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'Comfort level' elusive for Niagara lawmakers as data network bids stay snarled [The Buffalo News, N.Y. :: ]
[February 10, 2014]

'Comfort level' elusive for Niagara lawmakers as data network bids stay snarled [The Buffalo News, N.Y. :: ]

(Buffalo News (NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 11--LOCKPORT -- Niagara County legislators won't vote for two weeks on which company should provide the equipment for a new data network, part of an estimated $2 million makeover of the county's phone system.

At a meeting of two County Legislature committees Monday, Information Technology Director Larry L. Helwig and two consultants defended the way that they scored the bids to favor a Cisco Systems vendor, even though a rival company had the lower price.

The Legislature "is really struggling with the decision at hand," said Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, chairman of the Public Works Committee.

He said his panel won't vote on the bids until Feb. 24, and the Administration Committee chairman, Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, said his panel won't vote until Feb. 25. That moves a final decision by the full Legislature to March 4 at the earliest.

"I'd still like to see those figures straight out," Nemi said. "They keep changing every time I see them. I'm not sure what items are being subtracted out, what's being added in." "It doesn't seem there's a comfort level either way," Syracuse said.

Executives of Advance 2000, an Alcatel-Lucent vendor in Amherst, said two weeks ago that they had the lowest bid, but the company charged that Helwig and his team added some costs in to make it look it look like IPLogic, a Cisco vendor from Amherst, had the best deal.

In a Buffalo News article published Jan. 31, Advance 2000 threatened to sue the county if it didn't win the contract. The company contended that its bid was falsified and that the specifications in the county's request for proposals were rigged to favor Cisco. Advance 2000's base bid was $605,184, compared with $673,641 for IPLogic. But by the time Helwig and the consultants got through revising them to repair what they said were omissions, IPLogic's price was $761,773 and Advance 2000's price was $816,862.

"There's the costs people submit in the proposal. Then there are the soft costs," Matt Crider, vice president of consulting services for ECC Technologies, said Monday. The county would pay extra after about five years to maintain an Alcatel-Lucent system, he said, and there would be costs related to using a new system after having used Cisco for 15 years. "That's not a hard cost you can put on paper, but it is a cost," Crider said. "Advance 2000 was very aggressive in their pricing, aggressive to the point that it was impractical." Crider was negative about the Alcatel-Lucent product lines, too. "They had something similar [to Cisco gear] that required extra software and extra server capacity. It would do the job, just not as well," he said, adding, "The value of this over a 10-year period is worth paying a premium for the Cisco solution." "I still stand by my decision," Helwig said.

Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, was unhappy that there had been no talks with vendors to obtain further explanations since the last committee meeting Jan. 22. Helwig said plans to send questionnaires to the vendors were squelched after Advance 2000 threatened litigation. No representative of either vendor was at Monday's meeting.

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