By Roxanne Squires
HELENA, Mont. — The highly anticipated Helena Law Enforcement Center expansion project is set to begin this month in an effort to convert the entire building into an enlarged county detention center.
The expansion is projected to cost up to approximately $8.3 million — primarily prompted by the need to address significant overcrowding at the detention center as the existing center averages between 95 and 115 people per day in a building designed to hold only a total of 80 inmates.
In 2016, county voters approved the sale of a $6.5 million general obligation bond to expand the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center, allowing county officials to move forward, according to the Independent Record via Helena IR.
The start of the project includes the demolition of two lower floors before the contractors begin renovation.
Once completed, all three floors of the building will be part of the 108,100-square-foot detention center.
The basement, which previously housed conference space and Lewis and Clark County Disaster and Emergency Services, will now serve as the “intake” area, where inmates will be initially booked and held after their arrest. It will also include space for services like laundry and kitchens.
The main floor, which housed HPD and LSCO’s offices, will be replaced with visiting areas, space for programs and several housing pods, with the largest having the capacity to hold around 50 inmates.
The second floor, where inmates are currently held, will also receive renovation.
Once the lower floors reach completion, administrators will begin transferring inmates there, so crews can begin construction work on the second floor.
Once the expansion is completed, the new detention center will be able to provide 156 beds.
Construction will begin March 2019 with Helena-based Slate Architecture signed onto the project. There is no expected completion date on record yet.
Reports from 9HXLH.com and HelenaIR.com contributed to this story.