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Pain at pumps

Residents, businesses feel pinch

POSTED: September 12, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News/

Robert Hart of Dawsonville fills up his truck with gas. “I am a disabled senior and these prices are just undoable for me,” he said. “I can’t fill up my tank because I can’t afford it.”

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This summer communities across the nation have seen the highest gas prices in seven years, increasing the stress on family budgets and small businesses.

In Dawson County, gas prices jumped more than 30 cents per gallon over a matter of days in late August.

Dawsonville resident Randy Sword said he has heard some of the explanations, but just doesn't "buy into it."

"I think corporations use any excuse to let prices go up," he said while pumping gas into his 2005 Chevy truck on a recent afternoon.

Hurricane Isaac was blamed for much of the price hike in late August. Yet there were some reports that many oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were unaffected.

Joanne Trussell of Forsyth County said she didn't believe a hurricane caused the prices to rise.

As she filled up her SUV recently in Dawson County, Trussell said she and husband John have had to make adjustments to their family budget.

"I don't go out as much because I can't afford it," she said. "I am a senior citizen and am on a fixed income. I have to plan ahead of time so I won't have to spend as much."

Many small, local businesses that run deliveries have also felt the pinch.

Cheryl Brown, co-owner of Memories Florist, said her business makes deliveries across the county and elsewhere.

To offset the higher gas prices Brown said she's had to increase delivery prices. Yet, it still wasn't enough.

"We eventually had to cut employees back to make up for higher costs and less revenue," she said.

Because her flowers are delivered by wholesalers, her purchases have also grown more expensive.

"Our wholesaler's prices have gone up as well because their gas has gone up too," she said.

George Parson, an imaging supply specialist for Cartridge on Wheels, is also being affected. He spends an average of 20 hours a week driving about 550 miles around north Georgia.

"I can't not deliver to my clients, that would kill my business," he said. "Gas is a necessary evil, so we've been increasing our budget in preparation."

With offices in Dawsonville and Gainesville, Duncan Exterminating has 25 vehicles on the road at any given time. Sherry Duncan, a partner in the business, said higher fuel costs are affecting them "big time."

"We have had a 43 percent increase in gas expenses in gas price alone," she said. "We've done everything we can to reduce this. We've bought more fuel-efficient cars, consolidated rides and we've encouraged the guys to be mindful of mileage."

Duncan said the profit-margin is gone for the business.

"We've managed to not raise customer prices, but our family has been sacrificing," she said.

Nonprofits in the area have also been dealing with rising transportation costs.

The Dawson County Humane Society, which drives three or more vehicles every Saturday to off-site adoption locations, said gas is "another added burden."

"It's huge on us," said director Debra Maxwell. "Since we are strictly donations, when anything increases it affects us."

Dawson County's RIC Rack Helping Hand Thrift Store and Food Bank has not seen a significant effect on their everyday functions, but manager Angela McKinzie said they still have had to limit themselves.

"To be honest, it's not been too bad for us. But I do feel bad for our customers and those who have to drive to work every day at nearly $4 per gallon," she said.

Sharon Clark, lead instructor at Lanier Technical College's Adult Learning Center, said it has had more issues with transportation due to high gas prices.

"We hear it every day. People call and say: ‘I can't get there because I don't have gas or the money to get it.' So we try to be understanding, even though the state requirements are toughening up," she said.

Students must attend 40 hours of class before letters of verification can be sent out, Clark explained.

According to a recent statement from the American Automobile Association, the U.S. saw the largest gas price increase for the month of August in seven years.

"National average gas prices increased 30.8 cents or 8.75 percent a gallon in August," according to AAA.

"This was the largest monthly price increase since April 2011 and the second highest increase for the month of August in AAA's records, which date to 2000."

However, there may be help on the way.

According to GeorgiaGasPrices.com, average retail gas prices in Georgia have fallen 4.1 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.79 per gallon as of Sept. 9.

This compares with the national average that has increased 1.3 cents per gallon in the last week.

Senior petroleum analysts with Gasbuddy.com predict prices to continue to slowly decrease in coming weeks.

"With the conclusion of the summer driving season, we can expect gasoline prices to go on a diet," said senior analyst Patrick DeHaan.

AAA agreed, citing that refineries could switch to less expensive winter-blend gasoline.

"However, regional supply and distribution issues, hurricane concerns or other unforeseen market moving events could potentially send prices higher temporarily in the coming months," wrote Michael Green with AAA.

Gov. Nathan Deal addressed Georgia's gas issues last week when he asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily waive environmental requirements for gasoline sold in Georgia.

The waiver hoped to avoid a potential shortage after Hurricane Isaac caused supply disruptions.

The EPA granted the waiver through Sept. 15, which will give Gulf Coast fuel refineries time to resume normal production, according a press release from the governor's office.

Dawsonville resident Betty Jo Singletary summed up the situation many residents and businesses find themselves in.

"In the end, I think we are always at the gas corporation's mercy," she said.

 

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