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Renewable Denton Plan approved by divided City Council

Renewable Denton Plan approved by divided City Council

Renewable Denton Plan approved by divided City Council
June 23
00:42 2016

Matthew Reyna | Staff Writer

@bucko_rodgers

The Denton City Council narrowly passed the Renewable Denton Plan during a contentious city council meeting that lasted until 1 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21.

The approval, which came by a 4-3 vote, authorizes $265 million in revenue bonds to go toward paying for a 12-engine gas plant. Although the council made it clear they will be tinkering with the details in the coming weeks, the plan’s stated goal is to achieve 70 percent renewable energy for Denton by 2019.

Members of the council listened to over two hours of public testimony, with the city council chambers reaching overflow capacity well before the meeting started. Dozens of citizens spoke to the council during the public hearing, and the vast majority of speakers were firmly against RDP, with a few notable exceptions.

Eric Pruett, an electrical engineer, discusses a technical analysis of gas detection videos and gives his thoughts on the Denton Renewable Plan. "We dentonites pride ourselves on our university inspired freedom of thought and skeptical challenging of norms to realize revolutionary ideas that gives our city it's unique character, diversity, and charm," Pruett said. "Except in many cases (in regards to the DRP), this has not happened." Julia Falcon | Staff Writer

Eric Pruett, an electrical engineer, discusses a technical analysis of gas detection videos and gives his thoughts on the Denton Renewable Plan. “We dentonites pride ourselves on our university inspired freedom of thought and skeptical challenging of norms to realize revolutionary ideas that gives our city it’s unique character, diversity, and charm,” Pruett said. “Except in many cases (in regards to the DRP), this has not happened.” Julia Falcon | Staff Writer

Denton County Commissioner Hugh Coleman and recently unseated Denton City Councilman Greg Johnson encouraged the council to approve the plan, and Coleman also disagreed with the idea of putting the ordinance on a referendum ballot.

“I voted for you guys. You need to make the decision,” Coleman said. “Don’t pass it off to the voters. Don’t pass the political buck.”

Denton County Commissioner Hugh ColemanHugh Coleman, Denton County Commissioner, speaks about the RDP at a City Council meeting

For the most part, council-members faced scathing criticism during the hearings.

“How many asthmatic children have to come up here before we start to take that in consideration?” asked Denton resident Cindy Spoon, who spoke multiple times at the meeting.

After the public hearings, internal discussion between the council members was tense. The final vote was delayed multiple times for additional statements.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Roden, Councilman Joey Hawkins and Councilman Dalton Gregory supported full implementation of the plan and considered anything less than two sites and twelve engines a compromise.

Mayor Chris Watts and Councilwoman Kathleen Wazny staked out a middle ground on the issue and suggested they could vote for a compromise measure. Councilwomen Sara Bagheri and Keely Briggs expressed opposition throughout the proceedings.

At one point, Roden called the council’s vote on RDP a historic decision.

“I think it is a historic decision. I feel like Detroit in the 70s right now,” Bagheri said in reply to Roden. “And I don’t want my name anywhere near this plan with a hundred-foot pole.”

Councilwoman Briggs was quick to agree with Bagheri.

“This plan started five years ago, and I think we were at a lot different place environmentally five years ago,” Briggs said.
Briggs also accused the rest of the City Council of not reading the hundreds of letters sent by citizens. Only Mayor Watts said he had also read some of the letters.

Members of the “yes” side who thought the ordinance would pass became uneasy when Mayor Watts and Councilwoman Wazny considered compromise measures.

Watts announced he would be voting no, and the “yes” voters were not happy with the development. Roden accused the Mayor of flip-flopping, saying Watts had agreed to the terms of the ordinance during the work session.

“You are a bit of a moving target. We are trying to get you on board” Roden said. “I can’t imagine you’d want to vote against this.”

For a time, it seemed possible that Wazny would join the Mayor in voting no, which would have been enough for a different outcome.

“Everything just got mucked up,” Hawkins said. “I don’t even know where we are as a group.”

When the dust settled, Wazny sided with the “yes” voters, thus approving the ordinance.

“If you’re concerned about our reliance on fuel, this is the plan,” Roden said. “The thought that somehow the fossil fuel industry wins when we only rely on it for 30 percent of our industry is an absurd conclusion.”

Featured Image: Phil Williams, Denton Municipal Electric general manager, opens an unusually packed city council meeting for public discussion Tuesday regarding the Renewable Denton Plan at City Hall. Julia Falcon | Staff Writer

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