Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County in case of Tri-County Motor Sales, Inc., a Pennsylvania Corporation v. Robert Moore, Melvyn Wingard, Walter Mattern, Gilbert McCoy and Ralph Turner, individuals, and the Township of Richland, a Pennsylvania Municipal Corporation, No. 1977-379.
James R. DiFrancesco, for appellant.
R. Thomas Strayer, for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Craig and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
This appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County raises two related questions: whether appellant's bid on the general specifications of appellee Richland Township (Township) for a dump truck was in substantial conformity with the specifications as to qualify appellant as a competitive bidder and to entitle appellant to an award of the contract for the truck, and whether the Township Supervisors acted arbitrarily, illegally and capriciously as to abuse their discretion by awarding the contract to another bidder. The court of common pleas answered both questions in the negative, and we affirm.
In November of 1976 the Township advertised for bids on a dump truck which could also be converted for the purpose of snow plowing. The Township Supervisors prepared the general specifications for the truck by referring to literature on trucks available to them and to the specifications used for the Township's most recent truck purchase. Bids from appellant and another local truck sales company were opened at the township meeting of November 8, 1976. Appellant's bid was $33,000.00 while the other bid was $34,995.00. Because of a defect in the bidding procedures the bids were rejected. The Township readvertised for the dump truck and used the same general specifications as before but with three additional specifications: swing-out fenders, a tilt steering wheel, and a requirement of delivery within 90 days. Again only two companies made bids, and the bids were opened at the township meeting of December 6, 1976. Appellant's bid was $32,300.00 while the other bid was $34,995.00. At the meeting a lengthy discussion and comparison of the two bids was conducted in the presence of a representative of each bidder. Because the Supervisors
concluded that appellant's bid did not meet all the requirements of the second set of specifications, the contract for the dump truck was awarded to the higher bidder.
Appellant filed a complaint requesting the court of common pleas to set aside the award of the contract to the other bidder and to decree that the contract be awarded to appellant, or to award damages for lost profits. After lengthy hearings the court below entered a Decree Nisi dismissing the complaint on September 26, 1978. On March 30, 1979 appellant was permitted to file exceptions nunc pro tunc. On April 10, 1979 appellant filed 31 exceptions to the lower court's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decree. By order dated July 19, 1979 the court of common pleas dismissed the exceptions. From that order appellant appealed to this Court.
Appellant first contends that its bid was the lowest competitive bid and that it substantially met the specifications' requirements. Section 802(a) of The Second Class Township Code, Act of May 1, 1933, P.L. 103, as amended, 53 P.S. § 65802(a), directs that all township contracts or purchases, with exceptions not applicable here, in excess of $2,500.00 "shall not be made except with and from the lowest responsible bidder." The Township awarded the contract to the other bidder rather than to appellant on the basis that appellant's lower bid did not meet the advertised specifications and that therefore appellant was not the lowest responsible bidder.
The statute provides that municipal contracts be let to the lowest responsible bidder, but the courts have uniformly held that the question of who is the lowest responsible bidder is one for the sound discretion of the proper municipal authority, and ...