09/06/05 — Gas price steady but still an issue

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Gas price steady but still an issue

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 6, 2005 1:52 PM

Labor Day weekend is typically a time for beach trips, football games and family travel to wrap up the summer vacation season. But soaring gas prices caused many to remain close to home and businesses to revamp conservation measures for the months ahead.

By this morning, the flow of gasoline to the East Coast is back at almost 100 percent capacity, with prices stabilized at about $3.19 a gallon in Goldsboro.

Greg Pappas works in Goldsboro and had long planned a drive to Greenville to see ECU battle Duke in their football home opener over the weekend. The price of gas nearly kept him at home.

"I almost didn't go," Pappas said, "but if people need to go somewhere, they'll go."

Others, like 19-year-old Megan Ward, did not allow the prices to curtail her travel plans. She went to Greenville for her wedding anniversary, spending more than $20 at the pump for the nearly 100-mile round-trip.

"I don't know what to expect," Mrs. Ward said about whether she thought gas prices would drop soon. "I hope they do."

Increasing gas prices have had many area gas stations seeing sales increases and pumps running dry. At the Short Stop BP on N.C. 111, long lines on Thursday left no regular unleaded gasoline remaining on Friday morning.

"It was a nightmare," said Christine, an employee at Short Stop. "And the only reason gas went up is because the consumer keeps buying it so fast."

According to the American Automobile Association, North Carolina is ranked 11th in gas prices, with the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded at $3.14. In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, prices are expected to continue to climb.

Some residents realize that even paying higher prices for gas, they are still more fortunate than those strugging to put their lives back together.

"I'd rather pay more for gas than go through what they are," Mrs. Ward said.

Bob Matty, at the Short Stop on N.C. 111 this morning, said he didn't make any plans for the Labor Day weekend. He said he figured the prices would come back down after the weekend.

"They were gouging," he said. "And they have come down a lot of places."

He said he priced gas last Thursday at $3.40 and $3.50 a gallon, and now it's $3.19. He said he has seen gas on U.S. 117 South as low as $3.09 a gallon. But two miles down from N.C. 55, gas is still at $3.59, he said.

Tim Griggs said he just put $45 worth of gas in his tank, and he still didn't fill it.

"I think it's ridiculous," he said.

Fred Gross said he doesn't see how the schools do it. The school bus in front of him stops at every house to pick up children.

"We had to walk down the road, 15 or 20 of us kids in one group," he said of his own childhood. He suggested the school buses need to do that again.

Ed and Elizabeth Smith, eating breakfast at Wilber's, were preparing to run a day's worth of errands in one trip. They run Long's Plant Farm, and said that deliveries are costing them more now.

"It's something we didn't plan on in our budget," Mrs. Smith said.

She said she resents the gas prices. Charging more for gas that's already in the tanks is price gouging, she said.

"I sell shrubs and trees, and if I get a new shipment in, I adjust that price," she said. "I don't go back to everything else I've got and change their prices, too.

"How do they justify having 50,000 gallons in the ground and going up on it? Somebody's getting that money, and it's not the stock exchange, and it sure ain't me and you."

The Smiths say they have parked the regular delivery truck until the gas prices come down and have been delivering plants in the family car. The truck, which gets about six miles to the gallon, will only be used for larger deliveries.

"Today, I need to go to the bank, the post office and I may have to pick up my son at Eastern Wayne Middle School," she said. "I will try to combine all four of these trips in one and do everything and come on back home."

Resident Jeff Jackson, approached while pumping gas this morning, took it all in stride.

"Just have to live with it," he said.