BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Bureau of Indian Affairs expects to re-open a privately-built jail on the edge of the Crow Indian Reservation in coming months after it sat vacant for much of the last decade.

The bureau's director recently told a U.S. Senate committee that the agency is finalizing a contract to begin operating the Two Rivers Detention Facility in Hardin within the next three months, the Billings Gazette reported .

The 464-bed jail was constructed by a private company working with local officials in 2007. It was meant to spur Hardin's struggling economy.

But the city and its business partners have struggled to find contracts for inmates, a protracted saga that tarnished the city's reputation when Hardin leaders fell prey to a California con-man who promised to put the facility to use in what turned out to be an elaborate scam.

The BIA has not said who would operate the jail. A lease package has been submitted to the General Services Administration but further details have not been released because a final contract is not yet in place, BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling said.

The Crow Reservation has no jail. Inmates sentenced in Crow tribal court are sent to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation or transported to jails hundreds of miles away, prompting complaints from tribal leaders that BIA was refusing to help.

Earlier this year Crow Chairman A.J. Not Afraid Jr. said in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that the bureau was detaining Crow members in "illegally overcrowded detention centers in the state and Wyoming."

He claimed that 26 inmates from the Crow Tribe and another 63 Northern Cheyenne tribal members were at the time being held in the Northern Cheyenne jail in Lame Deer, which was designed to hold 19 inmates.

The bureau said in February 2017 that a lease would be signed by April.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com