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Fresno Approves Hydrogen Contract for New Buses. How Far is the Filling Station?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 3, 2024

The Fresno City Council approved a contract to fuel the city's two new hydrogen cell buses. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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The city of Fresno will soon take possession of two hydrogen fuel cell buses, and on Thursday, the city council secured a power source for the vehicles.

By a 6-0 vote, the council approved a $3.5 million contract with H2B2 USA LLC, with the closest filling station in Kerman. Miguel Arias was absent from the vote.

The contract is for three years, with two one-year renewals. In essence, the city is buying $3.5 million worth of fuel for five years. Transportation director Gregory Barfield said fuel costs for the two buses would be $300,000 a year. The city expects to buy more hydrogen buses in the future.

Congressional candidate Michael Maher — who is also in the hydrogen fuel industry — called into the meeting via Zoom, questioning a no-bid contract. Transportation director Gregory Barfield explained that was not the case.

Three companies replied to a Request of Information — similar to a bidding process, but not quite. Only the Kerman plant met Fresno’s needs. The city cannot store the hydrogen at its maintenance yard because of fire codes — there is not enough setback distance.

Barfield said it will take at least six months for training on the new buses before they go into service.

Councilmember Unsure

Councilmember Mike Karbassi expressed skepticism but supported the contract.

“The technology just isn’t necessarily there,” Karbassi said. “That’s a lot of taxpayer money to spend.”

The vote comes a day after GV Wire reported problems with the city’s zero-emission electric buses. All nine of those transports are out of commission. The bus maker, Proterra, went out of business. Phoenix Motorcars, which bought some of the assets out of bankruptcy, has yet to provide the parts and service needed.

The Fresno County Economic Development Corp. helped recruit H2B2, a international firm based in Spain, to build in Fresno County. The company received millions in a state grant.

For now, the hydrogen buses will have to travel to Kerman to fuel. Barfield said a closer plant will open in the future.

The city paid $2.9 million for the two hydrogen buses with the funds mostly from federal grants.

FAHF Strikes Deal to Buy Vacant City Building

The Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation will purchase a vacant downtown Fresno building.

The city council approved unanimously selling the Berkeley Building, at the corner of Fulton and Kern streets, to the nonprofit, for $1 — $80,999 below the appraised value.

Dora Westerlund, FAHF president and CEO, said the foundation plans to use the building for mixed use with retail on the bottom floor and office space on top. FAHF will use some of the offices for expansion, while leasing the rest. The next step is performing due diligence.

“The site, it’s got great potential. It’s right there in the heart of downtown and in the heart of the Chukchansi (Park). As people are walking around there, that’s a place where really can be revitalized and people can actually, you know, go and enjoy an evening,” Westerlund said.

Westerlund had no date when the building will reopen. The city is giving FAHF two to four years.

FAHF identified nearly $4 million in funding, through federal grants and its own money. Westerlund said the total project may cost $6 million.

“We have a gala event that you can sponsor,” Westerlund said, mentioning the organization’s June 21 fundraiser.

The deal also includes up to 70 parking spaces reserved in the nearby Spiral Garage.

Council Approves Calandra as New Planning Commissioner

The council approved Linda Calandra to the planning commission by a 7-0 vote.

City councilmember Miguel Arias asked city management if anyone from District 3 applied. No one had, deputy city manager Chris Montelongo said.

Calandra — a retired nonprofit fundraiser and one-time city councilmember from 1993-1997 — replaces Brad Hardie, whose term expired last year. Hardie attended his last planning commission meeting Wednesday, but did not sit on the dais or vote.

Commissioners remain until the replacement is approved.

Arias has questioned other planning commission picks in the past, expressing a desire for more diversity among the districts.

Bredefeld Supports Israel, Condemns Protesters in Speech

Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld used his councilmember comment time to support Israel, and condemned Hamas and antisemetic campus protesters.

For seven minutes, Bredefeld let his position on the issue be known — again.

(Campus protestors) are mindless, ignorant zombies that have been indoctrinated for years with DEI, CRT and other messages that our country is a racist, terrible country. Their minds have been marinating with this crap for years and now we’re seeing the result of this indoctrination,” Bredefeld said.

He called for students committing crimes to be thrown out of school and college presidents to be fired.

Bredefeld is running for Fresno County Supervisor against incumbent Steve Brandau.

During unscheduled communications later in the day, one anti-Israel speaker compared the Israel to Nazi Germany. The speaker also chastised Bredefeld for his Israeli flag on the dais. The speaker made no comment about the Mexican flag that councilmember Luis Chavez displayed.

Bredefeld has said publicly several times he was raised Jewish before converting to Christianity.

Garry Bredefeld (left) with his Israeli flag, and Luis Chavez with his Mexican flag on the dais. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Two Longtime City Hall Employees Retire

Two long-time City Hall employees have retired, and the council honored them Thursday.

Terry Cox has been a fixture since 1996, serving 14 of those years as a chief of staff for councilmembers Dan Ronquillo and Esmeralda Soria. Cox earned the nickname “Teacher of Chief of Staffs.”

After Soria termed out, Cox worked as a housing liaison for Mayor Jerry Dyer. Cox also served 20 years as a Central Unified School Board trustee.

Sam Frank is leaving the city after 34 years of service. He worked as a senior utility service representative, but was better known as president of the Fresno City Employees Association union.

Frank helped usher in benefits for same-sex couples in 2000 long before it became fashionable.

He plans to continue with FCEA as the union’s business manager.

City Hall honored the retiring Sam Frank (left) and Terry Cox. (GV Wire/David Taub)

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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