Niagara Gazette

November 28, 2012

County weighing options on voting machine storage

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A legislative committee is considering whether to put the county's voting machine storage space contract out to bid. Earlier this week, the committee declined to recommend a resolution authorizing extension of the county's current contract with Clear Opportunity Properties LLC, which charges $86,400 a year to store voting machines at 1961 Transit Road, Burt. It's the same building where the Legislature last month OK'd a five-year lease for controlled-environment storage space for county records. That lease deal, struck with Clear Opportunity Properties' owner David Ulrich of Lockport, is worth about $125,000 a year. Approval of the records storage lease was on a split vote. Democratic legislators opposed it in part because the county clerk's office had only worked with Ulrich to develop controlled-environment space; officials did not consult with other property owners or developers, or put up a request for proposals for controlled storage, to see if any better deals were possible. On County Attorney Claude Joerg's determination that leased space is not a good or a service that's subject to competitive procurement requirements, the Republican-led majority caucus shot down Minority Caucus Leader Dennis Virtuoso's proposal to put aside the lease agreement and do an RFP. The resolution to extend the county's contract with Ulrich for the voting machine storage space came before the admin committee in mid-November. After Virtuoso chimed in about the lack of a search for best offers on this one too, admin chairman Keith McNall, R-Lockport, got a vote to table the resolution — and told Virtuoso he'd look into it. Quietly this week, when administration reconvened, McNall solicited members' motions to un-table the extension resolution and put it up to a vote. The latter motion fetched no yeses, meaning the committee would not refer the resolution to the full Legislature. Admin's failure to recommend contract extension means "we're going to take a second look ... at some sort of competitive marketing process" to acquire voting-machine storage space by leasing, McNall said Wednesday. "Maybe we will do an RFP; I'm still looking into the proper way" to shop around for space.