AUGUSTA — Less than nine months after the Kennebec County jail expansion project was sent out to bid, it’s substantially complete, with only a few details to be wrapped up.

When it’s completed, county officials say, they will be able to house more inmates at the chronically overcrowded jail and spend less money sending inmates to be boarded at other county jails in Maine.

“We’re excited,” Lt. Bryan Slaney of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said last week as he stood in the new area with Staff Sgt. Corey Goodchild during a tour of the new space. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The new space could house up to 22 inmates, but the final determination rests with the Maine Department of Corrections, based on square footages for both sleeping areas and day space.

“We’ve been working with them through this process, so we should be good to go,” Slaney said.

Ryan Andersen, manager of correctional operations at the state Department of Corrections, said Monday the final inspection is likely to take place before the end of the month.

“There have been a couple of delays,” Andersen said. The project had been expected to be completed in April.

The unit has two floors. The upper floor is an open area containing 11 bunk beds. The lower floor is the common area, with tables, pay phones, and toilet and shower facilities. A station has been installed for a corrections officer that will be outfitted with video screens to allow supervision around the clock for both levels, both in the unit and remotely in the jail.

The new unit is a direct supervision unit, the only one in the jail, Slaney said. Because of that, corrections officers will have to undergo training before they can work in it. After the initial training, he said, the jail’s training sergeant will be qualified to train corrections officers on site.

“The officers are excited,” Slaney said. “This opens up more positions for them. It’s good all around for the facility. Morale is up, staff is up. We’re moving into uncharted territory.”

Recently, Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason said the jail is now fully staffed for the first time in a long time.

The new unit will house male trusties – inmates who work in the jail as janitors or kitchen workers or outside the jail as laborers.

Crowding at the jail, built nearly 160 years ago, has been a problem for several years.

Currently, county corrections officials routinely have about 300 people under their supervision, either in the jail, through Maine Pretrial Service or boarded at other county jails.

The final tab on construction is estimated at about $675,000, said Kennebec County administrator Robert Devlin.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

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