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September 18, 2008 Issue

Gas prices rise as supply drops
Wrens looks to register all golf cars using roads
Combs takes Louisville seat
Lewis attends RNC as delegate

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Gas prices rise as supply drops

By Faye Ellison and Carol McLeod
Staff Writers

With the threat of Hurricane Ike bearing down on the oil refineries and major thoroughfare for gas in Texas, consumers yet again made a dash for the pumps in order to make sure their tanks were full before the storm shut down America’s petroleum mecca.

Some say the consumers rush to fill their tanks prematurely, while there is no real threat of a gas shortage. Others blame the oil companies who continue to make record profits by driving up the cost. Before Hurricane Ike threatened the Gulf Coast, gas was sold at $120 a barrel. Monday the barrel price dropped to $96, but still convenience stores held the price between $4.39 to $4.99 a gallon for regular unleaded in the area, if it is even available.

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Here are the facts: the oil rigs were evacuated well before Hurricane Ike hit, stopping the production of 27 percent of the fuel Americans use daily, but some have resumed pumping oil already; and when the lines that deliver fuel to our area are reopened, experts say it will take nearly a week to arrive.

Oil companies that distribute gas in Georgia have said that the major oil companies have raised the price for in-state wholesalers multiple times since Thursday. Those costs have been passed along to consumers. But they do expect gas prices to level off within the next couple of weeks.

In Glascock County it was said that store tanks were dry by Thursday night due to the rumors of a gas drought, but now have gas this week. Glascock County Superintendent Jim Holton said that the school system has enough gas to last eight days as of Monday morning.

“I called our supplier, who felt everything was in hand,” he said. “He said he wouldn’t know a real answer about the gas situation until the refineries in Galveston were assessed.”

Holton said he believes the system will receive fuel before it is out.

Glascock County Commission Chairman Anthony Griswell said that the county is keeping a close eye on the amount of gas used.

“We have told everyone until this changes to do absolutely what you have to do to keep our services in place,” he said. “The sheriff’s office was proactive in cutting back on some of their patrols, but still watching over the county. The road crew might be a little late getting our grass cut again, but we will resume when the price drops.

“We are trying to conserve as much as we can, but you can’t cut back but so much on your services. Like I have said earlier, we are looking at some trying times. I always look to the positive, we have went through worse things than this and we will be able to survive this just like we have always survived.”

Griswell said the best way for citizens to combat this problem is to combine trips and share rides.

“Any time you haven’t got to make that trip, stay at home and don’t make it,” he said. “It is all about conservation. Then the consumer will have the upper hand instead of the producer.”

In Jefferson County, County Administrator Paul Bryan said Friday that he asked all county offices to use vehicles only for emergencies.

“I’m restricting at this point, all gas services to emergency vehicles only,” he said. “These restrictions will remain in place until such time as we have a handle on what’s going on. Our understanding is that we cannot get fuel at this point.”

“It’s not the cost, it’s the shortage right now because the refinery is shut down because of the storm,” Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins added. “We need to be sure we’ve got enough gas to respond when we’re needed. We’ve got a certain amount of gas and we’re just going to cut back on our driving.”

Hutchins said he and his officers would be watching their mileage and rather than having officers patrolling as much, they will be stationed in different parts of the county.

The Jefferson County Board of Education is facing the same dilemma as Glascock County with only eight days of fuel in the ground as of Friday.

“We’re working on budgets and I’m looking at having to make major cuts,” Jefferson County Superintendent Carl Bethune said. “The recent fuel increases have caused us to tell staff to cancel all field trips.”

Area cities including Louisville, Wrens, Avera, Stapleton and Bartow are keeping a close eye on their tanks to make sure they have enough gas to make it through this sudden dilemma, including cutbacks on patrolling.

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed an executive order Friday to enact the state’s price gauging statute to protect Georgia consumers from unlawful increases in gas prices and other products.

“The threat of Hurricane Ike has disrupted the production of distribution of gasoline, which will have an effect on prices,” Gov. Perdue said. “However we expect the prices that Georgians pay at the pump to be in line with the prices retailers are paying. We will not tolerate retailers taking advantage of Georgians during a time of emergency.”

The price gouging statute prevents retailers from selling goods or services at an unreasonable or egregious price, but does not prevent price increases that accurately reflect an increase in cost of the goods or services to the retailer, an increase in the cost of transporting of goods or services to the area or an increase due to the market forces of supply and demand.

Citizens are asked to report any suspected incidences to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs at (800) 869-1123.



Wrens looks to register all golf cars using roads

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

Getting around town in a golf car will soon be much safer in Wrens. A new city ordinance will provide crossings over state routes for golf cars and other motorized carts. The ordinance also will require carts to be registered and display a decal. Jimmy Smith, district traffic engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, discussed the project at Wrens’ city council meeting on Tues., Sept. 9.

Smith said that Wrens is the first city in his district, which encompasses 28 counties, to request crossings for golf cars. Driving a golf car or other motorized cart on a state road is illegal, as is driving one on the sidewalk.

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By providing safe crossings over the state roads that run through Wrens, the ordinance will allow cart drivers to navigate the entire city legally. The ordinance charges the DOT with locating the crossings on state roads, while the city regulates city roads, on which carts are allowed to travel.

While the state DOT does have standard golf car crossing signs to put on state roads for motorists, signs on city roads for golf car drivers have not been needed until now.

The DOT has created some possible new signs to place on city roads indicating which direction the carts can travel when arriving at a state road crossing. The preliminary sign design has a golf car with three arrows—to the front, right, and left—branching above it. Large “no” symbols—like those seen on pictorial “No Smoking” signs—cover the right and left branches, indicating that the driver can only travel forward across the state road. Smith strongly encouraged the city to install these signs on the city roads used for crossings.

Smith also encouraged the city to distribute safety and information booklets with the cart decals. “The more message you can get out, the less enforcement issues you will have,” he said.

The drafted ordinance suggested five possible crossings over Hwy 1, Hwy 80, Hwy 102 and Hwy 17. Smith reviewed the DOT recommendations regarding these sites. The DOT found the first site, at Hwy 80 and Walker Street to be satisfactory for a crossing. However, Smith expressed concerns about the second and third sites, at Hwy 102 and Cemetery Street and Hwy 1 and Russell Street. Both of these sites are T-intersections, meaning that once across the state road, the cart would not have a road on which to continue.

The fourth and fifth intersections on Hwy 17 at Cemetery Street and Thompson Street were found to have limited sight distance. Smith suggested more suitable crossings at Hwy 1 and Walker Street or Hwy 1 and Hill Street, with the Walker Street crossing having better sight distance. He also recommended the city consider crossings over Hwy 80 at McNair or Patrick Streets. The DOT will consider other crossings as the city decides upon them.



Combs takes Louisville seat

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

By a narrow margin of three votes, Sherry Combs was elected to the Louisville City Council Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Combs will fill the seat vacated by Tom Watson when he resigned earlier this year to spend more time with his family.

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Combs, with 133 votes, just edged ahead of Don Handberry who had 130 votes.

The other contenders were Ricky Sapp, who finished with 107 votes, and David Smith, who had 39.

Combs will be sworn in just prior to the city council’s regular meeting in October, City Administrator Don Rhodes said.

Watson’s unexpired term leaves almost four years for Combs to fill, he said.

Combs had to achieve a plurality in this election. A total of 409 votes were cast from among all the registered voters in Louisville, which Mayor Rita Culvern said she believes is 1,600 people.



Lewis attends RNC as delegate

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

John Lewis, a resident of Jefferson County, and his wife, Karen Lewis, attended the Republican National Convention held in Saint Paul, Minn., Sept. 1 through Sept. 4. Lewis, the Jefferson County republican committee chairman, was a delegate to the convention.

While in Minnesota, he and his wife met another couple, Michael and Jennifer McNeely, from Douglas County.

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“Michael mentioned he was from a small town near Augusta – Wrens,” Lewis said. Michael McNeely is the son of Alec and Frances McNeely and is a Fulton County police officer. Jennifer McNeely is a legal aide preparing for law school at Georgia State University.

Lewis said he and his wife enjoyed meeting government officials, candidates and delegates from Georgia and other states.

“But none brought the surprise and delight of meeting Michael and Jennifer McNeely from Wrens, in Minneapolis, Minn.,” Lewis said.

Lewis said breakfast meetings started early and the days frequently lasted until midnight.

Lewis, an engineer, said he met with state officials and candidates and discussed the environment, energy and transportation.

Karen Lewis, a retired teacher, discussed education, military involvement and the economy.

“The convention had a slow start due to weather delays,” Lewis said. “All the delegates, guests and speakers were concerned for the people of Louisiana.”

Lewis said the most exciting thing was to see the republican vice presidential candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

“Gov. Palin is smart, conservative, personable and attractive,” Lewis said.

“With a record of cutting waste from the Alaskan state budget, she is a great candidate,” he said.

“Gov. Palin gave an electrifying speech, energizing all in the convention center, and everyone who saw her on TV. Gov. Palin’s speech is available online and is a great read, if you missed seeing her live on Wednesday evening. Sen. John McCain delivered his acceptance speech on Thursday and brought the entire convention together with his themes of country first, service, reform, prosperity and peace,” Lewis said.

Lewis said he and the other three were impressed with the unity of the convention.

“Especially the Georgia delegation. The diversity within the Georgia contingent included white, black, Asian and Indian delegates, all with strong support for basic republican values,” he said.




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