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Local law enforcement agencies will get funding

Thursday, August 2, 2007

SIKESTON -- Local law enforcement agencies are among those receiving federal Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program Interoperable Communications Grant funding but have not yet received official word along with how much they will get.

According to a July 25 press release from Gov. Matt Blunt, 70 law enforcement jurisdictions were awarded grant funding totaling $2.9 million for "interoperable communications" equipment -- a standardization of radio equipment enabling different agencies to communicate with each other.

Local departments listed among those to receive the LETPP/ICGP funding include the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, Scott County Sheriff Department, New Madrid County Sheriff Department, Portageville Police Department, Pemiscot County Sheriff Department, Stoddard County Sheriff Department, Bernie Police Department and the Caruthersville Police Department among others.

"We haven't got the formal notice yet so we don't know how much we'll be getting," said Sgt. Jim McMillen, public information officer for the Sikeston DPS. "We're waiting to see what the formal notice will say."

McMillen said DPS officials prefer to not say how much they applied for while they await official notice.

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said his department is also awaiting official notice.

"I'm pretty excited about it. That's definitely going to help the county," Walter said. "We applied for right at $50,000 and according to unofficial sources, that is what we're going to receive."

Walter said he knows exactly what he would like to do with the grant funding.

"We're going to get a second repeater for the north end of the county," he said. "Right now, the south end is covered really well from our tower. In the north end, because of the hills, there are some dead spots where we don't get coverage. We're hopeful the repeater will help with those problems."

A repeater is an electronic device for the radios that takes a low-level signal and retransmits it at a higher level so the signal can cover longer distances and remain clear.

"We are also looking at satellite phones," Walter added.

Walter said Scott County already has three satellite phones which are assigned to the sheriff, presiding county commissioner and emergency management director. He hopes to be able to purchase four more handheld and two vehicle-mounted satellite phones with the grant funding.

These satellite phones would be assigned to deputies who live in various areas of the county. "We have deputies living in just about every city in the county," Walter said. "Sikeston, Oran, Chaffee, Scott City, Morley, Benton."

The LETPP/ICGP funding focused on promoting interoperability and narrow banding for smaller jurisdictions that otherwise would have difficulty meeting the Federal Communications Commission Narrowband deadline of 2013, according to the governor's press release.

New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens confirmed that without grant assistance for the mandated communications upgrades, he probably would have "put it off as long as I could have. With the grant it sure makes it a lot easier budget-wise."

By implementing these interoperability requirements, agencies responding to a multi-jurisdictional event will have shared channel interoperability as outlined in the National Interoperability Continuum.

Nearly 200 public safety agencies in Missouri have already agreed to implement these multi-discipline interoperability channels in their radios, according to the press release.