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March 19, 2014

Evaluation system eyed for data bids

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Niagara County lawmakers may consider using an evaluation system to help them pick the best offer for a new countywide data and phone network. 

A resolution introduced Tuesday by Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, would institute a system for determining which of two Amherst-based companies would provide the best and most cost-effective bid. The Niagara County Legislature is considering bids from Advance 2000, who is the low bidder at $670,028 and IPLogic, which offered a choice, its original bid of $755,000 or a new offer of $700,578 made last week.  

The bidding process has been slowed due to confusion over what the bids actually were and whether or not the cost was the most important factor for lawmakers to consider. The resolution was forwarded to the Legislature’s Administration committee.

Bradt’s resolution puts the blame for that squarely on Larry Helwig, the county’s information technology director and the department’s consultants from ECC Technology and Cannon Design. Despite Advance 2000 being the low bidder, Helwig and the consultants advised the Legislature that Cisco Systems-provider IPLogic would be the best choice.

The legislation says it was “the poor performance demonstrated by the Niagara County director of information technology and the consultants with whom this government contracted has impeded and complicated what should have been a clearly defined process” that led to the bidding process issue.

Johnny Destino, a Niagara Falls attorney and Board of Education member, said in the public forum, legislators couldn’t make the decision based on what they knew about the technology, charging that Helwig and the department did “their due diligence.”

“If you’re going to ignore the advice of your consultants and staff, why hire them in the first place?” he asked.

A committee has been set up to review the bids.

Another resolution by Bradt, this one accusing Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, of trying to pad his pension was also sent to the Administration committee Tuesday night. The Administration committee meets April 7.

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