Transportation Director Colleen Murphy was up early on Thursday morning, June 27, so she could address the Austintown Board of Education. She brought good news of a grant that will provide the district with 14 new buses.
The grant was something Murphy had learned about through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Transportation and is called the Ohio Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Program. Under the program, the goal was to issue grants to entities with diesel fleets that would pay to replace them with cleaner alternatives. The grants are supported with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds allocated to Ohio by the Federal Highway Administration.
Murphy's application was among 60 received by the Ohio EPA requesting $45.6 million. Late Wednesday night, Murphy learned that 27 grants were awarded for a total of $13,720, 433 from which Austintown Local Schools will receive $1,070,880 to replace 14 diesel buses with the new propane-fueled models.
"We were the second highest grant awarded," Murphy said.
She said the grant is an 80-20 match, making the district's share $267,000. The buses have to be ordered and are expected to take a year to deliver, but Murphy said due to the number ordered, it could be filled in a shorter time.
The 14 new buses will replace 14 older diesel buses ranging in year from 1989 to 1997 models.
"It will be a huge cost savings," Murphy said. "To have 14 new buses under warranty will be great. We haven't had a bus under warranty since 2006."
Murphy added that she is working with Ferrell Gas Company to install a propane tank at the bus garage so the buses can be refueled.
"That was good news," said Superintendent Vince Colaluca.
Other Ohio-based fleet and diesel engine replacements funded under this round of grants included tug boat fleets, over-the-road trucks, transit buses, and locomotives, as well as installation of electric charging stations. Canton City Schools was awarded four CNG-fueled school buses and First Student Inc., covering Clark, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Lucas and Montgomery counties, was awarded a grant to replace engine components in 36 school buses.
While Austintown Schools came in second in total grant amount, the number one recipient was the Norfolk and Southern Railway Company, which received $1.4 million for electric layover heating systems for 26 diesel switcher locomotives operating in Ohio.