Truck issues get visit

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David Minton/DRC
People sit and eat at the Denton County Transportation Authority’s Downtown Denton Transit Center on Oct. 26 during Friday Night Bites, the city’s first food truck festival.

City may adopt new ordinance concerning food trucks tonight

The Denton City Council talked trucks Monday — garbage trucks and food trucks.

During a work session, the council slogged through final rewrites to rules for food trucks. The council is expected to adopt the rewritten ordinance tonight, part of an effort to allow more of the popular eateries inside the city.

But first, the council agreed that the solid waste department could explore whether it should convert some of its fleet to run on natural gas.

The city’s solid waste department uses more fuel than any other department in the city, according to Vance Kemler, the department’s general manager.

The trucks burn more than 425,000 gallons of diesel each year, which costs the department about $1.6 million annually.

The department has been investigating whether it could save money by converting some of its fleet to run on compressed natural gas. Some preliminary calculations showed that, if the department converted half the fleet, it could save about $500,000 per year in fuel costs and recover conversion costs in about three years, Kemler told the council.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality offered Denton a $400,000 grant as an incentive to build a fueling station, since the nearest such facilities are in Irving and at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Kemler said.

In exchange for the grant support, the natural gas fueling station would have to be open to the public.

Because it would cost between $2 million and $4 million to build such a station, the city would need a public-private partnership to construct and operate it, Kemler said.

He told the council that the department had already talked to six companies that were interested in such a partnership.

The council agreed the department could issue a request for proposals for the fueling station and see what the companies come up with.

After more than an hour of discussion on new rules for food trucks, the city staff and council settled on a final-round rewrite, including a last-minute addition to definitions.

Council members wanted to make sure that temporary vendors could participate in community-sponsored events and not have that count against the total number of annual permits they could have.

Denton’s updated ordinance will permit mobile food vendors in four classes, depending on the level of food preparation, and offers more options for food truck operators to set up in Denton.

Kurt Hansen, Denton’s building official, told the council the staff worked to strike a balance between being friendly to the increasingly popular eateries and making sure the mobile kitchens meet health and safety standards.

In the end, he and the city’s health inspectors told the council that they felt nearly all of the trucks that came to Friday Night Bites, the city’s first food truck festival held Oct. 26, would be in compliance with the proposed new rules.

They noted that one truck had problems with water pressure and hot water. Another truck lacked required fire suppression equipment.

Because that requirement was part of the fire code, and not the food truck ordinance itself, council member Kevin Roden questioned whether other surprises would emerge.

Hansen told the council he didn’t think so.

Fire Marshal Rick Jones said that the fire suppression equipment requirement was part of the permit package and should not have been a surprise to any food truck operator.

“They are essentially cooking in a closet,” Jones said. “It’s for their own safety.”

But the council agreed it wanted to receive a briefing on those fire safety requirements in the near future. In addition, Hansen told the council he and the health inspectors planned to revisit the entire food truck ordinance again in six months to see how it was performing.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her email address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com .


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