Friday, January 21, 2022

Georgetown's Sen. Thayer unloads on Gov. Beshear

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Gov. Andy Beshear "does not know how to govern," the majority floor leader of the state Senate said at Kentucky newspapers' annual convention Friday.

"This guy hates the legislature, wants to run the government like a monarchy," Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown said of the Democratic governor. "I have very little respect for him."

Sen. Damon Thayer
Thayer spoke at the Kentucky Press Association convention in Jeffersontown, during a discussion of legislative issues with Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. The final question from the audience was about the heavily Republican legislature's relationship with Beshear, who was narrowly elected in 2019 and is seeking re-election in 2023.

Thayer began his answer by comparing Beshear to his father, Steve Beshear, who was governor from 2007 to 2015. In those years, Republicans controlled the Senate but not the House.

"He was very good at communicating with us," Thayer said. "I had his cell phone, he had mine; he called me, I called him; he texted me, I texted him; he invited me to his office to talk; he invited me to the governor's office for lunch. None of that has happened with Andy Beshear."

Thayer said the most troubling example was the lack of contact about what to do with the pandemic.

"He never communicated with the leadership of the General Assembly on what he was gonna do, how he was gonna do it, when he was going to do it, until a Zoom call right before the second shutdown, which happened right before Thanksgiving of 2020," Thayer said.
He said he asked on that call, "Governor, why have you waited until now to have this meeting to inform us? He said, 'This is why we can't have good communication,' cut off the call, and basically haven't heard from him since, except on the Ford plant incentives, which I co-sponsored . . .

"The man does not know how to govern. He does not know how to be collaborative. There are only two or three people in his inner circle that he talks to on a regular basis, and he does not know how to be governor, unlike his father. The apple has fallen far from the tree."

After the crowd reacted with surprise at Thayer's bluntness, he added, "I have very little respect for him. I think he's an accidental governor, and he's governing like some guy who got 70 percent of the vote when more people voted against him than voted for him, because he won a plurality."

McGarvey, who leads a small minority, joked, "I'm just happy when anybody calls." He said there is "a natural, inherent tension no natter which party's in charge of the legislature and which party's in charge of the governor." He noted the problems Republicans had with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
"I have kids, and something I say at lot at home is, 'I don't care who started it'," McGarvey said. "When the governor has reached out to the legislature, those efforts have not always been returned."

Thayer acknowledged there is natural legislative-executive tension, which was greater with Bevin, "but this is different, This is different. This guy hates the legislature, wants to run government like a monarch, and that's just not the way it goes."

McGarvey said that soon after Beshear took office, Republicans "attacked" him with legislation to make appointment of future transportation secretaries subject to legislative confirmation, and "I think the governor has reached out a lot more than has been given credit."

Beshear's communications director, Crystal Staley, was asked to comment on Thayer's remarks. She said in an email, "The governor is focused on bringing folks together to build a better Kentucky for our families. He has worked with the General Assembly on everything from broadband expansion and cleaner water and sewer projects to legislation that helped him land the largest economic development project in our commonwealth’s history as well as historical horse racing legislation. Gov. Beshear believes in setting a good example in Frankfort, which means treating everyone, including Senator Thayer, with dignity and respect and not engaging in this type of attack or name-calling."

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Midway University keeps tuition rates same for 2022-23

Midway University's trustees have again voted once again to keep the same tuition rates for the 2022-23 academic year, which will be the fourth year in a row without an increase.

“Making this decision early is important to let families know the tuition rates for their planning purposes,” said President John P. Marsden, said in a press release. “We are committed now, more than ever, to remaining one of the most affordable private universities in Kentucky.”

Marsden added, “We have worked tirelessly to keep our expenses down and run a fiscally sound institution. We have done this by balancing operating budgets, increasing enrollment and net revenue, and initiating all our new construction and renovation projects without incurring new debt or passing along the cost to students through tuition increases.”

The projects include renovations to residence halls, new athletic facilities, upgrades to computer labs and other technology, and construction of the new Hunter Field House, which includes an auxiliary gym, weight room, and elevated walking track, the press release noted.

"Midway is the most affordable institution in Central Kentucky (in both the Lexington and Louisville areas) for traditional undergraduate programs," the release said. "Looking at evening and online undergraduate and graduate programs, Midway University also remains a leader in offering the most affordable tuition rates. In fact, Midway’s Master of Education and Master of Science in Nursing programs are the most affordable in the state, and Midway’s MBA program is the most affordable in the Central Kentucky region."

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Council paves way for refinancing Midway Station, getting land for fire-and-ambulance station

Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chair Michael Michalisin of Midway, lower right, and city attorney Sharon Gold joined the Midway City Council for its meeting via Zoom Tuesday evening.  

The City of Midway would be liable for 60 percent of the remaining mortgage on Midway Station, under an agreement the City Council approved Tuesday evening.

The council also heard first reading of an ordinance rezoning property for housing on Northside Drive, filled a vacancy on the Parks Board and granted an event permit for the Francisco's Farm Arts Festival.

The Midway Station agreement is with Woodford County and its Economic Development Authority, which holds title to the industrial park. The city and county have long guaranteed payment of the interest on the mortgage, 50-50, but now will commit to pay any debt left after all the lots are sold.

That is unlikely, and it is fair for Midway to be obligated for 60% of the debt because it had benefited more from Midway Station because of its higher payroll tax rate, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. The city's rate is 2% and the county's is 1.5%.

The agreement is designed to clear the way for EDA's refinancing of the mortgage, which comes due next January, and to clear up some issues, such as the status of the 38 acres of Midway Station that lies along Interstate 64.

The agreement says $835,000 remains unpaid on the $6 million mortgage and "The parties believe that the value of the remaining lots owned by the EDA well exceeds the amount." It also says, "It appears that refinancing the EDA’s current loan from WesBanco Bank could be accomplished upon more agreeable terms if the city and/or county agreed to guarantee payment of the entire indebtedness."

Two other banks are participating in the loan, but WesBanco is the actual lender, Vandegrift said after the meeting.

The agreement calls for the refinancing to mortgage only the platted but unsold lots and not the 38 acres designated as POA, or property owners' association, tracts. The EDA has agreed to give the city title to the property, but WesBanco has objected. The agreement calls for title to be transferred "as soon as practical" after refinancing.

The city and county plan to use the westernmost POA tract, along the I-64 westbound exit ramp, for a building that will provide a station for the Midway Fire Department's ladder truck and a county ambulance station that will keep an ambulance in Midway 24 hours a day. Plans for the building should be ready for the Planning Commission's Technical Review Committee as soon as the POA land is released, Vandegrift said.

Rezoning for new homes: The council gave first reading to an ordinance that would rezone property along Northside Drive to slightly higher densities for 13 traditional single-family homes. Developers had wanted to build 68 two-bedroom "town homes" connected by breezeways, mostly in groups of four. The plan drew much opposition and never got as far as a public hearing. The Planning Commission approved the revised plan 8-0, Vandegrift said.

Second reading and passage are scheduled for Feb. 7. Vandegrift noted that under state law, the council must base its decision only on the commission's findings of fact, so while council members should listen to any citizens who want to discuss the project, but not use that in making their decision.

Such a rezoning is a case of first impression for the council and Vandegrift, who is in his eighth year as mayor after two on the council. "This is the first time in a generation that houses have been built in Midway," he said.

The ordinance would rezone to R-1-B nine lots comprising 3.75 acres and fronting on Northside Drive, and to R-1-C four lots comprising 0.81 acres and fronting on Old Towne Walk. The rest of the 8.07-acre tract would remain R-1-A, with a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet. Lots in R-1-B must be at least 10,000 square feet and those in R-1-C mist be at least 7,500 square feet, the governing ordinance says.

Other business: The council appointed Bob Rathbone, who has been active in the development of Walter Bradley Park, to a vacancy on the Parks Board with a term ending in July 2027. Council Member Sarah Hicks did not vote because she is the council's member on the board; Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher was absent.

The council approved an event permit for Midway Renaissance's annual Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, to be held downtown as it was last year. This year's dates are June 11-12. Event coordinator Elisha Holt said the number of exhibitors will be increased to 80 from 60, but spacing will be maintained, and the courtyard will be used for music in the shade if the former bank lot is made available for exhibitors. 

Vandegrift thanked Council Member Mary Raglin and others who accompanied Aaron Littrell and his cleanup crew on their second trip to tornado-devastated Mayfield, with $1,600 in city funds. Council Member Steve Simoff chimed in later, saying "I'm really proud of them, and I'm really touched."

Council Member Logan Nance noted that county schools will be on non-traditional instruction for the rest of the week due to the pandemic, a signal that "We're not out of it. . . . We can be if we'll just ... do the things we know we need to do." He noted that in-home tests can now be ordered online from the U.S. Postal Service.

The council also made its annual donation of $500 to the county Human Rights Commission.

State gives city $60,000+ to help with upcoming project to rehabilitate Midway's only operating water tower

Gov. Andy Beshear and Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift hold a ceremonial check representing the state's grant to the city Tuesday morning as Woodford County Judge-Executive James Kay and Beshear senior adviser Rocky Adkins looked on.

The state is giving Midway $60,459 toward rehabilitation of the water tower in Midway Station, the city's only operating water tower.

The project is estimated to cost $550,000. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has proposed that the city pay for the rest with all the $490,000 it is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by Congress last March. That will be up to the City Council.

Another option for the ARPA money is to use it for the city's share of the new fire-and-ambulance building that the city and county are planning to build at Midway Station. In that case, the city would sell bonds for the tower project and pay them off in seven to eight years.

The state grant was announced Tuesday at the Woodford County Courthouse by Gov. Andy Beshear, who also announced larger grants to Versailles and the Northeast Woodford and South Woodford water districts. The money comes from a $250 million the legislature made from ARPA for water projects.

Officials in counties applying for the money are required to coordinate their requests. "I think it only took us about 45 minutes" to divvy up the county's share, Vandegrift said at the courthouse event.

The Northeast Woodford Water District is getting $100,000 for repainting of a water tank. The South Woodford district is getting $225,458 to help with a comprehensive rehabilitation project that will cost $2 million. Versailles is getting $595,458 to improve water pressure for about 125 families.

Beshear spent a good part of the event talking for news cameras about his proposed budget and the state's record economic development in 2021, which included several investments by distillers in Midway. He told Vandegrift, "Mayor, you guys are on a roll."

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Joe B. Hall had many friends in Woodford County, and the retired UK coach was a friend to Midway University

Joe B. Hall introduced Ben Chandler to Seth Coy, grandson of one of his
childhood friends, in his hometown of Cynthiana in 2012, as Chandler tried
to keep his seat in Congress. Hall was a big political supporter of Chandler.
(Photo by Becky Barnes, The Cynthiana Democrat)
Today's death of Joe B. Hall touched many people in Midway and Woodford County, where the retired University of Kentucky basketball coach was a familiar figure and a friend to many. One of those was Jim Wombles, who shared a memory on his Facebook page and allowed the Messenger to republish it.

    As we mourn Coach Joe B. Hall’s passing, please let me share my experience with one of the greatest guys I've ever known.
    Working as VP/dean of enrollment at Midway College, prior to retirement, and always looking for ways to reach all prospective students, I asked radio personalities Jack Pattie and Ray Holbrook, both who were doing radio commercials for us, if they could help me get a meeting with Coach Hall, who had retired from coaching.
    We subsequently met for lunch with Coach Hall, who was on time, very congenial, super friendly, and humble.
    We talked little about basketball, mostly about Midway’s being “Kentucky’s only college for women,” and our very popular evening co-ed accelerated bachelor-degree completion programs, offered through our School for Career Development.
    Coach Hall seemed very interested, and asked several questions. At some point I took a deep breath, swallowed, and nervously asked if he’d be willing to do some radio spots and TV commercials for the College. I’m glad I didn’t fall out of my chair (almost did) when he said, from memory, “Yes. Of course.”
    My point here, as readers are aware, Coach Hall was not concerned about a fee, or a conflict with the University, or the fact that he, one of the most successful of all basketball coaches, was endorsing a small college, and its mission. Why? Because once he understood our mission, “serving the underserved,” he was all in.
    Who knows? One or more of the most prestigious universities in the nation could have sought his endorsement, but I doubt he would have agreed. Suffice it to say, our verbal (we didn’t need paper) agreement with Coach Hall continued over the years, our enrollments increased dramatically, and the rest is history.
    We stayed in touch and, on one late afternoon, Coach Hall dropped by my college office for a visit, just to see how things were going. He was there only a half hour or so, but our “star struck” admissions staff weren’t very productive remainder of day.
    The world needs more Joe Bs.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Vaccine clinic scheduled for Thur. has been canceled

The Woodford County Health Department announced today that due to circumstances beyond its control, the adolescent vaccination clinic scheduled for Midway tomorrow has been canceled. The department says appointments are available at its clinic in Versailles clinic Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

State: Driving may get hazardous as wet roads freeze

State officials warn Kentuckians that another advance of frigid weather will create further hazardous driving conditions later today and into Monday.

“It’s tempting to think the danger has passed because rising temperatures and rain this weekend have combined to rapidly melt snow and ice from our roadways,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a press release at 3;20 p.m. Sunday. “Unfortunately, temperatures are expected to drop dramatically this evening, overnight and into Monday morning. The result will be flash freezing and the onset of ‘black ice’ that will make driving difficult. The snow may be nearly gone, but the need for extreme caution remains. Avoid nonessential travel.”

Rain ended early this afternoon and temperatures have dropped since. The National Weather Service says they will drop rapidly, reaching a low of 16 around sunrise Monday morning.

"It is best not to travel, if at all possible," said the state Transportation Cabinet district office. "If you must drive, plan to allow additional time and drive slowly to reach your destination. This is especially important for Monday-morning commuters. There is a high probability of flash-freezing."

The cabinet offers these tips:
  • Travel only as necessary during major winter weather events. Stock vehicles with ice scrapers, jumper cables, blankets, a flashlight, cell phone charger, non-perishable snacks and first aid kit should you be stranded on the road.
  • Winterize vehicles. Have your car battery, tire pressure and brakes checked. Make sure your heater, defroster, headlights and windshield wipers are working properly.
  • When snow and/or ice are on roadways, drive slowly no matter what type of vehicle you’re in. It takes more time and distance to stop your vehicle in poor weather conditions, so brake early and slowly.
  • Pay attention to weather advisories and allow more time to travel for routine commutes.
  • Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shaded areas. These are all candidates for developing black ice – a thin coating of clear ice that can form on the pavement surface that may be difficult to see.
  • Maintain a safe distance from snowplows and other heavy highway equipment and do not pass snowplows on the shoulder.
  • Know before you go. Download the free Waze app or visit goky.ky.gov to check traffic conditions before you travel. The map also offers access to select traffic cameras on interstates and parkways.
  • Eliminate distractions while driving (such as using the phone and eating).
  • Cooperate with the expectations of the Quick Clearance law, which requires drivers to move vehicles to the shoulder in the event of a non-injury crash.
The cabinet’s snow and ice information website, snowky.ky.gov, provides details about priority routes, helpful winter weather tips, fact sheets and videos on salt application and snow removal.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Weisenberger Mill and dam make perfect picture again

For many, many months, deadfall was snagged at the center of the dam at Weisenberger Mill on South Elkhorn Creek. Recent rains apparently swept it away, leaving it picture-perfect again. This could have been a video; the riffle at the dam's edge in the center of the stream was moving back and forth, perpendicular to the flow of the water. (Photo by Al Cross, taken Jan. 5) 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

City Hall is closed due to the weather; snow makes full street clearance difficult; state offers safety advice

Midway City Hall closed at 1:30 today due to snow, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift announced in an email to City Council members and the news media. State offices closed at noon and will be closed Friday.

"Some city workers still remain on site and are doing their best to keep city owned pathways cleared, but the snow is falling very fast," Vandegrift wrote.

"Wright’s Farm Service is plowing our streets, but again, their progress is difficult because of the constant and significant snowfall. If you do not need to be on the roads, we advise you not to drive. If you have any emergencies, please call 911. Thanks and stay safe."

The state Transportation Cabinet says motorists should "stay home and refrain from driving on roadways if at all possible. . . . Temperatures could drop to freezing, or below freezing in some isolated areas. The conditions could result in patches of black ice. Black ice can form on previously treated routes."

UPDATE: The Cabinet said in a press release at 8:20 p.m., "If at all possible, the public should make an effort to stay home on Friday. If you must travel, please plan ahead for Friday’s commute to allow additional time to reach your destination."

The cabinet notes that Kentucky has a "Quick Clearance Law" (KRS 189.580) designed to protect motorists in an emergency. If you are involved in a crash:

  • If no one is visibly injured, move your vehicle to the shoulder or off of the interstate or parkway
  • Call the police
  • Exchange information with the other party

If you have a disabled vehicle:

  • Move your vehicle off the roadway if possible
  • Turn on emergency flashers
  • To request aid, tie something white or bright to your antenna or window or raise the hood
  • If you are unable to move your vehicle from the roadway, stand away from the vehicle
  • Keep your arms and legs moving to stay warm
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning if trapped in snow, keep the exhaust pipe clear. Run your vehicle with the windows partially open and use the heat for 10 minutes every hour.

Tips for keeping your water pipes from freezing

With the weather forecast including single-digit temperatures, Kentucky American Water Co,, Midway's wholesale water supplier, offers tips to help prevent water pipes from freezing. It says frozen water lines typically occur in areas such as crawl spaces or along the outside walls where unprotected plumbing tends to be more vulnerable to the elements, and has the following advice.

To prepare for cold weather:
  • Disconnect all garden hoses from your home.
  • Search your house for un-insulated water pipes, especially in unheated areas. Check attics, crawl spaces and outside walls. Consider wrapping pipes with insulation sleeves. Another option is electric heating tape, but follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully to avoid a fire hazard.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations with caulking to keep cold air away from pipes. 
Once cold weather arrives, follow these tips:
  • Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees if you’re going out of town. Although you may be able to get away with a lower temperature, this setting is safe for pipes.
  • When below-freezing temperatures occur (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit), keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets supplied by pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces. This will help prevent the water in pipes from freezing.
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Make sure you know where your main water shut-off valve is located inside your home so that you can shut off your water quickly in the event of a water pipe leak. This valve is often located in a utility room, closet or in the basement or crawlspace.
If your home’s water pipes freeze:
  • Shut off your water immediately using the main water shut-off valve.
  • Thaw pipes with warm air, with a hair dryer or with a space heater. Do not leave heaters unattended and do not use kerosene heaters or open flames.
  • Be careful turning water back on. Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check pipes and joints for any cracks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Midway University announces fall Dean's List

Fifteen Woodford County residents made the Dean's List for the fall semester at Midway University, by achieving at least a 3.6 grade point average and being classified as full-time.

Alex Vorhaus was the only Midway resident on the list. He told the Messenger last year that he moved to Midway after high school in Brentwood, Tenn., to enter the university’s equestrian program.

Other Woodford County residents, all from Versailles, on the list are: Marissa Baker, Noah Branham, Daniel Cogo, Jared Courtney, Andrea Domaschko, Samantha Friel, Tara Gayheart, Audrey Gilbert, Paige Hampton, Emily Harlow, Amy Hoard, Ashley Jordan, Barri Parker and Merja Parks.

There are 10 from Georgetown: Elijah Baysinger, William Bonner, Jessica Combs, Jennifer Hall, Alexis Hoffman, Allyson Ison, Olivia Kelley, Elizabeth Morgan, Cheyenne Privett and Madeline Wasson.

Ten Frankfort residents also made the list: Hailey Allen, Bethany Crockett, Kristin Cummins, Trinity Garr, Logan Hanes, Jack Kampschaefer, Rebecca Monnin, Ann Montfort, Grayson Strasburger and Kindall Talley.

The list of 305 names has students from 22 other states, two from South Africa and one each from Brazil, Germany, Kenya, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Monday, January 3, 2022

City Council donates $1,600 for 'Midway to Mayfield'

Screenshot of Zoom meeting of Midway City Council shows the reaction when Council Member Mary Raglin, bottom left, asked Aaron Littrell, second from left top, if she could volunteer for his trip to provide relief to Mayfield, Ky.

The Midway City Council voted Monday evening to give $1,600 to a group of Woodford County residents, led by Aaron Littrell of Midway, for their second trip to clean up damage caused by the monstrous Dec. 11 tornado that tore up much of Mayfield in far Western Kentucky.

Littrell said the crew spent three full days in Mayfield last month and "felt like we didn't do anything because there's that much stuff to do." He provided a list of needs, led by rental of equipment that he said is needed to do much more than they were able to do with chain saws on their first trip.

The motion to donate the money, which passed unanimously, was made by Logan Nance, who grew up in the tiny Webster County town of Clay, 22 miles from Dawson Springs, which the tornado damaged even more extensively. "That area means a lot to me," Nance said.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told Littrell to write on his invoice for the money, "Midway to Mayfield." Others interested in helping can contact Littrell at aaronlittrelllawnservice@gmail.com.

The council also heard Vandegrift give his annual report, which is published here, and passed a resolution recognizing Midway Messenger Editor-Publisher Al Cross for his 14 years of work on the news site, part of his teaching and service in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky. Cross is on a three-year phased retirement, starting with teaching, so he no longer has students to provide content for the Messenger, and is negotiating with The Woodford Sun for continuance of the site.

Board of Adjustment denies RV resort's request to treat its own sewage; attorney Graddy says 'This is not over'

Photo by Alex Slitz of the Lexington Herald-Leader shows part of the property proposed for the recreational-vehicle resort.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Woodford County Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 tonight to deny the Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort's request that its conditional-use permit be changed to allow it to install its own sewage-treatment plant. Proponents of the proposal said their efforts would continue, perhaps in court.

"I believe that the facts that the board has relied on were not supported by the evidence, so we will consider challenging this decision," said Hank Graddy of Midway, attorney for the resort. "And we may make a return visit to the City Council. But I assure you that this is not over."

The Midway City Council voted 6-0 against extending sewer and water service to the resort, which would be located on either side of South Elkhorn Creek. The resort can get water directly from Kentucky-American Water Co., and Graddy said in a piece for the Lexington Herald-Leader that the package sewage-treatment plant it wants to use "will meet wastewater treatment standards that meet or exceed the Midway sewage-treatment plant."

The sole vote against the motion to deny the resort's request was cast by Lonnie Estes. Midway's board member, Bart Shockley, seconded the motion and voted for it as four of the six City Council members and about 25 other people looked on. Shockley was reported to be out of town when the board held its public hearing, but he said he had studied the minutes and meeting materials.

There was no discussion of the motion, perhaps because that could provide grounds for a lawsuit to overturn the decision. Before the motion, Chair Tim Turney said, " Everything we do will be based on the record." Board Member David Prewitt's motion cited "public health and safety" as the reason. Prewitt was one of three members who voted last month to delay a decision for more study.

The mayors of Midway, Versailles and Georgetown, the Scott County judge-executive and the head of Georgetown's water system had sent the board a letter opposing the resort's request. Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said at last month's hearing that fast-growing Scott County had spent $20 million to clean up problems left by poorly performing package plants, and he objected to the resort's plan to have the plant operated remotely by a certified operator. Graddy said the plant would be "state of the art" and developer Andrew Hopewell would build a home on the creek downstream from it.

The resort has a conditional-use permit, issued by the board in May, to operate a "tourism destination expanded" in an agricultural zone. The site is the former Mitchell farm, the southern part of which will be the site of a tourism-oriented distillery and has been annexed by the city. 

Mayor gives his last and 'most satisfying' annual report

The mayor delivered this annual report at the Midway City Council meeting Monday evening.

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

This is the final time I will give an annual report on the condition and needs of the City of Midway, as is required by the Kentucky Revised Statutes. While that is a somewhat bittersweet thing for me to say, it will also be the most satisfying that I have delivered. It’s the most satisfying because our condition is the best it’s ever been, and we have made so much progress towards our needs.

No two numbers could better demonstrate the condition of the city than the two I’m about to share. In the fiscal year that ended in 2015, my first year in office, the city’s total occupational-tax revenue for the year was $396,618. By comparison, in the first three months alone of this current budget the city generated $440,445. We’re currently on pace to collect more than $1.7 million in occupational-tax revenue this year. Like any city, Midway will surely have its share of problems as the future unfolds, but money should never again be one of them.

With a 400% increase in occupational-tax revenue since 2015 we’ve long been reinvesting in infrastructure, services, personnel, and parks. In 2021 we completed a project that would have been a pipe dream just a few years ago: the replacement of the main sanitary sewer trunk line that leads to our wastewater treatment plant. While we’ve seen great improvement to the entire system with this project, we need to keep making substantial investments in our sanitary sewers, as well as our storm sewers, roads, sidewalks, and water lines. If we continue to do so, it’s not at all inconceivable that Midway could boast a truly modern infrastructure by the time we’re celebrating the city’s 200th year. 

2021 was marked by many of these kinds of improvements, from that very same sewer line to more road paving, another successful sidewalk cost-sharing program, and new gateways connecting Midway Cemetery to St. Rose Tabernacle Cemetery. But there was much more we accomplished in 2021 as well. The council approved of raises for our outstanding Midway Fire Department, and City Clerk/Treasurer Cindy Foster secured over $9,000 in unmatched grant money for fire department equipment. That’s now more than $40,000 in fire department grants she’s secured in just two years.

Our city came together for the first ever Juneteenth celebration in Midway and Woodford County, and we were delighted to help assist the Midway Business Association in the triumphant return of the Fall Festival and Midway Renaissance with a Francisco’s Farm Art Fair that was a hit in its downtown debut. Many of us also participated in the second annual Remembrance Walk, put on by volunteers dedicated to telling the whole unfettered truth of our history.

2021 also saw the addition of new businesses to town, as well as some recently confirmed news that only bodes well for more economic growth. Bluegrass Distillers will soon start breaking ground on the first distillery Midway has seen since the 1950s. Combine that with the arrival and rapid expansion of White Dog Trading, and the barrel warehouses multiplying just north of the city limits, and Midway is quickly becoming known as a bourbon destination, as was highlighted by Gov. Beshear’s recent visit to our “Bourbon Row” along Highway 341. Bourbon barrel warehouses are a significant contributor to the public school system, and anyone who agrees that we need a new high school should be happy to see this revenue generated for our schools.

Within the last month, a new company with some exciting prospects closed on Lot 24 [the last lot currently zoned industrial] at Midway Station. In the upcoming Woodford County Economic Development Authority board meeting, Midway citizen and EDA Chairman Michael Michalisin will announce an exciting new company to Midway with a robust jobs-per-acre projection.

Additionally, Lakeshore Learning has purchased the remaining 80 acres of I-1 [industrially zoned] land to the east of their current buildings for future expansion of the fast-growing educational supply company. It’s certainly outstanding news that Midway’s largest ever job provider is planning to contribute even more to our local economy in the future.

We also expect to soon see the arrival of CSI Group and Journey Ministries, the former an automation and management consulting firm expected to bring 50 high-paying jobs, the latter a church that will also build a much-anticipated daycare center as well as a retail enterprise, themselves adding another 75 jobs. Barnhill Chimney and Crown Stair have also purchased land in our industrial park in anticipation of moving their Lexington operations to Midway. All told, when these operations are all running, we will have created more than 700 jobs in just over seven years.

Despite the struggles that small businesses continue to face, our local shops and restaurants have proven resilient, and we’re seeing new businesses in downtown too, including a new coffee shop and a current restaurateur expanding their presence. And of course, we were excited to see that the rebranding of Ouita Michel’s empire highlights her very first enterprise, Midway’s own Holly Hill Inn.

Looking ahead to this new year, we have plenty more to accomplish. No goal is higher on my priority list than breaking ground and building a new tandem EMS and Fire Station that will improve our services and create the first ever 24-hour ambulance service in Midway and northern Woodford County. I hope to present legislation to you, possibly as early as our next meeting, that will agree to terms we previously discussed in closed session towards refinancing the Midway Station loan and getting the POA [property owners' association] land released from the banks so we can move forward on this life-saving project.

We are also scheduled to rehabilitate the storm sewers and sanitary sewers in the Gayland subdivision, complete with repaving the road surface. This is already budgeted for and should be completed this spring and early summer.

In addition, we should continue to invest in storm sewers in various areas of the city that need repair. And we should consider repaving road surfaces on Mill Road, Bruen Street, Gratz Street, and any other areas the council deems most appropriate. I also hope to include in the next fiscal-year budget funds for resurfacing the entire road system at Midway Cemetery. We’re also working to purchase and install with previously budgeted money, proposed by Council Member Simoff, new playground equipment at the end of South Gratz Street.

Within a few months, our long-awaited museum is planning to open in the Rau Building, which we expect to be something citizens will take great pride in, and visitors will be attracted to. With their expectations to be open on Saturdays and Sundays, our local merchants can enjoy steering their customers to the public restrooms readily available there as well.

And as the year goes on, we should continue discussing the $490,000 in ARPA funds in our possession, and when we should spend them. But as always, I alone won’t shape our objectives in 2022. The council members will as always help shape our vision, as well as each and every citizen, who are always encouraged to provide input. In the last seven years we’ve seen good, sustainable growth, progress in our vital infrastructure, and a constant building of community. We’ve also seen storms come and go, with the ice, rain, power outages and flooding that follow. We’ve seen a pandemic that is not quite over.

And through it all, we didn’t tear each other down. We welcomed all to the table, and we debated and bounced ideas off each other and we forged a path forward together. We’re better for it, the city is better for it, the spirit of community is better for it. We’re better because we stuck together, despite our differences. Let’s make 2022 another year we can be proud of with continuing positive outlook, critical thinking about what we face, and an un-ending optimism about the future.

Vandegrift is running for state representative and has said he will not seek a third term as mayor.