DME seeks project manager

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Denton Municipal Electric has proposed to hire an engineering firm to help manage about $302 million in improvements to its electric grid over the next five years.

The city-owned utility needs to build 17 substations and 30 miles of transmission line to phase out aging infrastructure and meet the needs of a growing community, according to DME’s general manager, Phil Williams. At the peak of construction, DME anticipates about 15 to 18 projects will be going up at the same time.

The overhaul will affect neighborhoods all around the city, and officials expect more than 100 public meetings and public hearings are needed or required — most in the next three years — for the entire effort.

Williams briefed the City Council on a proposal to hire Freese and Nichols as a project manager at a cost of about $12.1 million.

DME has already received the City Council’s approval to hire 21 additional employees as part of budget talks this year, in part to help with the workload. In addition, DME has already awarded about $17.8 million in contracts with other consultants, primarily engineering firms and one firm that focuses on assisting with public involvement in the process.

Through the contract, DME will have access to an experienced team that has managed similar large projects at Freese and Nichols in recent years, Williams said. Among them were a $1.5 billion program to build more than 400 gas gathering pipelines and 17 compressor stations for Chesapeake Energy in the Barnett Shale and a $1.6 billion program to build 850 miles of electric transmission for Oncor — the electric utility’s part in a $5 billion expansion of the state’s energy grid for wind energy, known as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones.

The contract, if approved by the City Council, would provide about $6 million for land acquisition, $3.5 million for project management, $1.5 million for permitting and engineering, and $1.1 million for construction management and inspection.

DME’s contract with Freese and Nichols is expected to be brought to the City Council for a final vote at its Oct. 15 meeting, according to spokesman Brian Daskam.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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