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Projects show signs of spring; Trails, roads and hotels may get early start

Crews from Otter Tail Electric move lines from the poles on the right to new ones about 100 feet to the west. The work on Wednesday is being done in preparation for the Paul Bunyan Trail Bridge over Highway 197. Bridge construction could begin next week if weather conditions allow. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

An early spring could mean an early jump on area projects.

The long-sought Paul Bunyan Trail bridge spanning Highway 197 is expected to be complete this year. Prep work at the site is now underway.

The trail bridge is one of several projects that may be on the verge of getting underway, including the south shore hotels and 2012 road construction season.

The Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge will span Highway 197 at the intersection with First Street.

The bridge, expected to be done by mid-August, will complete the Paul Bunyan State Trail from Brainerd/Baxter to Lake Bemidji State Park. It will allow trail users to safely pass over a six-lane segment of Highway 197.

Depending on the weather, installation of pilings for the bridge could begin next week, according to John Folardo, principal engineer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which is overseeing the project.

Site work was visible Wednesday as electrical crews were working to permanently relocate some power poles to allow for the piling needs, Folardo said.

The cost of the trail bridge is $1.75 million, paid for through DNR funds approved in the state's budget settlement last summer.

Eagle Construction out of Little Falls is constructing the project.

Both expected new hotels in the Village at South Shore are expected to break ground this spring, although dates have not been announced.

It is expected that R.S. Tripp Snyder, founder of Snyder & Associates, is in town today, hand-carrying a signed copy of the purchase agreement for land next to the Sanford Center for an expected Country Inn & Suites.

The purchase agreement would formalize the purchase of 2.17 acres for $756,202, according to John Chattin, city manager.

Snyder and the city, which owns the south shore land, announced the deal in December, but a purchase agreement has not been inked.

It will be at least mid-April before ground can be broken on the hotel, since the city must hold a public hearing for the sale of city-owned land and that requires a 30-day notice, Chattin said.

Likewise, it is expected that ground will be broken on the anticipated DoubleTree Hotel, which would be attached to the south side of the Green Mill.

Rich Siegert, of the Edgewater Group, said he is optimistic that such work could begin this month.

Siegert, who operates the Hampton Inn & Suites and Green Mill, has been working toward the project for two years.

The process through which a project advances, from conception to creation, involves a host of local and state agencies - including the city of Bemidji, Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning office and DNR - which involves multiple reviews.

Road projects

The city's 2012 Street Renewal Project could start earlier, according to Craig Gray, the city engineer/public works director.

But while nice weather helps, it is not the determining factor.

"With this weather, yes, we like to think we could (get started sooner than usual)," Gray said. "But it all depends on when the road postings and (weight) limits are removed for the contractor. If those are removed earlier than usual, then, hopefully, we can start in the first part of May."

The project this year involves two city roadways:

Miles Avenue, from Roosevelt Road Southeast to Third Street Southeast, will be paved to 24 feet wide with concrete curb and gutter. A 10-foot-wide trail is also planned for the west side of the roadway from Roosevelt to Nymore Park. Storm sewers will be installed as well.

Nineteenth Street Northwest, from Park to Delton avenue northwest, will see replacement of the 1946 water main, upgrade the storm sewer, and reconstructed with concrete curb and gutter.