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LPCiminelli opts against suing Erie County over ECC project

LPCiminelli Inc. will not sue over Erie County’s decision to award to a competing firm a disputed general construction bid for work on a new academic building at Erie Community College’s North Campus in Amherst.

“LPCiminelli has the utmost respect for ECC President Jack Quinn and his vision for the college, and we also understand and support the need of ECC’s students, faculty and staff,” the company said in a statement to The News. “Based on President Quinn’s request, we are not going to pursue legal action against Erie County regarding the procurement of the construction contract for the ECC STEM building so as not to further delay this project.”

County legislators on Thursday awarded Scrufari Construction a $7.6 million contract for general construction on the project.

The statement also maintained that LPCiminelli’s position was correct “in both the letter and spirit of the law.”

With their vote Thursday, legislators cleared the way for construction of the long-awaited $30 million science and technology building. LPCiminelli had contended Scrufari did not comply with all of the bid requirements and should have been disqualified. A lawyer for LPCiminelli put the county on notice in June that the company was prepared to take legal action because Scrufari failed to include with its bid a minority/women business enterprise utilization report, as required by the terms of the bid process.

County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz characterized the bidding dispute as the complaint of a disgruntled losing bidder, and he cited a local law adopted in 1987 that allows bidders up to three days to submit a MWBE report. Nonetheless, legislators twice debated whether to approve a total of $18.8 million in contracts to six contractors, including Scrufari, which won a $2 million bid for interior wall construction, in addition to the general construction work.

After further deliberation Thursday, they voted, 8-3, to award the contracts and allow the project to move forward.

A ground-breaking for the new building is scheduled for Aug. 24, and without the threat of a lawsuit, it now appears the project will finally get off the ground after years of delays. The state initially approved $15 million in funding for the project in 2010. The building is expected to be completed by December 2017.

In addition to providing a long-overdue upgrade to the aging Amherst campus, Quinn said, the new STEM building will allow the college to market itself better and to pursue other opportunities, including expanding and consolidating its nursing program at City Campus.

LPCiminelli maintained in its statement that the county’s policy for minority/women business enterprise utilization reports was “deeply flawed and apparently applied inconsistently, and appears to have been so for some time,” according to the statement. “LPCiminelli rarely bids county work so this is only coming to light now because we pointed out these problems in this procurement.”

The statement also said that “MWBE utilization plans and MWBE goals matter, and should not viewed as some after-thought or clerical document. Thus, we hope this episode will actually lead to some good and that the executive and Legislature will now implement modern MWBE procurement rules that help advance minority- and women-owned businesses, send a message that Erie County takes MWBE goals seriously and prevent a similar fiasco in the future.”