WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said he has a new political foe during a May 23 county commissioners court meeting: squirrels. The bushy-tailed rodents have cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars recently and Gravell thinks it could be even more than they think.

“I’m not joking, commissioners,” Gravell said during the meeting. “There’s no telling how much money we’ve spent on squirrels.”

A county spokesperson said squirrels grounded out a electrical pole transformer in Georgetown. The resulting power outage caused the county’s Justice Center building to operate on two-thirds power, which eventually damaged two of the four chillers that regulate the building’s temperature.

The damage was so extensive that it was going to be cheaper to replace the two chillers rather than fix them, according to the county spokesperson.

Costly damage

To replace the two chillers, it will cost the county $400,000, and the new chillers are not going to be delivered until April 2024.

Until then, the county is using a temporary chiller that costs $13,600 a month to rent.

“When you think about squirrels costing us at least half a million dollars, that’s a problem,” Gravell said.

Other county commissioners weighed in on the topic during a brief discussion in the meeting.

Russ Boles, the precinct 4 commissioner, said, “For those who have not had squirrel problems with your house or your facilities, consider yourself fortunate.”

The new chillers have technology that will shut them down, and save them from damage, if squirrels decide to ground out another transformer. This will prevent the county from having to buy a whole new chiller in any future squirrel events, according to a county spokesperson.

Background on squirrels

Jill Calcote of Moonshine Wildlife Rehabilitation said there are most likely many factors as to why the squirrels damaged the transformer. Calcote said squirrels may have gone into the transformer because they were looking for shelter.

She said squirrels give birth twice a year, with May and June being one of the peak seasons for new squirrel births. Calcote said one squirrel could have three to four babies.