Midway council candidates agree more than disagree
The Midway Woman’s Club sponsored a forum Oct. 5 for Midway City Council candidates. The event was moderated by Al Cross, the director of UK’s Institute for Rural Journalism, with questions devised by members of his class. Last week’s Sun featured a recap of introductory remarks by the candidates. Eight candidates took part; two, including Councilmember Bruce Southworth and John W. McDaniel III, did not. Is it time to stop the rezoning of land for industry in and around Midway? What are your general feelings about the balance of development and preservation? Councilmember Kaye Nita Gallagher said when Midway Station is full, that should be it, and the city doesn’t need any more development. Adam Bailey said he agreed, and that it’s critical that the city maintains its urban service boundary (USB) and doesn’t destroy Midway’s small town culture. Councilmember Sara Hicks said it will take a while for Midway Station to be fully built out and that the industrial park should serve the city for at least another 50 years. Andrew Nelle said Midway is great exactly the way it is now and that its smallness and connectivity between residents are among its greatest assets. Councilmember Logan Nance said last year, he was the only councilmember who voted no on the Freeny property annexation and that the USB should not be extended. Mary Raglin said everybody supports the idea that Midway should remain a small city. Councilmember Stacy Thurman said she was against extending the USB, but saw opportunities for rezoning within the city limits to allow for new housing. Steve Simoff said the city will have reached the limits of what to annex when Midway Station is full and that the city already has traffic problems. Should the city continue to reduce property tax rates if real estate assessments continue to rise, or reduce the occupational tax rates, or offer some other form of tax relief? Hicks said she thought the city was set for 2020 and 2021 and while the council must determine the amount of tax revenue before cutting taxes further, property taxes should probably be reduced. Nelle said he agreed, and that the pandemic brought the city into uncharted territory. Cutting property taxes and giving small businesses tax relief would help COVID-proof jobs, he said. Nance said the city should find a way to alleviate the tax burdens on senior citizens faced with rising property assessments and the council should consider reducing or eliminating the property tax. Raglin said as a property owner, she wouldn’t say she was against tax relief, but wasn’t sure whether that is the right thing to do. She said she would love to see some tax cuts. Thurman said the council had been fortunate to be able to reduce property taxes while the city was being hit hard by the pandemic, but didn’t know what the future held. Simoff said he wasn’t sure what the next council should do, but was happy the present council cut the property tax rate. He said he’d like to cut taxes, but wasn’t sure if it was possible. Gallagher said with Midway Station filling up, occupational taxes were bringing in much more money. If the council could lower taxes without burdening the city, she’d be for it, she said. Bailey said it’s impossible to see the economic climate in six, 12 or 18 months, but with assessments rising 14 percent or so, property taxes are a burden. Midway Station revenue allows the council more options, he said. Should the city fund another round of COVID-19 relief for businesses and individuals, and if so, how? Nance said the federal government needs to step up and make those funds available, and if it does, he’d support another round of relief for small businesses and individuals. Raglin said she agreed, and if it was possible, the city should do so for small businesses and individuals. She said she wasn’t sure what form another round of relief should take. Thurman said if the federal government steps up, she’d love another round of grants for small businesses. She said she and Nance took part in “Sustain Midway,” which paid local restaurants for meals for needy persons. Simoff said the relief he received helped get his small business through hard times. If the federal government helps out, he’d support more assistance for downtown businesses, he said. Gallagher said she liked the council’s voucher program for city residents and if another round is available, it would probably have to go to small businesses. Bailey said he’d love another round of grants for small businesses and that the council should see if the budget allowed for it. He suggested sending property tax funds to small businesses. Hicks said the city should provide relief to businesses if the federal government provides the funds to do so. She said the voucher program helped pump money into Midway businesses. Nelle said his fiancé enjoyed the “Midway bucks” and spent them at a downtown dress shop. The federal government needs to step up and the city needs to support small downtown businesses, he said. What should the city do about speeding on city streets? Thurman said her family lives on Winter Street and she appreciates complaints about speeding in that area. The council should consider adding speed tables, bulb-outs and caution lights, she said. Simoff said speeding was a huge issue in Midway and that Midway University students could help by not speeding. Police are doing a great job and more stop signs could help with speeding, he said. Gallagher said Stephens Street needs speed humps, and that Officer Manny Quinn (a mannequin sitting in a police cruiser parked around town) was helping. She noted that the council recently made Johnson Street one-way. Bailey said the city must work with the state without being a pain in the neck to Transportation Cabinet officials. More tickets by police could help, but there’s no easy solution, he said. Hicks said instead of bumps and humps on Stephens Street, the city should consider adding swales. A sidewalk on Stephens Street stretching to The Homeplace at Midway would make the road safer for pedestrians, she said. Nelle agreed that Officer Manny Quinn has accomplished quite a bit and suggested adding something that will make noise on roads when the speed limit is reduced. Nance said speed tables and bulb-outs are great ideas and that Versailles police are doing a great job curbing speeding, though speeding tends to resume a few days after they leave a particular place. He said city residents should serve as examples by not speeding. Raglin said she agreed with comments made by the other candidates and that more signs might help. She said she is not a speeder and that when people see a police car, they slow down. From someone watching the forum on Facebook Live: Would you support funding a public restroom in downtown Midway? Gallagher said she’d consider the idea, but the city would have to find a site and fund its maintenance. She noted that City Hall is kept open during large events by the Midway Woman’s Club and other groups. Bailey said he’d explore the location and cost, and that he was open to the idea. Hicks said she’d used an automated, coin-operated restroom in Paris, France and found it fabulous, but can’t see the city funding a public restroom right now. Nelle said most of the traffic going to restaurants involves patrons using their facilities. He said if the city can afford it and find a location, “Why not?” Nance said not now, and that he wasn’t sure where the city could put it. City employees needed to maintain it are already overworked, and groups like Midway Renaissance bring in portable toilets for the city’s big events, he said. Thurman said she’d like to speak to officials in small cities with public restrooms and see how they work there. A discussion with Midway city maintenance workers about the idea should be held, she said. Simoff said on a recent evening, he saw 10 vehicles with out-of-state license plates downtown, and that he totally supported the city funding a public restroom that could be cleaned a couple of times a week by the company that installed the facility and each morning by city workers. The candidates also delivered closing statements that closely resembled their opening remarks, which were in last week’s Sun.