Calvert County will renovate and expand its detention center rather than build an entirely new jail, the Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday.

The county commissioners approved a long-range plan to expand the county detention center to keep up with an overflow of inmates.

Tuesday's decision came more than three years after a citizens advisory panel urged the county to build another jail or seek additional detention space. That panel predicted the Calvert County Detention Center would exceed its capacity of 172 inmates by this year.

"We will be renovating and expanding," said Sherrod Sturrock, the county's capital projects coordinator. "They're not going to build a new jail."

The Calvert County Detention Center, off Route 231 near Prince Frederick, was built in 1978 and expanded in 1992. An earlier study determined that building a new jail in Calvert probably would cost more than $10 million.

The expansion project is too early in the planning stages to determine a price tag, county officials said. To determine the scope of the jail project, the commissioners also decided Tuesday to spend up to $10,670 to hire a consultant to devise jail population projections over "a 20-year-planning window," said commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings).

Hiring a consultant will enable the county to meet a pending deadline to apply for state matching funds, Sturrock said.

"We expect to get expert advice that the state would also recognize" in the funding process, she said.

In February, local law enforcement officials presented the commissioners with a report indicating that last year the detention center had an average daily population of just under 184 inmates -- almost 12 above capacity. That report also projected that the detention center would average about 194 inmates, or about 22 inmates more than capacity, this year. To cope with crowding, the detention center has been "double bunking" some inmates, a jail official said.

After receiving that report, the county commissioners decided that, though it was still unclear how much the project will cost or where the funding would come from, the county would formally add the detention center plan to the list of upcoming capital improvement projects.

Through the years, officials have considered easing jail crowding by housing inmates in the county drug and alcohol treatment center adjacent to the detention center. Tuesday's decision to expand the jail apparently puts to rest any plans to move into the treatment site.

The commissioners had indicated since receiving the February report that any plan to address the jail crowding also would have to assure that the drug and alcohol treatment center would continue operating in Calvert County.

One of two options endorsed by the commissioners then was construction of a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Prince Frederick. The other option called for building a drug facility on the grounds of the detention center.