Crow Wing County residents along two county highways should expect tree-clearing work related to two reconstruction projects scheduled for next year.

The Crow Wing County Board authorized at its Tuesday, Oct. 8, meeting entering into a contract between the county and Borden Excavating Inc. of Merrifield.

“We’re actually trying to cut the trees down before the long-eared bat kind of gets roosting and doing its thing, so we’re required to do it in the fall,” County Engineer Tim Bray told the board.

The contract was for $119,650 for tree clearing on County State Aid Highway 13 from County Road 137 to CSAH 4, and on CSAH 36 from CSAH 3 to the Pine River bridge.

The county received four bids for the work. Borden Excavating Inc. was the low bidder while Kivisto West Tree Service of Dassel submitted the highest bid at $444,950.

“One thing I noticed is that there's a big variation in the four contracts, so I’m just kind of wondering, do you have any idea why?” Commissioner Rosemary Franzen asked Bray.

Engineers estimated the tree-clearing work would cost $107,575, with construction expected to begin on or after Nov. 4 and completed by March 27.

Conservation of the northern long-eared bat is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency may regulate tree removal if conducted within 150 feet of a tree in which a female northern long-eared bat has been documented to roost.

“The variation in the contracts or the bids … very, very big difference, and I looked at that and kind of scratched my head, too, but I think tree removal can be done for these types of projects in a lot of different ways,” Bray said.

DeChantal Excavating LLC of Brainerd had a bid of $137,605.25 while Gladen Construction Inc. of Laporte put in a bid of $225,081 for the tree-clearing work. Kivisto West Tree Service’s bid, however, was 313.62% over the cost estimated by engineers - and Franzen questioned it.

“Kivisto West Tree Service ... they might be specializing in taking (out) the very precision trees around your house, and that’s certainly a different cost than an excavating company, who was the low bidder … and maybe just push it over with a ‘dozer or something like that,” Bray said.

CSAH 13 is in poor condition and ranked in the bottom 5% among all Crow Wing County roads. It has a ride quality of 38 based on a scale of 0-100. The pavement is 22 years old and was last overlaid in 1997.

“I have a constituent on that road who has a tree that they want saved. Can you tell me what process we’re going through ... to make sure that happens?” Franzen asked Bray.

Bray replied, “We asked the resident to do the work if they were interested in moving and saving that tree. … The right of way has been delivered along that corridor; we’re talking about the east portion of CSAH 13 from Lake Edward Town Hall to County Road 137.”

CSAH 13 serves as a primary connection for transportation between Nisswa, Breezy Point and Brainerd. The 3.2-mile stretch of road is a federally funded project that is anticipated to be reconstructed in the summer of 2020.

“My understanding is that there’s really two windows … one in the fall and one in the spring to get trees of that size and that type moved,” Bray said. “We will reach out to that resident to find out their wishes, whether to actually move it or include it in this (tree-clearing) contract.”