The Denton City Council told city staff to plan for a charter election in May that would ask voters to ratify a new natural gas utility created to supply the city’s industrial park.
The recommendation came at the end of a briefing Tuesday afternoon on city initiatives in developing the industrial park west of Interstate 35. The initiatives include identifying businesses that would not come to Denton without two new assets proposed for the industrial park: a high-pressure, high-volume natural gas pipeline and a combined heat and power plant.
Council member Chris Watts told the staff and fellow council members during the work session that he was confused over the pipeline and the power plant being promoted together, since companies relocating to Denton may only be interested in the natural gas supply and not the power plant.
“I’m all for soliciting businesses in that regard, but we need to clean this up,” Watts said.
Last year, Senate Bill 1230 passed in the Texas Legislature, allowing Denton to supply “surplus” natural gas to industrial customers as part of the development of the power plant for a defined district.
Combined heat and power plants usually are built close to users because they supply electricity, steam and chilled water and accept condensation in return. They are considered more efficient than conventional power plants and currently supply about 12 percent of the nation’s electrical power.
Several council members shared Watts’ concern that the city could be in a compromised position without the charter election to ratify the utility.
A worst-case scenario could see the city unable to sell the natural gas pipeline — or pipeline capacity — after it was built if the city decided to get out of the utility, they said.
Under the city charter, Denton must call an election to “own, acquire, construct, maintain and operate” a new public utility. While the state law had provisions to override conflicts with the charter, many residents have questioned the legality of the city selling natural gas without voter approval.
In addition, the plant would be a part of the state’s electrical grid, according to Michael Grim, executive manager for power, legislative and regulatory affairs for Denton Municipal Electric.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas operates the grid for about 75 percent of the state and has cautioned that, without new generation, shortages are possible in the coming years.
In order to stimulate more electrical capacity, ERCOT has authorized greater maximums for power generators to sell electricity to the grid during peak demand. Currently, generators can sell up to $4,500 per megawatt-hour and it’s possible that could rise to $9,000 per megawatt-hour as soon as next year, Grim said. In other words, during times of peak consumption, the proposed 10-megawatt plant could sell electricity to the grid, Grim said.
The first phase of construction for the high-pressure, high-volume pipeline is proposed to follow Jim Christal Road and Western Boulevard. The second phase would take the pipeline into Denton Airport.
The pipeline could be built in three months, Grim said. The power plant would take 13 months.
Several council members said they could support the charter amendment, knowing that the utility increases Denton’s likelihood to attract the kind of businesses that would bring good-paying jobs to the city.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
IN OTHER ACTION
During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council also:
• Approved a plan amendment and zoning change to allow a hotel and conference center to be built on University of North Texas land near Interstate 35E
• Zoned newly annexed land near Interstate 35 and Ganzer Road to allow RV sales already occurring there
• Rezoned 23.9 acres at Interstate 35 and Pockrus Page Road to allow greater density of single family housing
• Granted a special-use permit allowing a beauty shop in residence on Terry Court
• Offered $2 million to buy 26.464 acres near Audra Lane and Loop 288 for a new electrical substation
• Amended two leases for certain public services at Denton Airport
• Assigned its economic development agreement for Denton Crossing to Amarillo National Bank
• Corrected a zoning mistake on 3.3 acres of land at Sherman Drive and North Bell Avenue
• Approved a 3-year agreement for $344,415 with the University of Texas at Arlington for landfill testing
• Leased Ricoh USA printing equipment for three years for $263,217
• Contracted with Pro-Tech Service for vehicle washing systems and services
• Extended its red-light camera contract with Redflex Traffic Systems for five years for $150,000
• Contracted with United Health Care for certain health care services for two years for about $1.3 million
• Licensed with ECOtality for electric vehicle charging stations
• Agreed to provide Texas Department of Transportation $102,211 for signal work at U.S. Highway 380 and Masch Branch Road to align it with city systems
• Bought Michael Boyett’s sculpture, The Legacy, for $31,911 for the Denton Airport entrance
• Created an ad hoc committee to revisit the smoking ordinance
• Amended the handbook for city boards and commissions
• Acquired property, boiler and machinery insurance for two more years
• Hired Focused Advocacy for two years for $275,000 to lobby for the city at the state level
• Resolved to seek reimbursement for the city’s purchase of county land from the downtown TIF if the city uses the land for a public project
• Accepted a self-audit of the city’s sewer system