Leonardtown, MD — The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County have unanimously approved a major revision in plans for the Adult Detention Center that doubles the cost, delays the renovation by two years but includes a 13,000-square-foot addition for 64 extra beds for female prisoners.

The original $9 million cost for the renovation, to include air-conditioning and additional security, has ballooned to $18 million. But the state will be asked to pick up half of the $7.7 million cost of the expansion and a second pod to be used as a medical unit.

The original renovation would have required the relocation of inmates. The most recent estimates for relocation are $4 million a year or upwards of $8 million for a two-year renovation project. The plan now has the building addition first and uses that for relocating prisoners for the renovation, saving the possible additional $8 million.

The decision was made at the commissioners’ March 8 budget workshop with Sheriff Tim Cameron and Corrections Division Commander Captain Michael Merican (shown above) in attendance. Both indicated support for the new plan even though it meant a delay in the renovation. “I think this is a good use of public money,” Sheriff Cameron said.

The decision was on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner John O’Connor [R – 3rd District] not in attendance. At the previous week’s budget workshop O’Connor had urged looking at contracting out portable housing units during renovation. Cameron had expressed concern about security and the qualifications of a contractor.

The new decision represents the latest in a circuitous path for the detention center that was built in the late 1980s with a small expansion in 1995. The then-commissioners in 2012 shelved plans for a major expansion that would have been paid 50 percent by the state after a bid came in way over budget. Instead they opted for a scaled-back renovation that was in turn revised by the commissioners’ March 8 decision.

The commissioners will now proceed with the design of the expansion and request the 50 percent state match for it.

Contact Dick Myers at dick,myers@thebaynet.com