Niagara County will shelve plans for a new phone and data network, but could end up working with Erie County in a similar bidding process.

Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, said the county is allowing the two top bids for the network to expire, thus ending a confusing process that had continued for months.

Instead, Nemi said the county will explore the possibility of joining an Erie County request for proposals for new phones. That project is about $2 million.

“We might be able to join in with them,” Nemi said. “It’d be less expensive.”

Niagara’s bidding process was clogged up due to confusion over what the bids actually were and whether cost was the most important factor for lawmakers to consider.

The two contenders were Amherst-based companies Advance 2000, which was the low bidder at $670,028 and IPLogic, which offered a choice, its original bid of $755,000 or a new offer of $700,578 made last month.

A resolution introduced by Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, bashing county Information Technology Director Larry Helwig and supporting an evaluation system for the bids was pulled off the administration committee’s agenda on Monday night.

Bradt’s resolution put the blame for the process squarely on Helwig and his department’s consultants from ECC Technology and Cannon Design. Despite Advance 2000 being the low bidder, Helwig and the consultants advised the Legislature that Cisco Systems-provider IPLogic would be the best choice. Helwig and the consultants favored the Cisco equipment and claimed Advance 2000 did not meet bid requirements, adding $200,000 originally to the company’s bid.

Nemi said the county would be better off spending the money earmarked for the new network on repairing potholes. The network was around $700,000.

The county won’t have trouble finding parts to keep its current phone system going, Nemi said.

“We found out there are at least three suppliers that can supply us with parts if need be, within a 24-hour period,” Nemi said.

The current phone and data network is older but isn’t on its last legs either. Nemi said a new system isn’t an immediate need.

©2014 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)