Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 15, 2013

OUR VIEW: Delivery failure not city's fault

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — This is expected to be a banner year for construction projects in downtown Lockport. A front page article we published in February detailed nearly a dozen projects with a combined value of more than $25 million slated for 2013.

Among those projects is the highly-anticipated razing of the long-shuttered downtown parking ramp. The ramp was expected to be torn down as early as April at a cost of about $1 million and replaced with a surface parking lot.

“Expected” is the key word. The ramp still stands and may continue for several months. That’s because the contractor, Scott Lawn Yard Inc. of Sanborn, requested for — and succeeded in obtaining — a restraining order preventing the city from awarding the contract until the matter is resolved. The proper resolution is for the judge to determine that Scott’s claim has no merit.

The legal notice clearly states that sealed bids would be accepted at “the Clerk’s Office, Municipal Building, One Locks Plaza, Lockport, New York, until 2:00 p.m.” on April 5, where they would then be opened in public. Nine bidders filed on time. Then there’s Scott Lawn Yard.

A representative from Scott claims to have dutifully arrived at the municipal building at 12:55 p.m., only to allegedly be told, according to a court filing, by “an employee of the CIty” that he was in the wrong place; that the sealed bid must be brought to the engineer’s office in downtown Buffalo. Who was the city employee? Did the Scott representative go to the clerk’s office? Did he contact his employer to seek advice? Did he call the engineer to confirm the location? None of these questions are answered in the petition filed with the courts.

It seems to us that the bid was late. The legal notice clearly instructs bidders how to submit their proposal. The city files dozens of notices to bidders annually, so we’re confident they are well versed in how to request and accept bids. Moreover, Scott Lawn’s web site includes a client list with more than two dozen municipalities and authorities that solicit bids via legal notices, so we’re pretty sure Scott Lawn knows how to follow directions

For whatever reason, they didn’t with the parking ramp and now they’re making excuses.

Of course, the engineer in charge of the project, Buffalo-based CRA Infrastructure & Engineering, can take some blame for this as well. The bid was late, yet they still decided to open the sealed envelope. What were they thinking?

In the end, if the late bidder can’t follow simple directions, how can we trust them with a demolition? The ramp could still stand for several months. If it does it will only be because a contractor doesn’t want to point the finger at himself.