The Bonnie Brae Substation is antiquated and will be demolished in a few years in favor of a new one nearby, and that’s good because it’s an eyesore for the community, city officials said.
“It was constructed under different design standards than we have now,” said Tony Puente, Denton’s executive director of utilities. “It was built in the 1960s and is very dangerous for our staff. It could also become a safety concern for our citizens.”
Underground work for the planned construction of the Hickory Substation — across from the old substation on Bonnie Brae Street — is scheduled to be complete within six months. The total Hickory Street project will cost the city $29 million. Denton Municipal Electric’s new facility is being built in a neighborhood filled with numerous apartments and renters near the University of North Texas.
“We know from DME that’s outdated equipment at the Bonnie Brae facility,” Denton City Council member Jesse Davis said. “We know it needs to be replaced. The added benefit [is] removing something not very attractive to the neighborhood. It is a gateway into the university area, historic homes area and the whole western part of the core of the city.”
Plans include decorative walls around the Hickory Substation to make it less obvious that it’s a utility facility.
“It’s a good time to have better equipment, a safer substation, and it will look nicer,” Davis said.
As for the Bonnie Brae Substation, Puente said that while no injuries have been reported there in decades — if ever — employees still face multiple hazards.
“We have a control house where wiring is underneath and because of way it’s designed, we have occasional rodent issues,” he said. “We have to continuously have pest control. Also, the walls are much shorter than walls we build now for our substations, and it has wire above it to keep people from climbing into the property.”
The Hickory Substation will have a smaller footprint but will also allow trucks to enter the property more safely and easily.
DME, the city’s community-owned utility, provides service to more than 50,000 customers. It also has substations at Kings Row, Jim Christal, North Lakes, Arco and Locust. But those have been decommissioned and need to be demolished, Puente said.