The Somervell County Water District Board on Monday accepted the low bid of more than $8.6 million to construct a new water treatment plant.

Of the six bids received for the project, BAR Constructors Inc. of Lancaster was both the low bidder and the recommended contractor because of its experience building such plants.

“BAR Constructors is big in the treatment business,” Kevin Taylor, the water district’s general manager, told board members

He added that the company also has worked with Freese and Nichols, the civil engineering firm that has been working with the district on the Wheeler Branch Off-Channel Reservoir and water supply project.

“They recommended BAR as a competent contractor,” Taylor added. 

The district had a budget of $10 million for construction.

Coming in under budget will allow the district to “go farther out” with its water supply service, Taylor said – perhaps toward Chalk Mountain or farther south on State Highway 144.

A contract to build the plant will be subject to approval from the Texas Water Development Board.

Board member James Teague inquired about the likelihood that county residents would get jobs from the construction project.

    “I think there’s a good likelihood,” Taylor said. Rock work and surveying are some of the jobs the project could generate. “We ask contractors to try to hire as many” locals as possible, he added.

    Teague suggested a meeting with the contractor to discuss hiring local people as much as possible.

“We can’t dictate as a matter of law who they hire, but we can make recommendations,” said Hugh Smith, the board’s chairman and a retired attorney.

    Under the district’s development plan, water from the reservoir will be treated at the water treatment plant below and dam and distributed to the county by a system of pump stations, ground and elevated storage tanks and pipelines.

In other action, the board heard from Rod Hale, who proposed that the district incorporate a lake aquarium in its plans.

He brought a drawing of his concept to the board that depicts an aquarium 10 feet below the surface level, with a semi-circular room with windows that allow visitors to see what’s going on in the lake. It would be covered by earth.

“This would be the first ‘lake-quarium,” Hale said. “The lake would be the aquarium.’

“What is your estimated cost?” Smith asked.

Hale said he didn’t know. It would depend on the design, he said, and suggested there might be grants that could help cover the cost.

“There may be a time when we might consider doing that,” Taylor said of building an aquarium. But right now the district has other priorities and about $30 million in construction projects to oversee, he added.

Smith said he thought an above-ground aquarium would make more sense and cost a lot less.