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Lockport awards ramp contract, but legal challenge is expected

LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted Wednesday to award a contract for demolition of the downtown parking ramp to Empire Dismantlement of Grand Island. The next stop may be State Supreme Court.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said he expects the city to be sued by the end of this week by Scott Lawn Yard, the Sanborn company whose bid – $190,000 less than Empire’s – was delivered late.

Scott Lawn Yard blamed that on an unidentified City Hall employee who told its representative the bids were to be delivered to Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. CRA is the Buffalo engineering firm that designed the plan for removing the long-closed ramp and replacing it with a 42-space surface parking lot.

Actually, the bid documents said bids were to be returned to City Hall. By the time the Scott employee drove to Buffalo and back to Lockport, he had missed Friday’s 2 p.m. bid submission deadline.

Ottaviano briefed the Council in closed session Wednesday. After its unanimous vote in favor of Empire’s $1.17 million bid, Ottaviano said, “I anticipate litigation either way.”

He said he had been contacted by John P. Bartolomei of Niagara Falls, attorney for Scott Lawn Yard. He said he expects the demolition to be delayed by a temporary restraining order.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I was served with something by the end of the week,” Ottaviano said.

Maybe not, said Scott Miller, co-owner of Scott Lawn Yard.

“I don’t know if we’re going to pursue a lawsuit,” Miller said by telephone Wednesday. “It’s always a long, agonizing fight.”

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said there will be no disciplinary action against any city worker.

“The bid never should have been opened. That was CRA’s fault,” Tucker said.

“The written word in the bids overrides whatever happened in that hallway,” Ottaviano said.

“We have reason to believe [Scott’s] was a suspicious bid,” Tucker said. “They’ve never done any demolition work.”

Miller denied that.

“We tore down an eight-story building in downtown Niagara Falls, the old Holiday Inn,” he said. His company also razed 18 houses to make way for a state highway project, Miller said.

Ottaviano said the city included a 90-day window in the contract for Empire to complete the work, but that will be extended if there is a restraining order.

The Council also awarded a $71,000 contract for electrical work on the ramp razing to Industrial Power and Lighting Corp. of Buffalo. Its status as low bidder for that portion of the job is not in dispute.