In this June 1, 2021, file photo, the Penobscot County Jail is seen in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Penobscot County has selected a Bangor firm to oversee the design and budgeting for a project that will add 100 beds to its chronically overcrowded jail and include a number of renovations to the more than 160-year-old facility.

County commissioners chose Haley Ward as the company to do this initial phase of planning during a meeting Tuesday morning. The company’s proposal included working with architectural and engineering firms as well as jail experts to create a design and budget for the expansion and renovations.

The work will cost the county up to $50,000, according to the proposal.

The commissioners’ choice of Haley Ward marks a step forward in the county’s yearslong efforts to address overcrowding at the jail, which has included proposals to either build an entirely new jail or add onto the existing structure on Hammond Street. The jail is licensed to hold 157 inmates but regularly holds dozens more. The county also pays to send inmates to other county jails that have space for them.

“I believe that the Haley Ward proposal is the best, the most thorough and it shows that they understand what the county is trying to achieve,” Brian MacDonald, Penobscot County’s director of facilities, told commissioners.

The county in November settled on the latest plan of seeking proposals to add onto the existing jail, and issued a request for proposals from companies to oversee the work.

The county would pay for the bulk of new construction through borrowing, and was looking into using a portion of its $30 million in federal American Rescue Plan money to pay a portion of the costs.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Peter Baldacci said the county learned it could use the American Rescue Plan funds only to cover the costs of renovations, and not for new construction.

The county received one other bid for the work, from King Construction Services, which has offices in Ellsworth and Machias.

Haley Ward will begin work on the project Feb. 1.

Avatar photo

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...