Delaware County officials hope a new body scanner will keep opioids and other illicit materials outside the walls of the county's jail.

Jeff Balzer, chief deputy with the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, said the device could be in place at the jail, off U.S. Route 42 in Delaware, by the end of the year.

Workers just need to make room first.

The county has hired design and engineering firms to work on plans to construct a 600-square-foot addition at the jail and remodel 1,800 square feet of existing space within the building.

The county could go out to bid on the construction project within a few months, with the goal of wrapping up work before the end of the year.

Although the renovation and expansion effort will streamline the booking process at the site, Balzer said, the need to make room for the new scanner also propelled the project.

"It's an important tool for us to keep contraband and illegal substances out of the jail," he said.

Balzer said although the sheriff's office already has procedures in place to stop inmates from smuggling in drugs and other contraband, he noted no system is foolproof.

He said shoring up existing search procedures has become increasingly important as the abuse of heroin and other opium-related drugs has increased throughout the state and country.

"The last thing we want is for someone to bring these substances into the jail and possibly cause the overdose or death of a person," he said.

Balzer said "all persons being booked into the jail" will pass through the scanner after its installation. He said his office does not plan to use the device on jail employees or visitors.

Beyond helping jail staff members locate illicit substances concealed by inmates, the scanner could act as a deterrent.

Balzer said members of the sheriff's office have toured jails with scanners and discussed procedures and the effectiveness of the devices with other law-enforcement officials. He said officials at those jails saw instances of attempted conveyance of illegal substances drop off after the devices were installed.

"The word gets out in the community," he said.

County officials expect the expansion and renovation project to cost $500,000 without factoring in the scanner.

Balzer said the scanner likely would cost between $125,000 and $150,000 but noted the sheriff's office has identified a way to pay for the device. He said state law requires the county to use revenue from items sold at the jail commissary to pay for improvements that benefit inmates, which can include the installation of a scanner.

Delaware County commissioners in August approved a nearly $50,000 contract with Shremshock Architects for design work on the project. Commissioners earlier this month agreed to pay Sands Decker CPS just shy of $9,000 for additional engineering work.

Jon Melvin, director of facilities for the county, said he expects renovation efforts to wrap up early next winter.

"It's a pretty substantial project to really help make the intake and booking (processes) a lot more efficient," he said.