LOCKPORT – Battle lines have been drawn in a lawsuit between a contractor and the City of Lockport over the opening of bids for the demolition of the city’s downtown parking ramp.
The city’s attorney filed papers in State Supreme Court last week, attempting to contradict the version of events given by Scott Lawn Yard, a Sanborn company, in its lawsuit, which is to be heard Thursday by Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.
The city’s paperwork includes an affidavit from Judy L. Ritchie, senior account clerk in the Engineering Department, identified for the first time publicly as the city employee who allegedly told Scott Lawn Yard’s representative that he had to deliver his bid for the job in Buffalo, not at City Hall as the bid instructions stated.
However, Ritchie denied sending Christopher Juliano, the Scott employee, to the offices of Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, or CRA, the engineering firm handling the design work for the city.
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano acknowledged Friday that by challenging Scott’s version on factual as well as legal grounds, it might cause Kloch to take testimony in a hearing that could delay the demolition even more. The city had hoped to have the ramp removed and replaced by a 42-space surface lot by late July.
Ritchie’s version says she entered City Hall after her lunch break at about 1 p.m. April 5, bid opening day, and found a man who asked whether she was from the Engineering Department. Ritchie said that she was and that the man, later identified as Juliano, told her that he had just left a bid package on her desk. Ritchie then said CRA was handling the project. She asked Juliano whether he had the company’s phone number, and he said he did. Ritchie found no bid package on her desk and ran outside to try to find Juliano, but he had left.
The lawsuit filed by Scott said Juliano drove to CRA’s Buffalo office and was told the bids were supposed to have been delivered in City Hall by 2 p.m. Juliano was unable to make it back in time, and Scott’s bid was marked late and rejected, even though it was $190,000 less than the lowest of the other nine bids.
“None of the other nine bidders had a problem with following the written bid specifications. None of the other nine bidders needed to ask anyone in City Hall questions about where and when to deliver their bids,” Ottaviano wrote in his legal brief.
He also said the CRA engineers who opened the bids at City Hall noticed that Scott’s form had several white-outs, including the amount of the $987,000 bid, which was written in by hand.
On April 10, the Common Council awarded the contract to Empire Dismantlement of Grand Island for $1.17 million. Scott went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order from Kloch, barring any demolition work until the lawsuit is decided.
Scott’s attorney, John P. Bartolomei, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.
The five-level, 260-space parking ramp at Main and Pine streets, which opened in 1975, was closed in 2006 because of deteriorating concrete.