Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Mayor's update: Keep it up, help the needy, get a mask, watch for developments regarding reopenings

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

This is my shortest so far of all my weekly updates since I began giving them on March 18 in light of the covid-19 emergence in Kentucky, but it’s for good reason. I don’t need to be pounding this stuff into your brain any more than just to say this: Keep up the great work; you are showing the first-rate character of this community amid this crisis. For yet another week, I have the pleasure of reporting to you that we still have had no confirmed cases of covid-19 in Midway.

This of course doesn’t mean it isn’t here as we speak, and it doesn’t mean it won’t be here at some point, but as I said last week, there’s no doubt that your firm commitment to beating this, and to taking care of each other, is absolutely shining right now. The people of Midway, as we have always known, are good people who only get better when times are hardest. So keep up this great and important work.

Though this time has been incredibly difficult, and you and I have had to use every ounce of our energy to both process and persevere, and although we’ve lost too many people already and will sadly likely lose more, the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to show. But I urge us all to remember, it is a bit of a long tunnel. Normalcy will come back to us in phases. I worry about those who need their income and their sense of purpose through their work, and I worry for those who struggle with the isolation, but I am fully confident that we need to stay the course to its completion. The truth is, if we didn’t do what we’ve done, this would have been a lot worse, and we have to be careful how we come out of it to assure it still isn’t. And I know that through your sheer determination thus far, that you’re willing to go a bit longer.

As the governor stated recently, we are likely to see the beginning of limited openings of our economy as we get deeper into May, and I will routinely update you on those developments and what they mean for Midway as the details become hammered out. There is a 10 step plan (see below) for what will be required of businesses when they reopen, and we will get those added to our city website, meetmeinmidway.com, along with other resources that may be helpful.

If you are food-insecure or know someone who is, there is no reason for anyone in Midway to be hungry. I have asked City Council Member Logan Nance to work with Woodford County School Board Member Ambrose Wilson to help to ensure that anyone who wants access to food can have it, confidently and without question. Email Council Member Nance at logan@meetmeinmidway.com if you or someone you know needs nourishment. We also have masks still available, so if you need one please call City Hall at 846-4413 and Sonya or Cindy will arrange for you to come by and have one placed in your car. If you need one delivered, let us know, and we’ll get them to you. And as always, if you need help with anything, no matter what it is, call me at 859-361-6320 or email me at mayorgrayson@meetmeinmidway.com.

Staying healthy at home, practicing social distancing, washing your hands and having good personal hygiene, wearing a mask in publicly occupied spaces and taking care of yourself is working, so let’s continue and see this thing through. If we stick to this plan, and follow these guidelines, then we will stay on the quickest path possible out of this crisis, and closer and closer to normal once again. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but one day you’ll look back on this and think about how you were an integral part of an effort bigger than us all, and your first-rate performance in this, and the care it took you to achieve that will tell the story. So let’s keep doing our best at making a bad story have as many silver linings as possible. I’ll update you again this time next week, unless circumstances warrant otherwise. Thank you, and God Bless.

City council, mayor draft ‘bare bones budget’ in virus response, but delay final action; sidewalk projects cut

By Emmanuel Flemister
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council and Mayor Grayson Vandergrift cut 10.6% of expenses from the mayor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, in a meeting held Monday in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its unforeseeable end.

Vandergrift called the special meeting to draft what he called a “bare bones budget” after the town’s largest employer and taxpayer, Lakeshore Learning Materials, furloughed 225 of its 300 employees.
 With a loss of occupational-tax revenue looming, the council and Vandegrift agreed on $195,500 in potential cuts from the $1.83 million in expenses he had proposed.

”Obviously, a lot of things have changed,” Vandegrift said at the start of the discussion. “I think we’re going to have to rethink the way we budget for next year. . . . I am very concerned about our revenues.”

The mayor’s original budget anticipated $825,000 in occupational-tax revenue, but he said that is no longer certain. “Originally I hoped we could bounce back in the new fiscal year,” he said, but now, “Even if things go better than expected, I just don’t think the economy is gonna be in full stride by July 1.”

Vandergrift and some council members were not too pleased with having to make these changes. “This is a painful exercise for me,” the mayor said. None of the budget cuts are final, since there are two budgets are in the works: the bare bones budget and the “status quo budget,” as coined by Council Member Logan Nance.

Before the meeting, Vandegrift had already subtracted $50,000, delaying the Stephens Street sidewalk project for a year.

The project would extend a walk to The Homeplace at Midway, and Vandegrift was hoping to make it part of a larger project to extend a walk to Walter Bradley Park, which would lead to Northside Elementary School, making the overall project eligible for a federal walk-to-school grant. He said City-Clerk Treasurer Cindy Foster said getting the grant would probably take a year anyway.

Vandegrift suggested, and the council agreed, to suspend the city's cost-sharing program for sidewalks, for which he had proposed $20,000.

Several other projects and expenses are on the list of proposed cuts:
 $30,000 for finishing the cemetery’s pavilion.
       At this, Hicks exulted, “My baby!” She has been on the forefront of the project.
       Vandergrift said, “You know Sara is serious about this when she talks about pulling out her biggest project.” He noted that the concrete base for the pavilion “isn’t going anywhere; it would not be a detriment to that project to be delayed a fiscal year.”
       He said $5,000 needs to remain for the cemetery’s fence: “It’s pretty bad in spots and doesn’t look too great.” This cut was the biggest made by the council.
 $25,000 of the $50,000 proposed for street paving. “You got to leave something there,” said Vandergrift, noting the possibility of small, unexpected paving projects.
• $18,000 from training and travel for city officials and staff, which was originally proposed to be $20,000, down from the current year’s $22,000. This will cut travel to Kentucky League of Cities conferences, for which the elected officials get incentive pay.
       “I think here’s where we really need to make a sacrifice,” Vandergrift said. “This is going to cost me, and it’s also going to cost the veteran council members $2,000, but you know this is a sacrifice we’re willing to make.” He said the remaining $2,000 might be needed to pay for webinars to receive training.
 $10,000 for donations, the same as the current year’s budget. Nance said, “Since we’re not bringing in money, we don’t need to be giving it out.”
 $10,000 from the proposed $20,000 for the coming year’s contingencies, which would have been the same as the current year. “These are the little things that come up that don’t necessarily fit in the ledger, but we decide we have the money to do them,” Vandegrift. We’re saying: less of that.”
 $5,000 from the $35,000 proposed for fire department salaries, which are budgeted for $28,500 this fiscal year. “This is a way to cut $5,000 without really hindering them,” Vandegrift said, adding that salaries were on track to hit $30,000 by June 30.
 $5,000 for the proposed public water fountain on East Main Street. “No one’s going to want to share a fountain anyway,” considering the pandemic, Nance said.
 $2,500 for park improvements, cutting that $5,000 budget in half. The council budgeted $12,500 on park improvements for the current fiscal year.
 $20,000 in City Hall maintenance. Brick tuckpointing was supposed to be done, perhaps with a grant; the proposed total budget for maintenance was $45,000.

The council tentatively decided to keep Vandegrift’s proposed 2 percent pay raise for city employees, and to not shop around for health insurance instead of accepting a 9 percent increase. “I don’t like the idea of messing around with the health insurance, especially at a time of uncertainty, so I think we’re gonna have to bite the bullet on that one,” Vandegrift said.

The council discussed cuts in the water and sewer budgets but decided against it since those are enterprise funds, generating their own revenue. “Believe it or not,” Vandegrift said. “we’ve already cut out a lot from water and sewer in the past.”

The council and Vandegrift agreed they need to be conservative with funds during the pandemic because it is uncertain how long it will last, and there may be a resurgence after the initial wave passes. 

Vandergrift voiced fears of what could happen if the state allows too many businesses to reopen too soon. “There’s a lot of political pressure to just go ahead and push through, but I think that would be a disaster,” he said. “I think it would be a disaster economically. It might end up hurting the economy more in the long run.”

He elaborated, “If you look at every other pandemic in history, it’s like humans keep making the same mistakes over and over again, they come out too quickly.” He even fretted, “If we aren’t careful, we’re going to eat all our surplus on covid-19.”

Midway is sitting on $1.2 million in unbudgeted surplus, and Vandegrift said he is “confident that Midway, pound for pound, has the healthiest city coffers of any city in Kentucky.” It’s important to note the bare bones budget isn’t final.

Council members and the mayor noted that they can amend the budget anytime. “We don’t want to get rid of this stuff, just put it on hold,” Hicks said. “Things are unsure at this time, and we should just make sure the city remains stable . . . and have money for emergencies.”

Council Member Bruce Southworth said, “Everyone’s got to make sacrifices.”He suggested that the council wait a few weeks to finalize the budget, to see “how this is going to last.” Vandegrift said the budget must be approved by June 22 to have it advertised in The Woodford Sun, thus taking effect, before July 1.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Mayor says 700 masks are still available, notes state will require them to be worn in public starting May 11

The mask packet includes instructions.
The City of Midway still has 700 cloth masks available for citizens who need them, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced Monday night.

"Our intention is for these to go to tax-paying citizens of Midway first; but if by May 18 we still have more than a few left we will open the program up to all residents of Woodford County," Vandegrift said in an email.

He noted Gov. Andy Beshear's statement Monday that all Kentuckians would be asked, if not required, to wear masks in public starting May 11.

"We are still giving masks out on a daily basis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the demand pick back up to the levels we saw in the first and second week of the distribution phase because of the Commonwealth’s new requirement, so I want to make sure every Midway citizen who needs one gets one," he wrote. "We also want to make sure not one of them goes unused, since such a team effort of true caring went into making them."

Midway taxpayers wanting masks should residents wanting masks should City Hall at 859-846-4413 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, say how many masks of each size, adult's or child's, that they want; then park in the 10-minute spot in front of City Hall so a city employee can toss the masks in the back window to keep social distancing. Or, one mask can be delivered through the night slot of the front door. The city can make delivery arrangements for people who are unable to come to City Hall.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Mayor issues weekly report on Midway and pandemic, suggests #ThisIsMidway tag for praise on social media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he did his weekly update without a script. He compliments Midway citizens on doing well at social distancing and says that is probably a reason no cases of the highly contagious coronavirus have been reported in town, so "There's no reason to change horses in midstream" and ease up. "Now's the time to really buckle down and show what we're made of. . . . If we go too fast, we're going to undo all this work."

Vandegrift encourages residents to get takeout at restaurants, and thanks people for improving their social distancing at the grocery. He asks people who "see people doing great things and being awesome neighbors" to use a new hashtag on social media: #ThisIsMidway. "This is the greatest small city in the country, and you're showing why."

Council gives closed shops a utility-bill break, hears mayor predict 'There will not be large events' this year

By Madison Dyment
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The coronavirus is still going strong, and Midway is meeting the challenges head-on, even if some plans are being altered in the process. A plan to relieve some financial burden of closed downtown businesses was one of the ideas the City Council adopted Monday.

The meeting also included final passage of the new 911 service fee, and updates on covid-19, including a forecast from the mayor that Midway will have no major events for the rest of the year.

To help the 21 downtown businesses that have been forced to close, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift proposed to forgive their minimum utility payments of $59.30. The minimum, set by ordinance, covers water, sewer and garbage service.

The city has promoted takeout from restaurants and provided parking for that function, but “with shops, we just haven’t been able to help them out,” said Vandegrift. “I know at a time like now they’ll really appreciate it.”

The council debated whether more businesses, or all businesses, should get the break. It passed Vandegrift’s plan 5-0 with one abstention, applying it only to the April billing, which the mayor estimated would total $1,186. He said he expects to get federal emergency reimbursement.

Vandegrift had offered the option of also forgiving the minimum bill for May, but the council agreed to discussing extending the plan at its May 4 meeting, along with the possibility of adding additional businesses to receive relief. Council Member Bruce Southworth, who abstained on the vote, wanted to include more businesses.

City officials aren’t the only ones coming to help Midway during these trying times. Vandegrift said Ambrose Wilson, the Midway area’s representative on the county school board, told him about a Midway citizen getting food from a church blessing box.

“He was just out for a walk and the person was sort of apologetic, and Ambrose was thinking, ‘Why are you apologetic for that?’,” said Vandegrift. “Our concern is that we know these people exist and that they’re using the blessings boxes, but we just can’t seem to identify them to help them.”

Wilson, who challenged Vandegrift in the 2018 mayoral election, offered to form a way that Midway citizens in hardship can be helped in a confidential matter, Vandegrift said, and he was happy to oblige. He asked Council Member Logan Nance to work with Wilson, with help from the Midway Baptist Church, which runs the local food bank and delivers food anonymously to those in need. The church can be reached at 859-846-4514.

“We’ve got the food to do it, so no one should be going hungry in Midway right now,” said Nance, a member of the church.

This goodwill seems to be a trend within the community. Between efforts to feed those in need, volunteers making masks for free distribution at City Hall, and more, Midway has come together while staying apart.

“There are so many examples in Midway where if someone sees an issue, they don’t say ‘That’s too bad,’ but instead say, ‘How can I help?’,” said Vandegrift.

Despite that good report, Vandegrift sadly informed attendees that, while decisions are not absolute yet, Midway will not have its usual summer and fall events.

“The truth of the matter is that 2020 is not going to be completely normal,” said Vandegrift. “There’s going to be many questions going forward about events in Midway, and I think people need to start preparing themselves that there will not be large events in Midway in 2020.”

The Midway Business Association, which holds the Midway Fall Festival on the third weekend of September, has scheduled a special online meeting for 10 a.m. Thursday to discuss “how the association can help our members,” the meeting notice says.

Even if many effects of the coronavirus are felt across Midway, the mayor announced that Midway still stands at zero confirmed cases of the virus. Masks and sanitizer are still available at City Hall, with roughly 800 masks remaining.

Vandegrift attributed the lack of cases to citizens’ doing “such a good job following social-distancing guidelines, staying healthy at home, and only going out when necessary.”

He added, “We’ve got to keep hanging in there. We’re all getting antsy; I want to be able to see people and say hi again, but we all have to hang in there longer.”

911 fee, Windstream request: Outside of covid-19, the council gave second reading and unanimous final passage to the ordinance funding the 911 dispatch center and other emergency services, levying a $59 annual fee on residential lots and higher fees for businesses.

“This is taking a step towards making sure 911 is funded going forward in an equitable way,” said Vandegrift. The fee was agreed on by representatives of the three governments in Woodford County and will take effect when the Versailles council and the county Fiscal Court pass it.

The fee will be added to the tax bill for each residential, commercial and industrial property and will replace the telephone-landline fee of $3.50 per month at the end of the year.

The council postponed a decision on an encroachment permit requested by Windstream Communications. The company wants to bury fiber optic cables in the sidewalk on the south side of East Main Street to provide service to a customer in the area.

The Windstream representative in the online meeting was unable to answer questions about the project, so Vandegrift said he would arrange a discussion with Windstream engineers, expressing concern about the city’s streetscape being destroyed and calling that “a frightening concept.”

Wednesday night, Vandegrift sent the council and the news media an email reporting, "I talked to an engineer today who cleared everything up and there will be no tearing up of road or sidewalk, and it’s to service 395 customers." He called a special council meeting for 5 p.m. Monday to act on the permit and work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The next regular meeting will be May 4 at 5:30 p.m. via an online Zoom conference. Vandegrift encouraged citizens to join the call or to send in statements to be read, to facilitate public involvement at a time when meetings can’t be held in person.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Chip Guillot is honored as he leaves Southern Equine

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has declared today Chip Guillot Day, in honor of the former manager of Southern Equine Farm, who left that position recently.

"Some citizens requested we honor his time there," Vandegrift said in an email. "He and the farm gave back a whole lot during his tenure."

Vandegrift's proclamation said Guillot managed the former Parrish Hill farm, adjacent to the city limits, "in away that allowed it to greatly service Midway and its citizens." It mentioned donations to Walter Bradley Park and citizens who needed help with utility bills, expanded parking for the Fall Festival, locations for the "Midway to Love" movie, produce for community dinners "and much more."

Vandegrift's proclamation also named Guillot an honorary citizen of Midway. It said he "has become a well known fixture in Midway, and will remain so."

Chip Guillot was also known for his chili, which won the 2018 Chili Cook-Off. Here he is pictured with his 2019 concoction.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Legislative report: Graviss decries veto overrides, lists some bills that passed during the final two days

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and part of Franklin County

Hi everybody,
   Deb and I continue to pray for health and safety, peace and comfort for everyone.
   Under Kentucky’s constitution, two hard deadlines govern legislative sessions in even-numbered years: They cannot last more than 60 working days, and they cannot extend beyond April 15.
   The coronavirus may have shortened the former this year by more than a week, but the House and Senate tested the limits of the latter by adjourning just minutes before midnight on Wednesday, culminating two long days of work.
   By the time the final gavel fell, the General Assembly had regrettably overridden nearly every veto Gov. Andy Beshear had issued and approved more than 30 bills on top of the 91 already now law.
   Except for two constitutional amendments that will go before voters in November, the fate of the new legislation rests entirely in the hands of the governor, who has 10 days, excluding Sunday, to decide whether to accept or reject these bills.
   In the end, this year’s legislative session was truly unlike any other in modern times. I still believe we should have ended our work last month; Gov. Beshear promised to call us back when it was safe to return. More than 20 other state legislatures did adjourn to reduce the chance of spreading the deadly virus, or used technology to conduct business like so many others. At the very least, the General Assembly should have just focused on quickly passing a budget and covid-19-related emergency measures, especially with the public being necessarily excluded right now. While I am grateful we accomplished those twin goals, we also spent more time than necessary on bills that could have been better handled next year when we’re opened back up.
   While technology helped other legislators to vote and ask questions from the relative safety of our legislative offices or vehicles, even that was too risky for some of my elderly colleagues, unfairly limiting what they were elected to do. I was honored to be asked by my leadership to be one of the only six Democrats allowed on the House floor to help coordinate the process with our members those last two days while social distancing.
   Our primary focus during the session’s last two days was considering the governor’s vetoes. He struck down relatively little while asking for maximum flexibility to deal with the pandemic, and he also sought to keep our coal counties and teachers from bearing an unfair burden financially in this budget. These were sensible requests, but unfortunately they were turned down.
   The same thing happened with his veto of Senate Bill 2, which will now require most voters to show a photo ID, starting in November, counting Kentucky as part of a national trend to suppress the vote. Current law already requires voters to provide some form of ID, but this new requirement will add another hurdle for many who may not drive, who may have just moved or who may have changed their name because of marriage.
   There has not been a single verified example of in-person voter fraud in at least 20 years, and while the bill does provide a free ID for those in need of one, there was little discussion about its potentially high cost. Indiana, for example, spent $10 million on personal IDs over several years after enacting a similar law.
   As Gov. Beshear rightfully noted, the indefinite closure of state offices to the public complicates matters further, and if other states attempting this are a guide, this law will likely be struck down by the courts since it was rushed during an election year. Should that happen, it will only add to the confusion and cost.
   With voting in mind, the General Assembly also approved two constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot during the Nov. 3 election. One known as Marsy’s Law would give victims more of a voice in criminal cases, and if this seems familiar, it’s because a similar amendment was approved in 2018. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the language voters saw then was too vague, which is why it is being presented again.
   The other amendment would lengthen the terms of district judges and county and commonwealth’s attorneys to eight years, beginning in 2022.
   Some of the other bills to clear the House and Senate this past week would do such things as:
  • Help struggling rural hospitals by making them eligible for economic development loans offered by the state;
  • Give the state more authority to reduce jail overcrowding by moving inmates to facilities having more room;
  • Update accountability guidelines for our schools, so the public can better follow where they are doing well and where more improvement is needed;
  • Create a new program that will make it easier for state employees to be a living-organ or bone-marrow donor; and
  • Require law-enforcement agencies to document their guidelines for high-speed chases.
   The legislature did consider more covid-related emergency measures, but the most significant of those did not make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. Had it passed, it would have had our restaurants, hospitals, chiropractors and other professional organizations working on plans advising Gov. Beshear for when the time comes to begin lifting restrictions. It passed the House 86 to 3 and I was happy to vote for it after my colleagues agreed to make some logical, helpful changes.
   Despite it not passing, Gov. Beshear did announce this past week that Kentucky was partnering with Indiana, Ohio and several other Midwestern states to come up with regional plans on how and when we restore more normalcy to our lives. That is certainly welcome news.
   Although our work passing laws is done, it is never too late to let me know your views on issues affecting Kentucky. My email address is joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free message line is 1-800-372-7181.
   Thanks for all you’re doing, we’re going to get through this, and holler anytime.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Francisco's Farm festival canceled due to pandemic

The Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, scheduled for June 13-14 at Midway University by Midway Renaissance, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"To protect the health of our community, the artists, our volunteers and attendees, the committee has made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event," it announced on Facebook. "Postponement didn’t seem to be a choice for us as there are still so many unknowns about how, or if, summer activities will be held and the logistics of rescheduling would be difficult."

The committee expressed thanks to all for their continued support of the festival and concluded, "We plan to come back with a great festival in 2021."

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

230 masks out; mayor reminds those needing them to call City Hall; says likely to be needed for some time

About 230 masks made by Midway volunteers have been given out since distribution began Monday morning, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the City Council and the Messenger in an email at 2:48 p.m. Tuesday.

"We will continue giving masks, using social distancing measures, all week and well into next week," Vandegrift wrote. "Some folks have been calling the pharmacy for them, so I’m just reminding everyone to please call City Hall to arrange a time to pull up in the 10-minute parking spot, where an employee can place one in your back window on the passenger side or can pass them through the night drop."

Looking ahead, the mayor wrote, "It’s likely that even when some regulations are loosened, which is not likely to happen until at least May at the very earliest, people will still be encouraged to wear masks when going out to the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. For that reason, we’ll be running this program for the foreseeable future."

Airdrie Stud and one of Ouita Michel's restaurants are part of food show to air on KET Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Airdrie Stud and Ouita Michel's Smithtown Seafood restaurant are shown the next episode of "Somewhere South," a new food series on KET, which airs Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Jacalyn Carfagno writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader, "The episode shows Howard exploring the Sri Lankan pickles Samantha Fore makes to add spice and crunch to her Tuk Tuk bites, pickled catfish escabeche Smithtown Seafood's Agnes Marrero adapted from her Puerto Rican roots. . . . Beautifully shot and edited, the Kentucky portion also takes viewers to Airdrie Stud in Midway (“everything I imagined horse country to be,” Howard says in the show) and to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto."

“It was one of my favorite shoots of the whole season,” Howard told Carfagno in an interview from her home in eastern North Carolina.

Read more here: https://www.kentucky.com/lexgoeat/food/article241867711.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Masks to help limit spread of virus will be available Monday; not a first or best line of defense, mayor says

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift posted this photograph of a packaged mask and its instruction sheet.
Masks made by dozens of Midway volunteers to help thwart the coronavirus will be available at City Hall next week through telephone appointments, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced today.

Vandegrift said residents wanting masks should City Hall at 859-846-4413 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, say how many masks of each size, adult's or child's, that they want. "We’re asking one per person, please," Vandegrift said. "We will then arrange for folks to bring their vehicle to the parking spot parallel to the front door and Sonya or Cindy will toss them in the back window to keep social distancing. One can also be placed through the night slot to a person."

For those who are unable to come to City Hall, the mayor said, "Arrangements can be made to have volunteers deliver, but there may be a bit of a time lag in that process. . . . Masks are still being made and finished as we go, so if at any time we have run out of masks, we’ll be letting people know that this would only be temporary and we will make sure everyone who wants one gets one."

The mask packets include an instruction sheet, which Vandegrift said should be read carefully. "A mask is not our first or best line of defense, just an added layer of protection," he said.

Vandegrift said the project has taken off so well that that Amy Bowman at Midway Makers Market, who came to him with the idea, is getting orders from health-care providers. "It’s so heartening to see Midway and its people continue to lead," he said. "Many thanks to Amy and Ann at Midway Makers Market, Diamond Graphics, and all of our wonderful volunteers. We will get through this together."

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Council hears about mask project, other covid-19 issues

By Hayley Burris
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

With all the stress that comes from the spread of the coronavirus, Midway is fighting back and making masks. That community project was among the updates at Monday’s City Council meeting, as well as reports on the town’s major employers and use of Walter Bradley Park.

Lakeshore Learning Materials, the city’s largest employer, is operating on a skeleton crew “out of an abundance of caution” and beginning furloughs, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reported. He said furloughed workers are eligible for unemployment.

The second largest employer, Midway University, has closed to the public, but “This weekend they had picnickers up there, drivers, walkers,” Vandegrift said. He said some had been walking through the campus for 50 years, but “These are not common times, and we all have to do our part. The university does not want to start doing anything heavy-handed.”

Walter Bradley Park is open, and to allow social distancing, walkers are allowed to step off the trails. “One thing we need to get a little bit better about with some folks is the leash laws,” Vandegrift said, noting that dogs can scare some people get into fights with each other. He also said painted “happy rocks” should be kept in place or moved with a cloth or gloves.

Mask project: Prompted by the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wear masks when you may encounter others in public, Vandegrift and volunteers have started ‘Project Healthy Midway.’

“We’re gonna be able to make enough masks for everybody in Midway who wants one,” he said. ”They will be free to citizens who want them.”

He said the masks are expected to be distributed soon, “in waves,” and will meet all CDC requirements and will include CDC guidelines for wearing and washing them.

Vandegrift said Amy Bowman, owner of Midway Makers Market, approached him with the idea. “That’s just another very great example of Midway at its finest,” he said.

He said the project has three teams: the prep team, the construction team, and the finishing team.

The prep team cut the fabric and pressed the materials together. That phase is complete, with the help of 40 volunteers, according to Vandegrift.

The construction team, with at least 22 volunteers is sewing the masks. The finishing team will sanitize and seal the masks, and couple them with the CDC guidelines.

“They’re doing all the proper social distancing even when volunteers are picking up materials,” said Vandegrift. “They’re not meeting, they’re driving off in cars and they don’t get within six feet of each other.”

According to the mayor, Bowman is expecting around 60 to 100 volunteers. If anyone wants to help out as well, contact her at 859-533-0922.

The masks are just an added layer of protection, Vandegrift said: “This is not your first line of defense. Nobody should think they have some kind of immunity suddenly because they have a mask on because they do not. This will not fully protect you from coronavirus; it will not fully keep someone else from getting coronavirus.”

The masks are designed to prevent spread of the virus by the estimated one-fourth of people who have it but don’t realize it because they have no symptoms. Vandegrift said the best way to stay safe is to stay socially distant, keep up good personal hygiene and to wash your hands with soap whenever possible.

Vandegrift said 1,500 masks are being made, with the expectation that some people already have some and some won’t want them, but more can be made. He said each mask costs about $2 to make, and he is paying the cost from general city funds with the expectation that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of the cost.

Council Member Stacy Thurman said, “We’re going to able to provide the health department with cloth masks, which I think is a really nice thing. They’re reserving all their masks for health-care providers, so . . . I think that any way we can support the health department and anything thing we can do for them is a good thing right now.”

Other covid-19 matters: Businesses must pay a minimum bill for water, sewage and garbage, but with most businesses being forced to be shut down, Vandegrift said he wants the council to relieve those businesses of paying. He said he plans to propose the move at the next council meeting, on April 20, unless “I get the sense it’s not gonna go” with the council.

Vandegrift said he ordered hand sanitizer from Bluegrass Distillers, “a distillery in Lexington that is dying to operate in Midway,” and is providing it to the three groceries, the fire department and the police department.

He reported that the Sojourn City Church is planning a short drive-in service in Easter, with no live music and cars parked every other spot to stay six feet apart, and only biological family members will be allowed in the same car. He said communion will be held but participants must bring their own bread and grape juice.

The Woodford County Health Department has issued an order allowing one person per household enter a grocery, except in cases where children or the elderly need assistance. (Gov. Andy Beshear made the policy statewide Wednesday.) Vandegrift said it’s difficult to practice social distancing in the Midway Corner Grocery, the town’s only full-service grocery, but Council Member Sara Hicks said the grocery is offering curbside service to people who pay in advance.

Vandegrift said, “That’s a great way to keep people out of the store and still support them.”

County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler, who also participated in the online video meeting, said “Social distancing is going to get us through this.”

Vandegrift said citizens should tell officials if they see social-distancing rules being broken. “Tippin’ ain’t snitchin’,” he said, and it protects “the whole community.”

Message from the mayor: Masks will be distributed soon; use properly, and still practice social distancing

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

When things are tough, it never hurts to hear again that you’re doing a great job. So, you’re doing a great job, and we’re going to get through this together. We still have no known cases of covid-19 in Midway, but once again, I think it’s unrealistic to think we won’t have cases eventually, perhaps even soon. I also think it’s unrealistic, and even dangerous, to think the coronavirus isn’t here already. So let’s keep staying healthy at home as much as possible, keep washing your hands often, keep social distancing when you do have to go out; stay at least six feet away from anyone who doesn’t live in your household, and keep even more than six feet distance if you can. When we do see cases in our community, we won’t panic, because we’ve already got all of these precautions in place, and we’re showing that we’re getting good at this; so let’s get even better.

We will begin to likely start to see our peak in the coming weeks and into the next month. I used to have a basketball coach in high school who, when we were as tired as can be, and were sure we couldn’t go much longer, would say, “Yes you can, you just have to find that next level of strength. It’s there, you just have to find it.” He was right. And likewise, by supporting and encouraging each other we can find our next level of strength. With our peak approaching before long, let’s step up our efforts. Stay healthy at home as much as we possibly can. Consider delivery or curbside pick-up for groceries if you can. If you do have to go out, practice social distancing even better than you already are. Stay at least six feet from anyone not in your home, and if you can keep even more physical distance from others, that’s all the better.

Wash your hands often. Your hands should be starting to get dry from all that hand washing, I know mine are. Handwashing is even better than sanitizer because soap is both hydrophilic and hydrophobic: this basically means the soap attaches to both the fats and proteins on your hands and to the water molecules, and when you rinse the soap away, you rinse away the germs as well. But when you’re out of the house, which should be rare, make sure you’ve got hand sanitizer as a second defense for your hands. Don’t touch your face, especially your mouth, eyes, nose, and ears – that’s another great measure to keep yourself healthy. Also practice good personal hygiene in general. Sneeze or cough into your arm or elbow, and if you’re sick, do not leave your house.

You can call our helpline at 846-4102 at the Midway Christian Church and volunteers will run errands for you, or assist you however they can. You can also call the county’s helpline at 859-753-8228. Both of those resources are available to Midway citizens.

As early as this week, we will be ready to distribute free cloth masks to every person in Midway who wants one. We’ll be releasing more details very soon on how we’re going to distribute these. But keep in mind (and this is very important) that a mask is not your first or your best line of defense against the coronavirus. Our best line of defense remains staying healthy at home, washing our hands often, practicing good social distancing when we do have to go out and keeping good personal hygiene. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending using a cloth mask when you go to places like the grocery store or pharmacy as an added layer of defense and an added layer to prevent us from unwittingly spreading the coronavirus.

I want to thank Midway Makers Market and owner Amy Bowman, not to mention over 60 volunteers who have helped cut and press the fabric, sew the masks and prepare them with instructions for your use. I also want to thank Kevin Cosgriff and Jenean O’Neal, both Midway residents, who own and operate Diamond Graphics, for donating the printing of our informational cards that go in your mask kit.

It’s so crucial, however, that you don’t get a false sense of security or that you don’t let your guard down when wearing one. Also, make sure you don’t start messing with your mask while it’s on, because you’ll be touching your face, and defeating the purpose. You may want to wear it around the house a bit at first just to get used to it. If you feel you are letting up your first-line defenses, then stop wearing a mask; you can still protect yourself without one. But if done right, it can help. If you do get a mask, wash it before its first use, and wash it often based on frequency of use.

When visiting our local groceries like Midway Corner Grocery, don’t go at peak times; if you see quite a few cars in the parking lot, try to come back later. In smaller structures, it’s so important you still keep good social distancing, and to get what you need and move on for others. Also remember that you wash or sanitize your hands before entering a grocery, and of course, once again after you leave. And keep in mind that the Woodford County Health Department has issued an executive order requiring that only one person per household enter a grocery store, with exceptions for people who have minors and no other option for childcare and elderly folks who need assistance. Please adhere to this important measure. Railroad Drug is offering delivery and curbside; you can call them for all your prescription needs at 846-4146.

We’re truly working together as a united community, even though we’re apart right now. And I know this can seem like it’ll never end, but eventually it will. Keep your spirits up, take time for yourself, stay away from too much news, and get fresh air; just do so safely. Every single citizen of Midway should feel so proud of the work we’re doing, and by encouraging each other, we can and will get through this.

If you know of someone who is struggling, please let someone know. Feel free to let me know; my number is 859-361-6320. If you know of someone who isn’t on social media, help make sure they’re getting all the important information they need. If you know of someone who isn’t abiding by the guidelines like we all should be doing, encourage them to do better, because we need all 1,800 residents to do this right. We need a 100 percent participation rate to do our very best, and to make this intrusion on our normal lives as short as possible.

I’ll update you again by video this time next week unless circumstances call for doing another one sooner. I also frequently post information on my Facebook page, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. In closing today, I’m going to ask, or perhaps the better word is suggest, that you try something: Every time you hear the train’s whistle blowing, with its iron horse legs rumbling down the tracks, think of how it truly represents Midway. It’s still going, even picking up steam as it glides into the future. It’s persistent, connected, and vocal. That train is synonymous with Midway, with us, and I take great comfort every day in hearing it continue on. We will do the same thing, we will continue on, just a little differently for a while longer. Thank you, and God bless.

Woodford Community Fund making grants for covid-19 relief, seeks more donations; non-profits can still apply

By Madison Dyment
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

In these unprecedented times, many things remain uncertain for people across the country, but one thing Midway and Woodford County can count on is that their fellow community members will be there to support them.

One example is the Woodford County Community Fund’s recent creation of the Covid-19 Relief Fund, open for funding applications from any non-profit organization in the county.

Lori Garkovich, who has chaired the Community Fund for roughly three years, said the fund is providing support for non-profits that serve the community while the covid-19 outbreak disrupts many lives. With remaining funds left over from previous community enhancement grants, the organization felt obligated to offer provisions to “support their community every way they could,” she said.

“I said to our group, ‘I can’t sit here knowing we have money left,’ because I knew this was going to be bad,” Garkovich said in an interview. “My amazing board agreed to go through with it and we received three immediate requests after releasing it.”

The grants were offered the week of March 12 after notice that public schools in the county were shutting down.

In mid-March, a small committee of the Community Fund approved $6,000 in grants for non-profits Mentors & Meals, Spark Community Cafe, and Esperanza.

Grant money is still available for other non-profits, and the Community Fund has continued to raise more money so it will have more to give. 

Lori Garkovich
“My incredible, incredible colleagues decided that we are going to keep spending until we run out of money, so we’re still going,” said Garkovich.

The fund said in a press release, “Grants will be distributed on a rolling basis as fundraising continues throughout the outbreak and recovery phases of the crisis, making it possible to move resources quickly and adapt to evolving needs. Nonprofit agencies seeking funding may download the grant application at www.bgcf.org/woodfordcounty.”

Each application request is evaluated by a prospective budget submitted by the applicant with no limit for the amount of grant money available. Grant amounts have ranged from $1,200 to $3,000.

“We need to balance the demand for support with the availability of funds,” Garkovich said, “so we don’t have a limit for the grants.”

The grant application has few questions, designed for ease and speed of submission, and non-profits have received notice of funding in as quickly as 48 hours.

“It was probably the easiest and fastest grant I have ever written,” said Lisa Johnson, executive director and founder of Mentors & Meals. “Within 48 hours I heard the grant was approved, and in around four days we received a check in the mail. It was fast and enabled me to proceed with our plan of action.”

Mentors & Meals, an after-school program for at-risk middle schoolers, put the grant money towards providing hot meals for the 75 to 100 student enrollees and their families.

“Since receiving the WCF grant, we have delivered 960 hot meals and counting,” said Johnson. “On April 9, we are going to roll out an ‘M&Ms Meal Box’ which, in addition to delivering hot meals to the families, will provide ingredients and a recipe card so they have another meal to make over the weekend.”

Mentors & Meals also helps students who struggle with the imposed non-traditional instruction by helping those with no internet connection, keeping in contact with their students frequently, and interfacing with teachers at the middle school to understand what the students are required to complete and learn.

“We just want our families to know that we care about them and are here to help them through Covid-19,” said Johnson. “We will get through this and we will get through it together!”

The Spark Community Cafe, an inclusive “pay-what-you-can/pay-it-forward” restaurant, received grant money in partnership with Mentors & Meals. The cafĂ© used its funding to prepare dinners for the program on Thursday evenings from March 12 through April 2.

Additionally, they also supplied breakfasts for food-insecure students at Woodford County High School, gave meals to hospice patients, a church program providing care for the homeless, and supported Esperanza and other groups that reach out to the cafe.

“The first day of school breakfasts, Spark served 175 people and by the second day, we served over 400 people,” said Garkovich, who also serves on the Spark board.

Esperanza is a non-profit run by Robin Miller of the Versailles Presbyterian Church, which provides support for Hispanic families in Woodford County. Having received the largest grant of around $3,000, the group channeled funds toward helping families who have lost income due to job loss during the crisis. They supply necessities such as food, baby formula and diapers, and cover utility and rents costs for these vulnerable families.

“A lot of people in these families work in the service industry and have lost their jobs,” said Garkovich, a retired professor in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “They won’t be eligible for the government-given $1,500 because they don’t have green cards even though they have legitimate tax numbers and are legally working.”

Any Woodford County non-profit is encouraged to reach out to the Woodford County Community Fund to apply for the Covid-19 Relief Fund, Garkovich said: “None of us want to think after that we had money that we could have given to support people, but we chose not to do it. We just want everyone to know that this money’s available and that we’re going to spend our interest income until it’s gone.”

Monday, April 6, 2020

Legislative update: State Rep. Joe Graviss describes General Assembly's response to the covid-19 pandemic

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and part of Franklin County
Hi everybody,
            Debbie and I pray that everyone is weathering this strong.
Years from now, when we recall what we did to limit the spread of the coronavirus, one of those legislative memories will be the historic action the General Assembly took on Wednesday so it could approve the state’s budget and several other related bills.
            Under Kentucky’s 1891 constitution, legislative sessions are required to “be held at the seat of government,” unless the governor moves them during times of conflict or pestilence.  While the latter certainly could have applied, we chose a different route instead to meet that constitutional mandate.
Thanks to technology that couldn’t have been dreamed of 130 years ago, my fellow legislators and I were able to monitor proceedings and cast our votes from the safety of our Capitol offices or nearby vehicles.  These votes were relayed electronically to a handful of legislative leaders and staff in the House and Senate chambers who then tabulated the totals.
That process understandably took longer than normal, but it got the job done with minimal contact.
There is hope that the budget we sent to Gov. Andy Beshear this past week will get the job done, too, but legislators are well aware that the already-low financial projections we used – based on estimates made in December – will still probably be too high as our country faces a steep recession driven by the necessary response to the coronavirus.
That uncertainty is why the General Assembly approved a budget for just one fiscal year rather than the normal two.  In January, when the next legislative session begins, we should have a much better idea of where the state stands financially.
When this work began a little more than two months ago, there was hope we could give small raises to school and state government employees, hire dozens if not hundreds of new social workers and increase funding for our public schools, colleges and universities.
None of that, unfortunately, could be included in the budget that ultimately passed.  Essentially, the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year will be the same as the one governing the state now.
That’s good news in some cases.  For agencies like public health departments, domestic violence shelters and mental-health organizations, this decision means they will have a third year where their contributions to the state retirement system will be frozen, which will make it easier for them to keep their doors open at time we need them most.  The same freeze applies to local governments' retirement contributions as well.
Another positive policy decision in this budget is a return of virtually all coal severance tax dollars to coal-producing counties, the first time that’s ever been done.  This will help them as they continue managing a local economy already struggling because of a years-long decline in the coal industry.
On the downside, the spending freeze in the budget also means no new slots for the Michelle P. and Supports for Community Living Medicaid waiver programs, which help those with intellectual or developmental disabilities live independently at home.  The waiting lists for these are already in the thousands.
There are some other troubling aspects in the budget, as well. The governor’s office, for example, will have its funding cut by a half million dollars while other constitutional offices are not asked to make a similar sacrifice.  At a time when Gov. Beshear is doing an excellent job of leading Kentucky during this crisis, this is exactly the wrong time to be singling his office out.
Teachers could also be negatively impacted despite fully funding the actuarially required contribution because the budget allows some funding for their retirement system to be withheld if state spending drops significantly.  We have worked hard in recent years to make our public retirement systems financially healthy, but this approach could undermine that.
Another downside is that the budget provides almost no new sources of revenue, other than an increase on electronic cigarettes, and nearly all of that is returned in new tax cuts.  Proposals setting the stage for income-raising initiatives like sports wagering, expanded gaming and medical marijuana are all but dead with only a few legislative days remaining.
While the state budget outlook is bleak, the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus relief package by Congress will be a significant help during this time.
State and local governments will get more than $1.7 billion from it, while those receiving unemployment payments will see an extra $600 a week for the next four months, an amount expected to exceed $600 million.
The $1,200 rebate checks most of us will get will total $4 billion here in Kentucky; our schools are slated to get nearly $200 million; and increased Medicaid assistance could bring in almost $500 million.
Well over $100 million more will go to help public transit; to buy more personal protective and medical equipment; to assist the homeless; and to help families with their heating and cooling bills.
Businesses and medical providers will be able to access potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loans and grants, too.
Check out https://governor.ky.gov/covid19 for a detailed list of what’s been done and where to find information from unemployment insurance filings to small business loans, etc. Speaking of unemployment insurance, please be patient and persistent as the system is overwhelmed and undermanned—both of which are being addressed as fast as possible.
For now, other legislators and I are in our home offices until we return to the Capitol on April 13.  Our primary work then will be deciding whether to override any vetoes Gov. Beshear issues, but there is a good chance other bills will be considered, too.
I will continue to keep you updated, and I ask that you continue letting me know your views or concerns about issues affecting Kentucky.
You can always email me at joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free message line for all state legislators is 1-800-372-7181.
Thanks for hanging tough, and all you do. Pray, and holler anytime.

Midway Univ. freezes tuition for 2020-21 academic year

Midway University says it is freezing its tuition rates for the coming academic year "to help keep college affordable in these uncertain times."

“Families and students have so many stresses right now as a result of the coronavirus and the financial strains it is placing on everyone. We know there is a lot of anxiety about the year ahead. We hope our tuition freeze helps ease any financial barrier in the planning for their college education.,” university President John P. Marsden said in a news release. “We have always served a high need-based population of students and we want to continue to serve them to the best of our ability.”

The university had already waived the ACT and SAT requirement for the Fall 2020 semester, and said it would honoring all current-year awards of merit aid, since "Some students might be making changes and transferring closer to home."

The university's campus is closed due to the covid-19 pandemic, but its financial-aid office can be reached at faid@midway.edu or 859-846-5410. Questions about admissions can be directed to admissions@midway.edu or 800-952-4122. Virtual appointments can be made by registering at www.midway.edu/experience.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Model railroad buff Christy Reaves displayed one outside her home in the 100 block of West Bruen Street during the event.
Story and photos by Hayley Burris
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

106 Cottage Garden: A yarn shows some Kentucky love.
For a larger version of any picture, click on it.
During times where neighbors cannot see each other unless at a social distance, Midwegians are creating new ways to stay interactive and entertained.

More than 30 householders in Midway decorated their lawns with widely different themes for a Yard Art event that let them interact with others while providing entertainment and staying at a six-foot distance. The event took place throughout the neighborhoods of Midway and started Saturday at 10 a.m. and lasted all day.

A colorful wooden dinosaur stood proudly (and menacingly?) at 109 Cottage Grove.

Colorful stakes and balloons were posted at 104 Carriage Lane. 
The idea was adapted from a Lexington event by Haley Wyatt of Northridge Estates. She said the idea was to help spread joy and stay connected during the covid-19 pandemic.

Wyatt created a committee to help plan it, along with similar events for the town.  They started to get the community involved by doing scavenger hunts for the kids stuck at home, beginning with shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day.  From there, they escalated it to Yard Art. 

“This was an opportunity for everyone to get creative, work with their families on a project and to share their art with others,” said organizer Brittany Ehrlich of Cottage Garden Lane.  “I think Midway doing this just makes sense.  Midway is a tight-knit community, but we love inviting and allowing others to participate in our community events.”
Brittany Ehrlich and her daughter wrote "Freedom is not free" in their driveway in the 100 block of Cottage Garden Lane.
The restrictions for covid-19 made the event particularly different.  People were able to drive by and interact with others that they might not have seen for weeks.

Midwegian Michael Whaley said he has been keeping up with the community during this time “by just checking on your neighbor and making sure they don’t need anything.”

A boy at 105 Cottage Garden stands in front of a sign saying "GROW love, kindness and creativity."
People started setting up their houses early Saturday morning.  Some participants like model train buff Christy Reaves even had moving elements like trains within their yard. 

“It was something fun for people to just drive by and see,” said Reaves. “There’s not a lot of detail; they can see everything from their car.  I thought it was great so that parents had one more thing for them to do with their kids.  It was outside and it was new.”
Skeletons showed social distance at 128 S. Winter St. At least one more
yard used skeletons, apparently from the Halloween decorating contest.

The Yard Art event is a way for homeowners to express themselves and to interact with each other during these trying times. 

“Today it’s just been so heartwarming to see people walking by and driving by slowly with big, bright smiles so to me, that’s been really special,” Wyatt said.  “It’s kind of a heavy time, so just to see people being able to be lighthearted and experience some joy has been really good.”

132 Old Towne Walk also looked forward to a big day later this year.
Santa said, "Stay Healthy@Home and I will see you in December."
The committee is doing other non-yard-based activities  every Wednesday and Saturday with a different theme. “Encouraging Words” and Easter eggs will be the objects of scavenger hunts on April 8 and 11, respectively.

Organizers hope to make Yard Art an annual event.

“There was a house with a painting and quote, ‘Take your broken heart and make it into art’,” Ehrlich said. “I think this best explains the entire idea of why we decided to do this in Midway.”
151 Coach Station also looked to the future, with a sign hung from trees beaming an important word.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

With mask advisory expected, city and Maker's Market plan to organize volunteers to sew them for locals

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to recommend that Americans wear cloth masks in public to prevent spread of the coronavirus, and the City of Midway is preparing a government-and-volunteer effort to make masks.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the City Council and the news media in an email Thursday that the city is partnering with Amy Bowman of Midway Maker’s Market, which will call for volunteers to sew "as many masks as possible for the general public to use. Anyone who can sew or has a sewing machine and is willing to help can call Amy at 859-533-0922."

Amy Bowman in Midway Maker's Market
(Messenger photo by Kennedy Sabharwal)
Vandegrift said the city will pay for the materials, "and Midway citizens can provide the skills and time to produce these masks. We will make sure all safety protocols are followed. I will let each of you know as we go what this spending looks like, but it won’t be exorbitant to provide the materials."

He said Bowman will provide mask kits to volunteers, who can sew them at home. "This will allow our citizens to participate, as they always love to, in a safe way that practices social distancing and helps to beat this thing," he said.

Vandegrift asked the six council members to :do what you can to recruit people who can sew. Obviously, we’ll work out guidelines as we go, but we need to know first how many potential volunteers we can get."

The mayor said his goal, "which I know may be lofty, is that we recruit enough volunteers that we can produce masks for every single resident in Midway. Perhaps from there we can work with other cities and Woodford County to start up more programs. That all remains to be seen. Details are still being worked out, and we’re not saying that these masks will only be for Midway citizens, but this is where we’re starting from."

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mayor's update: Keep your distances; kids, too; will take a little longer than we first hoped; beware of a rebound

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

Another week in the books, and I’m so proud of how 99 percent of you are doing the right things to protect yourself and to protect the most vulnerable of us. To those who are still bucking some of these important, live-saving guidelines: There’s still time to join the team, but you need to do it right now.

We are beginning to see more cases in Woodford County, and although there are still no confirmed cases in Midway, we have to act like the coronavirus is here, because that’s the best way to fight back against this virus. In fact, the CDC says that one in four coronavirus cases is asymptomatic. But, an asymptomatic person can still transmit the virus to others, and the person you could transmit it to might not be physically as prepared as you. That’s why it’s so important that 100% of us follow these guidelines stringently. No one is immune, and no one is an exception. This is the first time in our lifetimes that every single human on earth is going through an experience that personally affects them, and we have to do it together.

And in Midway, we are. Thank you so much to the vast majority who are making the necessary sacrifices to protect each other and to save lives. There are one or two things that concern me, and one I addressed in a written message over the weekend. [Editor's note: Vandegrift said at the end of Monday's City Council budget workshop that some restaurants had called him to apologize.]

The other is reports I’m receiving that play dates are happening for kids here and there. Folks, I get it; I have a 3-year-old myself. Our children don’t understand this, and they want to see their friends. It’s very difficult to keep them occupied and happy during this crisis, as Katie and I are finding just as much as anyone. But we can’t be risking others. I know it’s hard to hear this, because we want so much for our kids to experience normalcy, but like Gov. Beshear has said; kids are the most resilient of us. So please, let’s not do anything that could further community spread and put other people in serious danger. We also need to limit any gathering of people outside our immediate family, and believe me, I know how hard that is. I sincerely thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

There are lots of ways to still entertain your kids in new and creative ways, while still practicing social distancing. One way is to take them to Walter Bradley Park. There are no current plans to close the park, as so far all reports, and my own experiences taking Jackson almost daily, is that people who are there are practicing social distancing well.

One more way to entertain the kiddos is the newly created “Window Walks.” Today, in light of April Fool’s Day, residents are encouraged to put funny jokes (keep them appropriate for children, please) in your windows or on the backs of your vehicles and kids walking this afternoon with their parents can get a hearty laugh. Here’s one of mine for the day: “what do you call a boomerang that won’t come back? A stick!” This Saturday, April 4, is Yard Art, April 8 is encouraging words, and April 11 is Easter Eggs. This is a great event that both younger and older can participate in. I’ll let you know as the creators of the event extend them through this period.

I know how hard this time can be on all of us, and I continue to encourage you to take care of your mental health as well as your physical self. Remember to limit how much cable news you take in, rely more on local news and official government sites for pure information. Take walks when the weather is nice, just keep using social distancing. Set aside time each day for stress relief and look for new ways to help yourself relax. The battle in our minds right now is just as important as the battle on the ground. Taking care of your mental health will help us remain focused and determined to beat this thing.

And we’re going to beat this thing, but it’s going to take a little longer than we all at first had hoped. I know this is difficult to hear, but I think we really need to prepare ourselves to do this through the month of May, perhaps even longer. The virus in Kentucky is expected to peak in the coming weeks, and then we should see a decline in cases as long as we keep following these guidelines of social distancing, good personal hygiene, and only going out of the house for essentials and safe exercise or activity. But, even as the cases decline, we’re going to have to remain vigilant so that we don’t allow it to make a comeback, and that’s going to take some time. History, both distant and recent, is full of examples where pandemics, including this very one, rebound because we loosen our practices too soon. Let’s not do that, and let’s do our very best to beat this thing on the first try.

As the virus does peak, there are going to be times when it’s easy to get frightened, even more than we already may be. Don’t let it overcome you, fear is a natural, and helpful, reaction, but only if we are able to control our fears and remember that we can do this, we are doing this, and we will do this. Keep practicing those good social distancing techniques, keep washing your hands often and having good personal hygiene, and keep showing why Midway is so very special. Thank you, and God bless.

UPDATE: The mayor posted on social media a request that people paying bills or dropping off correspondence at City Hall tape or clip their envelopes rather than sealing them, which "can potentially put our clerks in harm's way. Thank you for all you're doing! We're doing great, and we're doing it together."