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Vastbinder: Gas, diesel down, food prices not dropping, yet

Vastbinder: Gas, diesel down, food prices not dropping, yet

Posted: Monday, November 3, 2008 7:36 pm

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder says his wallet is happy about the recent decline in retail gas prices. Sunday in Fulton, the retail price of regular unleaded was $1.94. Area service stations have comparable prices. At its peak during the price surge that began last spring, a gallon of unleaded regular in this area retailed for $3.99 and a gallon of diesel for $4.77. The high prices were fueled in part — no pun intended — by skyrocketing trading on the commodities exchange. At its peak, a barrel of crude oil traded for $146.75. At 9 a.m. today, it traded for $65.39 a barrel. Also today, a gallon of diesel retailed for $2.79. “It is a significant drop in price,” Vastbinder said. “We welcome all the help we can get. My wallet enjoys it.” So, too, should the taxpayers of Obion County, he added. “If these low prices hold, it’ll save taxpayers about $30,000.” The sheriff department’s budget for fuel this fiscal year, 2008-09, which began July 1, is $135,000. Vastbinder said that last fiscal year, the department spent $102,375 for fuel for its fleet of patrol vehicles and the litter pickup bus. “If this trend holds, we’ll definitely have a surplus of money to go back into the general fund,” he said. “The only thing I haven’t seen a reduction on yet is our food costs. When fuel started going up, food prices went up. Now fuel is down but food prices are still way up.” Vastbinder’s optimism about saving taxpayer dollars is shared by Gary Lofton, supervisor of Obion County Highway Department. With a fleet of 30 vehicles, including road graders and such, the department earmarks much of its annual budget for fuel. Lofton said about 96 percent of the department’s vehicles are diesel-fueled. The department’s fuel budget this fiscal year is $400,000. “Right now, if diesel stays where it is and doesn’t go back up, we’ll probably save 30 percent of our fuel budget,” he said. “That equates to about $100,000.” Larry Parks, transportation director for the Obion County School System, expressed similar sentiments. “This decrease in price is definitely going to help,” Parks said. “I don’t consider it (money) saved because we were doing without other things. We haven’t increased our budget, but we’ll be able to do things we’d hoped to do normally.” The school system has a fleet of 61 buses, practically all of which are diesel-powered. “We’re running 45 routes, since the cutback (on bus routes). The cheapest diesel I’ve seen was $2.99 a gallon,” Parks said. “We pay $2.45 a gallon because we don’t have to pay the taxes on it.” Neither do the sheriff’s department, the highway department and other governmental agencies. “It looks like we could end up with a surplus, and I’m tickled about it,” Parks said. Published in The Messenger 11.03.08

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