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Gas shortage hits Wilson County
Sep 06, 2005 12:00 am
September 2, 2005
Local leaders huddled to ward off potential gasoline and diesel fuel shortages Thursday, mirroring concerns felt by their constituents as some area gas stations again grappled with temporary outages.
"We've had spot shortages and outages throughout the day," said Evelyn Leroy of the Tennessee Oil Marketers Association (TOMA) on Thursday.
City and county leaders held separate meetings to discuss gas and diesel fuel supplies and reserves, though no crisis seemed imminent within either government.
Keeping buses running
One of the primary concerns of local officials – keeping school buses running regular schedules – isn't an immediate concern with Wilson County and Lebanon Special School District maintaining normal schedules and routes.
"Right now we don't have a problem," Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said. "If we don't get some gas in next week that could change, but right now we're OK."
Lebanon officials – who supply the diesel which fuels LSSD buses – commandeered a vacant gas station to supply a 4,000 gallon emergency tank which Mayor Don Fox vowed will remain untouched unless the situation becomes critical.
And even then, the mayor said, the fuel would be earmarked only for emergency vehicles and essential services such as garbage pickup.
For now, Fox said, adequate supplies exist to continue fueling LSSD buses with diesel, but the mayor said bus service would be one of the first things to go if the city finds itself in a rationing type situation.
"We're not going to stop our police and fire trucks and we're not going to let garbage just pile up in the streets," the mayor said. "We're laying out priorities and if we reach a certain level, we'll look at stopping with the school buses before we impact our essential services."
LSSD School Director Dr. Sharon Roberts said while she appreciates the system being a top tier priority for diesel fuel, she explained the system is taking precautions as well to preserve diesel.
"We are trying to do everything to keep the buses running … " she said, noting the system hopes to make it to the October intercession break. "But I will suspend field trips and also looked at limiting other vehicle use and other gasoline use in the district."
Lebanon forms contingency plan
Fox further explained the city was mapping out a contingency plan for the coming weeks. He said the city plans to order another 8,000 gallons of gas and 8,000 gallons of diesel at the abandoned gas station for reserves.
Lebanon has about 6,800 gallons of diesel to operate its 1,200 gallons per week demands. For gas-powered vehicles, the city has 9,100 gallons of gas, which will keep the city in normal form for about a month.
"That's about four weeks worth," Fox said. "And with the precautions that should lengthen the period."
Precautions may be installed next week depending on Lebanon's ability to order 8,000 gallons of gas and diesel fuel. Contingencies would include limiting garbage pickup to biweekly and the chipper service to emergency basis only. Keeping city-owned cars from idling and "grounding" low-mileage and preventative maintenance vehicles is another step to keep the emergency services vehicles such as fire trucks and police departments rolling.
"If we can't find diesel, we will take steps on Tuesday and make some serious decisions," Fox said.
Roads, police dealing with shortages
County officials met at Wilson Emergency Management Agency to map out contingency plans for a possible fuel shortage and though immediate supplies stand at normal, the potential for future problems exists, Wilson County Finance Director Ron Gilbert said.
"The road department called who they normally deal with about diesel and they couldn't get a firm commitment on a delivery," he said.
Gilbert said officials Wednesday raised the limit individual WEMA employees are permitted to spend on fuel each day to allow all vehicles to be filled to the maximum.
Sheriff Terry Ashe said his department implemented cost-saving measures several weeks ago in response to rising gas prices which will now become even more stringent.
"Every vehicle from mine on down is to do everything possible to save fuel," he said.
After Thursday's meeting of county officials, the sheriff said suppliers could give the county no definitive answers about future shipments of fuel.
"They couldn't give us any firm answers," the sheriff said. "The only thing they could tell us is that fuel is going to be scarce over the next few days."
Ashe and Lebanon Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks said patrol officers have also been asked to take measures to conserve gas, though both declined to discuss what changes have been made, citing safety concerns.
"For obvious reasons we don't want everybody to know what our specific plans are," Weeks said.
Though officials with both governments expressed confidence about gas and diesel supplies for the next week, beyond that the future remains murky at best.
"It just depends on how long it takes to get the refineries operating at full capacity again," Leroy said.
In the meantime, she said TOMA is urging motorists to be "part of the solution" in coping with temporary shortages and outages.
"We're just asking people to act responsibly," she said. "Use normal fueling patterns. There are plenty of stations open and pumping everywhere in our state."
Fox said local residents will probably not notice any changes unless the situation grows considerably worse next week.
"If it reaches that point, then we'll look at our priorities and options and possibly recommend things like temporarily halting the fueling of school buses and going to biweekly garbage pick up, things of that nature," the mayor said. "Unless things get much worse, most people won't notice a thing."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.