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A detention officer walks past holding cells near the booking area of the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center.

A detention officer walks past holding cells near the booking area of the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center. The holding cells are intended for short-term use, but due to overcrowding have become used as housing cells without plumbing.

Lewis and Clark County has awarded the contract to renovate the Law Enforcement Center to Great Falls-based Sletten Construction Service.

Voters approved a $6.5 million bond in 2016 to fund renovation of all the Law Enforcement Center’s floors into detention space. Another vote last November approved an annual $4 million levy for the next 15 years to operate the facility.

Roger Baltz, chief executive officer of Lewis and Clark County, said the exact cost of the contract for the Law Enforcement Center is still being developed. However, he said the maximum price will be within the county's budget of $7.7 million, which includes funding from the 2016 bond as well as capital funds approved by the county commission. 

The Lewis and Clark County Law Enforcement Center was originally built in 1984 with 43 beds, and 15 more available for spikes in detention. The planned renovations will bring capacity from its current 80 inmates to 156.

The Law Enforcement Center holds an average of more than 90 inmates on a daily basis while another 20 to 30 are held in other Montana facilities.

“This is an exciting step in a very thorough process to improve facilities, which do not meet current needs and standards,” Baltz said in a written statement. “The process ensures we are spending money appropriately and within budget while providing for health and safety of inmates, staff and the general public.”

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The contract awarded to Sletten also includes “minor renovations” to the new Law and Justice Center at 406 Fuller Ave., the former home of Montana Blue Cross Blue Shield. The county has budgeted $300,000 for that project. 

When fully renovated, the Law and Justice Center will house both the Helena Police Department and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

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