The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that the Niagara County Republican Majority in the county legislature has decided to turn down a late-breaking offer of $153,000 for 95 acres of county-owned land on Davison Rd., in Lockport, in order to sell it for $100,700 to a Republican campaign contributor, R.B. Mac Construction Company.
The higher offer came to light during a legislature committee meeting yesterday and the Republican majority decided to forgo the $53,000 higher offer because, as they said, they wanted to give it to R.B. Mac of Lockport which met the deadline for bids.
The higher offer, made by Ryan and Greg Mulvey, businessmen in the area, came in after the deadline for offers for the property, as described by an RFP the county published when it first sought bids. The Mulveys offered a total of $153,000 for two parcels, $103,000 for a 17-acre parcel fronting on Davison Rd. and $50,000 for a 78-acre back land wooded parcel.
R.B Mac offered $100,700 for both parcels.
"We have to provide a valid reason to reject a bid on RFP," said a Republican source who asked not to be named. "The integrity of the process would be undermined by arbitrary rejection of a bid--and we would have potential exposure to a lawsuit."
When asked why that would be the case since the RFP states that the county can reject any offer including the highest offer on any bid, the Republican source said, "You can't sue a private owner for backing out before a contract is signed. You can sue a government for violating the terms of its own RFP."
This isn't the first time, Republicans turned down better deals on this parcel.
In 2011, the county offered the Davison Rd. land for sale in an online auction. The winner was Dr. Douglas McLeod of Tacoma, WA., who submitted a bid of $160,000 for the 16.9-acre road front parcel alone.
When he disclosed his plans for a four-story senior-citizen condominium building, he was told the proposal ran afoul of the town's zoning ordinance. He withdrew his bid.
This year, after the county received a $50,700 proposal from R.B. Mac and despite a bid amount less than one-third of what McCleod offered in 2011, and a one third higher bid on the table, county Legislators decided to go ahead and draw up a resolution to vote on accepting the R.B. Mac offer.
It is not known what R.B. Mac plans to do with the two parcels.
Back in June 2003, the two parcels were appraised by Girasole Appraisal Company of Niagara Falls. The 17-acre site was appraised for more than $285,000 and the 78-acre site for more than $235,000. Combined, the two parcels were worth $520,000, Girasole wrote in their appraisal.
Now the Republican-led legislature wants to sell it for $100,700.
R.B. Mac has received county work, as well as contracts from the Lockport School District. Recently, the company was named general contractor for the construction of a vehicle and property storage facility for the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, with a $663,000 tab.
The vice president of R. B. Mac, according to public records, is Robert Burke, a Republican active in Niagara County and Lockport politics. Campaign disclosure reports show the company made numerous donations to Lockport Republican Supervisor Marc Smith.
It is unknown if the same zoning issue that scotched the McLeod deal will threaten any construction proposal put forth by R.B. Mac. The parcel straddles the line between the city and the town of Lockport, and the city portion is zoned restricted use, and, without rezoning, can be used only for recreation, a cemetery or essential services.
Dennis Virtuoso(D-Niagara Falls) wants the legislature to slow down the process and asked that the measure be tabled. The Republicans vetoed his idea.
"If this was their own, personal property, who would take a lower offer when there is a higher offer? Nobody," said Virtuoso. "We should find out what the property is worth. Then go back and sell it for market value."
Democrat Jason Zona (D- Niagara Falls) scoffed at the notion that RB Mac, the recipient of millions of dollars in county work, would sue the county.
"Look, we can get $50,000 more, we owe it to the taxpayers to get the best price."
Republican Richard Updegrove, who has close ties to R.B. Mac (Mac put Updegrove campaign signs on their property) argued that the sale must go to R.B. Mac, since they were the bidder who made the bid on deadline.
Two months ago, the county turned down the low bidder on a plan for county phone service despite threats by two of the bidders to sue.
"This is no different," Zona said. "This should be rejected and probably would be rejected if R.B. Mac weren't a Republican donor."