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Austin Energy Outages: Mayor Watson Calls for Emergency Item to Evaluate City Manager Spencer Cronk’s Employment

More than 100,000 Austin Energy customers were still without power as the sun set on Friday, four days after a winter storm caused extensive damage to the state. Over 265,000 customers, about half of all Austin Energy customers, lost power at some point during the freeze.[0] [0]

In response to the ongoing power outages and lack of communication, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson announced an emergency item to the city council to evaluate City Manager Spencer Cronk’s employment.[1] The council, which is comprised of 11 members, will need at least six votes to terminate Cronk’s employment. He makes an annual salary of $388,190.[2]

As of 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 6, Austin Energy reported 94% of customers have power, with 20,482 customers still without power due to 1,039 active outages. To restore power to all customers, Austin Energy has brought in 400 workers from Louisiana, Alabama and across Texas. The utility expects power to be restored to nearly all remaining customers by Sunday, February 12, barring any inclement weather.

Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, alongside three other council members, called for an audit of Austin Energy’s response to the storm and the utility’s plan for managing tree limbs around power lines.[3] Watson said the city has failed to respond in a timely and effective manner, and that the situation is unacceptable.[4]

Central Texas Food Bank has also begun emergency food distribution for those affected by the storm, and Governor Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for affected counties.[5] Austin Energy urges residents to work with crews if they come to access energy equipment in a backyard or utility easement on a resident’s property.[6]

0. “Why did this ice storm cause so many power outages in Austin?” KUT, 3 Feb. 2023, https://www.kut.org/energy-environment/2023-02-03/why-did-this-ice-storm-cause-so-many-power-outages-in-austin

1. “Austin Mayor Kirk Watson faces criticism after freeze” Axios, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.axios.com/local/austin/2023/02/06/austin-mayor-kirk-watson-falters-in-power-outage-crisis

2. “Ice storm communication sparks emergency performance review of city manager” Austin Monitor, 7 Feb. 2023, https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2023/02/ice-storm-communication-sparks-emergency-performance-review-of-city-manager/

3. “Thousands of Austin residents still without power week after storm, prompting evaluation of city manager's job” Fox News, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/us/thousands-austin-residents-still-without-power-week-storm-prompting-evaluation-city-managers-job

4. “Austin city manager's job could be on the line after winter storm” mySA, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/austin-city-spencer-cronk-17766887.php

5. “68,000 still without power in Austin: What we know Saturday” Austin American-Statesman, 4 Feb. 2023, https://www.statesman.com/story/weather/severe/2023/02/04/austin-energy-power-outage-saturday-central-texas-food-bank/69873356007/

6. “City of Austin Winter Weather Morning Status Update for February 3” Austin Energy, 4 Feb. 2023, https://austinenergy.com/about/news/news-releases/2023/city-of-austin-winter-weather-morning-status-update-for-february-3