Now that “best value” contracting is officially the new game in town for City of Philadelphia procurement, with the issuance of the new best value regulations, it’s worth asking whether the longstanding Separations Act precludes the City from using best value contracting for contracts for the construction of public buildings.
The Separations Act provides that, for public building construction in Pennsylvania in excess of $4,000, all public owners must prepare separate specifications, solicit separate bids, and award separate contracts for general construction, plumbing, heating and ventilating, and electrical work, with the additional requirement that the award must be made to the “lowest responsible bidder.”
The Separations Act unquestionably applies to the City. With a mandate to award the contract to “the lowest responsible bidder,” the Separations Act would appear to prohibit the City from using a “best value” standard to award construction contracts for a City public building project. Of course, time will tell whether City officials and the courts will agree with this viewpoint.
If you need assistance on a Separations Act issue, feel free to call or email me for a no-cost consultation. I’ll be happy to assist in anyway possible.
The PA Steel Products Procurement Act requires that all steel products (including cast iron products) supplied on a Pennsylvania public works project must be made from U.S.-made steel.
Recently, a school district’s contract specified a cast iron boiler manufactured in Europe as the so-called “basis of design.” No domestic cast iron boilers were permitted under the boiler specification. Is this practice legal under the PA Steel Products Procurement Act? Can a public owner simply override the Steel Act with a proprietary specification for a name-brand product which is made outside the U.S. but which is preferred by the owner’s design team? Read more
In a recent case of first impression, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed a lower court ruling that a disappointed bidder lacked standing to challenge a contract awarded by a non-Commonwealth entity under the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Act (P3 Act).
In April 2016, the Northampton County General Purpose Authority issued a Request for Proposals under the P3 Act for the Northampton County Bridge Renewal Program for the replacement, rehabilitation, and maintenance of 33 bridges in Northampton County. Four bidders responded, including Clearwater Construction, Inc./Northampton County Bridge Partners LLC and Kriger Construction, Inc. Ultimately, the Authority selected Kriger to negotiate a public-private partnership agreement to develop the bridge renewal program. Read more
In a decision issued on July 20, 2017, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the City of Allentown’s use of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process in a contract award.
In 2015, Allentown issued an RFP for the award of a long-term solid waste and recyclables contract. Previously, Allentown had used an Invitation to Bid (ITB) process for the same contract. When a contract award was ultimately made to Waste Management of Pennsylvania, Inc., two bidders filed for an injunction, arguing that Allentown’s use of the RFP process was contrary to law. The trial court denied the injunction and an appeal was taken. Read more
If you respond to a Request for Quotes (RFQ) issued by a Commonwealth department or agency, can you protest if the resulting purchase order is awarded to another bidder?
According to the Commonwealth’s Office of Administration, the answer is no. In a recent protest, the OA issued a letter which took the remarkable position that “‘Award’ under an RFQ merely results in a Purchase Order under an existing multiple-award contract; therefore an RFQ is not the solicitation or award of a contract, and cannot be protested.”
Needless to say, this position is not supported by a fair reading of section 1711.1 of the Commonwealth Procurement Code which allows an aggrieved bidder or prospective bidder to protest the solicitation or award of a state contract. Certainly, a purchase order that is part of a multiple-award contract is nonetheless a contract; indeed, without issuance of a purchase order, the multiple-award contract is essentially meaningless. Likewise, an RFQ is a solicitation for a quote which may result in a contract – i.e., the purchase order.
In June 2017, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania initiated a disparity study that will provide information to help the Department of General Services (DGS) implement the Pennsylvania’s Small Diverse Business Program. The expected completion date for the disparity study is September 2018.
The study will include analyses of the participation of minority-, women-, disabled-, veteran-, and LGBT-owned businesses in prime contracts and subcontracts awarded by DGS during the period from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2016.
DGS has created a webpage highlighting the disparity study, with materials and a description of study team members.
The materials presented at the disparity study’s kickoff meeting can be found here.
An FAQ on the disparity study can be found here.
A recent decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania illustrates the extreme perils of waiting too long to challenge a violation of the public bidding laws.
In December 2015, the West Jefferson Hill School District solicited bids for a new high school project. All sanitary, storm, and water line installations inside and up to five feet outside the building were included in the scope of the prime plumbing contract. All site sanitary, storm, and water line installations more than five feet from the building were included in the scope of the prime general contract as “site utility” work. In January 2016, the school district awarded the prime plumbing contract to Wheels Mechanical Contracting (Wheels). Read more
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently affirmed a N.J. federal district court decision which found that that the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) had acted improperly in rejecting the low bidder for a painting contract for the Commodore Barry Bridge. My original post on the DRPA case can be found here.
In 2016, the DRPA rejected Alpha Painting & Construction Company, Inc.’s low bid and awarded the contract to Corcon, Inc., the second low bidder. After its protest was denied, Alpha sued the DRPA to rescind the award to Corcon. The district court found that the DRPA’s actions were arbitrary and capricious, and ordered the DRPA to award the contract to Alpha. The DRPA appealed.
On appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the district court, finding in a lengthy opinion that the DRPA’s decision to reject the low bidder was irrational, arbitrary, and capricious. However, the Third Circuit held that district court went too far in directing the DRPA to award the contract to Alpha. Instead, the Third Circuit remanded the case for entry of a more limited injunction, stating:
Here, DRPA arbitrarily removed Alpha from contention for the Phase 2 contract. Accordingly, Alpha should be restored to competition and DRPA should evaluate Alpha’s bid and affirmatively determine, per its guidelines, whether Alpha, the lowest bidder, is a “responsible” contractor.
On Thursday, July 13, AIA Pennsylvania, the unifying body of the Pennsylvania chapters of the American Institute of Architects, will host a debate on the Separations Act. The moderated debate will take place at Harrisburg University and will feature key players on both sides of the Separations Act. You can find more information and register to attend the event at the AIA Pennsylvania registration page.