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story.lead_photo.caption Construction continues Thursday July 30, 2020 on the Ozark Regional Transit's new facility in Springdale. Ozark Regional Transit is using a $2.9 million federal grant to build a new administration and operations center on Robinson Ave in east Springdale. Visit nwaonline.com/200731Daily/ for photo galleries. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

SPRINGDALE -- Ozark Regional Transit officials say they're on track to be in their new home this fall.

"The building is trucking along, brick fascia is being put on, windows soon and then indoors to insulation and drywall," said Executive Director Joel Gardner. "We are still on track for a mid- to late-October occupation date."

Ozark Regional Transit is using a $2.9 million federal grant to build the 8,600-square-foot administration and operation center. It took three tries to secure the grant. The transit agency began applying for federal grants for a new building in 2015 and received approval in September 2018.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Regional Transit's land on Robinson Avenue/U.S. 412, about a mile east of the Springdale Municipal Airport, is being used as a local match for the grant, according to Gardner.

Ozark Regional broke ground on the building in February. Risley and Associates architectural firm of Fort Smith designed it, and Oleke Construction of Lowell is the builder.

Gardner said the building should help the transit agency develop over the next 30 years. The building will have a board room, office space for staff, room for future staff and a training room.

Regional Transit has been housed for decades in a 7,000-square-foot building that it has outgrown. The old building will be demolished and the site converted to a parking lot.

The transit agency has bounced back from a early morning Jan. 9, 2017, fire that destroyed 20 buses, decimating its fleet.

They used a mismatched collection of loaned and borrowed buses to maintain service. Since then, several federal grants have been used to buy new buses, which cost about $120,000 each, bringing the fleet back to full strength.

Ozark Regional gets almost $1.5 million to operate annually, including offering free fares, from Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville. Fayetteville committed $532,228 for 2020; Rogers, $467,670; Springdale, $361,710; and, Bentonville, $125,757.

The agency also has received some covid-related state and federal grants during the pandemic.

In April, ORT received about $15,000 from the Arkansas Department of Transportation for covid-related expenses. It was used to buy personal protective equipment, including masks and respirator safety masks and sanitizer to wipe down the buses.

Ron Wood can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWARDW.

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