Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm


Community Impact – As state leaders held hearings on what led to the failure of Texas’s energy system during last week’s winter storms, Austin City Council acknowledged the city and many of its residents were still in the throes of the crisis.

Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said between 200 and 400 apartment and condo complexes still had no running water as of Feb. 25, as did many single-family homes, due to the “tens of thousands” private water main breaks across the city. On the public side, Meszaros said his team was overwhelmed with hundreds of public main breaks, a workload typically seen over a six- to eight-month period.

As necessary and costly infrastructure repairs pile up for residents, Austin City Council took its initial steps toward recovery during its Feb. 25 emergency meeting by waiving typical permit requirements for plumbing as well as fees related to infrastructure repair and tree-limb removal.

With a seemingly insurmountable number of repairs needing to be made to private water lines, Denise Lucas, director of Austin’s Development Services Department, said the goal of some of the waivers was to increase the number of available plumbers who can legally operate in the local market.

District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said there has been an effort to recruit plumbers from across the country to Austin and Texas in the wake of the storm’s devastation.