Ground was officially broken on the long-awaited expansion project for the St. Mary’s County Detention and Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

The construction project will add a new 64-bed women’s housing unit to the existing jail, a new medical services unit, add central air conditioning and facilitate other upgrades.

The 230-bed jail in Leonardtown was built in 1989.

The expansion and renovation project will make the detention center a “safer and healthier place” for both inmates and corrections staff, Sheriff Tim Cameron said.

The expansion of the jail in St. Mary’s County has “been needed for years,” Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris said.

St. Mary’s County Commissioner President Randy Guy said he was proud that the board of commissioners was able to move the project forward.

“This is actually the first groundbreaking that I’ve ever attended so I hope that’s a good sign,” Sheriff Cameron said. “It has been a long road.”

Construction is expected to take three years. In December 2018, the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County approved a $25.6 million construction contract to Scheibel Construction of Huntingtown. The contractor recently completed the Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary School and College of Southern Maryland Wellness Center at the Leonardtown Campus.