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City council candidates discuss Atmos Energy, the Denton Energy Center and homelessness

City council candidates discuss Atmos Energy, the Denton Energy Center and homelessness

Candidate for City Council Place 5 Aaron "Fuzzy" Newquist speaks at a forum on Monday. Candidates for Denton City Council Place 5 gathered at Denia Recreation Center in Denton, Texas on Monday for the first public forum of the season. , Monday, March, 26, 2018, Denia Recreation Center in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC ORG XMIT: txder

City council candidates discuss Atmos Energy, the Denton Energy Center and homelessness
March 28
16:13 2018

City council candidates discussed gas pipes, Denton Energy Center and homelessness among other issues during a forum at the Denia Recreation Center Monday night.  

The candidates

Attorney Neil Durrance is challenging mayor incumbent Chris Watts. Bernard Vokoun, Jodi Vicars-Nance, Deb Armintor and Aaron “Fuzzy” Newquist are running for Place 5. Paul Meltzer, Frank Dudowicz and Bryan Menelas, who did not attend the forum, are running for place six.

Current council members Dalton Gregory, Place 5, and Sara Bagheri, place six, are not seeking re-election.

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Aaron "Fuzzy" Newquist, candidate for Place 5 on the Denton City Council, speaks during a forum on March 26 at the Denia Recreation Center. Sara Carpenter

The issues

Many of the citizens’ questions involved transparency regarding Atmos Energy’s gas pipes. A gas pipe exploded on Feb. 23 in Dallas, killing a 12-year old girl.

The candidates agreed that there needs to be more transparency with Atmos Energy.

“This is definitely a concern,” Vicars-Nance said. “We are talking about lives.” 

Armintor said the city should not be working with Atmos Energy. She suggested communicating with other cities on the issue.  She said corporations like Atmos keep secrets, which is contradictory to the transparency Denton is striving for.

“We need to know what’s going on with that type of infrastructure, especially as it pertains to safety and well-being,” Newquist said.

The candidates were also asked about homelessness in Denton. There are currently 695 people on a priority housing list who do not have shelter.

Watts said the city has addressed the problem with the Denton County Homelessness Coalition. Durrance disagreed, saying the better method to address homelessness is by focusing on the reason people become homeless.

Candidates offered their thoughts on the Denton Energy Center (DEC), a $265 million natural gas power plant, in light of a new plan for Denton to have 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Vicars-Nance said she never got a solid answer as to how DEC will play into the renewable energy plan. Newquist said abandoning the plant would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer money.

Mayoral race: Watts versus Durrance

Durrance said in his opening speech that he is concerned about how tax dollars are being spent. He said tax dollars are used to purchase properties that are 100 to 500 percent over the appraised value.

“It is time that we brought our city hall back to democracy,” Durrance said. “It is time to have continued rule of law. It is time to give you access to your government and it is about returning city hall to the people.”

Watts shared some of the city’s accomplishments over the past four years during his opening speech. He listed the hiring of a new city manager, Todd Hileman, the revamping of the planning department and the reduction of electric rates by one percent.

Durrance said he is concerned about negligence the city has had on issues. He said it is normal for the city council to go into a series of closed meetings, which would lead to an ethics investigation.

The mayor incumbent focused on the city’s accomplishments since he has been in office.

“My opponent has certainly expressed his opinion as far as what he would do as a lawyer,” Watts said. “I can appreciate that, that’s his profession. You have seen what I can do. You have seen my track record and if you would like that to continue I simply ask for your vote.”

The city council elections are on May 5.

Featured Image: Candidate for Denton City Council Place 5, Aaron “Fuzzy” Newquist, speaks at a forum on Monday. Candidates for Denton City Council Place 5 gathered at Denia Recreation Center in Denton, Texas on Monday for the first public forum of the season. Jake King/DRC

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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