Deschutes County is moving ahead with a plan to expand its overcrowded county jail. County commissioners have approved the sale of more than $8 million in bonds to fund the project.

David Nogueras / OPB

Deschutes County Jail

The new wing should be done by next summer. Once complete, an additional 144 beds will help help ease persistent overcrowding. For the last year, Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has had to rent space from neighboring Jefferson County to hold its prisoners at a cost of more than $300,000 a year.

Sheriff Larry Blanton told county commissioners he doesn't expect he'll need to increase staffing once the project is complete, at least not immediately. But Commissioner Alan Unger says the Sheriff's department is prepared should that become necessary.

"The sheriff has a permanent levy that has a flexible range and as he needs to hire more staff he has the ability to adjust his budget," said Unger.

The expansion will not require a tax hike. Annual debt payments on the bonds will come from the county general fund and from the sheriff's department budget. Unger says construction could begin as soon as June.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.