PORTLAND — A Maine Superior Court justice heard arguments but made no decision Wednesday on whether the lowest bidder should receive the job of building an addition to the Lisbon High School gymnasium.

After hearing from lawyers representing the Lisbon School Department and Landry/French Construction of Scarborough, Justice Nancy Mills said she’d wait for clarification on when bids expire.

The winning Ledgewood bid expires Friday, Lisbon School Department attorney Jerry Crouter said. If by Friday there’s no court decision, “these prices could go away. That could upset the apple cart,” Crouter said. 
Representing Kevin French of Landry/French, lawyer A. Robert Ruesch said his understanding was that the prices in the bids are good for 60 days. “I don’t anticipate that being a problem,” he said. 
Mills asked for clarification. “I’ll wait for that, then issue a decision.”
The Lisbon School Department plans to expand the high school gym with local funds, which were approved by voters in June.
On Oct. 29, the School Department awarded the contract to Ledgewood. Its bid of $4.56 million was the second-lowest. The lowest bid was from Landry/French for $4.49 million, a difference of $75,000.
Ruesch asked for an injunction to halt the award. 
At issue is whether state law requires the Lisbon School Department to award the contract to the lowest bidder. Ruesch argued that it does, that the job should go to the lowest qualified bidder, which was Landry/French Construction. 

In order to participate in the bidding process, Landry/French had to pre-qualify, Ruesch said in court. Giving the contract to the second-lowest bidder would not be fair to taxpayers, and would be “a step back from fair, open competition,” he said.

It would make companies reluctant to step into the bidding process, he said. “What we have here is favoritism,” Reusch said. “This is a serious issue.” To protect the public and the process, the award should go to the lowest bidder “who is Randy French,” Reusch said.

Lisbon School Department attorney Jerry Crouter said state law does require a bidding process, “which was what was done.” But it does not require that the lowest bid be accepted, he said. State regulations allow the owner to reserve the right to accept the bid that’s in the school department’s best interest, Crouter said. 
The Lisbon School Department “exercised their best judgment in accepting the second-lowest bid,” he said. The School Department favored Ledgewood for its “on-time” and “on-budget” record. 

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