McLennan County commissioners agreed Tuesday to have engineers assess 51 county-managed dams and prioritize them for improvements and repairs.

The decision could launch a multiyear project to improve dams across the county, County Administrator Dustin Chapman said.

For a long time, federal money was provided for dam maintenance at small conservation lakes scattered around the county, but that has since dried up, and now the dams are the county’s responsibility, Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Jones said.

Commissioners on Tuesday hired Freese and Nichols, Inc. of Fort Worth for almost $195,000 to prepare a report with cost estimates to the dams in need of the most attention and repair. The dam report is scheduled for completion by March.

The company will assist the county in identifying grants to help pay for some of the work, Chapman said.

Many of the dams were built in the 1950s and 1960s through federal and state funding on private property to control flooding, County Judge Scott Felton said. Felton said he didn’t think a full review of all the dams had been completed since he was first elected.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said commissioners are not aware of any dangerous dams.

“Some of them are just getting so old they are going to have to be reworked,” he said. “It’s just smart to bring engineers in that have skills and knowledge in that area because it is a different kind of work than a typical engineering job.”

Jones said most of the soil conservation dams on soil conservation lakes are near the end of their life and have the potential to pose a flood hazard.

Heavy rains in November 2015 overflowed one dam, sending floodwater across two sections of Lincoln City Road near Elm Mott and forcing residents to be housebound for more than a week.

Lincoln City Road

In November 2015, local resident Chris Blunt used a boat for more than a week to ferry his neighbors across the flooded Lincoln City Road.

County buildings

Also Tuesday, commissioners agreed to a 30-day extension with Magnolia Vacation Rentals LLC to review purchasing county buildings.

Felton said extending contracts for sale deadlines for such large purchases is not uncommon. Magnolia now has until Oct. 30 to decide whether to move forward with the purchase of the county garage and Grand Karem Shrine building, both on Washington Avenue. The company paid $5,000 for the extension, and could always request another, he said.

Magnolia Vacation Rentals began negotiations with the county in July to purchase the two downtown Waco properties, which the county put up for sale in an effort to reduce its footprint.

McLennan County garage

McLennan County approved a $500,000 contract for sale with Magnolia Vacation Rentals for the county garage at Seventh Street and Washington Avenue.

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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