Price tag rises for pavement painting project

With few bidders, Crow Wing County expects to pay a higher price for pavement markings.

Tim Bray gestures to a screen as he sits next to Rob Hall in front of the county commissioners
County engineer Tim Bray, left, gestures toward the screen during a presentation with Rob Hall, assistant engineer, at the Crow Wing County Board meeting on April 11, 2023, in Brainerd.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Safety for motorists and pedestrians can boil down to a painted line.

But how to get painted street markings is becoming a little more complicated. Historically, Crow Wing County had three companies bidding for the street marking work. Last year, all three companies merged into one and the bid price went up by 39%.

“Not a lot of competition out there right now,” said Rob Hall, assistant county engineer, during the Tuesday, April 11, Crow Wing County Board meeting. “Our estimate was about $260,000 for this project, and the bid came in at $360,000 — 39% above. We had some inkling, about a month ago, this might be coming in talking to other counties. They were getting bids 60% above and with just the one bidder.”

Hall said in the past month they’ve reached out to any company they knew of with a paint truck doing this type of work and asked them to seriously consider bidding it, but no one did.

“Pavement markings are something we don't feel we can just — ‘Let's wait here and prices will come down,’” Hall said. “There are safety components of our system. We need to keep those updated.”


Hall said the recommendation to the board was to accept the bid at the higher price. The county has a couple of partners on the street marking project, the cities of Baxter and Pequot Lakes. Out of the $100,000 more for the bid, Hall said the lion’s share or $80,000 would be the county’s cost.

“We do the 2 to 3 million linear feet a year of pavement markings,” Hall said, adding the work also includes message painting for directions and crosswalks. “So a change of a penny or two per foot is a change of $30,000 to $40,000 to $50,000. We are going to be looking at options over the next year.”

Those options include looking at other private companies, looking at possibly contracting with the Minnesota Department of Transportion and its paint trucks; looking at different paint that may be more expensive up front but lasts for years on the road. So Hall said there are some options to avoid having the same conversation next year.

“But as I said we consider this a big safety component on our system and we feel we need to move forward with it even after that 39% over our estimate,” Hall said.

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Tim Bray, county engineer, said they manage their finances to be able to handle the peaks and valleys and that affords the opportunity to have a year to look at options and develop partnerships that could make this less of a challenge.

“We're not the only county that's concerned about it,” Bray said. “And I'm sure it'll be a topic of discussion over the next year. And hopefully, we can find some solutions.”

Years ago, the county did its own marking, admittedly not to perfection and using contractors was more efficient. It also means a two-person county crew would have to be diverted to pavement marking instead of other work on pavement maintenance. The county’s costs would include purchasing and insuring equipment used a short time each year.

Street markings on a wet road on a wintry day
Crow Wing County has 2 to 3 million linear feet a year of pavement markings.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Tim Houle, county administrator, asked if there might be a regional solution perhaps involving Sourcewell, which has worked on broader issues such as child care licensing.


“I would like us to at least know what is the cost of doing it ourselves,” Houle said. “Because it makes good sense to privatize public services when you can save money doing so. It does not make good sense to privatize when it is cheaper for us to do it ourselves. And shame on the private sector if it is cheaper for us to do it ourselves.”

The board approved the contract.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter @DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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