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CU works on county-wide communication development

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Integration isn't easy.

City Utilities' Telecommunications Department is occupied right now with heading up the development of an

integrated, trunked radio system that will serve all of Greene County.

Todd Murren, director of telecommunications for the utility, is working on the particulars of the system, which will be in place by the end of 1999 or the first quarter of 2000, he said.

The preliminary design for the system is the result of a city-and-county consultant study that analyzed the needs of the city and county and determined that an integrated county-wide system would be best for serving the area's needs, Murren said.

"The city's and county's needs are really quite different in this area. The city's concern for the system is that it be able to penetrate buildings adequately and the county's is for distance," Murren said.

Since the three-eighths-cent law enforcement tax was passed in November 1997, the city and county groups have been working to qualify those needs, Murren said, and decisions have been made that have determined what the new system might look like.

The entire system will be a seven-site, 24-channel, 2,000-user system, Murren said. The infrastructure alone will cost $14 million to $15 million. City Utilities is paying the cost of the infrastructure up front, and the city and county entities that will use the system will repay their portions of that cost to CU, Murren said. Each entity will be responsible for its own equipment cost to use with the system, Murren said.

The system is set to have seven tower sites, Murren said. CU is responsible for securing those sites, and had to purchase two additional pieces of property for the tower sites, but was able to supply the other five out of its existing property, Murren said.

One of the newly-purchased sites is near Fair Grove, the other near Ash Grove. One site is the Southwest Power Station, whose 385-foot smokestack will be used as a tower, Murren said.

"We already had this high structure, and it was in an appropriate place for the system, so why not use it," Murren said.

Other sites include a site near CU's Mulroy line and two tentative sites, one near the Blackman water treatment facility and one on the northeast side of town.

The sites are subject to several approvals: Federal Communications Commission, Federal Aviation Authority, city zoning if a site is in the city, and county zoning if it is in the county, Murren said. The seven sites have received FAA approval and the four sites in the county have received county Planning and Zoning approval. The two sites in the city need city Planning and Zoning approval, but the power station site, also in the city, is not subject to Planning and Zoning approval, but needs FCC approval, Murren said.

The bulk of the towers will be 300 feet high, except the Southwest Power Station site, which is 385 feet. One site will be 280 feet and another will be 150 feet, Murren said.

Requests for proposals for the system will hit the street soon, Murren said. There will be three distinct requests: one for the radio equipment, one for the tower construction, and one for the equipment buildings, Murren said. The radio equipment proposal will go out in July, he said, and the other two should follow quickly.

"We don't want to rush the front-end stuff on this, but at the same time, we want to keep moving at the aggressive pace we have been," Murren said.

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