Yellowstone County is moving ahead with its jail expansion project, about a month after voters approved a funding plan.
On Tuesday, the Yellowstone County Commission approved a contract with Schutz Foss Architects of Billings for professional services needed to build a new, 148-bed women’s housing unit at the jail.
The county had selected Schutz Foss for a previous jail expansion plan that voters rejected last year. That proposal called for a mill levy increase.
“This is on the fast track,” said Commissioner Jim Reno on Tuesday.
If all goes well, he said, the county could break ground before winter on the new housing unit that will relieve severe overcrowding for women inmates. The existing women’s unit is designed for 38 prisoners, but the population is averaging about 100 inmates.
In the June primary, voters approved giving the county the authority to borrow up to $9.7 million to expand the jail and to renovate and repair other areas of the aging building.
The borrowed money will be paired with another $7.8 million from county reserve and capital accounts. Together, the $17.5 million will fund the new women’s unit and a new kitchen and laundry and upgraded existing housing units along with other improvements.