Niagara Legislature settles lawsuit over bridge construction - The Buffalo News
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Niagara Legislature settles lawsuit over bridge construction

LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature on Tuesday approved a settlement of a lawsuit about cost overruns on the Cedar Street Bridge project over Tonawanda Creek between Royalton and the Town of Newstead in Erie County.

The $2 million bridge, whose reconstruction by Hohl Industrial Services of the Town of Tonawanda was completed two years ago, ran into cost overruns that County Attorney Claude A. Joerg blamed on the state Department of Transportation.

Joerg said the DOT mandated the use of a certain type of weld on the bridge structure that prevented the contractor from installing a box girder that would pass inspection.

In order to fix the problem, Hohl submitted a bill for about $660,000 worth of extra costs, which the county disputed, Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O’Brien said. Hohl sued the county, and Joerg said a negotiation brokered by State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker cut the costs by more than half. The Legislature approved a $73,323 change order in June 2013 for items the county didn’t dispute, and Tuesday, it approved a final additional payment of $180,000. O’Brien said the county will pay Hohl with money left over from the original federal economic-stimulus payment that funded the bridge project.

In another matter, the Legislature approved a resolution to seek bids for space to store the county’s voting machines. Lockport developer David L. Ulrich informed the county Feb. 27 that he was exercising his right to cancel the county’s lease on 28,000 square feet of space in a former mattress factory on Transit Road in Newfane, where the machines have been since 2008. The county was paying Ulrich $86,400 a year.

Resolutions introduced by Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, attacking Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, and Information Technology Director Larry L. Helwig, were sent to committee. One resolution accuses Virtuoso and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster of working together to enlarge Virtuoso’s overtime pay in his city job, thus increasing his pension when he retires. It was met by Virtuoso with allegations that Bradt is a tax cheat.

Virtuoso produced a printout from the County Clerk’s Office showing that Bradt owes the state $7,781.14 in unpaid sales taxes, interest and penalties from a restaurant he formerly owned. The taxes date from the first half of 2009, and the warrant was filed in August 2010.

Another state tax warrant against Bradt filed in 2009 was paid off in September 2012. It totaled $3,524.92, according to the County Clerk’s Office website.

“Especially with the garbage we see tonight, it’s hard to get people interested in serving the county on a voluntary basis,” said Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls, who wondered why vacancies on boards go unfilled. Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said he will recommend a couple of appointments at the next meeting.

Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, criticized Ross for not preventing comments from the audience that she said insulted Bradt.

Edwina C. Luksch, of Newfane, said Bradt’s resolution was “vindictive, politically motivated and is being used to cause retribution and personal embarrassment to Legislator Virtuoso.”


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