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SEP 30- OCT 07, 2014

Will County Taxpayers be on hook for GOP contributor?

By Frank Parlato

September 30, 2014

The County RFQ required that the distance between any bidder's storage space and the Board of Elections at 111 Main St in Lockport be no more than 12 miles. Guess what? David Ulrich’s warehouse is 11.4 miles away.
All of Niagara Falls was eliminated by the 12 mile rule in the RFQ. Pine Ave is 19.5 miles away.


The Niagara County Request for Quotation (RFQ) for storage space for voting machines dated April 22, 2014, states that "the County of Niagara reserves the right to reject in whole or in part any and all bids and quotations."

It's hard to resist forming the opinion that the GOP-controlled county legislature fully intended to reject any and all bids, other than one man's, David Ulrich, for their storage space for their voting machines. Republicans control the legislature 11 to 4.

The RFQ is replete with requirements that suit Ulrich's property at 1961 Transit Rd. in Newfane to a tee.

On the instructions accompanying the RFQ there is an affidavit that bidders must sign that attests that the bidder has not "colluded" with other bidders to keep the price high or predetermine who will win the bid.

"Bid rigging, combinations or conspiracies to restrain competition, and the making of false sworn statements in connection with the submission of bids are unlawful and may be subject to criminal prosecution," the RFQ states and it also requires the bidder to swear "the price(s) and amount of this bid have been arrived at independently, without consultation, communication, or agreement for the purpose of restricting competition with any other contractor, bidder, or potential bidder."

In Ulrich's case, he did not need to collude with other bidders. The county manager himself, Jeffrey Glatz, overseeing the writing of the RFQ, made certain it was written to all but eliminate other bidders and for voting booths to stay right where they are -- inside Ulrich's oversized warehouse where they've been for more than six years.

The cleverly crafted RFQ required 56 parking spaces. Good news! That's just what Ulrich has at his warehouse!

In an earlier edition - we suggested that this was the case and we have now further proof, by way of photographs taken last week, inside Ulrich's warehouse, that this RFQ was tailor-made for the generous Ulrich.

As readers know, Ulrich is generous. He donated $43,050 to Republican State Sen. George Maziarz.? He contributed more than $24,000 to the Niagara County GOP. He contributed to Republicans including Chris Lee, Chris Collins, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Henry Wojtaszek, George Bush, Alphonse D'Amato, Nancy Naples, the New York Republican Committee and PACs associated with the GOP.

Why wouldn't the county GOP help this kind and generous soul by renting his warehouse?

In 2008, Ulrich was awarded the original lease to store the voting booths without putting it to bid. The GOP -controlled county legislature handed the lease to him at the price he wanted - about $3 per square foot.

This photo of the inside of Ulrich’s warehouse shows that the voting machines are spaced out without any attempt at conservation of space. County taxpayers pay per square foot of space. There’s a lot of square feet that is unneeded here.


There's even a mammoth conference area taxpayers pay for that is five times the size needed.

Under pressure last year from Democrats Jason Zona and Dennis Virtuoso and from the Niagara Falls Reporter, which published reports on the marvelous fortune Ulrich has reaped at the hands of the county GOP, the Republican majority on the legislature consented to put the lease for the voting machines storage out to bid.

But a close look at the RFQ suggests it was literally tailored to match what Ulrich has to offer.

For instance, in the RFQ, under "Location and Access" it reads: "The space shall be located within the boundaries of Niagara County and no greater than a twelve (12) mile radius from 111 Main Street Lockport."

Ulrich's warehouse is 11.4 miles from the Board of Elections.

The 12 mile distance eliminated Niagara Falls. Pine Ave is 19.5 miles away. It removed Lewiston. Center Rd is 20 miles away.

Glatz, who wrote this strange condition, admitted his thinking was flawed. Under pressure to explain why voting machines - most of which are used in the western part of the county - had to be close to Lockport, Glatz finally admitted there was no reason they had to be stored within 12 miles of the board of elections.

He suddenly amended the RFQ - but only verbally- making an announcement in newspapers that he would consider other locations. But by the time he did that it was a few days before the bids were due and serious bidders outside the 12 mile area like the Niagara Falls School District did not bid because it was too late to formulate an intelligent proposal. The Niagara Falls District had the space available and would have bid.

But the entire RFQ is flawed and tailored to Ulrich.

In the RFQ, under "Space," it states: "The County requires approximately 28,800 usable square feet of space." That's an odd number for an approximation.

But then Ulrich has 28,800 square feet available.

But is it true the county needs that much?

The photos that accompany this story show the amount of space required as part RFQ was plumped up to meet the space Ulrich has available.

These photos show, Niagara County could have gotten by with much less space than the RFQ required.

The photos of Ulrich's warehouse show more than a third of the space is unused and unneeded. That's at least10,000 square feet of unused and unneeded space.

That's enough room to have a disco party.

Yet, for years, the county paid for an extra 10,000 square feet it did not need. And taxpayers (county) paid utilities on that space, too.

The Reporter learned Niagara County pays about $12,000 per year in gas and electric for the Ulrich warehouse.

But on and on it goes.

Each and every requirement on the RFQ suits Ulrich.

Parking: "The County requires fifty-six (56) parking spaces adjacent to the building."

That's the number of parking spaces that Ulrich has on his property.

"The facility must have two (2) loading docks with gasket doors (and) one (1) drive-in entry with a gasket door."

Gasket doors? Really? Ulrich has gasket doors.

Entrances: "There must be two (2) handicapped accessible walk-in entrances."

Why wouldn't one be enough for a warehouse? Will there be that many handicapped people coming in to move voting machines to polling locations? But Ulrich happens to have two.

Electrical: "Sixty-five (65) drop-down electrical plugs with four plugs each."

You will notice the pictures show Ulrich's plugs drop down from the ceiling. He happens to have 65.

You might ask "couldn't outlets be on walls or floors?"

No. That wouldn't suit Ulrich.

The lease, set for five years, can, according to the RFQ, be extended to 10 years at the discretion of the county and, if Ulrich is awarded this bid, which seems likely, he will get about $80,000 per year - each year- for 10 years.

That seems a good deal for Ulrich - even if it is not for the county. Ulrich bought the 62-year-old warehouse - once a mattress factory- but long abandoned - for $75,340 in 2004.

In 2008, he got his first no-bid lease for the voting booths, a five-year deal that paid him $86,400 a year - more in one year than he paid for the entire property.

Then he got a one year renewal. The next year Ulrich doubled his rate from $3 to $6 per square foot and received another $86,400 for six months making the taxpayer payments to him $604,800.

But it gets better. In 2012, at the same location, Ulrich rented out the other half of his warehouse to --guess who?

Niagara County gave him another no-bid lease for the storage of county records for $128,160 per year, for five years, for a total of another $640,800.

Ulrich collects $258,960 per year for a warehouse he paid $75,340 to purchase. He will get more than $1,239,000 in rent from county taxpayers from his current leases, not counting the new one the GOP is hoping to give him based on the latest tailor-made RFQ.

And that's not counting earlier leases Ulrich got from the county.

The Republican-controlled county legislature handed Ulrich a long-term lease for 20-40 East Avenue in Lockport for the county to house the Department of Social Services. The county gave him another lease for 111 Main Street (the Golden Triangle Building) for the Veteran's Office, Probation, Board of Elections, Office for the Aging, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Human Resources. He also got a lease for 50 Main Street for Niagara County Community College.

The assessed value of these three properties before he got county leases was $985,000. In 2005, he sold all three buildings – all with county leases- to Roberts Management Group of California for $9.1 million.

At the end of the voting machine RFQ, similar to what it says in the beginning, it affirms the county "reserves the right to reject any and all quotations received in response to the Request for Quotation at its sole discretion."

Then they should reject all bids including Ulrich's, and start over again.

A needs assessment should be made and the RFQ should be downsized for space.

In the interest of fairness, the RFQ process should be done all over again. Of course a rebid might not please their generous contributor, Mr. David Ulrich, who might lose out on yet another windfall of taxpayer generosity courtesy of his GOP friends who control the county purse strings.

In Fact there is so much extra, unneeded space that county taxpayers are paying for that the county GOP could hold a disco party here... Note also the high ceilings, that taxpayer must heat in winter and cool in summer.






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Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
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