The St. Mary’s County commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve an application from the sheriff’s office to the state department of general services for $731,000 in matching funds for upgrades to the adult detention center.
Commissioner Tom Jarboe (R) was absent.
“I’m very pleased [with] the actions of the board,” Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said in an interview after the decision.
Parts one and two of the county’s jail improvement plan were approved by the state earlier this year. As part of the state’s local jail capital improvement project, the monies will go toward the construction of a segregated 64-bed housing wing for female prisoners, the construction of a medical space including a clinic, infirmary and medical administration, and to improve “facility operation to meet current and future demands,” Capt. Deborah Diedrich, acting commander at the sheriff’s office, said during the meeting.
Renovations will also add air conditioning to the jail, which the facility has lacked since it was built in 1989.
Maryland will provide $12.6 million in total funding for the renovations. The county will match the monies, putting forward $13.3 million toward the project.
“I was happy to see $12 million. Anytime it’s more, it’s better,” commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) said. The project was initially estimated to cost around $9 million.
The county jail expansion has been in discussion since before the 2014 election, when the previous board of commissioners planned to renovate the jail using only county funding.
The current board reversed that vote, opting to apply for state assistance for the project, although Southern Maryland state delegates were not supportive of borrowing the money needed for the project due to its high cost.
“We’re finally here,” Commissioner John O’Connor (R) said at Tuesday’s meeting. “How many years … how many boards, how much turmoil, stress, gray hair, you name it. … I appreciate all the hard work and team work that went into this,” he said.
The issue of how to cost-effectively relocate inmates during the construction was also a topic of discussion. A total of 218 inmates, including 183 men and 35 women, are currently housed in the facility, with 49 people being processed through pretrial services. It will cost $86,400 to transport the inmates somewhere else during the construction.
Decisions on where to relocate the inmates have not been finalized.
The jail project is estimated to begin construction in fiscal year 2020 and be completed by December 2021.
The commissioners also voted Tuesday to adjust the fiscal year 2019 budget to allot $134,411 in state grant funds for continued contracted mental health services to detention center inmates, utilized by 60 percent of the inmate population, Diedrich said.
Additionally, the commissioners authorized the sheriff’s office submittal for a grant in the amount of $82,902 to create a full-time opioid coordinator position to increase data entry of drug investigations, seizures and arrests, heroin and opioid overdoses and other drug-related investigative activities.