River logjam project comes in 62 percent below estimate

Four bids for clearing log jams in the Auglaize River came in where one Auglaize County official thought, while he says one bid far exceeded his expectations to the point of suspicion and skepticism.

Engineers estimated clearing logjams and trees along a 62-mile stretch of the Auglaize River from Westminster in Allen County, through Auglaize County and ending at the Allen County-Putnam County line at $776,020.

On Thursday, commissioners from Auglaize, Allen and Shelby counties opened bids on the project with the bid from Rahrig Tree Co., of Forest, breaking the stoic looks of the commissioners and Soil Water & Conservation District technicians into small smiles.

Rahrig Tree Co. submitted a bid of $294,869, 62 percent below the estimate, while two others were approximately $130,000 below the estimate, one at the estimate and one nearly $100,000 above the estimate.

Allen Soil and Water

Conservation District Drainage Technician Dan Ellerbrock and his staff will evaluate the bids and offer a recommendation to the commissioners at a future meeting. They have worked with Rahrig Tree Co. in the past.

“We had four bids close to the estimate and one contractor who was more than 50 percent below the estimate — that always makes you wonder if they understood the bid document and the work that is needed to be done,” Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart said after the bid opening ceremony in the Auglaize County Commissioners Office. “This gentleman has completed the Ottawa River project for the Allen Soil and Water Conservation District and that project went through the heart of the city of Lima and Dan (Ellerbrock) says he is very comfortable with the work they have done.

“I would have been highly skeptical if they had never tackled a river project and did not understand the massive amount of work that needs to be done,” the county engineer said, “but that obviously is not the case.”

With the last inventory of logjams completed seven years ago, Reinhart said he could see the project cost climb at least $150,000 with the additional trees that have fallen into the river from the January 2005 ice storm and the June 29 wind storm this year.

Reinhart said they inspected the St. Marys River, which was cleared of logjams in the late 1990s and they found an average of 25 new trees per mile having fallen into the river since last fall. He estimated approximately 1,500 more trees in the Auglaize River project area now then there were in 2005 when the last inventory was completed.

Reinhart explained this will likely cause Rahrig’s offer to rise, if they are awarded the contract.

Bidders estimated a cost for removing a one-tree jam, a two to three tree jam, a jam causing a major blockage and a “mega jam.” They multiplied that cost by the number of logjams of each type.

If additional jams are found beyond the number provided by Ellerbrock than a logjam coordinator and the contractor can agree on additional logjams and trees to be removed.

“I think there is enough stuff out there to get close to that $776,000 mark, but this just allows us to be pretty aggressive on taking out leaning trees that might eventually fall into the river,” Ellerbrock said after the bid opening and after contractors left.

Ellerbrock explained the contractor is to start downstream and work their way to the headwaters and then work back down. Ellerbrock’s staff and the contractor keep a daily log of the trees removed so an inventory is kept and the amount of money expended tracked.

Any money remaining after the project is completed becomes part of the project’s maintenance fund. The maintenance fund is for future tree and logjam removal as well as bank repair.

The other bids for the Auglaize River project ranged from $634,275 submitted by Turf Concepts, of Elida, to $849,010 by Brumbaugh Construction, of Arcanum. The remaining two bids were submitted by J & M Excavating, of Cloverdale,  at $766,300 and All-Purpose Contracting, of Delphos, at $642,245.