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City accused of requesting duplication of services

The city is looking for a firm to complete concept drawings of the planned $37 million public safety building while it negotiates for a development contract with another company that would include the same services.

"You're running parallel, you're doing double work," said Councilman Lewis Rotella, who found out about the city's request last week. "If that's part of the agreement, let [the developer] do it. We could save $40,000."

The request for drawings was put out by the city Engineering Department earlier this month, seeking conceptual renderings of the building. The request states that the drawings will be included in the project's State Environmental Quality Review and will "provide visual interpretations for public comment and presentation to the City Council."

Ciminelli Development officials say they planned to complete that work under a development services agreement with the city, which is now under negotiation. The company's senior development project manager, Kevin Greiner, called the city's move "a blatant disregard" for those talks.

"These actions do not add up and lead our client to the inescapable conclusion that the city is not negotiating the DSA [development services agreement] in good faith," wrote Ciminelli's attorney Terrence M. Gilbride in a Tuesday letter to attorney Damon A. DeCastro.

DeCastro is a partner of attorney James C. Roscetti, who was hired by the city to negotiate with Ciminelli.

Ciminelli of Williamsville and Largo Real Estate of Wheatfield have an interim agreement with the city, after being chosen as preferred developer for the project.

Replacing the city's deteriorating courthouse on Hyde Park Boulevard is a mandate of the state's Office of Court Administration, which has imposed a March 2007 deadline and otherwise threatened to withhold $12 million in state aid. Office spokesman David Bookstaver confirmed last week that the office has given the city a March 24 deadline, but would not elaborate on what is hoped to be completed.

"As far as the 24th, we expect substantive action, which is long overdue," he said. "As to what will happen on the 24th, it's premature at this point."

Negotiations regarding a binding contract that would spell out costs, time lines and funding have been ongoing since November, and consensus between the developer and city has been scarce. Mayor Vince Anello repeatedly has said he "will not sign a contract that would not be good for the city," while Greiner said the firm would give the city "bargain basement" prices to build the complex.

Greiner said his attorneys have done 16 redrafts of the contract based on conversations with city officials. He said he requested a week ago a written list of detailed issues the city still has with the contract, and received that on Tuesday.

Anello would not comment last week on why the contract is still unacceptable to him, but said a decision would be made soon.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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