Streamlining Communication: A History

Jul 1, 2020

In the 1990s, radio systems for many entities in Greene County were approaching obsolescence. Communicating among agencies was cumbersome because everyone had their own system. Agencies included City Utilities’ different areas, various police departments, various fire departments, city departments, and many more.

If an event occurred that involved multiple agencies, dispatchers would call each other to communicate. It became like a game of “telephone” where one person starts with the message and by the time it reaches the last person, the message is delayed and may have changed.

What did we need? We needed a new radio system. A common radio system.

City Utilities Board Chair Curtis Graff, Manager – Wireless Systems Don Kocian, Greene County Commissioner Dave Coonrod, Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson, Springfield Police Chaplain Phil Webb and City Utilities Associate General Manager Bill Burks (left to right) at the trunked radio dedication in 2002.

In April 2000, a new, more streamlined radio system became a reality thanks to a partnership between City Utilities, City of Springfield, and Greene County. This $27 million project with Motorola as the prime contractor built a trunked, simulcast system including seven radio sites, and installed electronics as well as new radios. There are radio sites in or near Ash Grove, Fair Grove, Republic, north Springfield, center Springfield, south Springfield and eastern Greene County.

A trunked, simulcast system boils down to a radio system that allows different agencies to easily talk to each other. A trunked system pools the radio channels. Rather than each entity having their own channel, the channels are shared to increase system efficiency. Simulcast allows people in different areas to clearly communicate with each other. For example, someone near Ash Grove can clearly talk to someone in east Greene County.

In addition to agencies being able to easily talk amongst each other, the county’s centralized 911 dispatch can monitor multiple conversations to streamline emergency calls and services.

This innovation in our radio communications happened more than 20 years ago. Even with a minor update in 2009, the system, while still effective, is once again outdated.

By the end of 2020, our trunked radio system will be updated again to take us well into the future. The system upgrade will be fully compliant with the national P-25 common standards, which means that the equipment can more easily talk to other brands and types of radio equipment.

Additionally, we will join the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (MOSWIN) as the fourth zone in the state. Currently, there are zone cores in Jefferson City, Weldon Springs, and St. Louis. This will allow someone from a different zone to use their radios on our system and visa versa. In the event of a major emergency that involves agencies statewide, we will be better equipped to communicate and navigate the situation.