While several emergency response and law enforcement agencies in Phelps County have received grants to pay for their digital radios as part of a switch to a statewide network, the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department will be paying for its digital radios.
Tuesday morning, Sheriff Rick Lisenbe and Cpl. Mike Kirn, both of the sheriff’s department, informed the commissioners during their meeting that the department plans to submit a purchase order with Wireless USA through a state bid to buy digital radios and program them.
The purchase will cost an estimated $132,000, Kirn said, and will pay for 26 car radios, six handheld radios, console dispatch equipment and installation of the equipment. Lisenbe said asset forfeiture funds will be used to pay for the equipment.
The sheriff’s department is purchasing the radios as it switches from analog to digital frequencies, a requirement for the department to join the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (MOSWIN).
MOSWIN is a radio communications network built by the Missouri Department of Public Safety with the goal of providing an interoperable platform for local emergency responders to communicate with other agencies, both local and state.
The network is aimed at having one radio network that will allow emergency personnel throughout the state to talk directly to one another, regardless of distance.
“This will allow us all to hear each other and all get on board,” Lisenbe said.
“It’s such a benefit to have digital over analog,” Kirn said. “There will still be some dead spots, but it’s far less (than what we have with analog),” he added, noting that boosters used for current analog radios will still be needed as a backup.
Kirn said he plans to order the radios by the end of this week and it could be 60 to 90 days before the sheriff’s department receives them. “We’re looking at the middle of summer to switch over,” he said.
Last summer, the state of Missouri asked the City of Rolla to turn some its radio frequencies — including the ones belonging to the Rolla Police Department and City of Rolla Fire and Rescue — over to MOSWIN in exchange for upgrades to the RPD’s equipment, including digital radios.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol plans to switch to digital radios in April, commissioners were told.
Lisenbe said because his department works with smaller departments such as Doolittle, Newburg and Edgar Springs, he wanted to wait to switch over to using digital radios until those departments were able to as well.
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On Jan. 31 the Region I Homeland Security Oversight Committee (HSOC) finalized its list of emergency agencies that will receive new mobile radios or upgrades to current radios that would enable them to connect to MOSWIN.
Among the agencies in the county awarded one or two new mobile radios for this purpose include the St. James Fire Protection District, Doolittle Police Department, Newburg Police Department, Phelps County Regional Medical Center Ambulance and Doolittle Fire Protection District. Additionally, the Edgar Springs Fire Protection District was also awarded upgrades to two mobile radios that will allow those radios to access MOSWIN.
Back in September 2012, Kirn informed the commission that the department had been awarded communications equipment through the Missouri Statewide Communications Assistance Program (MOSCAP) for its switch to MOSWIN.
At that time, Phelps County was awarded four mobile radios, which are in-car radios, valued at $17,000, that can be used in the digital (or Project 25) mode and conventional mode according to Mike O’Connell, communications director with the Missouri Department of Public Safety.