LITCHFIELD — A contractor recently threatened legal action against the town for accepting a rival company’s higher bid for a project, but town officials say it’s moot because they’ve decided to wait until spring to do the job.

The town in early October received two bids to replace a hot water heater in the Bantam Annex building. Sav-Mor Cooling & Heating bid $19,400; West State Mechanical bid $26,690.

In a letter from attorney Peter E. Strniste of Robinson & Cole, on behalf of Sav-Mor Cooling & Heating, Sav-Mor was “left with the clear understanding that the contract would be awarded to Sav-Mor” after public works Director Raz Alexei met with that company’s owner and discussed the job. Later, Strniste wrote, Sav-Mor learned that West State’s bid had been accepted.

But according to town attorney Michael Rybak, the bid was not officially accepted, and the bidding process was put on hold. For now, no one is getting the work.

“We received the letter, and it was a bid protest,” he said. “And as a result of the protest, we reexamined the bid process the day after the letter (from Strniste) was received. It’s a moot issue.”

According to Strniste, Alexei told Sav-Mor that then-First Selectman Leo Paul had instructed him to accept West State’s bid, “without explanation.” That conversation has not been confirmed.

“These circumstances raise serious concern regarding the propriety of the town’s bid selection process,” Strniste wrote. After comparing the two companies, he continued to question the reasoning of accepting the higher bid and accused Litchfield of practicing “favoritism.”

Strniste said in the letter that unless Litchfield chose Sav-Mor over West Side, his client would take legal action to stop the town from using the higher bidder.

Rybak said that after reviewing Litchfield’s public works policy on bidding, the public works director realized he should have waited to receive at least three bids, and recommended rejecting both bids and initiating the bidding process for the work in the spring.

“This is a very limited project — there’s not much to it. It’s a hot water heater,” Rybak said. “Raz (Alexei) recommended to Leo that since there were only two bids, and policy recommends there be at least three, that we reject the bids and wait. It was never brought to the full Board of Selectmen for a vote. It didn’t get that far.”

Rybak also said selectmen could discuss the issue at their next meeting, which is Tuesday. “This would be something they would discuss in executive session. But they can also just wait until spring,” he said. “It’s a confidential matter for the board — it’s really up to them.”

Connecticut Media Group