Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mayor reminds post-office-box users to respond to census, urges them to vote by absentee in primary

By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway residents are getting a letter from Mayor Grayson Vandegrift urging them to fill out their census forms, encouraging them to vote by absentee ballot in the June 23 primary election and giving an update on the “Midway Bucks” program.

The notice about the census was prompted by a note the mayor and the Midway Messenger received from civic activist Helen Rentch, saying that she and many people in town had not received a census form. “Those of us who can only get our mail at the post office did not get them because our forms had been sent to our street address rather than our P.O. boxes,” she wrote.

The Postal Service couldn’t deliver the forms because it does not deliver mail to residences in Midway, with a few exceptions. “I hate for Midway/Woodford County to get undercounted,” Rentch said. “I suppose there will be surveyors come door to door, when restrictions for such are lifted. Just seem to have so little faith in the Feds right now!”

Vandegrift said in his letter, “In order for Midway and Woodford County to be appropriated the federal resources required it is important that as many of us as possible fill out our census.”

He encouraged anyone who had not received a direct email with instructions on how to fill out their census form to call or email him or visit the 2020census.gov website.

Voting: The mayor announced that there would be no in-person voting at the Northside Precinct on primary election day due to the covid-19 pandemic, and asked all citizens to cast absentee ballots by mail.

The State Board of Elections is mailing notices about the election changes to voters at their physical addresses, so post-office box users will need to request an absentee ballot by going to elect.ky.gov.

Vandegrift said anyone not able to vote by mail can request an appointment to vote at the Woodford County Courthouse by calling 873-3421. Anyone who enters the building will be required to wear a mask unless they can provide a medical reason not to do so.

Midway Bucks: The mayor reminded Midway residents that they would each receive $50 in “Midway Bucks,” five $10 vouchers redeemable at local, non-franchised businesses to encourage local shopping as retail reopens amid the pandemic.

“This is a local stimulus we share with you as dividend residents from our large budget surplus,” Vandegrift explained.

“I am happy to say we’re the first in Kentucky with such a program,” Vandegrift said. “We see it as a way to help our local brick-and-mortar businesses to get through this time.”

The mayor said the city’s expense for the program would be reimbursed by the federal government with money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress. He encourages residents to use their vouchers by the expiration date of June 30 to support local businesses.

Vandegrift wrapped up his letter by praising residents for their efforts during the covid-19 pandemic.

“We have stayed together and respected each other in a caring way,” he wrote. “Midway throughout the ages has always responded admirably and courageously to difficult circumstances and this time is no different."

Friday, May 29, 2020

Phyllis Hudson, a fixture at City Hall for 21 years, dies

Phyllis Hudson
Phyllis Hudson, who worked for the City of Midway for 21 years, about half that time as city clerk-treasurer, died with her family at her side Thursday. She was 55.

“She never let a nickel get past her,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in a Facebook post Thursday. “She was a great custodian of the city’s money, a helpful servant to the people, and she was a comforting friend. Whenever I made a mistake that I thought would be problematic, she was there to tell me, ’Awww, it’ll be all right,’ and then she always helped me fix it.”

Hudson was born and raised in Woodford County and graduated from Woodford County High School in 1983. When she retired last May 31, Vandegrift said, “She leaves the city in the best financial shape it’s ever been in.”

Her survivors include her husband, Donnie Ray Hudson; a daughter, Sarah Wilson; two brothers, Stevie (Amber) Wilson and Lonnie Wilson; a brother-in-law, Ronnie Hudson; sisters-in-law Margaret Dunn, Lisa Thompson and Janice Hagan; and nieces Jenny Gill and Cindy Craig.

Private services will be held in the Midway Cemetery with Blackburn & Ward Funeral Home in charge. Pallbearers will be Vandegrift, Ronnie Hudson, Derek Hudson, Stevie Wilson, Andrew Wilson and Jimmie Pantina. Honorary pallbearers will include Cindy Craig, Peggy Irwin, Debbie Hudson, Jenny Gill, and Amber Wilson.

Family and friends are encouraged to share memories and leave messages of condolence on her online tribute wall.

Artificial flowers going from cemeteries to city garage

Starting Monday, June 1, city employees will begin removing artificial flowers from cemeteries in Midway, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced. "This coincides with cemetery rules, but all artificial flowers removed will be placed in the city’s storage shed next to our maintenance garage on Circle Drive," he said in an email. The shed is open Monday through Friday form 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Firm that bales horse-stall muck has an eye on Midway Station, but is discouraged by prospect of court action

By Al Cross and Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A Lexington firm that services horse farms says it may want to put a facility in Midway Station that would bale the muck it takes from stalls and ship it on flatbed trucks to Tennessee mushroom farms.

The prospect of Creech Services Inc. offering to buy five to six acres in the industrial park raised the possibility of a court action to determine whether the facility would be allowed under a restriction placed on the property after Bluegrass Stockyards tried to relocate there 13 years ago.

The restriction by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which was part of the settlement of a lawsuit over the stockyards plan, bans "the composting of animal waste." Creech says that it would not compost the material, and that it contains only 1 percent manure.

However, EDA Chair John Soper said at the authority's May 22 meeting that sale of Midway Station property for such a facility would require a petition for a declaratory judgment "to determine if it could exist under settlement of the lawsuit regarding the stockyards."

Soper, some board members and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift spoke about the matter in past tense, as if it had been decided, but Soper said in an email after the meeting that no decision had been made.

He said EDA attorney Bill Moore had advised that a sale would require a declaratory-judgment lawsuit, in which a judge determines the rights of the parties involved. "If Mr. Creech wants to pursue a formal offer (no actual or informal offer has been made to date) he would need to be prepared to pursue the matter at his expense to clear the stockyard lawsuit's restrictions," Soper wrote.

Google map has outdated city limits; city has annexed and zoned industrial
138 acres north and east of Midway Station. For a larger image, click on it.
He said during the meeting that such an action would cost at least $2,500 and bring "people from the lawsuit back into Midway Station." The settlement gives any resident of Northridge Estates or Ironworks Estates, or any member of Elkwood LLC, a property owner across Georgetown Road from Midway Station, the right to enforce the restrictions.

Tom Creech, president of the firm, told the Midway Messenger, "I don't want to go to court. . . . I want somebody to want us." He said he might make another approach to EDA after the outcome of a business meeting he has scheduled for Friday.

Creech said Wednesday that he hadn't talked with Soper since before last Friday's meeting, and if he decided to pursue Midway Station land again, "My approach would be to go to the mayor of Midway" and invite him to look at his baling facility in Fayette County, which is separate from his composting facility.

"I don’t want to be the bad neighbor to anybody," Creech said. "I would never propose to put in a compost facility in that park." He said he would like to have a baling facility in Woodford County because he serves so many farms in the county.

"You all depend on these horse farms and the waste off them is an issue, and you ought to be glad I'm getting rid of it," he told the Messenger. His firm also supplies hay and straw to farms. He estimated that a Midway Station facility would employ eight to 10 people, including drivers who work the farms. He said he hires common-carrier trucks to ship the bales.

Vandegrift said Wednesday that he would like to see the baling facility, but he and Soper are concerned about creating no more than 10 jobs by selling five or six acres. Earlier, he noted that EDA and the city want to create at least 10 jobs per acre in Midway Station.

"I do appreciate the fact that it's supporting the horse industry, but just from a dollars-and-cents standpoint, he's got to understand if it were to be something that might end up being litigated, and might be controversial . . . I'd have to explain to people why it was worth it," Vandegrift said. "What butters our bread in Midway is occupational taxes, and this is low jobs." 

However, the mayor said he would not oppose the sale "if there's no smell that bothers neighbors. We don’t want to stir up the ghost of the past." He said, "Overall, I think it's an industry people would support," but "At the end of the day, we just had a lot of unanswered questions."

Creech said the material "smells like a horse barn" and didn't know how far its smell would carry, but argued that prevailing winds wouldn’t waft the smell to Northridge Estates.

Another smell could yet be at work: the smell of money. At Friday's meeting, Soper said selling the property at EDA's price of $65,000 an acre would generate a $97,000 profit that would pay one and a half years' interest on the mortgages for Midway Station. "You gotta have cash to stay alive," he said.

Later in the meeting, Vandegrift said of prospective Midway Station buyers, "A lot of people might be very surprised to know that we've turned down as many as we've accepted … for similar reasons or the same reason."

Council votes to put completion of cemetery pavilion back into budget; first reading scheduled for Monday

Late-winter photo shows that the concrete base, casket platform and walkway for the pavilion have been completed. 
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council voted Tuesday to put $30,000 back into the city's draft budget to finish building a pavilion at the Midway Cemetery.

The decision came after Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Public Works Supervisor Terry Agee saw an elderly woman roaming the cemetery alone, with funeral crowds limited due to the covid-19 pandemic. It was "heartbreaking to see," Vandegrift said.

The concrete base and casket platform of the pavilion have been completed, and Vandegrift had the rest of it in his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. When the pandemic hit, threatening payroll-tax revenue, he and the council drafted a “bare bones” budget without the pavilion.

When Lakeshore Learning Materials, the city’s largest employer, said it would call most or all of its workers back soon, the officials drafted a “middle ground budget” with the pavilion as the main unanswered question, which Vandegrift put to the council.

Council Member John Holloway said he visited several cemeteries and said pavilions are "something other cities are doing now,” And "It's something that should we should go ahead and get done."

He also said, "Something that's this close and to being finished, it seems to me to be a waste of money that went into before if we don't go in and finish the deal."

Council Member Bruce Southworth agreed. "It really needs to be done," he said. "It needs to be finished. We already started it; let's go finish it."

The vote was 4-0. Council Members Kaye Nita Gallagher and Stacy Thurman were absent. The meeting was held online, as meetings have been since the covid-19 pandemic hit.

Holloway said Agee wants to ensure that services at the cemetery are of low stress and that the pavilion will help accomplish that, especially in wet weather.

“He's not just blowing smoke,” Holloway said. ”They can handle things so much better and it'll be a better service,” because graveside services with tents require “being so super careful about where the dirt is” placed.

He also said completing the pavilion might even save some money, because f less manpower used in setting up tents.

The only real question was whether to take the $30,000 from the city’s large surplus or, as Vandegrift first suggested, eliminating cost sharing for repair of sidewalks. After some discussion, the council voted to use the surplus, which Vandegrift said is almost $1 million when certificates of deposit are included.

"I think it's the right thing to do, I think it's the proper thing to do," the mayor said after the vote. "I think we're still very fiscally cautious."

Concern remains about a significant loss of payroll-tax revenue amid the pandemic, so Vandegrift reduced that revenue estimate to $737,500 from his original $825,000.

The mayor said Lakeshore has been "on top of the outbreak" since it began in Wuhan, China, because it has a manufacturing center there. Thus, the company believes it will still have a profitable year, which will help Midway's revenue.

Vandegrift said Midway University may still "produce big" payroll-tax revenue regardless of whether or not classes are online or in person.

He said it's hard to tell how the virus will spread, given behavior such as "idiot kids swimming in pools three inches away from another in Missouri." However, he believes there won't be a "typical recession" if the people of Midway continue to keep proper social distance and wear masks.

While much of the budget remained the same from last Monday's discussion of the "middle ground budget," Vandegrift proposed a handful of mostly minor changes that brought no objections from the council. They included:

● Police expense increased from $160,000 to $175,000, based on Midway’s agreement to pay 4.2 percent of the budget of the Versailles Police Department;
● Brick repair work on the Rau Building, which houses City Hall, down to $17,000 from $45,000, with expectation that a grant will pay part of the cost;
● Parks maintenance reduced from $10,000 to $7,000;
● Christmas decorations down to $3,500 from $5,500.

Vandegrift said Wednesday afternoon that he expects the budget to be in ordinance form and ready for first reading at the council's next regular meeting on Monday. Ordinances require two readings before passage.

EDA confident about partner, talks transition from Soper, hires agent and starts transfer of greenspace to city

This map was published in March 2019, when the city annexed the property that EDA had an option to buy.
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority board spent much of its Friday meeting discussing the best way to replace longtime chairman and executive John Soper.

The board also began the process of turning over the green space around the edge of Midway Station, awarded a contract for marketing the industrial and commercial park, and discussed relations with the adjoining landowner who has been its main collaborator recently.

Adjoining property: The EDA had an option to buy 104 acres next to Midway Station from Michael Freeny, but Soper said Freeny doesn't want to renew the option until he has a better idea of its worth.

Soper noted that the property hadn't been annexed and zoned industrial when EDA obtained the option in 2017, and that Freeny has since sold part of it to Lakeshore Learning Materials for its second building. He said Freeny wants to know the cost of building a road through a narrow strip that connects the two sections of the property and would provide access to South Elkhorn Creek.

"I expect that road will cost every bit as much as what he paid for that lot or more," because it will have to be built to city specifications so the city can accept it for maintenance, Soper said. "As far as I know Mr. Freeny is still willing to honor his commitment for access though that property to the creek," which the city wants for recreational purposes. He also said that Freeny knows EDA and the city are his conduits to state economic-development officials.

Midway board member Michael Michalsin said he expects "good dialogue" with Freeny because "He's very easy to work with. . . . I'm happy to stay in close touch to him as is useful for the board."

Transition: Soper, who's been on the board for about 20 years and has been its paid chairman for the last few, will be stepping down after his term ends June 30, leaving the EDA in need of a game plan for leadership.

The board agreed that the "most desirable option" would be to hire a full-time director, but concluded from research that option would likely be beyond its budget. Soper gets $60,000 a year, funded pro-rata by Midway, Versailles and Woodford County.

The board is considering four other options, according to a document distributed by Treasurer Maria Bohanan after the meeting:

● Part-time independent contractor (hired by the three governments, with duties directed by them): This option would “more than likely” be less than the cost of Soper’s contract but raises concerns about the contractor not being readily available as a full-time employee would, and that there could be potential for conflicts of interest.

● Full-time independent contractor (hired by the governments, with duties directed by them): This option offers more consistency in the EDA's messaging and relationship-building, and would establish a “go-to person for all stakeholders in the community, including planning and zoning,” but may be too expensive and could lead to a difficult recruitment and evaluation process. The document also questions whether a full-time person is needed, since a real-estate agent has been hired, but a big “variable” is possible development of the Edgewood property at Versailles, which is tied up in court.

● Third-party entity (hire a firm to handle EDA's needs): This option offers “administrative staff and a strong Rolodex,” would probably cost less than Soper’s contract, and could attract competitive bids from firms “likely eager for business in this environment,” the document says.

● Creating a position as a public employee: This option could make it easier to provide direction but “is problematic due to which entity and whom the individual would answer to,”and would require extra taxpayer funding for retirement benefits and health insurance.

In another element of the transition, the board discussed Soper’s suggestion that the treasurer receive some compensation, which could require a change in the EDA by-laws, which say members will serve without compensation except expense reimbursements but say the “secretary-treasurer,” a position that is now split, can be paid.

The board directed Bohanan to include in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year $4,500 for compensation of the treasurer and/or secretary and a Dropbox subscription to facilitate electronic communication. Soper said he would ask attorney Bill Moore about the need for a by-laws change.

Midway Station agent: The board approved SVN/Stone Commercial Real Estate Advisors to serve as its agent for Midway Station, part of the transition from Soper’s impending departure.

The board and Matt Stone of SVN agreed that selling land in Midway Station is not just about creating jobs but maintaining Midway's character.

Soper said, "The EDA is about jobs and about representing what the taxpayers want, and it's not just about selling land." Stone responded that SVN is not about "pushing a deal through to get some sales done."

Stone said SVN will boost Midway Station’s web presence and advertising, with aerial photos. He said that unlike many commercial firms, it splits commissions with agents for buyers, meaning “We’re employing the entire brokerage community, locally and nationally.”

Asked by Soper how Midway Station’s $65,000-an-acre price compares with other ready-to-use industrial property in the region, he said “It works very well” because the range is $35,000 to $85,000, “but in Lexington you’re dealing with prices that are six figures.” He said he has seen transactions of $75,000 to $85,000 in Georgetown, which some buyers prefer because it is on Interstate 75. “I think we compare well to Georgetown.”

Land transactions: The board authorized Moore to prepare a deed to the City of Midway for the Midway Station tract on which the city’s functioning water tower stands, and to prepare an option for the city to take ownership the 38 acres of greenspace that surround Midway Station, in return for the city agreeing to forgive $500,000 to $750,000 of debt owed by the EDA, not all of which is considered collectible. Both moves have been anticipated for many months.

The EDA also owes the county money, and Magistrate Mary Ann Gill asked if there would be “any effort to compensate Woodford County.” Soper said, “If there was money there, I think that we could,” but “If we can get out of this with paying off the debt … and putting the finishing cap of surface on those roads … I cannot conceive that there’s any cheese left in this trap.”

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift reminded Gill that the county did not participate in the $450,000 financing of a larger natural-gas line for Midway Station, which constitutes most of the debt and “really improved the park’s chance of selling land.”

Soper said the legal instrument from EDA to the city needs to be an option, not a deed, because releasing the mortgage on that part of the property without any direct monetary compensation might be a problem for the banks that hold the mortgages. He said that would “give Midway control of the land without going to the bank and asking them to release it … until after land sale,” which he said would be “A better time to release without any consideration.”

Soper said the city’s “intent to make some or all of it a park” will enhance the value of Midway Station. Vandegrift said it won’t be a park as such, “but a greenspace. Midway is such a picturesque city, we want our industrial park to be as picturesque as an industrial park can be.”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Facebook page aims to help owners find their lost pets

Screenshot of the top of the Facebook page Midway's lost pets!
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Live in Midway and can’t find your furry friend? A new Facebook group may help you find them.

Brian Axon of Midway started a group last Sunday called “Midway’s lost pets!” The group’s goal is to post photos of pets from Midway and help reunite them with their owner.

Axon, who also runs the Midway Musings page on Facebook, said he set up an album there for missing pets, but with nearly 1,000 Musings members posting and discussing other pressing matters, the animal posts were sometimes missed.

“We needed a better way of keeping up with our little friends and whose family they belong to,” Axon told the Messenger. “I decided to make it easier to keep up with and find what pet belongs where in case one did get out on a walk about or loose for whatever reason without the owner knowing it was gone.”

Axon said he was prompted by a May 15 post on Musings from Midway resident ‎Melina Renee,‎ a photo of a missing chicken.

“I decided after the chicken incident that we needed a better way of keeping up with our little friends,” Axon said.

The site isn’t just for pets that are lost. Axon asked members to “share our pets’ images and our names so when our four legged or other loved pets can be quickly identified and returned safely home to us or share when ours has gone a walk about without permission.”

Several residents have posted photos of their missing pets. The page has separate albums for dogs and cats.

Axon says the page is just one way for him to “to help this wonderful community that has given me so much a little back.”

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Monday's Memorial Day service will be different

Midway's annual Memorial Day service will be different, due to the pandemic and restrictions on gatherings. All the names on the memorial marker in the Midway Cemetery will be read by City Council Members Stacy Thurman and Logan Nance, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, Woodford County Judge-Executive James Kay, Magistrate Liles Taylor and Emily Wilson, 10, who will read the names from the most recent conflicts, one of whom is her father, Steve Wilson. The event will be livestreamed on the city's Facebook page at 10:30 a.m.

Friday, May 22, 2020

First covid-19 case confirmed in Midway; it's a reminder for caution, especially this weekend, mayor says

By Al Cross and Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway has its first confirmed case of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in a video that county Public Health Director Cassie Prather informed him of the diagnosis this afternoon, the patient is doing "pretty well" at home, and their recent contacts have been contacted for purposes of self-quarantine. He said he had no other information about the patient.

Coronavirus cases per 100,000
Midway's case was one of six new cases reported in Woodford County. The county Health Department reports the new cases are 58-year-old woman, a 74-year old man, a 79-year old man, a 29-year old woman, a 59-year old man and a 13-year-old girl. All are listed as stable and recovering at home.

The county's infection rate of 92 per 100,000 population is moderate compared to other counties, as shown on the map at left. It had gone several days without any new cases, and the remaining 19 have all recovered. UPDATE, May 23: Another case was reported in the county, for a total of 26.

Vandegrift said the virus has surely been in Midway already, and the presence of a confirmed case shouldn't cause addition concern, just more vigilance about precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. He called for residents to keep washing their hands, covering their coughs and practicing good hygiene, so there is no "spike" in Midway.

"In some ways [the town's first case] might be a very important reminder of how careful we need to be," he said in the video, which runs about two and a half minutes.

Andrew Blaydes makes dean's list at Midway University

One student from Midway landed a spot on Midway University’s dean’s list for the spring semester.

Andrew Blaydes met the two requirements of obtaining a semester grade-point average of a 3.6 or above and maintaining full-time status at the university.

The list includes 302 students, including five from Versailles: Miriam Gonzalez, Noel Montgomery, Sandy Pecina, Juan Perez and Kali Ratcliff.

Scott County had two from Stamping Ground, Elizabeth Hazlett and Cynthia Sexton, and 14 from Georgetown: Gracie Bowling, Brittany Brockman, Sydney Coffey, Rachel Cooper, Hayden Gregory, Jordan Hopkins, Allyson Ison, Kimberly Jager, Nyckoletta Martin, Kaitlyn Robinson, Jillian Saylor, Madeline Wasson, Terri Wilkerson and Natasha Williams.

Twenty students from Frankfort and 30 from Lexington made the list. It also included many students from out of state: 10 each from Indiana and Tennessee, five from Ohio, six from Texas, three from California and Colorado, two from Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and one each from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Nine international students made the list. Those students included two from Colombia and one each from Sweden, Zambia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Peru, France and the Dominican Republic.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Mayor says 'rude subcontractors' broke gate locks, allowed animals to escape and painted willy-nilly

Image from MetroNet video shows temporary paint used to mark existing utility lines. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said employees of a MetroNet subcontractor painted the lines on personal items in yards, broke gate locks and let animals escape.
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift says he has warned MetroNet, which is installing high-speed fiber optic cable to every home in Midway, that he will not tolerate what he called "rude subcontractors."

Vandegrift said residents reported that workers locating existing utility lines Tuesday broke padlocks off a few residents’ gates; left several gates open, allowing animals to escape; and spray-painted line markers over personal items in yards rather than leaving a small gap in the line.

"While these were not employees of MetroNet, but rather other utility companies, I still hold MetroNet responsible, as it is their project," Vandegrift told the Messenger. "If they want to follow up with the utility companies that didn't act in good faith, so be it, but we can't allow the blame game."

This is not the first time he has heard MetroNet has been called out for rude subcontractors, the mayor said.

"I've heard many rumblings of ham-handed subcontract work by residents in Lexington and Versailles," he said. "I want to avoid those stories here. I believe so many of these issues could be solved by communication, and I was disappointed I wasn't contacted by MetroNet before the locators began on Tuesday, as I could have warned residents to unlock padlocks and beware of locators needing to access their property.

Vandegrift said he had a productive conversation Thursday morning with MetroNet's executive regional vice president, government-affairs liaison and its project manager to help clear the air.

"I believe they understand that we are a city that prides itself in keeping our residents in the loop at all times,” he said, “and that we'll demand that employees and subcontractors be respectful and communicate with residents as well."

The mayor said he made it clear that during the current trying times, there's no room for disrespecting the properties of Midway residents.

"During a pandemic, when people are more stressed, and in some cases already feel overburdened by government right now, it is important that folks feel that people entering their property are respectful, as little intrusive as possible, and that bury utility lines with respect to people's gardens and personal property as best as possible while properly using the utility easements," he said.

He added later, "They were very receptive to the sensitive nature of the current circumstances, and I believe they will make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again."

The mayor acknowledged that there is little he can do but object. He said he could use his emergency powers under the pandemic to "exclude all nonessential, unauthorized, disruptive, or uncooperative personnel from the scene of the emergency," but that would only delay installation, "and I certainly don’t even want to have to go there. I did want to get their attention, and luckily I did."

Vandegrift said he remains confident that the project will end up being a boon to the town and bring much-needed improvement for telecommunication services in Midway, as early as August.

"I believe firmly that MetroNet will bring a much needed new competitor to our city for internet, phone, and television,” he said. "Their use of fiber optic line is a true 21st century technology that will be here for a long time."

Vandegrift said MetroNet is “very committed to restoration” and has promised these steps for better service going forward:
  Use the “path that is least intrusive” within the easement, and two feet from existing utilities, to avoid disrupting service.
  Do anything they can to go around trees, gardens, or other personal items.
  Residents can call two different numbers with any concern. MetroNet will open a “ticket” with each call to track progress and fix any issues.
  When a trench is dug to bury cable, they will seed and straw. If they don’t do it to your satisfaction, you can call 859-785-1107 or 1-877-386-3876 and they will do it to your liking.
  If a planting of any kind is disrupted, they will replace it to your specification.
  If a garden is in the easement and they can’t go around it, they will bore underneath, to avoid tearing it up.
  Subcontractors will be briefed and reminded on a regular basis that in general, everyone is more stressed now than usual, so they need to be mindful of that.
  A local man, Doug Haney, will be in charge of local engineers and overseeing the subcontractors, and will be someone who can assist you with any issues.
  As any issues arise call either 859-785-1107 or 1-877-386-3876; both are customer service lines, and MetroNet is committed to making residents satisfied once this more intrusive phase is over.

Vandegrift said he urges anyone to contact him directly if any issues occur.

MetroNet has a short video describing the installation process at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca30L1RAMNI&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Mayor thanks citizens, asks them to report businesses that don't follow required precautions in reopening

By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

In his bi-weekly pandemic update Wednesday, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift praised Midway's response to the coronavirus and called for a proactive and careful approach as the town's economy reopens.

"You have done an outstanding job," Vandegrift said to open his update. "I'm so proud of Midway citizens."

He also praised residents for supporting local businesses amid the pandemic. "The way you've supported the restaurants to keep them through this is truly remarkable." However, he said one unnamed store "looks to be closing."

Then the mayor warned that Midway, which has not had a confirmed case of the coronavirus, might begin to see cases appear as more visitors come to town with reopening of retail stores Wednesday and restaurants (with greater limitations) Friday.

"The truth is, this is the phase where we may begin to see more cases," he said. "There's going to be more spread when people are out and about."

Vandegrift assured residents that they can keep the virus in check.

"We can control it," he said. "The virus can be somewhat controlled with the practices of social distancing, wearing a mask, which is one of the ultimate signs of sacrificing."

The mayor urged residents to let him know if a restaurant or shop violates social distancing guidelines such as not wearing a mask or keeping people six feet apart.

He also had a message regarding gatherings of 10 or fewer people, which will be allowed starting Friday, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend.

"Practice social distancing the best you can,” he said. ”We're not going to be looking over your fence to see how many people are at your house or if they’re spaced out, but I think it's smart to keep the number of covid cases as close to zero as we can."

Mayors and judge-executive talk about the 'new normal,' say it needs to include the wearing of masks

Screenshot of, from top left, County Judge-Executive James Kay, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and Emily Downey, executive director of county Tourism Commission and Chamber of Commerce
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

While excited to reopen their economies, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and Woodford County Judge-Executive James Kay all urged caution and mask wearing during a virtual town hall Wednesday.

The event on Facebook consisted exclusively of questions provided by Woodford County Tourism Executive Director Emily Downey and residents, and answers from the two mayors and judge-executive.

Are masks required to be worn? The trio highly recommended that people wear masks while at local businesses. Kay said the county is a "free society," but businesses have the right to deny service to anyone not wearing a mask.

Vandegrift said that the more people wear masks, the more positive pressure will be put on those choosing not to. He encouraged business owners and customers to "gently and kindly" remind or request people not wearing masks to put one on.

Kay noted that those with medical conditions such as asthma would not be required to wear masks.

Traugott said he plans to wear a mask when out, in hopes of setting an example for others to follow suit.

Where can people obtain masks? Kay said nearly every business that plans to require the wearing of masks would provide customers with them.

He and Vandegrift added that residents should contact the Woodford County Jail, whose inmates are still making masks, as they did for the Midway mask project.

Vandegrift said Midway still has around 200 masks available, many in children’s sizes.

What will the 'new normal' look like? Even as businesses reopen, things will look a lot different than before, as Woodford County tries to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.

Kay called the early stages of reopening of shops and restaurants a "soft reopening" and told residents to expect paper menus, plastic utensils and other disposable products, and nearly everyone in masks, at restaurants.

Vandegrift said business "will and look different." He said the use of masks, deep cleaning and limits on capacity will be crucial to keeping the spread slowed, and no businesses want to be known for spreading the virus.

"It's going to look a little different, it's going to feel a little different, but it's going to be all right," he said.

Traugott said the use of restrooms will be much different, since they will be cleaned much more frequently, but customers should not fear going out to eat at restaurants. He urged people to stay patient and polite, because businesses and customers will need time to adjust to the new normal.

When will government offices reopen? The county clerk’s office remains closed to in-person business but will still be available over the phone and via email.

The courthouse will remain closed to in-person services until June 1 and then will reopen by appointment only. Everyone inside the building will be required to wear a mask.

Versailles City Hall will not reopen for the time being but may soon offer in-person meetings by appointment. Midway's will not be open for at least a month to see if the reopening of restaurants and shops lead to a surge of covid-19 cases, but appointments can be made for meetings. Dropbox services and phone services will remain available.

When can yard sales return? Both mayors said they were unsure if there's a set a date for return of yard sales in Gov. Andy Beshear's guidelines. (There are not.) Kay encourages using online sale for the time being to prevent any potential spread of the virus.

Are retail spaces still one customer per family? Woodford County will still limit shoppers to one customer per household inside stores, with exceptions for parents with young children or the disabled.

Community Fund seeks grant applications, donations

By Lori Garkovich
Chair, Woodford County Community Fund

The Woodford County Community Fund seeks nonprofit partners who have the capacity to address unmet basic needs arising from this crisis. To date, we have provided nearly $8,300 in grants to nonprofits in Woodford County to support their efforts, and these funds have leveraged an additional $4,000 in community assistance.

While we have come far together through these trying times, the test of who we are as a community is not over. And, tomorrow’s “normal” will not be familiar. New challenges will emerge, especially for those whose lives are fragile for economic, health, or other life situation reasons. This is why our Covid-19 Response Fund provides grants to community organizations with creative responses to the challenges of the new normal related to:
• Food insufficiency
• Rent and utilities assistance if from approved nonprofits
• Medical supplies/prescriptions assistance

Grants are available to organizations and programs that work to provide residents with access to food, prescriptions, health care, childcare, unmet housing needs or other unmet needs. We are especially interested in grant applications that support Woodford County residents (e.g., seniors, parents, the food insecure, the housing insecure, the economically insecure) who have lost access to the resources they need to thrive.

Do you want to be a part of this effort? If so, you can make a donation to the Woodford County Community Fund’s Covid-19 Response Fund. Your contribution will be added to the available resources from our permanently endowed community fund, and will be granted rapidly to organizations on the front lines of support.

How can you do this?
• Write a personal check. Place WCCF Covid-19 Response Fund on the memo line and send the check to the Blue Grass Community Foundation, 499 E. High St., Suite 112, Lexington KY 40507.
• To make a donation using a credit card, go to https://bgcf.givingfuel.com/woodford-covid19

Contact Lori Garkovich, chair, Woodford County Community Fund at Lgarkov@uky.edu or 859-519-0889 if you have questions or you want to inquire about support for a nonprofit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Mayor says he will use persuasion, 'market forces' to compel compliance in reopening, but not 'three strikes'

Elisha Holt does a Midway Business Association video about the Historic Midway Museum Gift Store, part of a series tied to retail reopenings, as co-owner Leslie Penn watches and Morgan Castle records. The store will reopen on a limited basis.
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council heard Mayor Grayson Vandegrift outline the city's game plan as several businesses are set to reopen this week with Kentucky’s covid-19 restrictions gradually being lifted.

Vandegrift also discussed his new “middle ground” budget, and the council approved three zoning-ordinance changes, in another council meeting held online due to the pandemic.

Reopening and enforcement: Vandegrift told the council that he has sent both digital and hard copies of the reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to businesses, and expects workers and customers to follow them closely.

"We're going to be strict about this, as we should be," the mayor said, adding that violations of the guidelines should be reported: "Tipping ain't snitching." However, he said reports should be made to him directly via phone call, text, or email, not to police, who he said are busy enough already.

Vandegrift said “There are some things we can mitigate ourselves, just by talking to business owners,” who are responsible for controlling behavior in their premises. He said after the meeting, “The optics of having a police officer come to a business is not really something we want to do.”

Council Member Sara Hicks said she has had “some kind of scary experiences” in a Lexington grocery of people not wearing masks or keeping six feet apart, and asked Vandegrift “who is responsible for following those rules, besides the customers.”

He replied, "I do consider myself somewhat responsible for making sure the governor's guidelines are being followed. You know, we're not going to create a police state. . . . My approach is going to be this, that no restaurant and no shop wants to permanently damage their brand right now by being the place that created a virus farm."

He said customers will be expected to wear masks indoors, except when eating, but “We as a government can’t force people to wear masks,” so it’s up to business owners.

“Restaurants need to know that right now, their duty is heightened, in a sense,” he said. “They really, I think, need, and I think they will, step up to the plate and help enforce these guidelines, because they don’t want to be the restaurant that gets in trouble; they don’t want to be the restaurant or shop that gets shut down and loses their business license over, you know, infractions. They don’t want to be the restaurant known as the place that started an outbreak in a city that had zero confirmed cases. And I think in that sense, market forces can help keep them in line.”

The mayor, a former restaurateur, said he knows how hard it is to tell independent-minded customers that they have to do thing they don’t want to do, but should think of the mask rule as just the latest addition to the standard sign, “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” He added, “That mask is not to protect you, it’s to protect other people.”

Asked after the meeting what the penalties for violation would be, he said “I don’t think it’s going to come to a point where we have to do something drastic, like pull a business license.” He said he would use “open communication” and “honest dialogue” and give violators an opportunity to comply, but there is “not gonna be three strikes.”

Vandegrift said Midway’s experience would be “a bit of a case study” because it is a small town that attracts many visitors.

“Everyone's got to stay vigilant, using social distance, wearing a mask and using the proper hygiene to keep our numbers as close to zero as possible,” he said. No cases of the virus have been reported in Midway, but “I’m sure it’s been here in one form or another.”

Many visitors come to Midway’s restaurants, which can reopen Friday but with only one-third of their normal indoor seating capacity. Vandegrift said he would issue an executive order letting restaurants put tables in parking spaces that the city has designated for curbside pickup, and waiving fees restaurants normally pay to use their sidewalks to set up outdoor tables

He said the order will also allow alcohol sales at such tables, but he would not reinstate the "entertainment destination center" ordinance that allows patrons to carry open beverage containers between businesses. "I think we need to step slowly into this," he said. "I don't think it's the time to encourage congregation downtown."

Vandegrift said outdoor dining is safer than indoor dining. "Indoors has poorer circulation of air, and ventilation systems can pass covid-19 to others."

Restaurants will still be advised to encourage customers to use their curbside pickup, online ordering and delivery options.

“The restaurants and shops that adapt are the ones that will survive,” Vandegrift said. “No restaurant can survive on just 33 percent occupancy.”

Budget: With reopening on the horizon, Vandegrift discussed his recently revised "middle ground budget" that adds back some expenses he and the council agreed to cut when city revenues were more in doubt.

The “bare bones budget” cut almost $200,000 of spending from the mayor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

That is now “not necessary,” he said, mainly because the city’s largest employer, Lakeshore Learning Materials, had furloughed 225 of its 300 employees, putting a hole in the city’s largest source of revenue, the occupational tax on wages and net profits.

Now Lakeshore plans to bring back its full workforce in the next few weeks, and “expects to have a profitable year,” which it did not expect last month, Vandegrift said.

The company also expects to receive a certificate of occupancy in September for its second Midway distribution center, with that facility opening officially in March 2021, adding revenue from up 100 new jobs in the last quarter of the fiscal year.

Nevertheless, Vandegrift reduced his estimate of occupational-tax income for the next fiscal year to $737,500, down from his original estimate of $825,000. He said the city also expects less income from restaurants. The mayor proposed restoring these “bare bones budget” cuts, totaling $67,500:
            $10,000 for training and travel for employees and elected officials
            $7,500 in donations (including $5,000 to Court Appointed Special Advocates)
            $25,000 for street paving, for a total of $50,000
            $20,000 for the sidewalk cost-sharing program
            $5,000 for a water fountain and refill station on East Main Street

Vandegrift said he would like to see the council find a way to restore the $30,000 originally budgeted for completion of the pavilion in the cemetery, because city employees have told him about older people having a hard time in bad weather at the cemetery, with few family members to help them. Beshear has limited funeral and burial gatherings to 10 people.

The council will work more on the budget during a special budget workshop meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 26.

Zoning: The council gave second reading and final passage to three zoning ordinances that will:
            Allow fences in the front building setbacks along rights of way to be up to 48 inches high instead of 42; John Holloway voted no.
            Limit display of banners for charitable activities for up to 14 days, with a 14-day waiting period for reinstallation; Logan Nance voted no, calling it “silly.”
            Prohibit permanent location of recreational vehicles in flood plains. All council members present voted yes; Kaye Nita Gallagher was absent.

The changes, in the countywide zoning ordinance, are being approved by the Versailles City Council and the county Fiscal Court. Those bodies are also approving another change recommended by the Planning Commission, which allows signs to project up to five feet from fronts of buildings, with nine feet of head clearance.

With the council’s tacit agreement, Vandegrift did not ask for approval of that change. He said at the last meeting, “Our downtown is beautiful and pedestrian-friendly, and I feel that this could only lead to a cluttered and unnecessary look.” He said it is “the first time I can remember when all three bodies didn’t adopt the same amendment” to the countywide ordinance.

Other business: Holloway, the unpaid manager of Walter Bradley Park, said it will “probably have 20 times more visitors than we did this time last year for obvious reasons,” but “most everyone is really considerate of getting out of the way of other people.”

Nance and Vandegrift said they had noticed more dog waste in the park. Holloway said he is placing signs to encourage owners to pick up after their dogs, but “Some people just don’t want to.” He said a dispenser for pet-waste bags is located in the fenced dog park. 

Vandegrift announced that the city’s annual Memorial Day service would be held largely online, with readings of the names of veterans on the monument in the cemetery, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Midway branch library resumes limited services

The Midway Branch of the Woodford County Public Library has resumed service, at curbside. To reserve items, call the library at 846-4014.

The pickup hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

All returns should go to the book drop. Librarian Stacy Thurman says returned items are “quarantined” for 72 hours and that the library is following “very strict” policies to keep readers safe.

Thurman says the staff can't accept items for printing or faxing, but can print free of charge up to 10 pages sent to the library via email, and can likewise receive faxes of up to 10 pages.

Midway retailers prepare to reopen, but for some the new normal will be very different from the old normal

Morgan Castle, right, of the Gigi & George shop on East Main Street talked with Elisha Holt, promoter for the Midway Business Association, about a Facebook video Holt was preparing to do about the shop and other stores last week.
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Many businesses in Midway are getting ready to reopen after the covid-19 pandemic forced them to close their doors for almost two months, but some won’t be as open as they were before.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear ordered all “non-life-sustaining businesses" to close March 26, to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the state's case numbers surged. Many restaurants went to curbside and delivery service, but that wasn’t feasible for most retailers.

With daily new cases at a rough plateau, Kentucky began phase one of Beshear's reopening plan Monday, May 11, with manufacturing, distribution centers, office-based businesses, pet groomers and other low-risk businesses allowed to open their doors.

On Wednesday, May 20, retail stores will be allowed to reopen and restaurants can open in-service dining at one-third capacity plus outdoor seating Friday, May 22.

For some local businesses, this kicks off what will be a resumption of some normalcy. 

As businesses reopen or prepare to reopen in Midway, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has sent each local business a copy of the state guidelines for reopening.

“My biggest concern is that store and restaurant owners and employees wear masks when they are in the store or restaurant and around customers and that customers wear masks when they are in the store,” Vandegrift said.

“It’s going to be very important that businesses follow the guidelines strictly, which includes the limited-occupancy restrictions as well.”

In order to get Midway back to work safely, Vandegrift says the city will provide masks to any business in town that needs them, and it will use “all statutory authority available to enforce the guidelines if necessary. This would include pulling the business license of any business that creates a threat to the safety and health of Midway citizens and visitors.”

Vandegrift said the businesses that will open May 20 are:
            Milam House
            Fisher's Antiques
            Southern Sunday
            Midway Boutique
            Midway Historic Gift Store (curbside only)
            The Back Room

What about restaurants? Vandegrift said he will sign an executive order temporarily allowing restaurants to use the sidewalks in front of their establishments for outdoor seating, so long as they maintain a walking path for pedestrians.

The Messenger talked with several businesses about their reopening plans, some that will open and some that stay closed for now.

Historic Midway Museum Gift Store, 124 E. Main St.

Owners Bill and Leslie Penn say they’ll continue to do business differently despite being allowed to reopen.

With books, jewelry and other items that customers often touch, the Penns say it’s impossible to clean them all. Also, they are both over 65, and thus considered more vulnerable to the virus, and want to assure the health of customers and themselves. So, they said they don’t expect to reopen as normal until a covid-19 vaccine becomes available to the public, which could take a year or more.

The Penns said they are thinking of opening on Saturdays with an outside booth full of items for customers to examine and purchase while keeping a social distance. Customers can reach them by phone or email to inquire about specific items.

The store will continue offering delivery and curbside pickup and will allow residents to pay with “Midway Bucks,” the $50 in vouchers that the city will mail to all water customers next week for spending at local, non-franchise businesses.

Gigi and George, 120 E, Main St.

Morgan Castle says her antique and leather store will reopen May 20 and continue its normal business hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Castle says customers may shop while maintaining a social distance and can also use curbside pickup if they do not feel comfortable coming indoors. She says one challenges of reopening will be keeping items clean, since many of the antiques cannot be cleaned with bleach. Instead, Castle says she is using fleece oil.

Anyone using Midway Bucks will get 10% off, Castle said.

Back Room, 138 E. Main St.

The Back Room is on the list of businesses that will reopen Wednesday but tell the Messenger that in-person shopping will be limited.

The store will continue both delivery and curbside pickup services and accept Midway Bucks. Items such as books, toys and their popular stuffed animals can be found on their website and Instagram page.

Milam House, 140 E. Main St.

The Milam House will reopen May 20, Jan Ramos said. It will resume normal business hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday but will be closed Sundays.

For customers uncomfortable entering the store, curbside pickup and delivery will be available, and Midway Bucks will be accepted.

Southern Sunday, 106 E. Main St.
Southern Sunday will be reopening their doors Wednesday but with strict protocols in place.

Owner Megan McClure tells the Messenger that no more than eight people can be in the shop at one time; everyone will be offered hand sanitizer as they come in the door and again at checkout, and everyone will be asked that to wear a mask upon entering and to maintain a distance of at least six feet between other shoppers.

All clothes that are tried on will be steamed afterward, and private appointments will be offered for anyone interested in shopping alone. Shoppers can email megan@shopsouthernsunday.com for more information.

Store hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Friday.

Railroad Drug, 115 E. Main St.

As an essential business, Railroad Drug & Old Time Soda Fountain has been open to curbside customers since the beginning of the Pandemic.

On May 20, customers will be allowed inside the building to pick up prescriptions. Two days later, the soda fountain will be open to dine-in customers, along with restaurants, but at only one-third capacity.

Owner Ken Glass tells the Messenger all workers will be wearing masks and customers will be expected to do the same. To ensure social distancing, they will have the floor marked off to allow customers to spread out six feet apart.

They will maintain their normal business hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Information about other stores may be added by emailing Messenger intern Aaron Gershon here.

Legislative report: No primary election tomorrow; check your registration address by May 26 for June 23 primary

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and parts of Franklin and Fayette counties

In normal times, Kentuckians would be heading to the polls tomorrow to cast their ballots in this year’s primary election.

These are not normal times, of course, and just as the coronavirus has changed virtually every aspect of our public lives, it is significantly altering the way most of us will vote.

The most obvious difference is the delayed election itself, with Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams announcing earlier this spring that it was being moved to June 23.

As part of that safety precaution, all voters are now eligible for – and encouraged to use – absentee ballots. The goal is to avoid what we saw in Wisconsin last month, when most voters there were given no choice but to stand in line, some for hours, at a significantly reduced number of polling locations. That crowding put them at great risk of being infected with covid-19, and recent news reports indicate dozens did indeed become sick.

The process here in Kentucky will be much safer, and all 3.4 million registered voters will be able to choose from several options to ensure their voice is heard in next month’s primary.

To make absentee voting easier, the state will mail each registered voter a postcard very soon to start the process off. The state will also use a secure online portal for voters to request an absentee ballot (hopefully around May 25), and that request can be made as well through the county clerk’s office.

These postcards will be used to verify whether voters still live at the location where they are registered. If you have moved but not changed your registration, please do so soon, before May 26 at 4 p.m. You will still be able to vote if registered.

Requests for absentee ballots have to be made by June 15, and the state will cover the cost of returning the ballot, so there will be no need to buy a stamp. Returned ballots must have a postmark no later than Election Day, but ballots meeting this criteria will be accepted until June 27, meaning complete results will be delayed. The secretary of state says results won’t be certified until June 30 at the latest.

Those voting absentee can mail in or drop off their ballots, and those wanting to vote in person can do so in the days leading up to the election or on Election Day itself. Those taking these last two options are encouraged to make an appointment with the county clerk’s office.

It is important to emphasize that most polling locations in Kentucky will be closed on June 23. In fact, Jefferson County, which has more than 600,000 registered voters, will only have one, which will be located at the Kentucky Exposition Center at the state fairgrounds.

If you would like to vote but are not registered yet, there are still a few days left to fix that. The deadline is next Tuesday, May 26. It is too late, though, if you are registered but would like to change your party affiliation for this primary. That cutoff to do that was Dec 31.

The voting changes I’ve described only apply to the primary election. For now, November’s election is on track to be conducted as it traditionally has been. Still, many others and I hope that the General Assembly will use this primary as a model to make voting easier in future elections.

Early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots are two simple changes that would almost certainly drive up voter turnout, which has historically been low. During the last two primaries in presidential election years, for example, only one in six voters took part.

Another key difference between next month’s primary and November’s election is that new photo ID requirements for voters won’t be in place until the fall.

This primary will be the first statewide election since Gov. Beshear signed an executive order late last year making it possible for 150,000 Kentuckians with a non-violent felony record to register and vote. Kentucky was one of the last states to automatically restore felon voting rights, and my hope is that many will take advantage of this. If you think you might be among those eligible, the state has a website where you can quickly check: https://civilrightsrestoration.ky.gov/.

All Kentuckians, meanwhile, can visit GoVoteKy.com, where you can start or review your voter registration and learn more about the election process. Your county clerk’s office is also a wonderful resource if you want to know more about this primary.

If you have questions about other issues affecting Kentucky, I would like to know. You can email me at joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, or you can leave me or any legislator a message, toll-free, at 1-800-372-7181. Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

With 1,400 volunteer-made masks handed out, Midway offers remaining 300 to rest of county

The masks are packaged with instructions.
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

In early April, Midway kicked off a volunteer-driven project to make enough cloth masks to give one to anyone in the city free of charge.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that if the city still had more than 100 masks available May 18, it would offer them to any resident of Woodford County.

Vandegrift said Friday that 1,400 masks have been distributed to Midway residents and 300 will become available to any Woodford County residents Monday.

Vandegrift said Woodford County Jail inmates joined Midway volunteers in mask production so residents of the rest of the county would have a chance to obtain them.

 “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.”

Amy Bowman
Bowman, who came up with the idea, told the Messenger, “None of this would have been possible without the hard work of over 50 volunteers who worked in teams to wash fabric, cut, sew, press, sanitize, package and distribute the masks.”

Vandegrift said the city will continue to provide masks to any business in Midway that needs them as businesses begin to reopen.

The mayor emphasized the importance of wearing masks, which is recommended in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reopening guidelines. “We expect that stores and shops will follow the guidelines,” he said. “After all, they don’t want their business brand to be hurt as being known as a virus farm, and they certainly don’t want to be forced to close again.”

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Close call: City's 12-inch water main is hit, quickly fixed

Google image shows water tower and two businesses involved.
By Aaron Gershon
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway residents nearly saw their water shut off on Thursday after an accident involving two businesses in Midway Station.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said AST Environmental hired its neighbor, Reed Utilities, to bore underground for an electric-service upgrade. During the process, a worker hit the 12-inch water main that comes from the nearby tower.

After sending an alert to City Council members, City Hall staff and the Messenger at 3:53 p.m., warning that the city's water supply might be shut off, Vandegrift sent another one at 5:31, saying the issue had been revolved.

The city's water and wastewater operator, Jack Blevins, saved the day, Vandegrift said.

"Because of the amount of water on the site . . . Jack was very concerned the break was bad," Vandegrift said in an email. "He was even more concerned because it was at the bottom of the pipe, the hardest spot to do a repair."

Luckily, Blevins was able to determine upon digging around the pipe that he could fix it without cutting it, and used a repair band around the pipe that sealed the break.   

Jack Blevins
Public Works Supervisor Terry Agee assisted Blevins with the repair in what Vandegrift called a team effort. The mayor praised Blevins, who worked without his usual co-worker, who is not working due to being at high risk for covid-19.

"I give Jack a ton of credit because he doesn't normally call me as worried as he did today, and given the current circumstances of dealing with covid-19, the timing would have been exceptionally bad,” Vandegrift said. "He pulled a rabbit out of his hat today."

The mayor added, "It's a great example of why I'm so proud of all our city employees. They're a skeleton crew, but they work together, and they've all absolutely stepped up even bigger during this pandemic."

AST and Reed Utilities also played an important role in helping resolve the problem, according to Vandegrift. "They hit the line by accident but were extremely helpful afterward, he said. "It's not every day the one who hits a line also helps you fix it."

The mayor says he does not fault either company. "Unless you have X-ray vision, it's a human thing to think you're further from a line than you are. It could have been a bad deal, but fortunately, it turned out well."

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Via video, Midway University honors students, faculty and campus organizations for achievements

Midway University has recognized several students, faculty members and campus organizations for their achievements in the classroom and extra-curricular activities, in a video presentation. “Although we couldn’t gather on campus to celebrate this together, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to acknowledge our students' achievements,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Elizabeth Stivers said in a news release.

Dr. Becky Briley, outstanding teacher
The award recipients were:
  • Dr. Becky Briley, Outstanding Teacher Award
  • Juan Perez, Versailles, Associate Degree Nursing Award for Professional Excellence
  • Jamie May Mullins, Richmond, Bachelor of Science in Nursing Professional Excellence Award
  • April Steward, Paris, Health Care Administration Award
  • Larissa Cussins, Cheyenne, Wyo., Outstanding Biology Student Award
  • Kendall Godwin, Ooltewah, Tenn,, Outstanding Biology Research Student Award
  • Laura Minton, Wilmore, Outstanding English Student Award
  • Joseph Enzweiler, Erlanger, Outstanding Psychology Student Award
  • Joy Johnson, London, Outstanding Teacher Education Student Award
  • Laura Minton, Wilmore, Theatre Award
  • Christen Roberson, Inez, Outstanding Masters in Teacher Leadership Award
  • Cynthia Sexton, Stamping Ground, Outstanding Business Student Award
  • Kendra Legters, Bloomfield, N.Y., Outstanding Student in Equine Management
  • Lesley DuPlessis, Pretoria, South Africa, Outstanding Student in Equine Rehabilitation
  • Rashea Smith, Corbin, Outstanding Student in Equine Science
  • Maxime Noel, Les Contamines-Montjoie, France, Sport Management Student Award
  • Women’s Volleyball Team, Athletic Team Impact Award
  • Psychology Club, Student Organization Impact Award
  • Elizabeth Danielle "Libby" Morgan, Georgetown, Community Service Award
  • Luke Logan, Elizabethtown, Midway University Freshman Leadership Award
  • Hannah Waroway, Ann Arbor, Mich., Midway University Eagle Leadership Award
  • Hannah Welte, Augusta, Ruth Slack Roach Junior Scholar
  • Brynn Bradley, Nicholasville, Student Alumni Award
The honors event is named for the late Joy Edwards Hembree, a long-time Midway University trustee who advocated for women and children. A video of it is on the university's YouTube channel.