Vandegrift pushes downtown incentive plan
In a 25-minute meeting Monday, Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he wants the city council to consider ways to incentivize downtown businesses to stay open later and keep more regular hours.
Vandegrift said when he was campaigning for mayor, he felt the downtown business district didn’t need a lot of attention from government, so he focused on infrastructure during his first three years in office. Those feelings changed after hearing “constantly” from people frustrated with the hours offered by downtown businesses. The city can’t mandate hours for businesses, he said, but perhaps an incentive plan would help.
“Study after study seem to show that the majority of retail shopping that’s not done on the internet is done after 5 p.m. The numbers are astounding, and … some merchants feel like they’re missing out on that because there’s not enough of them … to create that critical mass,” Vandegrift said.
He suggested the council’s Tourism, Events and Outreach Committee study the matter, saying that if a tax incentive plan was implemented, additional revenue generated by more open hours would make up for any losses.
Council Member John McDaniel said he’d discussed the problem recently with the president of Midway Renaissance, and suggested including business owners and residents in the discussion. Council Member Sara Hicks asked if Vandegrift knew of similar towns with more successful downtown business districts. Vandegrift pointed to Franklin, Tenn. and Orange, Ohio, and McDaniel suggested Nashville, Ind.
“There’s a big difference when everything’s open at night,” Vandegrift said.
A date for the meeting of the committee, which is composed of members who’ve all owned or operated businesses, was not set. Vandegrift suggested any incentive plan include the same breaks for businesses already keeping regular hours or staying open late.
Council Member Bruce Southworth, who chairs the council’s Public Works and Services Committee, gave his colleagues the results of the latest contract negotiations with the city of Versailles for police services.
Southworth said the latest proposal would have the city of Midway paying 4.25 percent of the annual budget of the Versailles Police Department. Southworth said according to the department’s latest budget, that would amount to $166,000 annually – an increase from the $100,000 the city presently pays.
Vandegrift congratulated Southworth for reducing the percentage requested from 4.5 percent to 4.25 by “the sheer force of your personality.”
The latest proposed interlocal agreement, which Southworth passed out to the council, is a five-year deal with a 120 day opt-out provision, and provides a police presence for at least 16 hours per day.
The council unanimously confirmed Vandegrift’s nominations of Liles Taylor and Joanna Smith for reappointments to five-year terms on the Midway Park Board.
Vandegrift concluded a discussion about downtown sidewalk snow removal by saying he would remind business owners that they are responsible for clearing snow off the sidewalk in front of their shops.