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LOCKPORT – Over protests from its information technology director and the Niagara County Legislature’s senior Democrat – but not for the same reason – a Legislature committee voted 3-2 Tuesday to award a contract for a new countywide data network to Advance 2000 of Amherst.

That company is a dealer in Alcatel-Lucent hardware, not the Cisco Systems gear preferred by Larry L. Helwig, county IT director.

Advance 2000 had the lowest base bid when the county went shopping last fall for a new network as a preliminary to buying a new telephone system. But Helwig and two consultants hired by the county decided that Advance’s 2000’s bid left out some items and also offered equipment that didn’t meet the county’s specifications. After adjusting the bids by adding more than $200,000 in costs to the Advance 2000 bid, Helwig and the consultants, ECC Technology and Cannon Design, declared that IPLogic of Amherst, a Cisco dealer, was the real low bidder.

Legislature leaders said the process made them uncomfortable, while Advance 2000 cried foul and threatened to sue if IPLogic won the contract.

Tuesday, the Administration Committee approved a resolution sponsored by Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, to award the contract to Advance 2000 for $715,091.

That’s not a figure that had appeared on any bid documents before. Bradt said he arrived at that number himself by taking the base bid and adding in bonding, training, adjusted maintenance costs, and by including routers and other necessary hardware.

“This whole thing is complete chaos,” said Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls. He said an Advance 2000 representative at a committee meeting last month said his original bid was $605,000.

“If he’s changed it since then, we should have it in writing from him,” Virtuoso said.

“What’s the second bid?” asked Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson.

After some back and forth with county staffers, it was determined that IPLogic’s bid should be about $766,000, or $51,000 more than Bradt’s figure for Advance 2000. Again, it was not a number that appeared on any previously released bid documents.

“I personally think I need a little more time, myself,” Godfrey said. He and Virtuoso voted no on the award to Advance 2000.

Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said the Legislature was determined to award the contract to the lowest bidder. “Nobody has told us Advance 2000 is not the lowest bid,” he said.

He voted yes, along with Bradt and committee chairman Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport.

“You guys blindsided me,” complained Helwig, who was on a Florida vacation when Bradt’s resolution passed unanimously Monday by the Public Works Committee.

Helwig charged that if Advance 2000 were hired, the county would have to fly people to Maryland for training in how to use the equipment, since the county uses Cisco now. He said maintenance costs would be higher, and a key switch Lucent makes “is a lower-grade switch.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com