City crews plan to start overhauling the electrical system in Southridge in September, a project that is expected to take about 18 months to complete and will affect more than 600 homes.
Residents can look for the first phase of work to begin in September. Additional phases are planned for March and September 2014. The entire upgrade for the neighborhood is expected to cost about $1.2 million, according to Brian Daskam, spokesman for Denton Municipal Electric.
One of the first areas in Denton to have power lines installed underground, Southridge has seen recent power failures because the cable and transformers are 47 years old, according to Jerry Fielder, engineering division manager with DME.
“When the cable was installed in Southridge, it was high-technology cable and its life expectancy was about 30 years,” Fielder told the Denton City Council in a July 16 briefing.
But some of that cable was buried in the ground without conduit or any other protection. Since then, power companies have learned that, buried that way, the cable can be damaged by water, he said.
About 30 percent of the system has already been replaced, according to city documents. But DME engineers are recommending that the rest of the system be replaced before the neighborhood sees a catastrophic failure, Fielder said.
The new cable will be buried with conduit or a duct system to help protect it. The engineers expect a 75-year life with the new cable and conduit, Fielder said. The engineers also recommend replacing the transformers, which have seen safety improvements in their design in recent years.
Brent Heath, executive manager of energy and delivery for DME, said the division is making plans to work with residents and minimize the disruption.
For example, some transformers are close to fences that will have to come down as the work is done.
“It’s not DME’s desire to take the fence down and let the dogs run wild, so we try to work with the residents as much as we can,” Heath said.
Some lingering problems in the neighborhood should be corrected, too. Crews will take out any overgrown vegetation or move transformers somewhere else in the easement in order to leave enough space for workers to service the transformer safely, he said.
Crews plan to tackle the work by working the neighborhood in phases, with each lasting about six months, if all goes as planned.
According to Brad Watts, a line superintendent, that doesn’t mean homes will be disrupted for that length of time. At most, a homeowner may see one or two days of disruption where a fence is down during the day and replaced for the night, Watts said.
Once a new transformer is ready to to be turned on, those customers linked to that transformer may see an outage for up to six hours, Watts said.
Heath told the City Council that DME plans to have as many face-to-face meetings with residents as possible in order to coordinate the work, minimize disruption and repair landscaping that might be affected by excavation.
DME has already made a presentation about the project to the Public Utilities Board and plans a meeting for the neighborhood in August, Heath said.
However, if work is needed sooner to address a failure, residents may still see crews in the area this summer, he said.
Council member Joey Hawkins offered to help with communication, saying residents would likely be asking him about the work.
Spokesman Brian Daskam said he, too, will help residents who have questions and concerns. He can be reached at 940-349-7567.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.