McLennan County leaders are no longer bracing for an annual $1.2 million state mandate as the regular legislative session came to an end Monday without seeing passage of a bill to change the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18.

The move to keep 17-year-old offenders from automatically going into the adult criminal justice system has broad support, but the “raise the age” bill, or House Bill 122, had caused concern for local leaders because it wouldn’t offer state money to cover the costs of housing more juvenile inmates.

Gone but not forgotten, the bill is likely to resurface in the next session, said Collin Coker, director of McLennan County’s Bill Logue Juvenile Justice Center.

“It went further this session than it has in past sessions,” Coker told county commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioner Ben Perry asked if it is possible the bill could find new life if Gov. Greg Abbott calls a special session.

Coker said it isn’t likely, but anything is possible.

Because juvenile inmates receive more services than adults, including counseling and education programs, the county spends more per person to house juveniles. McLennan County has estimated it would spend an extra $1.2 million per year if 17-year-old offenders were to move to the juvenile system.

Also at the meeting Tuesday, commissioners agreed to offer the county engineer position to Zane Dunnam, a San Antonio resident. Dunnam was one of nine qualified applicants for the position, which has a $98,800 salary, plus benefits.

“We had some great candidates come in and apply for the position, which I was very pleasantly surprised about,” County Judge Scott Felton said. “It was a hard choice.”

Dunnam was comfortable around commissioners, and they were equally comfortable communicating with him, which is important for a department head, Felton said.

Dunnam has worked as civil engineer and supervisor to San Antonio’s land survey department, civil engineer for Oklahoma City and as a designer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Former County Engineer Steve Hendrick retired Dec. 31 after 24 years of service. Assistant County Engineer Luke Lammert has been serving as the interim county engineer.

Fuel storage

Wayne Canaday, the county’s equipment maintenance director, also told commissioners the county’s underground fuel tank at its garage at Seventh Street and Washington Avenue is running low.

Canaday said he is looking for direction from commissioners about whether to refill the tank because county leaders have suggested relocating the county garage.

As of Tuesday morning, the 5,882-gallon tank had 1,287 gallons of fuel left, Canaday said. The tank will quit pumping fuel once it hits 200 to 250 gallons, he said.

“I think we can make it through the summer at the average they are fueling up,” he said.

Commissioners have discussed relocating the garage because the space is too small for the maintenance work done there.

Canaday said it could cost $30,000 to $35,000 to remove the tank.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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