By Joyce M. Miles
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — The county Legislature has authorized a lease agreement with area developer David Ulrich for record storage space in Newfane.
Ulrich's Clear Opportunity Properties LLC will improve and let 28,000 square feet on Transit Road, where the Lockport Mattress Company once had a factory, on a five-year lease. The county will pay $4.45 per square foot or approximately $125,000 a year for the space, which is to house all kinds of paper records kept by the county clerk's office.
Two buildings presently serving as storage for county records, on the Davison Road campus, are full and one, a former nurses' residence, is in bad shape, according to County Clerk Wayne Jagow; records there are potentially threatened and should be moved as soon as possible.
The county is striking a deal with Ulrich at the same time it's expecting to sell most of the Davison Road campus to R.B. Mac construction company. The sale of land and improvements including the two records storage sites is "imminent," says the resolution authorizing a lease with Clear Opportunity — although Assistant County Attorney Thomas Burgasser later said those buildings will not be part of the sale.
The legislature's three-member Democratic caucus opposed the lease deal on Tuesday. Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso insisted the county should bid out its space needs per purchasing guidelines that the Legislature just approved last year.
County Attorney Claude Joerg advised the guidelines apply to the procurement of "goods" and "services" — and leased real property is neither. The county's need for controlled-environment space for records storage is too unique to be the subject of a Request for Proposals, he added.
Virtuoso and Joerg argued the point literally, with Virtuoso denoucing the no-bid lease deal as "unbelievable" and "despicable" and Joerg loudly pronouncing himself tired of Virtuoso's "hide the ball" partisan theatrics.
Virtuoso insisted he had no issue with Ulrich, from whom the county leased Lockport office space in the past, but as he complained about the majority caucus "ignoring" county purchasing guidelines he referred to this week's edition of the Niagara Falls Reporter, which painted the majority caucus as giving a sweetheart deal to Ulrich, a regular contributor to GOP state Sen. George Maziarz's campaign fund.
Legislator Jason Zona said he simply thought a five-year agreement is too lengthy, especially if the legislature is serious about revisiting an old proposal to build a public works facility on Junction Road, as apparently was discussed in public works committee recently.
Zona suggested it would be better to wring more life out of the existing storage facilities and "long-term plan" to incorporate storage space in a Junction Road building design.
That would be fine, County Manager Jeffrey Glatz replied, except for the fact consulting engineers predicted it would take three years to build the public works facility — and the county clerk's office has storage space needs now.
Ulrich suggested he's offering the county a very favorable lease deal. New York Power Authority is paying DRC Inc. $7.25 per square foot, plus property taxes and maintenance charges, for controlled-environment storage space in the area, according to public documents. Clear Opportunity is charging the county $4.45 per square foot and is picking up the tax bill and maintenance costs, Ulrich said.