LOCKPORT – Niagara County has decided to drop plans to seek its own bids for a new telephone and data network, a key legislator said Monday.
Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, said the county is going to shelve the bids received six months ago from several local vendors, which were narrowed down to two contenders. “We’re going to slow down,” he said.
After several attempts by Information Technology Director Larry L. Helwig, the county’s consultants and, on occasion, legislators to revise the bids to take the manufacturers’ differences into account, Advance 2000, an Alcatel-Lucent vendor, was deemed the low bidder, beating out IPLogic, a Cisco Systems vendor.
But controversy boiled over in late January when Advance 2000 charged that the bid specifications had been drawn to favor Cisco products. Helwig said repeatedly at a Jan. 22 Legislature committee meeting, “This is a Cisco shop.”
In Helwig’s first rendition of the bids, he added about $200,000 to Advance 2000’s original bid, moving IPLogic into first place and sparking threats of litigation from Advance 2000.
Now, the $700,000 project for a new network, which was supposed to be followed by a second round of bidding on new telephones, is off.
County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said the county’s Purchasing Department is going to investigate the possibility of joining an Erie County request for proposals, or RFP, for new phones.
“That may be a real win-win, to go along with their RFP,” Glatz said. “Their project is about $2 million. It would be shared services.”
Nemi said the Legislature’s majority caucus decided that in the meantime, the county would be better off spending the money earmarked for the new network on repairing potholes.
Despite Helwig’s report that the county would have trouble finding parts to keep its current phone system going, Nemi said, “There are at least three suppliers that can supply us with parts if need be.”
“I don’t think it was crying wolf,” Glatz said.
A resolution by Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, admonishing Helwig “for attempting to undermine and create confusion related to the contract” was withdrawn from Monday’s Administration Committee agenda.