LOCKPORT – Advance 2000 is the low bidder for a new data network for Niagara County government, but it remains uncertain whether its bid will be accepted, because legislators aren’t sure whether price is the most important criterion to judge the bids.
However, a meeting of the County Legislature’s Administration Committee with the rival vendors Monday at least clarified what the bids actually are, after nearly two months of wrangling.
Advance 2000 is standing on a bid of $670,028, while IPLogic is suggesting two offers: its original bid of about $755,000, or a revised offer of $700,578.
The two Amherst companies are offering competing equipment for the county’s consideration. Advance 2000 is selling Alcatel-Lucent gear, while IPLogic deals in Cisco Systems equipment.
Administration Committee Chairman Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, said the internal committee of county department heads, legislators and consultants will meet again, but he doesn’t expect any Legislature action until April.
The county’s original request for proposals called for Cisco equipment “or the equivalent,” and Advance 2000 contends Alcatel-Lucent products are equivalent in performance, which Cisco denies.
“The question all along was whether both sides have the same components,” said Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport.
The county’s consultants and its information technology director, Larry L. Helwig, contended in January that Advance 2000’s bid was inaccurately low because it left out some equipment that ostensibly needed to be added to meet the specifications.
By the time the revisions were done, Helwig and the consultants were contending that IPLogic’s bid was $761,773 and Advance’s was $816,862. Advance 2000 then charged that the bids were rigged to favor Cisco vendors and threatened to sue if it didn’t win the contract.
Last month, Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, offered a resolution to hire Advance 2000 for $715,000, but at last week’s Legislature meeting, IPLogic offered its $700,578 bid, with what it said was lesser equipment, although still Cisco-branded. That stopped action on the Bradt plan.
“Nobody refers back to the original bid documents,” said Carl Carbone, an Advance 2000 salesperson. “We haven’t changed anything.”
It did cut out a $17,000 switching system that the county has deleted from the bid package.
“Our final number is the original bid we put in in October,” said Chris Fox, vice president of sale for IPLogic. But the company reduced its bid last week to compete with Advance, even though it claims the latter’s bid doesn’t comply with specs.
Whit Sprague, a Cisco account manager, said the lower bid “is more comparable, not the same as our competitor’s solution.”
“It seems like the criteria have changed,” Fox said. “Is it to get the best solution for the best price or just the overall lowest price?”
Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said if the county is changing its specs, it ought to rebid the project.
“I think we’re going to be sued no matter who we pick,” Virtuoso said. He added, “I think we don’t even know what we want.”