Midway council candidates have friendly forum
Six candidates for the Midway City Council spoke for 90 minutes Thursday, Oct. 13, at Midway University's Duthie Auditorium, with hardly a hint of criticism of each other by the four incumbents and two challengers on the stage. Nearly three dozen people attended, including student volunteers from Woodford County High School's Community Activism class. Incumbents Bruce Southworth, Libby Warfield, Sara Hicks and Steven Craig shared the stage with Steve Simoff and John McDaniel II. Council member Kaye Nita Gallagher did not participate, while council member Dan Roller is not running for reelection. The event was sponsored by the Woodford Chamber of Commerce and Midway Women's Club. Don Vizi, executive director of the chamber, began by asking participants to stick to the issues and not attacks, and they all complied. They were given three minutes to explain their platform and two minutes to answer questions. Here's much of what happened: Platforms Southworth said he hoped to be reelected to a third term and felt the council had made "some real progress" during his time in office. Simoff said he'd been in Midway for 15 years and wanted to make sure the city "stays the same . but has the opportunity to grow." Warfield read from a statement, which included an update on her desire before her 2014 election to improve the city's sidewalks, work on which is underway. Hicks said this year, the council had begun to repair some sidewalks and roads and will need upgrades of its sewer and water lines in the future. Craig said he had 25 years of experience in utilities and had "great ideas" to bring the city's electrical lines underground. McDaniel said while he'd never been on the council, he was a Midway native, attended council meetings regularly and had been a member of several civic groups. "What is your first priority to make Midway a better place in which to live and work?" Simoff said he saw a lot of growth in Midway, which he called a destination place. He said he would work to see that growth doesn't take away from the city's charm. Warfield said her work on the council's Blighted Property Committee will help the city clean up dilapidated properties, which she called an economic problem for all property owners. Hicks said the city's public forums were helpful, but thought council members should walk door-do-door and seek the opinion of citizens, particularly young people. Craig said the council needs to work with the Woodford County Economic Development Authority to help create more jobs like the sort announced this year at Midway Station. McDaniel said he agreed with Hicks and strongly believed that the city should put a five-year comprehensive plan in place and make it available for the public to read. Southworth said the council must be fiscally responsible and a good steward of the tax dollars created by hundreds of new jobs expected in the next year. "What is the largest problem Midway faces right now?" Warfield said it was funding important projects and that the city should consider hiring a grant writer to "find funding other than raising taxes." Hicks said she'd been illegally passed the night before, adding, "It seems to me, we should be able to be able to stop speeders at least on Winter Street between the railroad tracks and as you come into town." Craig agreed that speeding was a problem, but that Midway residents typically obey the speed limit. He said a mobile speed detecting sign acquired this year was collecting data that could help convince state officials to lower speed limits or add a traffic light. McDaniel said the city was going to have to spend a lot of money replacing sewer and water lines and must plan properly to ensure the work is done efficiently. Southworth cited speeding, water and sewer issues and said he believed storm water was going to be a big issue. He said the city needed to "take a section, fix it and move on." Simoff cited the city's growth in the next 15 years. "We're going to need fire departments, more police supervision, we also need infrastructure with the sewer and waters that have been neglected for a long time." "What are your views on working with Midway Renaissance to create public bathrooms in City Hall? Warfield said if you have the greatest destination in the world and visitors can't find a public restroom, they might not return. She favors putting new restrooms in a visitors' center staffed most of the time, with the restrooms accessible through a separate entrance. Hicks said while she supported public restrooms, as a former president of the Midway Renaissance, she wasn't sure it was the group's role to create public bathrooms in City Hall. "But if they want to do it, I wouldn't stop them," she said. Craig said he supported downtown public restrooms, but favored putting them in city parks and recreation areas. He said downtown businesses have an obligation to provide restrooms for their customers. McDaniel said he'd work with the council to explore the feasibility of new restrooms and find a suitable spot for them. Southworth said he was happy to work with anybody on the issue and that public restrooms are needed downtown. "At the Fall Festival . we took shifts to keep City Hall open just to keep the bathrooms open," he said. Simoff said he agreed with Southworth and that his downtown business sometimes lets visitors use their restroom. He suggested a public bathroom sign outside City Hall and that something should be done as soon as possible. How do you feel about having quarterly meetings between Midway City Council, the Versailles City Council and Woodford Fiscal Court? Would these meetings help? All of the candidates said the meetings were a good idea. "Where do you stand on the merger of city and county governments?" All were opposed, citing concerns like the difference between city and county needs, Midway losing its character after a merger and the fact that Midway is represented by only one of the eight magistrates on Woodford Fiscal Court. "How can we encourage small businesses to stay in downtown Midway?" McDaniel said the council should ensure downtown properties are properly maintained and create a committee focusing on tourism and economic development. Southworth said the city was doing a good job now. "It's nice down there, things are working and most of the shops are full," he said. Simoff said there were no downtown shops aimed at Midway University students and suggested a council committee find out what students need or want. Warfield said she agreed with the three previous speakers and that the city government should do everything possible to encourage private enterprise. Hicks said having Railroad Drug in Midway was an example of a small business meeting the needs of Midway residents, but said a store offering organic food might fill a niche. Craig said the council should make sure that downtown looks nice. "If we keep up our end of it . they hopefully will want to stay here."