HELENA – Lewis and Clark County leaders will take a major step next week in the renovation of the county detention center.

The county commission is scheduled to select an owner’s representative for the project at their meeting on Tuesday. County staff will then start official contract negotiations with the firm.

The owner’s representative will be responsible for supervising all aspects of the planning and construction.

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“They’re going to be the oversight from start to finish, with budgets and time restraints and keeping us up to date with what’s going on,” said Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Jason Grimmis.

Grimmis sits on a committee that reviewed the two firms that submitted applications. That committee, which also includes county administrators, engineering staff and financial advisors, recommended Hulteng CCM, Inc., of Billings for the position. However, commissioners will still make the final decision.

The detention center was originally designed to hold fewer than 60 inmates, and has since been retrofitted to hold 80. As of Friday morning, 93 inmates were being housed in the facility.

In November 2016, Lewis and Clark County voters narrowly approved a $6.5 million bond issue to convert all three floors of the Law Enforcement Center into jail space. The project moved forward in November 2017, after they passed a 15-year levy to pay for operations at the expanded jail.

Grimmis said the renovation will be a complicated process.

“It’s not like just building a building from scratch,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of changes that are going to have to be made, just to get technology down there, the right plumbing, et cetera.”

The next step will be to put out a request for bids from architects. They will be then have to take the initial plans for the jail expansion and turn them into workable final designs.

Grimmis said it’s still too early to estimate when construction could begin.

“This type of project doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It’s about being thorough and transparent and making sure that we’re getting the biggest bang for the buck, trying to be good stewards of the budget.”

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