Can Retainage Be Held Until Final Completion Of The Project?

On public projects, an owner typically withholds retainage of 10%. Can the owner hold this 10% retainage until final completion? The short answer is, No! Section 3921 of the PA Procurement Code mandates that, when the contract is 50% completed, retainage "shall Read more

Can A Public Owner Ever Seek Clarification Of Ambiguous Pricing?

Recently, a public owner solicited bids for a university construction project. The bid form sought pricing for base bid work and alternate work. One of the bidders included ambiguous pricing for an alternate item, in that the pricing was Read more

Debriefing After Non-Selection Does Not Toll 7-Day Deadline For Bid Protest

The Pa. Procurement Code sets a strict deadline for bid protests - the protest must be filed within seven days after the protestant knew or should have known of the facts giving rise to the protest.  If the protest is untimely, it Read more

Does Separations Act Prohibit Use Of Best Value Contracting For Construction Of Philadelphia Public Buildings?

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 Read more

Does PA Steel Act Prohibit Public Owner From Specifying Foreign-Made Cast Iron Boiler?

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 Read more

How To Obtain A Copy Of A Payment Bond On A Public Project

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Let’s assume you are a first- or second-tier subcontractor on a public project and you’ve been stiffed by the prime contractor. You qualify as a claimant under the Pa. Public Works Contractors Bond Law of 1967, but, without a copy of the prime contractor’s payment bond, you cannot proceed with a claim against the surety. The prime refuses to cough up a copy of the bond. How do you get a copy of the bond?

The Bond Law provides an answer. A subcontractor on a public project has an absolute right to obtain a certified copy of a payment bond upon submission of an affidavit to the public owner. The affidavit must state that (a) the subcontractor has furnished material or performed labor for completion of the work provided for in the contract, and (b) it has not been fully paid for such labor or material.  The public owner is permitted to charge the subcontractor a fee to cover the actual cost of the preparation of such copy.

Here’s a trick: if you request a copy of a payment bond with the required statements, and add that the statements are also made “subject to the penalties of 18 Pa.C.S. § 4904 (relating to unsworn falsification to authorities),” then the request will double as the required affidavit.

If you need assistance with this issue, call or email me for a no-cost consultation.  I’ll be happy to assist in anyway possible.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Surety and Bonding Leave a comment

Public Bidding 101: Emergency Bidding

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Emergency contracting for repairs, maintenance, and public safety are a routine occurrence with public owners across the Commonwealth. A building in danger of collapse needs to be torn down on an immediate basis to ensure public safety.  A system fails in a public building requiring an emergency repair to restore the system to proper working order. A roadway or bridge is washed out during a storm mandating immediate action to restore access for the public and emergency vehicles. In such dire situations, can a public owner bypass the normal rules of competitive bidding and award a contract an expedited basis? The answer is yes, with some caveats.

Where an emergency threatens the health, welfare, or safety of the citizenry, and does not permit a delay in response, a public owner can dispense with the formal rules of public bidding such as timing of award and public notice. On the other hand, even in an emergency, the public owner cannot simply award a contract without competition.  An emergency may relax the requirement for notice and advertising, but it doesn’t eliminate competition. After all, if a public owner can invite pricing from one contractor in an emergency, there is usually no good reason why it can’t also invite pricing from other contractors at the same time.

This principle is aptly illustrated by the emergency bidding section in the Commonwealth Procurement Code, at 62 Pa.C.S. § 516, which provides:

The head of a purchasing agency may make or authorize others to make an emergency procurement when there exists a threat to public health, welfare or safety or circumstances outside the control of the agency create an urgency of need which does not permit the delay involved in using more formal competitive methods. Whenever practical, in the case of a procurement of a supply, at least two bids shall be solicited. A written determination of the basis for the emergency and for the selection of the particular contractor shall be included in the contract file.

Thus, the Procurement Code recognizes that, even in the face of an emergency, competition and transparency are still required.

Likewise, the Public School Code, at 24 P.S. § 7-751, also allows for emergency contracting but still requires competition:

… Provided, That, if due to an emergency a school plant or any part thereof becomes unusable, competitive bids for repairs or replacement may be solicited from at least three responsible bidders, and, upon the approval of any of these bids by the board of school directors, the school district may proceed at once to make the necessary repairs or replacements in accordance with the terms of said approved bid or bids. …

In Upper Darby Twp. v. Ramsdell Construction Co., a 1943 trial court decision, the court noted that “statutory requirements that municipalities must have contracts in writing and advertise for bids have been held not to apply to a situation where there is an emergency.” But the court also added: “The important thing, therefore, in these cases would seem to be the determination as to whether or not there was an emergency.”

The bottom line is that, in a documented emergency requiring immediate attention, a public owner can dispense with the normal rules of public bidding while still having to seek competition.

If you need assistance on a public bidding issue, call or email me for a no-cost consultation.  I’ll be happy to assist in anyway possible.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Procurement Code, Public Bidding 101, Public School Code Leave a comment

Losing Bids Under Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law Not Subject To Disclosure Under Right-To-Know Law

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While the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) generally provides that, after the conclusion of public bidding, all bids are potential public records subject to disclosure, this is not always the case in all public procurements.  A recent decision of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Com. v. Walsh/Granite JV, made this point clear when the Court denied a RTKL request to obtain copies of the losing bids on a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law (3P Law) project known as the Pennsylvania Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

Is Best Value Contracting The Future For The City Of Philadelphia?

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Is “best value” contracting the next, new thing for the City of Philadelphia?

The Philadelphia City Council recently passed a resolution proposing an amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter that would give the Procurement Department the option to award contracts, which are normally awarded to the lowest, responsible bidder, to “the responsible bidder whose proposal provides the City with the best value.” This amendment would radically alter a provision in Article VIII, Chapter 2, of the Charter that has been in place since the Charter was first enacted in 1952. Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Best Value Contracting, City of Phila. Leave a comment

Pa. Prevailing Wage Act, Revisited

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The Pa. Prevailing Wage Act mandates that workers on Pennsylvania public construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration, or repair projects costing more than $25,000, other than those involving “maintenance work,” must be paid the general prevailing minimum wage rates. “Maintenance work” is defined in the Act as “the repair of existing facilities when the size, type or extent of such facilities is not thereby changed or increased.”

According to the Pa. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Borough of Youngwood v. Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Appeals Board, the definition of maintenance work must be narrowly construed:

[B]ecause the Act provides that “public work” includes “repair” and that the exception to “public work” (i.e., “maintenance work”) includes “repair” of a specific type, it logically follows that the General Assembly intended that “maintenance work” be considered a lesser or minor form of “repair.” Therefore, we hold that in construing the Act, the focus must fall principally on the Act’s clear mandate that prevailing wages are to be paid to workers on public works projects that meet the criteria of 43 P.S. § 165-2(5), taking into consideration that “maintenance work” is an exception to this mandate and must be narrowly construed. The linguistic construction of “maintenance work,” in turn, must recognize that the Act defines “maintenance work” as a subset of “repair,” and must be accordingly viewed in this narrow manner.

The Commonwealth Court has further held that “maintenance work” is “the repair of existing facilities, that is, facilities that at some point were operating properly but have now failed to do so.” Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Prevailing Wage Leave a comment