Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, in case of In Re: Lease of coal on County lands situate in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, Pa., No. 2618 of 1975.
Edward P. Zemprelli, for appellant.
Irving L. Bloom, for appellee, County of Westmoreland.
Thomas Anton, for intervening appellee, Weiss Bros.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 25 Pa. Commw. Page 531]
This is an appeal by Fred Fiore, owner of Fiore Coal Company, from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County denying a petition for approval of a lease for the mining of coal on land located within Westmoreland County's Institution District. We reverse and remand.
[ 25 Pa. Commw. Page 532]
On February 13, 1975, the Westmoreland County Commissioners directed the county solicitor to prepare an advertisement for strip mining and deep mining of coal on certain county-owned lands. The advertisement specified that each bidder would submit bids in alternate form, either to pay the County on a price per ton basis or on the basis of a percentage of the sale price of the coal, and that no bid would be considered unless it contained bids for both strip mining and deep mining. The County reserved the right to reject any or all bids. On April 24, 1975, after several bids were submitted in response to the advertisement, the Commissioners authorized the solicitor to contract with Weiss Brothers Leasing, Inc. (Weiss) for the drilling and test boring on the coal site. Whether a contract of this nature was ever executed we do not know. On July 24, 1975, the Commissioner unanimously agreed to award the lease for mining of coal on the site to Fiore on a percentage basis with a minimum price of not less than $5.27 per ton.*fn1 Fiore's bid, as amended, was clearly the best bid. The Commissioners then petitioned the Court of Common Pleas for approval of the Fiore bid, as required by Section 2306 of The County Code.*fn2 On September 19, 1975, the date fixed for hearing, the lower court en banc engaged in an extended colloquy with counsel representing Fiore, several disappointed bidders and a newly appointed county solicitor. On the same day as the so-called hearing the court below entered a brief order disapproving the award of the lease to Fiore for the following reasons:
[ 25 Pa. Commw. Page 533]
"1) Confusion in advertising.
"2) Irregularity in accepting bids of two bidders.
"3) The approval of this sale would not be in the best interest of the people of Westmoreland County." Fiore ...