WALL COMING DOWN: Billy Kemp of BTB Construction breaks down a wall on the third floor of the Jefferson County Jail as part of a renovation project that will make room for more inmates.  (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
WALL COMING DOWN: Billy Kemp of BTB Construction breaks down a wall on the third floor of the Jefferson County Jail as part of a renovation project that will make room for more inmates. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Crews have begun knocking out walls and redesigning the third floor of the Jefferson County Jail to accommodate more inmates.

The renovation will add 16 to 20 beds and create a women's floor that Sheriff John Wallace said will help overcrowding and better separate the male and female population.

The County Council approved $249,000 for the project in late September and the construction bid was later awarded to local contractor Teton Corp.

The jail was built in 2006, but inmate numbers have steadily risen since 2010. The third floor of the jail had been used for employee locker rooms and the dispatch center, which has since been moved to the second floor.

"As far as I can see, this is going to be the extent of our expansion," Wallace said of the jail.

In August, the jail population exceeded more than 130 inmates and Wallace was forced to send inmates to the Switzerland County Jail. Since then, the jail population has consistently has been higher than its capacity of 93.

The August inmate transport came at a cost of about $15,000 to the county, Wallace said.

On Friday, the sheriff reported to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners that he transported 10 inmates to the Switzerland County Jail in late November, nine of whom remain there.

Wallace anticipates the renovation project will be completed by the end of January or early February. The project was slightly delayed because of a re-bid process and issues with the jail elevator, the third-floor access point for the contractors.

Part of the renovations will include reconfiguring the layout and installing stainless steel bathroom fixtures and skylights. The skylights are needed for compliance with the Department of Correction standards.

Architects from RQAW, the Indianapolis firm handling the designs, said access to the third floor also factored into the cost.