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Gas prices staying high
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Local residents and officials alike are feeling the sting while wondering when prices will get back to where they were a week ago.

So why is gas so high right now?

Greg Woolard, vice president of the Clyde’s gas station chain, said it is because most of this area’s gas is pulled from the Gulf Coast area, the area in which many refineries were temporarily shut down to brace for Ike.

"We pull our entire product out of the gulf," Woolard said. "As far as I know, it’s 100 percent of the south’s supply. That’s why what happens in Texas affects us."

Woolard refused to pay for a supply of gas last week, saying he would’ve had to inflate prices at the pump too much. That’s why the local Clyde’s was out of gas for several days. Woolard found a good price Monday night, and reopened the

the pumps at many local Clyde’s stores.

"We got a pretty good pullback and were able to purchase it at $4.10 (sold for $4.19 at the pump)," Woolard said. "This leads me to believe we’ll probably get more pullbacks this week. It’s definitely a good sign."

Woolard said the different prices at the pump throughout the Coastal Empire reflect when and where the local gas companies purchased their gas.

"Gas went up 35 cents on Monday (Sept. 8), 25 cents Thursday morning when the hurricane turned and then another 32 to 82 cents later that same day."

Woolard said that even though Ike has already passed through Texas, prices may linger at the current high rates because it takes four to five days for the refineries to get going once they turn their power back on.

So supply is still limited. He predicts that it will take a week or two to solve the supply issue, but prices should get in line before that.

Meanwhile, current gas prices are taking their toll on budgets and tolerance levels throughout Bryan County.

"I think we’re being gouged," said Bob Widener, who pulled in his motorcycle to fuel up at the Richmond Hill Kroger. "I don’t think there’s a shortage at all. I think it’s just a way for gas companies and local owners to gouge the public. Ike is just an excuse. They jacked the prices up just upon hearing about it. Prices weren’t even this high for Katrina, and there was pipeline damage when it hit."

Richmond Hill resident Clay Hatfield, while spending $85 to fill up his SUV, expressed a similar opinion.

"80 percent of the gas is brought from the middle east," Hatfield said. "There’s a ship sitting off the coast of Tybee right now, but they won’t bring it in because they know they can gouge the consumer. Gas is 21 cents in the middle east right now, so how can it be $4.09 at the cheapest place in Georgia?"

Richmond Hill resident Ernest Harmon, who you may know as the local ice cream man, said this latest spike has had a huge impact on his business.

"I’ve had to take three days off this week because I just can’t afford to keep up with these new gas prices," Harmon said. "All it is is millionaires going up on gas to get richer while hard working small business people like me are going under."

Cities and counties are also taking a hit. Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones said this year’s unpredictable fuel market has already caused expenditures to reach 30 percent higher than what was budgeted.

He said he anticipated a price increase with Ike and had county vehicles top off their tanks before the spike, "which saved a little bit. How this affects us will depend on how long this lasts."

Pembroke city clerk Betty Hill also said time will tell in regard to how much this will impact city finances. She said the Pembroke Police Department, which is the most heavily affected, is practicing conservation efforts such as sitting idle for a period of time during patrol.

Richmond Hill finance director Bob Whitmarsh said he is in the process of putting together the budget, and this latest spike is one more complication to what is already a difficult task of projecting what to alot for fuel expenditures.

Allen Cox, who oversees transportation for the Bryan County Board of Education, said school buses were unaffected by the recent price surge as the BoE fills up their wells with a supply that lasts for up to three weeks. He said it may have a negative impact though if the high prices linger long enough.



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