|As Dave Ulrich gets into his Ferrari, (above), or sports by in his Bentley (bottom of page), he can be at peace about paying for them. Thanks to the local GOP, Niagara County taxpayers are leasing his Newfane warehouse (below) for $200,000 plus each year. Ulrich paid $75,000 for the warehouse.
Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso said an apparent case of bid specifications designed to suit a particular bidder in connection with warehouse space to store
voting machines in Lockport is part of a wider pattern that Republicans have engaged in for years.
"If you look at the request for proposals, it's pretty clear they deliberately eliminated any competition," he said.Specifically, Virtuoso said, bid specifications for voting machine storage were tailor made to suit a Transit Road warehouse owned by David Ulrich, a political gadfly
who donates heavily to Republicans.
Ulrich bought the 60-year-old warehouse for $75,340 in 2004. In 2008, he received his first no-bid lease, a five-year deal that paid him more each year than he paid
for the property. At $86,400 a year, for five years, and another one-year renewal, Ulrich earned a cool $518,400 to store voting booths that might have been stored in
any number of county-owned buildings for free.
In 2012, Ulrich got another no-bid lease for the storage of county records for $128,160 per year, for five years, for a total of $640,800.
In order to justify this expenditure, the county had to declare the 10-year-old, $500,000 storage facility they owned on Davison Rd., and did not have to pay rent on,
was in need of repair and could not be expanded - an absolute falsehood, as anyone who has inspected the facility knows.
Today, Ulrich collects $214,560 per year for a warehouse he paid $75,340 to purchase. All told he will get more than $1,158,000 in rent from county taxpayers from his
Under pressure from Virtuoso, fellow Democrat Jason Zona and the Niagara Falls Reporter, the Republican majority and their handpicked County Manager Jeffrey Glatz put
out a new request for proposals for the storing of voting booths. Bids were opened last week.
The successful bidder was Ulrich.
Ulrich is a big-time Republican contributor who donated $43,050 to Republican State Sen. George Maziarz.
He has also contributed heavily to other 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 various PACs
associated with the GOP and the Niagara County GOP.
Last year, Virtuoso and Zona called foul when Ulrich's no-bid contract once again came up for approval.
They demanded the contract be put out to bid. Ulrich responded
by doubling the monthly cost of his warehouse rental, and the Republican majority further responded by dragging its collective feet so that he could milk the taxpayers
for half a year- which equaled another $86,400.
Sources told the Niagara Falls Reporter that Ulrich's bid last week came in at about $79,000 a year.
Not only did the bid specifications call for a space that just happened to be the exact size of Ulrich's warehouse – 26,000 square feet – but other details including
the number of parking spaces seemed designed to favor Ulrich's building.
The kicker was a specification that the storage facility be located no more than 12 miles from downtown Lockport. Ulrich's building is exactly 12 miles from downtown
"That just made no sense," said Zona. "The overwhelming majority of the voting machines are used in Niagara Falls and the immediately adjacent suburbs. It sure looks
like something's going on here."
Even a Republican source close to the bid process privately admitted that this looked a little fishy."Centralizing is not that big a deal," the source said under condition of anonymity. "Voting booths are something used two times a year. You and I both know the 12-
mile distance was unnecessary. The savings are not there."
Less than a week before the bid deadline, and following a Reporter expose, Glatz said the county would "consider" bids from outside the 12-mile limit.
But by that time it was too late.
"I know the Niagara Falls City School Board was going to put in a bid that would have been substantially lower than what we're paying," said Democratic lawmaker Zona.
"My information was that it was in the neighborhood of $50,000 a year. But they saw the 12-mile requirement in the RFP and decided not to bid."
Niagara Falls School Board President Russell Petrozzi confirmed that the school board would have put in a bid but were discouraged by the 12 mile limit.
"When we became aware the county was putting out the request for quotes, I thought it was a great opportunity to offer some district space we have available right on
the property the county already utilizes (Trott Center)," said Petrozzi. "Unfortunately, when we found out the specs stated we had to be within 12 miles of Lockport,
we did not submit a bid. It's a shame because I think we would have had a price that would save the county some money and help the district as well."
School Board member and candidate for state senate Johnny Destino added, "When I presented the county's proposal for a storage facility to my fellow board members, I
thought it would be a great way of saving money for the taxpayers of Niagara County and our school district….But unfortunately we see the corruption of the county GOP
showing its face again and their political games polluting the bidding process."
Zona said the voting machine storage is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Republican affinity for Ulrich, who owns considerable property around Lockport
and has numerous contracts with Niagara County.
"The guy is getting rich off the county. He's got numerous contracts with various agencies that bring in something between $500,000 and $1 million a year."
In defending the selection of Ulrich, a Republican source told the Reporter that the Ulrich property is retrofitted for the needs of the voting booths, including
outlets that drop from the ceiling allowing the new booths to remain plugged in. Ulrich also has a radio tower on the property that he allows the county to use for
free (and which he might not allow the county to use for free, if he lost the bid) and he did submit the lowest 'qualified' bid.
But others don't buy it, arguing that the writing of the bid and even the timing of it, were tailored to insure Ulrich won the bid."We've been talking about putting this bid out for a year and a half," said Virtuoso. "The (GOP majority) waited until the end of July, the last minute, to put this
out, and it was completely crafted to get the outcome they wanted."
As usual, the losers are the taxpayers of Niagara County.Ulrich tools around in his $260,000 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider.
He also has an Aston Martin and a Bentley.
That's how business is done here .
The people's business.