Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Photizo Group leaving Midway; owner Ed Crowley, leaving EDA, says it's not related to fairness ordinance

By Anyssa Roberts
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Ed Crowley, Midway’s member on the Woodford County Economic Development Authority and owner of a business with nine employees downtown, is moving his company to Lexington.

The Midway City Council named Ron Layman of Midway to succeed Crowley Monday evening. Layman has a background in finance as a loan officer for Republic State Mortgage in Versailles.

Crowley is the CEO of Photizo Group, an international print data service and consulting company that has been housed in the barnlike building that houses Robin’s Nest Bakery on Gratz Street for several years after starting out in Versailles.

Ed Crowley
Crowley said in an email that while Midway is a “unique place to work, it is much easier to recruit staff for a firm like ours when the firm is located in Lexington versus Midway or Versailles due to the shopping, dining, and housing opportunities provided by Lexington.” He said most of his employees live in Lexington so moving the company makes it an easier commute, he said.

Crowley said he will continue to live in Versailles and farm in Woodford County. He said he feels that someone with a business in Midway will be better suited for the position. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that was the top criterion for his nomination of Layman.

Last year, Crowley was the only business person to publicly object to Midway’s “fairness” ordinance, which bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual preference, gender identity or familial status.

Crowley said in the email that he did not leave because of the ordinance.

“While I still do not agree with it because I do not believe there was an issue to begin with (it was driven by outside interests) and I believe it will open business owners up to lawsuits, I believe the right process was followed, and the passing of the ordinance was not the motivation for our move.”

Vandergrift said after the meeting that he does not think Crowley is leaving because of the ordinance, because Lexington has one as well.

Council Member Libby Warfield, who voted against the ordinance, asked how many jobs the company will be taking with it to Lexington. Vandergrift said that he didn’t know, but they were “good paying jobs.”

Photizo Group employs nine people in Midway, Crowley said, and has 35 employees internationally, according to the Photizo Group website.

“I hate to see him go,” Vandergrift said. “He was a great business pillar of the community… but we’ll keep bringing in new [jobs].”

Steam engine seeks a home

Vandegrift updated the council on the uncertain status of the RJ Corman Railroad Group’s “Old Smokey” steam engine. He said he and the railroad are concerned that the engine and the caboose next to the bank lot won’t fit in the space without backfill and a retaining wall. The railroad is seeking more money from the state, which gave it a grant to put the engine in the Midway Historic District.

Vandergrift said having the engine downtown could be a great attraction, but he said a “plan B” could be moving it to Walter Bradley Park, which is also in the district. He said he is meeting with RJ Corman representatives to look at spaces in the park this week.

“RJ Corman Railroad Company really wants this train to be here,” Vandergrift said. “This place is where it should be. We’re Kentucky’s first railroad town. We don’t want to lose this to another city.”

Council Member Sara Hicks said the engine and caboose could be a “great feature for the park,” and that she could envision a small railroad museum there.

Emergency budget: Drew Chandler of the Woodford County Emergency Management team presented the semi-annual emergency management update. The organization has cut 30 percent of its budget, largely by converting all full-time positions to part-time. The county and the two cities had a dispute last year about the emergency management budget.

The lack of full-time employees relieves the department of paying health, life and dental insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance, saving $17,072.23. Chandler said after the meeting that the cuts can be attributed to a reduction of state and federal money. He is one of four part-time employees operating the service.

Property maintenance: Vandegrift updated the council on the status of a dilapidated log house on East Higgins Street. The owner has agreed to purchase wood to board up the windows and to move the trash and dirt from the premises.

The owner has until the end of the week to make the changes, Vandergrift said. This is the first time that the city has taken action to fix a property at the owner’s expense.

“The point that I relayed to them is that these are difficult situations, but the city can not send the message that when we send out letters that we are not going to follow up on them,” Vandergrift said. “And I think we made that clear this time.”

No primary elections: The council heard first reading of an ordinance to eliminate the need for primary elections for city offices. State law requires primaries in nonpartisan elections if there are twice as many candidates as seats to be filled unless the city opts out of primaries. Midway has not held a primary since 1955.

According to city attorney Phil Moloney, the council had voted on a similar ordinance in the past, but because it was not included in the minutes, it needed to be re-enacted. The second reading and passage are scheduled for March 21. If passed, the ordinance would take effect in 2018.

Surplus fire vehicles: The council dismissed a $100 bid for the city’s surplus fire truck but accepted a $260 bid for the department’s surplus van. “Is that too much?” Council Member Bruce Southworth asked, laughing with the others.

Warfield said she took the liberty of contacting Ronnie Day of the Kentucky Fire Commission in Frankfort, who operates an email list of fire stations in the state. Day may be able to send an advertisement for the truck to interested buyers in the firefighting field, Warfield said.

“It’s no offense to the bid that’s on the table, but my main concern is the fire truck be placed somewhere that it can really be used,” Warfield said.

Cemetery security: Warfield brought up the issue of closing the cemetery gates. She said her mother and sister had seen a car in the cemetery after dark. Not closing the gates at night leaves the cemetery susceptible to trash and vandals, so the gates should be locked after dark, she said.

Assistant Versailles Police Chief Mike Murray, who was in the audience, said he would have patrol officers check the cemeteries after dark and escort loiterers off of the grounds.

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