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Utility board to review DME grants

FEATURED PHOTO: A lineman with Denton Municipal Electric practices for a lineman's rodeo event that uses a rescue dummy to simulate lowering a hurt worker to safety. 
DRC file photo

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From 2012 through 2016, Denton Municipal Electric executives unilaterally decided how to award the department's own community grants, spending more than $260,000 from ratepayer revenue. 

On Monday, the Public Utilities Board will review whether the city department should continue the program, and if so, how? 

Denton requires community groups that are seeking city grants to make a formal application. The criteria and awards depend on the program. 

For example, arts groups can get financial help from the city's hotel occupancy tax, which promotes tourism. Nonprofit groups can get help from a housing and community development fund made up of federal and local taxes. Some years Denton City Council members make micro-grants through a small discretionary fund. Festivals often get "in-kind support" from parks crews and the police department. 

No matter the dollar amount, all city grants come with a signed agreement after receiving City Council approval. 

But DME has had no such requirements. Instead, executives have been making community grants similar to the way private, investor-owned utilities share their largess, including spending more than $60,000 on golf tournaments, booster clubs and banquet sponsorships from 2012 through 2016. 

Other DME grants were closely tied to activities that promote workplace safety, such as the lineman's rodeo, the Texas Public Power Association or the Municipal Electric Safety Exchange. Some grants supported community events tied to electricity, such as the Holiday Lighting Festival, the Thin Line Film Festival and the Denton Black Film Festival. 

The Public Utilities Board is expected to review the program and make recommendations for an application-and-review procedure. 

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the City Council work room at City Hall, 215 E. McKinney St. The meeting will be videotaped and can be viewed live on the city's website, or later from the meeting archives. 

More information on the agenda, including a full list of DME grantees for the past five years, can be found here

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.