City officials are afraid they spoke too soon.
Less than two weeks after members of Somerset City Council praised local gas retailers for seemingly keeping their prices in line with regional and state-wide gasoline providers, local gas prices took a significant jump — from around 3.13 per gallon to roughly 3.43 per gallon — within a day’s time.
And city officials aren’t very pleased.
“I think I bragged on them too early the last meeting,” said Councilor John Ricky Minton during the Monday, Oct. 14 city council meeting.
City councilors, led by Minton’s vocal opposition to what are perceived as unfair local gas prices, have long expressed frustration with local gas stations. Their concerns raised to such a fever pitch that they staged a “meeting of the minds” in August with local gas station owner Charlie Patel, Micky Williams, one of the voices of a community group created to demand fair gas prices, Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler and Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock.
City Councilors Minton and Donna Hunley also attended.
“We thought maybe the companies have gotten the message ... through virtually your efforts and speaking up in city council,” Girdler told Minton during Monday’s meeting. “But unfortunately, it looks like they’ve called our bluff again.”
Minton is demanding to know why gas prices are set the way they are locally. The answer is a complicated, convoluted one.
Stefanie Griffith, with the public affairs department of Marathon Petrolem Corporation (which operates the Speedway gas stations and sells Marathon-brand gasoline to independent gas station providers as well) said that a number of factors go into gas prices at the local, or “street” level. Griffith said gasoline providers are always checking their local competitors in determining how to set prices.
In Somerset’s case, a significant number of stations are located along U.S. 27, within just a few miles of each other.