Westport's school bus fleet will hit the road next year with an energy-efficient addition following unanimous Representative Town Meeting approval of funding for a hybrid bus.

The town will provide upfront funding of approximately $146,000, which will cover the full purchase price of the electric-diesel vehicle, under the deal approved by the RTM last week. A federal grant, administered through the state Department of Transportation, will reimburse the town for the approximately $64,000 difference between a hybrid bus and a diesel bus. The funding comprises part of a federal congestion-air quality improvement initiative.

"We are committed to being as green and as environmentally friendly as possible," said Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon.

DATTCO, the school district's transportation provider, will then enter into a two-year lease with the town for the remaining $82,000 cost, and make two annual lease payments of about $41,000. At the end of the lease, DATTCO will make an approximately $453 payment to cover the estimated interest on the town's invested capital in the bus, and it will receive the title to the vehicle.

All of the funds returned to the town for the hybrid bus will go into the town's Capital and Nonrecurring Expenditure Fund.

The hybrid bus that will be purchased by the school district will have a diesel fuel tank, but it will be principally powered by electric energy generated by the vehicle's braking.

"In terms of the future, this is the way we should be thinking about energy and costs," said Velma Heller, chairwoman of the RTM's Education Committee. "I think the way it works out financially is good for the town."

The RTM also unanimously approved last week a $152,000 appropriation for the recoating of sections of the roof at Coleytown Middle School.

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