Cape Girardeau County received grant funding to add an additional radio tower in the county as part of the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network communication system, commonly referred to as MOSWIN.
The $450,000 project will be partially funded through a $395,000 grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Port Security Grant Program. The grant covers $295,000 in equipment costs and $100,000 in installment costs, with the county contributing $100,000 in matching funds toward the project.
Cape Girardeau County Emergency Management Director Mark Winkler said county first noticed the need for an additional tower on the north end of the county when the county fully switched over to the MOSWIN system last year.
“We noticed that there was a huge gap out in the northeast corner of the county by the Trail of Tears area along the river,” Winkler said. “Because of the nature of the port security grant’s focus on response capabilities along the river, we felt like this grant could be a golden opportunity to close that communication gap.”
In addition to increasing communication efforts along the Mississippi River for agencies like the Coast Guard, Winkler said the tower will help communication efforts locally and statewide.
“With the MOSWIN system, we can sit here in Cape Girardeau and talk to Kansas City with a handheld radio, which is just incredible,” Winkler said, adding that the county switched over to the MOSWIN system so different agencies could better communicate with each other.
First responders throughout the county, including the City of Jackson and the City of Cape Girardeau, are now on the MOSWIN radio system and can easily communicate with each other.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol also uses the MOSWIN radio system, and Winkler said agencies from Illinois and the National Weather Service in Paducah can also access MOSWIN radio frequencies.
The county applied for the grant last year and received an initial approved in August 2021, but the county had to wait for environmental and historical preservation screenings to be approved before moving forward with the project.
Those screenings were approved this spring, when the county could start purchasing equipment for the project. The county has now purchased more than $300,000 in equipment for the new tower, much of which will be reimbursed by the grant.
The county has until October 2024 to complete the project. Once the tower is completed, the State of Missouri will take over ownership of the tower equipment as part of the MOSWIN system. “Once we get it constructed, we are turning it over to the state,” Winkler said. “We have no responsibility for it once it’s installed.”
Winkler said the county had to compete with much bigger port area such as San Diego, Los Angeles and Houston to receive the grant. The county last received this grant in 2010 to help support the county’s former radio system.
“We consider ourselves fortunate that we were able to get this grant to help not only our local communications, but the state-wide network,” Winkler said. “This is an amazing component that we can put into the statewide system that increases our communication capabilities.”