ELLSWORTH — The city is a step closer to building its new wastewater treatment plant.

The City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to approve proposed engineering plans for the $14 million facility. The council also approved a bid from MacQuinn Harold Inc. of Ellsworth to start construction of an access road to the plant’s site.

MacQuinn came in with a low bid of $694,000 for the road, with some bids coming in as high as $1 million, City Council Chairman John Phillips said by telephone Wednesday.

The access road construction will include the installation of power conduits and inflow and outflow piping for the plant.

“We want to get it all done now so we don’t have to rip up the road again and again,” said Phillips.

Phillips said the road will be completed by the end of October.

The city purchased a site off Bayside Road to build the plant and has contracted with Woodard & Curran to design the plant.

The city has long been planning to replace its 30-year-old wastewater facility, which has been plagued with problems in recent years despite mitigation steps. Last October, the city agreed to pay about $13,000 to the state Department of Environmental Protection for violations, and part of that agreement included a commitment to building a new facility.

“It’s been an ongoing process, but we’re getting there,” Philips said of the plant’s progress.

In April the city received $10.7 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for construction of the plant. Phillips said the final cost for the plant hasn’t been calculated and the project has not gone out to bid yet.

City officials have said in the past that some money for a new facility will be generated by raising user fees, but Beal and Phillips said Ellsworth is committed to minimizing taxpayer burden as much as possible.

Phillips said that if everything runs smoothly construction on the plant could begin as early as spring 2009, and it could be complete in 2010.