Todd key in Austin’s utilities

Published 4:37 pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

One of the key names in the history of Austin is William Todd. He was instrumental in developing Austin’s utilities, an enterprise fraught with controversy. First, the story of Austin’s water system, from the October 13, 1931 Austin Daily Herald.

“Austin then (1881) had water works consisting of a pumping station and taking its water from deep wells in the park near the present plant, and occasionally pumping river water into the mains, when the wells failed to supply enough water. Mr. Todd was in the meantime improving himself in engineering and in 1891, the city council elected him to the position of chief engineer of the plant. He worked on several plans but he argued that Austin would never have a sufficient supply until it used the waters from the Sargent, now City Springs and the Herzog and Sachse Springs. Up to that time the job of superintendent of water works and that of city attorney was held by Attorney John M. Greenman.

Engineer Todd and the city attorney did not agree on many points and at a council meeting of March 15, 1898, Mr. Todd was elected superintendent, a position he held up to the time of his death (in 1931). He measured the flow of waters of the springs and reported his findings. Those were days of hot argument, part of the people favoring more wells and part favoring the purchase of springs that could have been purchased for a song compared with the price paid in later years for the springs and the Herzog farms to control the springs, all of which is part of the history of Austin, to be found in the doings of our city council.

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Todd was on the side that wanted the springs. The other side laughed at the idea that Austin would ever be large enough to use the water of any one of the famous springs. Then it was that Todd made a statement that will live long as a policy for any and every city: ‘Every city should see that its water supply is taken care of twenty years ahead.’

But it was some years before the city would give up its idea of getting water from wells, but Todd never quit his agitation for the purchase of the springs.

Before we got the springs the city had taken on another piece of work, the municipal control of lighting and power by the electric current.”

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