Denton City Council Approves Construction of Denton Energy Center
The Denton City Council approved an ordinance on Tuesday March 21 to spend nearly $1 million on construction of the Denton Energy Center.
According to the meeting agenda, the ordinance would authorize the City Manager to execute a professional services agreement with Black and Veatch Corporation for professional testing and verification services. The ordinance passed 4-2. Council members Keely Briggs and Sara Bagheri were the opposing votes.
“I have nothing against the company,” Briggs said. “I think it’s a great company, and I do think we should do emissions testing. However, I am against the gas plan in general…”
Other citizens at the meeting were also concerned about the hazardous effects that gas and fracking could have on the community. Much of the concern was caused by a natural gas leak near Guyer High School that happened in early March. Catherine Lustgarten suggested installing methane monitors that can be checked 24/7 in all the schools, establishing better evacuation plans, and having the gas companies notify officials of risks when they arise.
“We’re asking for your help,” Lustgarten said. “We’re not the experts. To my understanding, this leak was unknown until the Denton Record Chronicle reported on it.”
Citizen Deborah Armintor wore a “Stop the Frack Attack” pin to the meeting and asked the city council to support HB3403, the Protect Our Children Act. The act would allow municipalities to govern oil and gas operations within 1,500 feet of schools.
“I don’t think I need to convince anybody here why it’s a good idea not to have oil and gas operations so close to schools,” Armintor said. “Renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper so please support this bill at the state level and please do more to defend us from fracking.”
The city council also unanimously approved a request for an exception to the noise ordinance. The Thin Line X Film Festival requested to increase sound levels from 70 to 75 decibels from April 19-23 from noon to 11 p.m. The festival will take place on the Historic Denton County Courthouse and at various restaurants and bars around the Denton Square.
Some council members were worried about profanity at the event due to some complaints they got regarding Oaktopia. However, they were assured that the festival was a family friendly event.
Several citizens said that the noise ordinance would be bad idea due to how long the festival lasts and its proximity to residential areas.
“Those are school nights and this is around the time when there’s standardized testing going on in our year and during the final month before our graduate and undergraduate students are doing their final projects and final push before the semester ends,” citizen Janice Heidlberger said. “…It’s going to obstruct families and young adult students who live around that area during that time from doing their best in school and being good citizens.”
Former musician Jennifer Lane said that increasing the sound levels could also affect the public’s health.
“It’s very dangerous to those who are present,” Lane said. “Hearing damage is permanent and most people who are attending these sort of events don’t wear ear plugs so they’re very much at risk if they’re exposed to that kind of decibels.”
The city council also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city manager, or his designee, to commit to fund, if selected, the application for Active Transportation and Safe Routes to School projects. These projects are reimbursements programs through the North Central Texas Council of Governments. If selected, Denton will only pay 20 percent of the total cost for all three projects, which is about $500,000.
The Active Transportation project is the Sycamore and Welch connection that would make Denton a more connective and mobile city. Welch would go from having four lanes to two lanes with a continuous turn lane and bike lanes.
The Safe Routes to School projects would help improve Ginnings Elementary School and/or Lee Elementary School’s sidewalks.
Citizen Willie Hudspeth said he was happy some schools are getting help, but would like to see help for other schools too.
“I’m not saying the money is wasted,” Hudspeth said. “My concern is Guyer [high school] and Ryan [high school]. They are still walking in the streets. They don’t have sidewalks.”
Council member Kathleen Wazny said that this is a great opportunity and wants to see more proposals like this every year because the funds are out there.