By Roxanne Squires
COUER D’ALENE, Idaho – After years of struggling with overcrowding, Kootenai County Jail has officially completed its nearly $12 million expansion – marking the achievement with a ribbon cutting ceremony held on Oct. 1, 2018.
The project entailed installing a new wing to the facility, adding 32,100 square feet of finished space to accommodate 124 new beds, including 28 beds to the new medical area with an attached sally port for ambulance access.
An additional 8,500-square-feet of unfinished space has been set aside to hold 108 beds if needed in the future.
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office filled 15 new sworn positions and five civilian positions to staff the new wing, noting how the facility is creating jobs and is expected to aid the local economy, according to the Spokesman Review.
In the past, the county has had to house 100 inmates in other facilities across the Northwest, having to spend more money housing them outside of the county. Now, they’ll be brought back to Coeur d’Alene.
Population growth in Kootenai County may partially explain the influx of inmates. Census data shows that the county’s population grew from 110,000 people in 2000 to an estimated 154,300 in 2016, showing an increase of nearly 41 percent.
Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger stated before the completion of the project that the jail expansion is necessary for the safety of inmates and staff alike.
Commissioners chose Boise, Idaho-based LCA Architects to develop a cost estimate and scope of work to increase the amount of cells, build a new maintenance shop and install medical beds to house inmates who are sick, in need of a psychological evaluation or experiencing withdrawal, according to CDA Press.
According to the sheriff’s office, the project was completed $600,000 below their budget, helping save taxpayer dollars.