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Goldstein Investigation: $1 Million Taxpayer-Funded Bus Remains Unused For Years

BURBANK (CBSLA) - "Whoa, look at those teeth!"

We discovered a million dollar hybrid bus, paid for by taxpayers, sitting idle for years with a possum living in the engine.

A former Burbank transit employee, who we're not identifying, first noticed the animal when he opened up the engine compartment.

"What did you think when you opened it up and saw that possum?," asked David Goldstein.

"It scared me. When it snarled at me I just jumped back. That's when I took a picture because I saw nobody's going to believe me."

The bus was funded through a 2007 state grant requested by the city of Burbank. It called for a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell bus for zero emissions. One of the first of its kind and at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1.3 million, with the total project costing almost two million dollars.

It was touted by the U.S. Department of Energy. They said the bus could be fully charged by plugging it into a 220-volt outlet and that Burbankbus planned to operate the fuel cell vehicle on all of its routes starting in 2010.

But our source says it hasn't moved from this spot for years.

"It's more like a phantom bus. No, nobody knows nothing about it," said the unidentified employee.

The inside the bus is now being used for storage. A shopping cart, metal panels and boxes rest on the seats which usually carry passengers.

David Kriske with the City of Burbank admits the bus hasn't moved for years, and even when it did, it didn't go very far.

"Was this bus ever put into service?"

"No, it was not."

"And why?"

"We could not get the bus to operate in a reliable way that would allow us to rely on it to be able to provide trips for paying customers," said Kriske.

So after more than a million dollars in state funding, this green energy bus - was a bust.

When asked if this was a waste of taxpayer money, Kriske said, "I think from the city's standpoint and its contribution, i think it was a reasonable use of money to try and move these efforts forward."

Susan Shelley with the Howard Jarvis taxpayers association says a private company wouldn't just leave a million dollar bus to be a home for a possum, but when it comes to taxpayer money, Shelley says, "The government doesn't care because they coerced the money out of taxpayers. It's not their money. They're just happy to write the check and then they're done. They can say look we funded this, but it's useless. It's a waste."

The California Air Resources Board claims it was money well spent. They say knowing the technology didn't work helped them develop other fuel efficient methods. The city of Burbank is looking into what to do with the bus and they say the possum will be relocated and not harmed.

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