In an effort to expand their water distribution system and provide treated water to more than half of Somervell County's residents, the local water district has called a bond election but will need the voters' support in order to expedite the construct ion of the proposed facilities and infrastructure.

The Somervell County Water District's (SCWD) board of directors passed a resolution on March 10 calling for a $40 million bond election to be held on Saturday, May 10.

With voter approval, the bond will provide funding to construct a 1.5 million gallon water treatment plant, water transmission pipelines, pumps and storage tanks.

According to a pamphlet being distributed by the SCWD asking for voters' support of the bond package, plans call for "water to be available to almost 60 percent of county residents by 2010, with service available to over 75 percent of the county's water customers by 2020."

If passed, the SCWD's bond proposal includes plans to provide water service to the city of Glen Rose, the Luminant power plant and rural customers north of Glen Rose. Water service would also be extended south of the city along Texas Hwy. 144, east of Glen Rose along US Hwy. 67 and southeast of the city along Hwy. 67.

Following the completion of the proposed expansion and initial facilities, the SCWD would extend service throughout the county, the brochure states.

Kevin Taylor, general manager of the SCWD, spoke at last week's Glen Rose-Somervell County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, stressing that the bond election, if passed, will not require any increase of the district's tax rate.

"The main point in this bond election is that it will not increase the tax," said Taylor. "It's the biggest bang we can get with our tax dollars."

Currently, the SCWD tax rate is 12.66 cents per $1,000 valuation. Taylor said the $40 million bond issuance will be repaid over a 20-year period and provided from the district's current tax rate.

"The district hopes to qualify for financing through the Texas Water Development Board from the new Texas Water Infrastructure Fund program," states the SCWD voter information pamphlet. "If funding is provided from the Water Infrastructure Funding program, interest rates will be 2 percent lower than market interest rates. This means that a larger amount of the total bond authorization can be issued sooner, and that a greater amount of planned facilities and improvements can be completed sooner."

Taylor said if the bond proposal does not receive voter approval, the SCWD still plans to move forward with its expansion and improvement plans. "If it (bond election) does not pass, our tax rate will stay where it is and we'll continue to pay as we go like we've been doing. Regardless of it passing or not, our tax rate will stay at 12.66 cents."

Taylor says without voters' approval, the SCWD's proposed plans could take longer to build as the district will continue to rely on tax revenues to fund the program. "It will delay construction by up to six or eight years if not passed. This year, we brought in about $3.3 million in tax revenues. At that rate, to raise $30 million, it could take eight to 10 years."

The proposal includes approximately $6 million for the water treatment plant and high-pressure pump station's construction. The additional $24 million would allow for the construction of approximately 176,000 linear feet, or 33.5 miles, of water lines.

If approved, Taylor says the bond election and SCWD's plans would show the public supports their endeavors. "It would mean a whole lot to get the support of the voters and validate the fact that they want it (expansion) done quickly. The bottom line is we have a goal and we're going to accomplish it one way or another."

Currently, the SCWD does not serve any residents with treated water, but only provides a system to transport raw water, said Taylor. If given voter approval, the SCWD would move forward with their proposed facilities and improvements, and have the ability to serve everyone in Glen Rose and a large portion of Somervell County.

"Right now, we have an agreement with the city to serve the eastern side of town," said Taylor. "I'm confident we'll be able to negotiate a deal between the water district and the city in the coming years that we'll be able to serve the entire city."

City residents currently purchase water from the municipality, said Taylor, but in the future they could be buying water treated by the SCWD.

"We'll sell (treated water) to the city at wholesale. We can't come into the city limits and compete with the city," said Taylor. "Hopefully, one day, they will be buying our water through the city."

Taylor says the SCWD is first targeting expansion to areas that are expected to develop within the near future. "We're going to target new subdivisions and those on well water who would like to get on the water district system."

The SCWD general manager, citing recent drops in the aquifer's water levels, gave Chamber luncheon guests a grim picture saying the groundwater supply is being over pumped.

"Our water table is falling at four feet per year," said Taylor, offering reasons voters should support the bond package. "Now, you have to drill a couple hundred feet to find water, and with all the gas drilling in the area, it's drawing it down even more. I hear stories every week about people having to re-drill their wells or that their wells are going dry."

Registered voters may cast their ballots in the SCWD bond and board of director's election during the Early Voting period, which begins April 28 and continues until May 6. Polls will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Saturdays and Sundays.

On Election Day, May 10, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All voting will be conducted at the SCWD offices, located at 2521 CR 301 in Glen Rose.