The California State Transportation Agency awarded the City of Wasco a $1 million grant for its Improving Air Quality and Economic Growth with Bus Electrification project.
The grant money will be specifically used to purchase three electric buses and the infrastructure to charge them.
"This way, we will be able to expand the capacity of our transit system, which is our Dial-A-Ride service. With this money, we hope to hire additional drivers and add more to our hours of operation for the residents," said Councilmember Alex Garcia.
While the grant will pay for most of the project, the remaining cost will be piecemealed together from various transportation sources.
"Our staff will continue searching for the remaining funding required to get the project off the ground," Garcia said. "I imagine we would be able to pursue transportation dollars through Kern COG [Kern Council of Governments], our county's transportation clearing house for funding from the state and federal entities," said Garcia.
The grant is significant because the city is the only municipality in Kern County to receive an award in this round of funding.
"We were eager and ready to seize the opportunity when it came around, and I believe that's why the state picked our application," said Garcia. "At City Hall, we are always looking for ways to expand Wasco's quality of life services."
The grant is moving the city toward more environmentally friendly transportation.
Currently, for the months of July and August, residents can ride for free on the Dial-A-Ride bus.
"Depending on the success of our current promotion, I'd be the first to enthusiastically recommend that we extend that suspension through the end of the year, given this new funding for our transit system," Garcia said .
Revitalizing and strengthening the Dial-A-Ride service is one of many various capital improvement projects the city has been pursuing.
Winning the grant was a team effort, with Assistant City Manager Maria Lara taking the lead.
"She has been a rock star in her new role to secure grant funding for community projects," Garcia said .
The future is heading toward electric transportation at the state level and now even more so locally for the town of Wasco, especially in light of this grant.
"It is going to be a collaboration between all departments. The finance department is always involved when it comes to funding projects, and the city clerk will manage the Dial-A-Ride system," said Garcia.
Garcia said he is proud and excited with the direction staff has taken the city.
"It speaks volumes of the hard work and dedication the staff at City Hall puts in every day on behalf of our residents."