Pinch at the pump

Road departments, schools feel effects of gas prices

High gas prices are tough on everyone, but for public works departments, for which driving is a must, surging gas prices can be particularly painful.

The Moffat County Road and Bridge Department budgeted $250,000 for fuel in 2005, a 20 percent increase from 2004, but recent spike in fuel prices means that won't be enough.

Road and Bridge Department Director Bill Mack said he expects to have spent all of this year's fuel budget by the end of the month, meaning fuel costs from October to December will have to be absorbed by another portion of the budget.

Mack expects fuel costs to more than double next year, forcing the department to budget between $550,000 and $600,000 for fuel in 2006.

"We're not going to be going out as often because of fuel," Mack said.

The Road and Bridge Dep-artment uses about 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel every month and about 2,000 gallons of gasoline.

Mack said he is counting on voters to approve the 5.5 percent revenue exemption this fall to cover the higher cost of fuel next year.

Government entities such as the Road and Bridge Dep-artment don't have to pay the state's 22 cents per gallon gas tax, but soaring gas prices still hurt, he said.

Stretches of road that crews typically check five or six times a year will be looked at only a couple of times a year, Mack said.

Crews also might wait to plow snow on some roads until there is about six inches on the ground, Mack said, instead of plowing after four inches of snow.

"We just won't be out there as often," Mack said.

Moffat County Road and Bridge isn't the only government entity bracing for high gas prices next year.

Moffat County School Dist-rict Transportation Director Jim Baptist said high gas prices haven't been an issue yet, but they will be.

Baptist filled the school district's underground fuel tanks with 7,000 gallons in early August -- a month before prices surged to record prices.

"It was just that I was lucky," Baptist said.

With the school district's fleet of 30 buses using about 2,000 gallons a month, Baptist said he will have to refill his tanks before the end of the year.

The city of Craig Road and Bridge Department is gearing up for high gas prices, as well.

Director Randy Call said the high prices haven't been an issue this year because he expected a big jump when he made this year's budget.

"I was lucky and made a fairly good guess," Call said.

But making a guess for next year has been more difficult.

Call put together numbers for his fuel budget in August, but when prices went up after Hurricane Katrina hit refineries on the Gulf Coast, he quickly realized those numbers were too low.

Call said he plans to wait until early October to finalize his fuel budget because prices always are changing.


Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com

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