Poloncarz Statement Regarding Recent Actions Pertaining To The Proposed ECC "STEM" Building

Modified: July 5, 2016 9:29am

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Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s action by the County Legislature’s Community Enrichment Committee to not award the lowest responsible bidder the contract of general manager for the construction of the Erie Community College’s (“ECC”) Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) building.

“After deliberation and discussion with staff from multiple departments within my administration and President Jack Quinn of Erie Community College, effective yesterday I ordered all engineering, architectural, and construction work related to the STEM Building at ECC’s North campus to cease until the full Legislature meets on July 14 and takes final action to either reverse or affirm the action taken yesterday by the Community Enrichment Committee.

Kowtowing to the threat of lawsuit by a higher bidder, yesterday a majority of the members of the Community Enrichment Committee voted to reject awarding a construction contract to a contractor that was the lowest responsible bidder to the project. The Committee’s action almost certainly guarantees if the County awarded the contract to the next highest bidder both the County and ECC will face a significant lawsuit from the lowest responsible bidder, a lawsuit which would add hundreds of thousands of dollars, and probably millions more to the cost of the project. Despite the Legislature approving the bid and the bid process on this project to award a contract to a particular general contractor, as it has countless times in the past, it has now decided to bend to the pressure from a contractor that was discontent it was not awarded the project. This irresponsible act has in turn stirred the threat of legal challenges and most certainly affects the timeline, cost, and viability of the project.

As the former Comptroller and now as Erie County’s Executive I have the obligation to protect every tax dollar. Unfortunately yesterday’s action by the Legislature’s Committee of attempting to award the contract to a higher bidder will subject county government to undue lawsuits, deliberations and/or proceedings, goes against the intent of responsible government, and throws up another roadblock to this already delayed infrastructure investment in the educational improvement of our community. I want to acknowledge and thank Legislators Tom Loughran and Kevin Hardwick for their advocacy for both the College and this project, but due to the actions taken by others yesterday, and the heated and factually inaccurate rhetoric some of their colleagues used when discussing this project, a new barrier has been added preventing this work from continuing and putting the entire project in jeopardy.

I am disappointed that some members of the Legislature rejected awarding a contract to the lowest responsible bidder. Furthermore, I was shocked to learn a member of the Legislature discussed ignoring the County’s Charter and New York laws by possibly having the Legislature award the contract to a higher bidder that has been at the center of other controversial projects, thereby ignoring the powers delegated to the administration to perform such task. The rules are clear, the lowest responsible bidder shall be chosen, and that is what my administration and ECC were attempting to do.

I will not be intimidated by disgruntled losing bidders and their threats of lawsuits as some members of the legislature may. I will also not stand idly by while this legislature or any party deliberately makes reckless decisions that have the potential to waste hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars of taxpayer money. I will act in accordance with the law and in the best interest of the people of Erie County, even if that means the project might not be built.”