's call for cancellation or postponement of non-essential public gatherings

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway
    In conjunction with the Woodford County Health Department and Woodford County Emergency Management, the City of Midway is advising all citizens to begin practicing the technique of social distancing to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as Covid 19. (Please see the press release below from the Health Department.)
   We are also recommending the cancellation or postponement of any non-essential public gatherings, understanding that different circumstances call for different techniques. All other practices such as good personal hygiene are still in place, and always should be, and other precautionary measures are listed in the Health Department’s release as well. 
   There are still no known cases in Midway or Woodford County; these recommendations are out of an abundance of caution to prevent the spread of this illness. There are instances around the world that prove that this virus can be contained and even controlled, and these measures being suggested by our local and state health departments and our emergency-management team are aimed towards that goal. 
   There is no reason for panic or to let our fears and anxieties run away with us: we’re going to be fine because we stick together, even if we’re forced apart. Most people who contract the virus experience symptoms similar to a cold or flu, but not everyone can handle it as easy as others. It would be irresponsible of us not to do everything we can to prevent and contain the problem. The best thing for us to do is to take care of ourselves so that we can protect the most vulnerable among us. 
    If you have any questions you can visit kycovid19.ky.gov or wchd.com. We also have a resource link to the county health department’s response at meetmeinmidway.com

Sat. weather forecast shrinks St. Patrick's Day events

With Saturday's weather forecast calling for rain and a high of only 42, The Midway Business Association is scaling back its St. Patrick's Day activities. The street festival and band have been cancelled, but the Mini Pub Crawl is still scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. The Pub Crawl cards will be available at the Midway Makers Market.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Message from the mayor: Local officials work together to prepare for covid-19, the coronavirus disease

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Thursday I attended a meeting concerning covid-19 (the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus) at the Woodford County Health Department. About 35 officials from around the county, including first responders and medical professionals both state and local, were in attendance. We are working together as a community to be prepared in case our community is affected.

For now, it’s important to practice the same hygiene we do for the flu: wash your hands, cover your cough, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you are sick, stay home. Please do not purchase masks; they are ineffective without proper fitting, and are sorely needed in medical facilities and nursing homes. There is no reason at all to panic, but it’s always good to be prepared. Should the virus make its way into our community we will be ready to make responses and will alert the public regularly.

Health officials who spoke to us, as well as our local pharmacist, Ken Glass, have said the majority of people coming into contact with the virus are experiencing symptoms similar to a bad cold, or a lighter flu. There is an increased risk to immune-compromised individuals, but again, there are currently no cases in Kentucky, and even if there are to be, we won’t need to panic then, either; we’ll just need to work together and take the necessary steps to prevent illness and promote health.

Beware of news sources that tend to sensationalize anything, particularly unfamiliar sources prevalent on social media sites. Refer to sites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and federal health pages. You can also follow the county health department page on Facebook by typing “Woodford County Health Department KY” in your search bar. Additionally, you can learn more about the virus and local preparedness by visiting woodfordcounty.ky.gov/Pages/covid-19.aspx.

Should any future updates need to be made, I will make them promptly. Stay healthy and enjoy the beautifully changing weather if you’re able.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Midway Renaissance's Greenspace Committee to share livestream of event Sun. about women, climate justice

By Marcie Christensen
Chair, Greenspace Committee, Midway Renaissance

I hope many of you will be able to join us this Sunday, March 8, from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. in the Community Room at Midway Presbyterian Church. The Greenspace Committee of Midway Renaissance and the Midway Chapter of Dining for Women will celebrate International Women's Day by sharing a live-streamed event to show how women all over the world fight for environmental justice in their countries and communities.

The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed around the world, and they are different for women and men. Women and girls are the most adversely affected, yet they are also well-suited to find solutions to prevent further degradation and adapt to the changing climate. More and more, women and girls around the world are becoming climate justice advocates. When women participate in decision-making at national and community levels, they can help devise effective climate change solutions that build stronger communities.

The main event, in Washington, D.C., is a collaborative production of Dining for Women, Peace is Loud, UNICEF USA, and Women of Peace Corps Legacy. For more info on the national event, visit Our Biggest Chapter Meeting of the Year.  Questions? Email Marcie Christensen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Mayor says condemned landmark likely to be torn down

The building at 116 E Main St. is pictured on Tuesday morning.
By Emmanuel Flemister
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandergrift says the condemned building that was once an African American landmark at 116 E. Main Street will probably be torn down.

Vandegrift spoke after Monday night’s City Council meeting, at which he said planning and zoning officials have given the building owner 20 days from Feb. 28 to appeal the condemnation order and 30 days to fix up the building or face demolition.

The council also went over the city’s audit report, discussed a plan to beautify the land in Midway Station along Interstate 64 and agreed to seek bids from contractors to finish the pavilion in the cemetery.

116 E. Main: Building Inspector Joshua Stevens wrote building owner Ness Alamdari Feb, 10, citing 10 issues that needed fixing and giving him 30 days to correct them and "obtain a letter from a licensed Kentucky engineer certifying that the structure of the building is not in danger of collapse and does not pose a threat to public safety. If an engineer letter is not obtained and a building permit not obtained for the above listed corrections, an order of demolition will be needed."

When Alamdari returned a call from the Messenger Feb.19, he said he had just picked up the notice that he had a certified letter. Vandegrift told the council Monday night that Alamdari didn’t sign for the letter until Feb. 28, so Woodford County planning and zoning officials decided to make the time periods for the appeal and completion of the work run from that date.

Vandegrift told council members that they may have to vote on condemnation, and that it’s possible that the city can do the demolition and place a lien against the property to recover its costs.

After the council meeting, Vandergrift said he spoke to Alamdari soon after he bought the building four years ago about getting it renovated, saying he was “excited to see the property get fixed” and that “as a government we were very patient with him for a long time.”

But little work was done, and the mayor said he told Alamdari recently the building was an “eyesore” and that they were “tired of waiting.” He said they have received several “empty promises” from Alamdari and that the building “doesn’t seem to be salvageable anymore.”

Alamdari told the Midway Messenger on Feb. 19 that Vandergrift wants to tear down the building to make it a parking lot for festivals. Vandegrift denied that.

Alamdari said Vandergrift “doesn’t know what the language of diplomacy is. He’s been trying to bully me and I’m not a person that will take bullying so easily. He’s the biggest liar I’ve ever seen. . . . I feel like he is another Trump.”

Vandergrift appeared shocked at that, and said that “My wife would crack up hearing him call me another Trump.” Vandergrift said he was never against the property getting fixed and feels Alamdari is “projecting” and The people’s will is what matters here.”

Vandergrift said, “I think I took the diplomatic route and probably was erring on the side of patience, just trying to make sure we were working with him.” He said he would take no pleasure in demolition of a historic stricture, but “I have been inside the building, and like so many others have watched as time and weather continue to deteriorate it . . . I came to believe that condemnation is the only solution.”

He added, “I have been approached by many people interested in buying and fixing it up. I know they mean well, but I think they missed the boat here; this needed to be done 10 years ago.”

The building was erected in 1898 by the Pilgrim Lodge of the Odd Fellows, an African American men's organization. It has had many owners, landing in Alamdari’s hands in 2016. Local historian Bill Penn, a nearby store owner, said the  building was last occupied 15 to 20 years ago.

Audit report: The council accepted the city audit for the fiscal year that ended last June 30 and heard CPA Sammy Lee of Berea say, “We’re issuing an unqualified, clean opinion. . . . That’s the best opinion that an auditor can issue.” He added later, “The city is really solid.”

However, the audit noted the same “material weaknesses” noted by past auditors: a lack of an internal-control system to prevent, detect and correct financial misstatements, and a failure to segregate duties of the two City Hall employees. Lee said that in such a small city, “It doesn’t make economic sense” to hire more employees for internal controls,” and segregation of duties is “almost impractical a majority of the time.” A PDF of the audit can be downloaded here.

Midway Station beautification: A previous auditor noted an “uncollectable debt” of $500,000 to $750,000 owed the city by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns and manages the Midway Station industrial and commercial park.

Vandegrift said the debt could be satisfied by giving the land to the city to make a park along the Interstate 64 boundary of Midway Station. He said the idea “is to get any sense of control over the land and ideally control of what Midway Station looks like in the end, from your first glance on the interstate and getting off the interstate, and gives us something in return for debt we’re probably never going to get back.”

He added, “From the EDA’s point of view, it gets land off their books they don’t know what exactly they should do with.”

EDA Chair John Soper said the proposed deal “seems like a win-win” for the city and EDA. He said he had spoken to EDA board members, and “It’s something they can feel good about.”

The tract is 34 acres with two “bulbs” of land on the ends and a long strip joining them. Council Member Logan Nance said, “I don’t think we’re talking about a park. We’re talking about taking the general area and beautifying the area.”

Council Member Sara Hicks agreed, saying “a green space is good for everything.” Vandegrift said that in 20 to 50 years, “Trees would provide a nice canopy.”

The mayor said there will be more talks with Soper and the city Parks Board on what do with the land, “but at some point, the council will have to vote on this.”

Vandergrift said in an email to the Messenger after the meeting, “We should preserve this land and make it a useful quality of life addition for our citizens and visitors, not to mention an access point to Elkhorn Creek.”

Cemetery pavilion: Hicks said the Cemetery and City Property Committee received the architectural drawings for the chapel pavilion and that would like to start taking bids from contractors. Council Member Bruce Southworth said, “I think it’s been long enough and it’s time to have permission to start taking bids.” His motion to do that was approved.

A concrete slab has already been laid as the base of the pavilion, with a concrete bier to hold caskets for outdoor funerals. The bier is visible between the two cones on the right in this photo. (To view a larger version of the photo, click on it.)

Name of Starks family, members of which were keys to the history of Midway University, resurrected on campus

Left to right, front row: Starks descendant Sara Hicks and Midway University Board of Trustees Chair Donna Moore Campbell. Middle row: Keith Mathis, Belinda Metzger, Anita Britton, Jan Hunter, Anne Bolton. Back row: JJ Housley, Jim Starks, Mrs. Starks, Mr. Vogt, Susan Vogt, Powell Starks, Dr. John P. Marsden. (Midway University photo and identifications)
By Taylor Savage
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A building on Midway University’s campus got a new name Thursday. And an old one.

University officials announced that the building formerly known as the Learning Resource Center is now named after the Starks family and bear the name of The Starks Center.

Midway University photo
The Learning Resource Center was built in 2010 and replaced Starks Hall, which was named by John Price Starks in honor of his father, James Madison Starks. The two served 45 years on the board of the Kentucky Female Orphan School, which became Midway College and then Midway University.

James Madison Starks settled near Midway in 1845, two years before the school was founded. He established a small school for local children on his grounds and hired teachers who graduated from the orphan school. He joined the board of the orphan school in 1851, ending in 1879 when he moved to Mercer County.

He and Susan Crutcher had six children, including John P. Starks, who was “integral to the period of the school’s most substantial and rapid expansion,” President John P. Marsden said. He reshaped the school’s program, introduced business rigor to the financial affairs of the school, and began a progressive building campaign.”

Starks also engaged famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park and Asheville’s Biltmore Estate, “to survey the grounds for the best location of future buildings, and to beautify the campus,” Marsden said.

Plaque will be mounted in the center.
“The fingerprints of John Starks remain on the campus until this day,” Marsden said, quoting from a history of the school by former president Robert Botkin, which he said is soon to be published.

Starks descendant Susan Vogt spoke with the Midway Messenger about her great-great-great-great- grandmother, Susan Crutcher Starks.

The Starks Building went up in 1913.
“It was always my grandmother’s wish to have Susan Crutcher and James Starks put back together,” she said. “This portrait has been in my life forever and I finally decided it was time for her to come home.”

The Starks name and family have been prominent in Midway for many years and in Lexington and Louisville. Midway has a Starks street named after the family, and John P. Starks, built the Starks Building in Louisville, which was the first high-rise building in the city.

City Council Member Sara Hicks, a great-granddaughter of Edna Starks described the Starks family and the legacy they have built in Midway.

Starks Headache Powders were produced until the 1930s.
“There were three brothers: James, John, and Frank Starks,” Hicks said in an email. “John and Frank moved to Louisville. . . . James remained in Midway, where as a pharmacist he founded Starks Headache Powders. He gave each of his children a farm which are today Lantern Hill, Three Chimneys, and Stonewall farms. His daughter ran the headache-powder business after he passed away. That was my grandmother, Edna.”

Lettering was added to the exterior of the building and a commemorative plaque of the rededication will placed near the entrance, alongside the portraits of the founding faces of the Starks family. 

The university posted this video of the ceremony: