A lawsuit challenging Northampton County's innovative bridge bundling project has been rejected in an Opinion handed down today by Judge Craig Dally. He ruled that the suing Plaintiffs, Clearwater Construction and Northampton County Bridge Partners, LLC, lacked standing. As a result, they failed to even make it to first base.
This lawsuit involves the county's use of a "private-public partnership" contract, called P3, to repair or replace 33 structurally deficient bridges, all in one shot. The bridges were conveyed to the county's General Purpose Authority, which then sought bids from one set of experts for the entire $40 million project. This is expected to both save money and create efficiencies.
The contract had been awarded to Kriger Construction, although approval from Northampton County Council was needed. This was on the agenda for September 15, but was pulled.
In the Complaint, Clearwater and NorCo Bridge Partners contend that Kriger failed to satisfy the prerequisite requirements for a responsible bidder, and lacks bridge experience. In addition, they claim that the General Purpose Authority and department of Community and Economic Development gave undue weight to Kriger. They claimed that there had been improper influence, which they contended they could prove through discovery.
Under Pennsylvania law, a disappointed bidder ordinarily holds no property interest in a lost contract. Judge Dally was asked to interpret the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Act in the context of the bidding process for a contract with the county, which is a matter of first impression. Judge Dally concluded that, if the Plaintiffs were a "development entity" or the Defendants a Commonwealth agency, there would be statutory standing. But he concluded that no such conclusion is warranted.
Because this is a matter of first impression, an appeal appears to be likely.
Blogger's Note: Originally published 10/3 at 2:40 pm.