Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Absentee ballots mailed to Midway residents this week left out City Council race; replacements to be sent soon

If you live in the City of Midway and want to vote in the City Council election, don't fill out and mail the absentee ballot you may have received today. It fails to list the council election, and replacement ballots will be sent as early as tomorrow, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said today.

City residents received ballots printed for the Midway rural precinct. Vandegrift said he did not know how the error was made, but said County Clerk Sandy Jones, who lives in Midway, is working to fix it.

Absentee ballots are expected to account for most of the votes in the Nov. 3 election because of the pandemic. The deadline to apply for a ballot is Oct. 9. Early, in-person voting begins Oct. 13.

Ten candidates are running for six seats on the City Council: five incumbents and five non-incumbents. The Midway Woman's Club and the Midway Messenger are holding a forum for the candidates on the Messenger's Facebook page and You Tube from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5.

Monday, September 28, 2020

EDA board creates panel to guide sales of commercial lots in Midway Station, collaborates with Chamber

Portion of adapted zoning map shows business zone at I-64 interchange, with Midway Station in its northeast quadrant.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority appointed a committee Friday to "steer future decisions" on the commercial property in Midway Station, and discussed other economic-development matters of community interest in a meeting held by teleconference.

The seven-member EDA board named members Paul Schreffler, Alex Riddle and Gene Hornback to the committee, with Schreffler as chair. County Planning Administrator Pattie Wilson will be an "ad hoc participant," said board chair Michael Michalisin of Midway.

The board held a closed session with Wilson, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and its real-estate agents to discuss the commercial property, at the northeast quadrant of the Interstate 64 interchange with Georgetown Road. The sale of those tracts is the key to paying off the million dollars or less that the city and county will owe on Midway Station when current sales in progress are completed.

The balance on the mortgage was reduced by $288,000 when the sale of two industrial lots to Creech Inc. closed Monday, Michalisin reported. He said EDA pocketed an additional $73,000. Creech will use the property to bale and ship muck that it gathers from horse farms, and store hay for the farms.

The board discussed collaboration with the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce and approved spending up to $200 for 200 "small-business checklist" brochures that the chamber would place in its office, the courthouse and the two city halls. "I feel like that's just the first step" in collaboration, Michalisin said.

Schreffler said most Americans are employed by small businesses, so "It really makes sense to collaborate." Local economic-development agencies generally focus on large employers. 

Witt said communities where the chamber and the local economic-development agency have a close relationship are more successful. He said EDA could use Chamber resources for marketing and design, and for events such as the annual Industry Day for students.

The board approved spending up to $2,000 to cover costs of changing a plat to remove a utility easement for RD Holdings, which is about to build a facility for storing and servicing golf carts in Midway Station. Michalisin said the company will employ 30 people.

Wilson noted that approval the revised plat and RD Holdings' final development plans are on the Planning Commission agenda for the evening of Oct. 8.

EDA Executive Director Lucas Witt reported that the planned move and expansion of Bluegrass Distillers from Lexington to the Mitchell property at the northwest quadrant of the interchange represents a $3 million capital investment. He said EDA helped the company get a low-interest loan from the state and "fits in, right in our wheelhouse."

Vandegrift noted that the distillery would bring 18 jobs and new tourism to Midway.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Pandemic made Northside librarian Caldwell scramble, and her work helped make her its teacher of the year

Melinda Caldwell with some of her Northside Elementary School students (Photo from school website)

By Gage O’Dell

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Melinda Caldwell did not plan to be a teacher, but after talking with the influential people in her life, that changed. “People kept telling me how well I worked with children, so I changed my major and I’m glad I did because I’m a natural teacher,” Caldwell said. Now her work, especially during the pandemic, has earned this natural teacher the title of Northside Elementary teacher of the year.

Growing up in the small town of McDowell, in Floyd County, Caldwell went to the University of Kentucky to become a physical therapist. Her high-school principal said “I want you to get a job in the library,” she recalled. “I did exactly what he said and got a job in the library the first week of school. I worked for inter-library loans and worked there for four years.” That planted a seed that would eventually sprout in Midway.

After her freshman year, “I realized that I didn’t want to continue the science of being a physical therapist,” so she changed her major to elementary education.

Melinda Caldwell with her husband Todd and her
award (Photo by Shelby Ison, from Facebook) 
When she married her husband Todd, who is also from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, they wanted to find a small town that was close to Lexington and Louisville, but did not have a big-city feel. “We told our agent and he said ’It sounds like you want to live in Midway’,” Caldwell said. “So, when we drove out there, we just fell in love.”

That’s where the Caldwell family has been since 1997, with three children, two at Eastern Kentucky University and one a sophomore at Woodford County High School. All three went to Northside.

Caldwell taught at Saint Leo School in Versailles before taking nine years off from teaching so she could stay at home with her kids while they were young. During that time away from the classroom, Caldwell got her master’s degree in library science from UK, returning to the field her high-school principal had in mind.

She returned to teaching, this time at Northside, then moved to Northern Elementary in Georgetown as librarian.

In 2012, the librarian at Northside retired, and Caldwell interviewed for the position. “This is where I wanted to be since I started graduate school,” she recalled. “I got my dream job.”

As the library media specialist, Caldwell teaches students and supports the technological needs in the building.

A normal day for her, before the pandemic, was teaching three to four classes a day at 55 minutes each, plus planning time, and time to do library needs while answering teachers’ questions about tech, finding them the right software and helping them with hardware issues.

Northside’s principal, Scott Hundley, calls the library a room of requirement. “It’s just more than library and books in a room; it’s required for our school to function,” Hundley said. “She’s the heartbeat and center of our school.”

Much of Caldwell’s work for students is not seen. She does inventory on what captures students’ attention to make sure they always have something to read.

“I figure out what lights a kid up. If it’s skateboards and I don’t have a book on that, I order one,” Caldwell said. “When you present that book to the student they’re like, ‘You read my paper and ordered a book so I could read about skateboarding?’ My goal is to get to know that student and spark that interest in reading.”

All that changed March 13. The covid-19 pandemic hit, sending the students out of the school and onto their computers to learn remotely from home. That’s when Caldwell faced a big challenge.

“I tried to make sure all the kids went home with three or four books. We had two teachers standing by the checkout counter helping kids have their book ready so I could scan the barcode,” she recalled. “In one day I had to check out 330 kids. But I made sure they all went home with books.”

Caldwell did not get to teach the rest of the spring semester, instead standing by to help teachers, students and parents through any issue that occurred. “You were throwing them into the fire,” she remarked. “My job became all tech support. We had a lot of phone calls and video meets. I was walking them through everything.”

Hundley said Caldwell made sure to not only be there for technology needs, but in a way, help them out professionally. “Teachers are used to teaching a certain way over their 20- to 30-year careers, then they were told to teach virtually,” he said. “Many of the technology barriers that were up, Mrs. Caldwell broke down. That has helped our teachers tremendously to gain confidence in what they were doing.”

With the faculty teaching virtually and dealing with issues that may arise, students see how they react, but Caldwell is there with the right attitude, Hundley said: “The calmness in her demeanor carries over into our teachers and that in turn carries over to our students When you talk about culture in our building and school, that has a tremendous effect.”

Caldwell missed being able to teach her students, but the teachers of Northside had her back, even running one event before the year ended. “They invited me to their Google Meets,” Caldwell stated. “I had a May the fourth event where I read them a Darth Vader story and taught them had to draw Star Wars characters.”

Before the school year ended, the teachers sent in their nominations for teacher of the year, and many nominated Caldwell, Hundley said.

“You always want to look at the overall majority of who was nominated and some of the thoughts and reasoning behind why that person should be teacher of the year,” said Hundley, who made the choice.

“She is always available to help and does so many more things than be a librarian. She wears a lot of different hats in the building.”

Asked if she ever thought about winning the award, she said “I’m very goal driven and I work really hard; I wanted to be teacher of the year. When I decided to go back and I knew that I wanted to be a librarian, that was an ultimate goal. But regardless, I would've worked just as hard.”

Caldwell said she was touched by the award because her position at Northside isn’t mainly teaching.

“It meant a lot to me,” she said. “I’m pretty proud as a librarian to be picked because they are rarely teacher of the year. . . . I work with wonderful teachers and to be chosen for that one year is a big compliment.”

“I told a teacher, ‘You’re the spotlight and I’m the support.’ We are behind the scenes, but I’m just proud to be picked.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Council sets longer trick-or treat, helps distillery and tentatively OKs de-annexation deal to get land on creek

Blue line shows tract city would own; Midway Station tracts are in yellow. Red line is city limit. (Click on image for larger version)
By Evan Johnson and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council acted on several issues Monday. It tentatively approved a deal to give the city its first land on South Elkhorn Creek, expanded time for trick-or-treating, saw a master plan for Walter Bradley Park and lent help to a distillery that is moving to town.

The city would get 16 acres along the creek from Homer Michael Freeny Jr. in return for de-annexing 27 acres of Freeny’s land north of Lakeshore Learning Materials.

Purple line shows area that would be de-annexed. (Click on image for a larger version)
Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the idea for the swap arose after Freeny sold the James Pepper Distillery some land for warehouses west of the new Brown-Forman warehouses. Because the land is in the city, it would have to be on the sewer system, even though the warehouses don’t need that. The land is low-lying, so a $440,000 pump station would be required to reach the city system, Vandegrift said. Taking the land out of the city limits would eliminate that requirement.

Vandegrift said the proposal was developed with John Soper, who is Freeny’s real-estate agent and until recently was chair of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority. Soper sat in on the meeting, held by Zoom teleconference.

The mayor said the city would have several options for use of the land on the creek, such as a trailhead, a place to fish and put in or take out canoes and kayaks.

Council Member Logan Nance said “There’s not really any good spots” for putting in and taking out, and he said he also liked the plan because it “kind of helps us say, this is as far as we want our industrial to go.” He was the only  member to vote against annexing and zoning industrial the Freeny land that includes the 27 acres that would be de-annexed.

Council Member Bruce Southworth said the deal was “a no-brainer” because “We’re getting 16 acres for nothing.”

Vandegrift asked the council to take a “preference vote” between the deal and an earlier plan to seek an easement across Freeny’s land for access to the creek. The council voted unanimously for the new deal, clearing the way for the mayor to negotiate details and bring it back to the council.

Park master plan: Parks Board Chair Cecilia Gass and landscape architect Ramona Frey presented a master plan for Walter Bradley Park.

Minor labels added by Messenger. For a larger image, click on it.
The plan divides the park into four areas: Northside, Mid Park, Town and The Paddock. Frey described the plan’s numerous initiatives, such as adding amenities like an amphitheater in the Paddock. “We like the idea of the amphitheater a lot,” she said. Other plan initiatives involve enhancing the natural and landscape features, improving park accessibility, improving wayfinding and adding interpretive signage.

The plan says its goals include keeping the park "as natural as possible," and developing more opportunities to serve as a link or walkway between surrounding neighborhoods and downtown.

Gass said the park has become more popular, with a threefold increase in visitors during the pandemic as people want to breathe outside air rather than be cooped up inside.

The council approved an application for a $340,000 low-interest state loan to help Bluegrass Distillers of Lexington relocate and expand in Midway, at the northwest quadrant of the Interstate 64 interchange. The distillery will bring 18 jobs, Vandegrift said, and “It’ll be exciting to bring a distillery back to Midway.” He announced the distillery’s plan July 12 but did not reveal its name until the meeting.

Halloween: The council expanded the time for trick-or-treating in town. The timeframe is typically from 6 to 8 p.m., but Council Member Stacy Thurman suggested starting  at 4 p.m., to prevent crowding during the pandemic.

Council Member Logan Nance said an additional two hours would give ample time for parents and their children to make their rounds with as little contact as possible with other trick-or-treaters.

Council Member Sara Hicks suggested putting up hand-sanitizing stations, and Vandegriftsaid he would look into that.

All council members approved the idea except John Holloway, who said he and his wife “have always participated to the fullest extent” with Halloween but are in their mid-to-late 60s, and there is “no way I can possibly participate in it this year, but I don’t want to tell people what to do. I would just encourage people for whom this would not be safe to not participate.”

Vandegrift earlier acknowledged some concern about trick-or-treating. “My fear is that if we don’t allow it and give guidelines, people are just gonna do it anyway without using proper guidelines,” he said. “There is a way to do trick or treat safely.” He said he plans to recommend that people not hand candy out but let children get it themselves.

Other business: The council approved three street-encroachment permits. Including one for Freeny, at 711 McKinney Ave. in Midway Station for a removal of 125 feet of curb for an asphalt driveway leading to his property

“This is another good step forward,” Vandegrift said, explaining that Freeny got an easement from a Midway Station lot owner and “We’ll get an access road ourselves . . . to the water tower.” He said the connection between the two developments will limit traffic on Georgetown Road.

At the start of the meeting, Emily Downey of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce requested a $1,000 contribution from the city. “For the first time, I think the Chamber is working very well with other community partners,” she said, citing examples such as the online Retail Showcase to he held the night of Oct. 15 in cooperation with the Midway Business Association and the Versailles Merchants Association.

Hicks asked if the Chamber has any minority board members and if it has made any efforts at racial equity. Downey said it has “put a lot of time into diversity” and “someone of color” is on the current board ballot.

Vandegrift said, “It’s a new era at the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, I can tell you that much.” He said the council could act on the request or wait until its next meeting, Oct. 5. No member made a motion.

The council also gave first reading to a new animal-control ordinance. It would allow chickens but ban roosters, peafowl, swans and turkeys.

Fall enrollments set records for fifth year in a row at Midway University, though rate of increase has slowed

Midway University chart, adapted by Midway Messenger
By Haley Woods
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway University’s fall enrollments have set records for the fifth year in row, and include the largest-ever class of incoming freshmen.

The university reported 687 daytime undergraduate students and a total enrollment of 1,810, including all evening and online undergraduate and graduate students and dual-credit students in high schools.

“Despite the many challenges we faced from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, our entire faculty and staff worked diligently throughout the spring and summer months to continue smooth operations and that is clearly shown in our enrollment figures,” President John P. Marsden said in a press release.

Over the last five years the university’s enrollment has grown every year. The biggest jump came in Fall 2016, when the university admitted its first male undergraduates. It has continued to increase every fall since, but the rate of increase has slowed, from 18.4% in 2018 to 12.6% in 2019 to 6.8% this year.

The press release noted that the Tracy Farmer-Don Ball Stadium was recently completed for the baseball team, and along with the Hunter Field House, with an auxiliary gymnasium and other facilities.

Midway University is the city’s second largest employer. It brings the city more than $100,000 a year in occupational taxes, ranking it behind Lakeshore Learning Materials.

In recent years, the university and the city have improved their relationship. The university added a 15% tuition discount for Midway residents in August 2018, and the university has been participating in local events such as Midsummer Nights in Midway and the Midway Fall Festival, and it brought the Francisco’s Farm Art Festival back to the campus in 2014.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Wesbanco closing would leave town bankless; mayor fears bank will keep another bank from using its site

The bank has had a series of owners. Wesbanco absorbed United Bank in August 2018.

By Nicholas Hall
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

In January, WesBanco will be closing its branch in Midway, the only bank in town. The announcement came Thursday morning, when WesBanco told Midway businesses the branch would close next year.

Cortney Neikirk, president of the Midway Business Association, said she was dismayed at the loss of the bank. “It’ll definitely be inconvenient because a lot of Midway businesses use it for convenience.”

Jeanette Keaton, owner of Midway Boutique, said that while she was disappointed that the bank was closing, her business would not be affected by the lack of a bank in town. Similarly, Ken Glass, who owns Railroad Drug and Old Time Soda Fountain along with his wife Amanda, said “The loss of the bank will not impact our business.”

The city of Midway began banking with Paris-based Kentucky Bank in addition to WesBanco six months ago. While the city now has only one account with WesBanco, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that he didn’t think the change contributed towards WesBanco’s decision. He cited the other branches in the region that are being closed by WesBanco.

“This is what they do,” the mayor said. “WesBanco as a corporation came in hot talking about being a community bank, but they never really measured up to it. They hit us with fees and charges that we didn’t deserve.”

Vandegrift also said he had heard that WesBanco might impose a deed restriction on the property to prevent another bank from moving into the railroad-depot-style building. Stopping another bank from moving into town would reduce the number of customers that WesBanco would lose to their competitors, but it would force Midway residents to use banks outside of town. Vandegrift said he would “raise absolute Cain” if WesBanco placed that restriction on the property.

WesBanco spokesman John Iannone said in an email, “We have not yet made any decisions regarding the properties of any of the financial centers we are consolidating, including our facility in Midway.”

Iannone downplayed the significance of a facility: “We remain committed to being accessible to our customers, and that definition has changed as people interact with their bank differently now. Accessibility today combines the traditional retail branch network, with appropriate safety protocols, and enhanced technology options, which allow customers to engage the bank on multiple platforms at times that best meet their schedules.”

Vandegrift said in a Facebook post, “I want to assure you that we have heard of community banks already expressing interest and I’m hopeful one will jump at the opportunity to fill the void. Our city is growing, and any bank interested in the community will thrive here.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Mayor says he has no plans to cancel Trick or Treat; date and time on council agenda; guidelines coming

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

In response to many questions from the community, I do not currently have plans to cancel Trick or Treat in Midway, given our current low level of cases. The council will have final approval for 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, at this Monday’s meeting. We will be urging guidelines, however, that will be forthcoming. Anyone with underlying health conditions or who are otherwise highly vulnerable will be encouraged to feel free to not participate. Regardless of what state guidelines come down, we will encourage people to set candy out in a manner where children can collect it without close physical contact, while waving and engaging with them from a safe distance, though this won’t be a requirement. More details to come.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Applications sought for impending vacancy on county adjustment board, which grants zoning variances, etc.

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

With Al Schooler stepping down after many years of service on the Board of Adjustment, I would like to try a new, transparent, democratic way of appointing his successor and I would like to institute this policy for all city appointments to boards and commissions in the future.

The BOA is a board within the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission that decides on important matters such as whether to issue conditional-use permits, whether to approve Air BNB’s and short-term rentals, and any matter where a submitted plan to P&Z doesn’t match current zoning but a variance is requested.

It generally meets once a month, and will be meeting again in October at the courthouse in Versailles with proper safety guidelines in place. After I select the the appointee, he or she will have to be confirmed by the council and will then receive training from P&Z on how to approach the position. It pays a $100 stipend per meeting.

Only one person can be selected for the position, but all who apply and are not picked for this particular board will be considered for future boards and commissions unless they ask to be withdrawn. Mr. Schooler’s seat is up at the end of 2020; it is my intention to reappoint this person to a full four-year term beginning in January.

Anyone who wishes to apply may do so by writing a letter or email (mayorgrayson@gmail.com) with the subject line BOA Appointment. Letters can be dropped off at City Hall, emails can be sent directly. Please state your name, address, and the reason you would like to serve on the Board of Adjustment. Your previous experience is helpful in knowing how well one might fare on this board and will also give me insights for potential future appointments. One does not need to have previous experience in these matters to apply or to be selected.

All applications need to be received to my email or City Hall no later than noon Friday, Sept. 18. I will then make a selection to nominate to the City Council for approval Sept. 21.

We want to continue to harbor an inclusive and expansive participation in our city and hope this is a way to give everyone who wishes to serve a chance to. Anyone on the ballot for the Nov. 3 City Council election will not be selected for this position, since council members cannot serve on both bodies.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Commission OKs Creech development plan, clearing way for it to build in Midway Station; Schein sees irony

The way is clear for Creech Inc. to build facilities in Midway Station where it will bale and ship muck from horse stalls, as well as store hay.

The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission approved the final development plans for the two lots Thursday night, after member Barry Drury elicited confirmation that the facility will not compost stall muck, a possibility that initially made officials wary of selling lots to Creech.

Drury asked Creech representative John Hurt if the company would be "processing compost at this facility." Hurt replied, "No, not processing." Planning Director Pattie Wilson added, "Not composting."

Composting is banned in the county-owned industrial park under the 2007 settlement of a lawsuit against the plan of Bluegrass Stockyards to relocate there. The Planning Commission and local governments had amended the county zoning ordinance to allow it.

"I think there’s some ironic justice that 15 years later, we ended up with some agricultural use in the industrial estate at Midway Station," said Rich Schein, Midway's member on the commission, who made both motions to approve the development plans for Lots 29 and 31.

The motions won every member's vote, including that of Drury, who had asked, "Does this follow the grand plan of the EDA?" Wilson replied, "I would assume it does, or they wouldn’t have entered into a contract with Mr. Creech."

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority owns the land. EDA, the county and the City of Midway are still liable for about $2 million in debt on the property, though sales in recent years have reduced the principal on the mortgage by about two-thirds and brought hundreds of jobs that have boosted the city's finances through occupational taxes.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Messenger in July that Creech would bring at least 10 jobs to town.

Hurt told the commission that the baling will be done in a covered shed of 17,500 square feet. Trucks will haul the baled muck to mushroom farms in Tennessee, which Creech is already doing from a facility in Fayette County. Creech has said it wanted to be closer to horse farms it services.

Creech also provides hay to farms. The other lot, across Bradley Street, will have two 12,000-square warehouses, primarily for hay storage, Hurt said. The plat below shows the lot with the shed and an office and maintenance facility on Lot 31, and a partial view of Lot 29. Click on it for a larger image.

The commission has been meeting via Zoom and not holding public hearings due to the pandemic, so it is not accepting proposals that require hearings. That may have delayed two major proposals at Midway: a potential residential development between Midway Grocery and Northridge Estates, and a proposed distillery and RV resort on the west side of Georgetown Road, across from Midway Station.

Asked when the commission might resume hearings, Wilson said she is working with County Judge-Executive James Kay on a way to have in-person meetings by the end of the year. She said that is not likely before November.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Council cuts property taxes, negotiates big sewer bid, discusses Midway Station buffer: new fire station site?

Acreages of buffer-zone tracts are written on a map that Mayor Grayson Vandegrift showed during the meeting. The 3.47-acre
 tract at the far western corner is one that the mayor said could be used for a new fire station. For a larger image, click on it.
By Nicholas Hall and Gage O'Dell

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

On Tuesday evening, the Midway City Council cut property-tax rates, negotiated a bid to replace the sewer system’s main trunk line and discussed the buffer zone around Midway Station.

The council unanimously voted in favor of a new tax rate of 6.2 cents per $100 on real estate, down from 7 cents, and 6.4 cents on personal property, down from 7.5 cents.

The rates are designed to produce about the same amount of tax revenue, following a quadrennial reassessment by the county property-valuation office. Midway real-estate values saw an increase of 14.4% from last year and personal-property values saw an increase of 14.7%. Individual citizens’ tax bills will vary, depending on assessments.

The council also unanimously voted to let Buchanan Contracting replace the 2,200 feet of pipe that makes up the main trunk line leading to the wastewater treatment plant.

Buchanan bid $232,200. Council Member Bruce Southworth, who served as Versailles director of public works, suggested that the $8,000 surveying fee in the bid was unnecessary, since the city has geographic information data from Woodford County Planning and Zoning. Buchanan agreed to subtract the cost of the survey, lowering its bid to $224,200. The company also agreed that if the state does not need an engineer to certify the plans, the cost of the bid would be lowered to $213,000.

Leak Eliminators LLC responded to the bid advertisement with a price list, not a bid. Council Member Logan Nance wanted to give the company a chance to submit a firm bid to create a comparison, but some other council members and Vandegrift objected to that idea. The mayor said it wouldn't look good to contractors, and noted the previous sewer work Buchanan had done for the city.

The discussion ended soon after Doug Mitchell of Leak Eliminators indicated that he wouldn't make an issue of it and said of Buchanan, "They'd do a good job." The council accepted the bid with the $8,000 reduction. 

Soon after the meeting, Vandegrift posted on Facebook, "The narrative that Midway has sanitary sewer issues is rapidly coming to an end. Once this project is completed, it’ll be history. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do on our vital infrastructure and I thank the City Council tonight for funding this capstone of a year’s-long sewer rehab. . . . There will still be small projects to be done, but the biggest bite is out of the apple."

Midway Station land: The council discussed the land around the edge of Midway Station, which Vandegrift and the EDA have proposed EDA give the city to retire the hundreds of thousands of dollars that EDA owes the city for utilities at the industrial and commercial park.

“Part of the debt is the water tower we never paid for, a water line we never paid a dime on.” Vandegrift said. “But the biggest debt is the gas line,” which was built to bring Lakeshore Learning Materials to town and made the property more attractive to other employers.

“Knowing what I know now, I would’ve never asked EDA to make those agreements with us,” the mayor said. “The explosion at Midway Station that’s come from having every single utility needed has been well worth the $500,000 we put into the gas line. We will have it paid off in two years.”

Vandegrift said the city would not exercise the option if the banks holding the mortgage on the land asked for a release price, a payment they get when platted lots are sold. Vandegrift said the city should not have to pay a release price, since the land was never plotted for sales and from the start has been planned as a buffer zone.

“If they want a release price, we walk,” he said. “We are not going to deal with this if there is a release price involved.”

The eastern tip of the property is near South Elkhorn Creek, to which the council wants to create a public access point through an easement from Homer Freeny Jr., who owns most of the land next to Midway Station. Council Members Stacy Thurman and Logan Nance raised that concern. “The value that I see is a lot more if we know we’re going to have access to Elkhorn Creek,” Nance said.

Vandegrift said he has no doubt that Freeny will grant the easement, but Freeny has "lots of ins and outs" as he deals with his real estate. The mayor said he would try to get "some kind of assurance" from Freeny by the Sept. 21 meeting, to help the council give EDA a "yes, no or not now" answer.

In a new development, Vandegrift said the city might build a new fire station on one tract of the land. He said the volunteer firefighters told him that most of their calls are from the area, because of highways in it, and a new station would have the space to house the department’s ladder truck, which is in a city garage because it's too big for the firehouse. “It makes more sense to house it at Midway Station,” he said.

Other business: The council unanimously approved a deed from Helen Rentch giving the city a corner of the property that is in Walter Bradley Park, with the agreement that it would revert to her or her heirs if it ceases to be used as a park. The deed values the property at $15,000.

The council reviewed a proposed animal ordinance, drafted largely by Council Member John Holloway in an effort to bring the city’s animal control laws closer to those of Versailles and Woodford County. The most notable change would be a prohibition of raising livestock in the city limits, not including chickens, Council Member Sara Hicks said.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher asked when work on Martin Street would be completed. Vandegrift said the street should be reopened by Tuesday, Sept. 15, if not sooner.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Toastmasters topic: How to look good in virtual meetings

Graphic by Midway Toastmasters, adapted
Are you working from home? Are you attending job interviews virtually? Have you wondered how to improve video chats with family, friends or business contacts?

Many of us have become “home broadcasters,” so Midway Toastmasters is inviting the general public to their virtual “open house” Monday, Sept. 14. Hear about “Looking Good in Virtual Meetings.” from Dia Davidson of WLEX-TV. 

Log in to Zoom any time after 5:30 p.m. The open house begins promptly at 6 p.m. The link is: https://zoom.us/j/455502545 and the password is 123. For help with entering the meeting on Zoom, text: 859-983-2709. 

Following Davidson’s presentation, Midway Toastmasters will demonstrate “Table Topics” and other traditions of their regular meetings.

For more information about Toastmasters, visit https://midwaytm.toastmastersclubs.org or contact Valerie at Valerie5303@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Leestown Road to be striped sometime this month

The state Transportation Cabinet will use moving trucks to paint stripes on the pavement of Leestown Road as early as Monday, Sept. 7, and as late as Oct. 1, according to a press release from the cabinet. The time frame is long because it's part of a contract for work in many counties.

The cabinet says striping will be done between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays, no lanes will be closed, and "motorists will be able to pass through the work zone every half hour."

As usual, the cabinet says, "All work, and closures are scheduled on a tentative basis, and subject to change depending on weather, emergencies, and other factors beyond the control of the Department of Highways."

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Mayor relates his family's own covid-19 story as he recommends caution on Derby Day-Labor Day weekend

By Taylor Beavers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift says in his latest covid-19 update that the pandemic has “hit home” now that his parents were affected. He told their story as he asked Midway residents to be careful on a weekend that will include the Kentucky Derby, a good reason for a party in Bluegrass horse country.

“I’m sorry if I seem preachy today, but I think when it hits home for you most is when you get a family member – the people I was most worried about all along, my Mom and Dad, have now gone through it,” Vandegrift said, adding later, “For two weeks, I was scared.”

He said his mother, Sarah Vandegrift, caught the virus at her workplace in Lexington. “My mom is the most careful person in the world,” he said. “She taught us good hygiene from a young age.”

“My mom ended up having a hard time,” but has largely recovered, the mayor said.

His parents live in Ironworks Estates in Scott County, near Midway. Vandegrift said he and his family were only able to contact her through text messages for about two weeks while she recovered in quarantine.

“This is not something you want to get if you don’t have to get it,” says Vandegrift as he recounted many symptoms his mother went through.

He said his father, Bob Vandegrift, tested positive but never developed the disease. “It’s bizarre. . . . Some people who are healthy and take great care of themselves have passed; we don’t know why.”

Vandegrift says his mother felt a sense of “civic duty” when dealing with the virus, and personally contacted every person she had been in contact with to inform them she had been infected so they could take steps to get help if needed.

“She did everything right,” the mayor said. Looking ahead to the weekend, he said, “Let’s do our civic duty, like Sarah Vandegrift.”

He said his weekend has the potential to have a “cascading effect” on Midway, leading to more coronavirus cases. So far, the city has had only two reported infections of the virus.

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will have no fans, so many people who might have attended may have parties instead.

Vandegrift encouraged those attending Derby parties to host them outdoors and to practice social distancing.

“Be careful this weekend,” said Vandegrift. “Remember that ripple effect.”

He recalled that when his mother told him she might have the virus, he said, “We decided not to take any risks that weekend,” And he said he and his wife Katie wouldn’t be attending and Derby parties this weekend.

He said that with in-person schooling scheduled to begin this month, taking precautions now against the virus is the crucial step in making sure students are able to get back to the classroom in September.

“The key to getting kids back in school on the twenty-eighth is this weekend,” Vandegrift said. “Every other big holiday . . . we’ve had a rise in cases.” 

He said that while there is no need to be scared this weekend, following safety guidelines such as wearing a mask and social distancing will help keep the community safe during the celebration.

Vandegrift also said that citizens of Midway can practice their civic duty by considering how they can help keep the local economy open.

“Midway Station is doing well; downtown is struggling more,” he said, encouraging his audience to get out and shop local.

“We need to keep helping them out,” Vandegrift said. “We need to be ordering food, we need to be dining on their patios, we need to be visiting their shops and buying something.”

He stressed that supporting local business during this time can still be done safely by making considerations such as wearing masks, staying in stores less than 30 minutes and even, if it’s uncomfortable to go inside, doing curbside service.

While Midway’s economy is still doing better than most, Vandegrift said that making efforts to keep the economy open is crucial to getting ahead of the virus.

“Let’s catch up to the virus,” he urged. Being “behind the virus” has affected contact tracers who have been overwhelmed with the task of tracing infected people’s contacts to find those who may have been infected.

“They’re understaffed, they’re underfunded, they’re doing the best they can,” said Vandegrift. “Woodford County Health Department is doing an unbelievable good job, but the virus has gotten ahead of us and we need to try and catch back up.”

He said that while the “vast majority” of people who contract the virus do survive (Kentucky’s death rate is 2%), it is important to continue to be safe because the lasting effect of the virus on individuals and communities is still unknown.

“The book’s not yet written. We are still in the middle of this,” said Vandegrift. “I hope we’re towards the end, but folks, it doesn’t look like we are. . . . We have eighteen hundred of you in the city and not one of you is expendable.”

After the virus is under control, Vandegrift said he hopes everyone can see the pandemic as just a “blip” in their lives as things go back to normal.

“I hope it teaches us all about love, about compassion, about empathy and about when we work together we can overcome difficult odds,” he said. “Because a virus this contagious gives us some difficult odds to contain it.”