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Friday, November 2, 2001, PECOS ENTERPRISE

Gas back below $1 in some parts of SE Texas

From Staff and Wire Reports

Got a buck? In San Antonio and other places around Texas these days, that's all a driver needs to pump a gallon of regular into the gas tank - and still have change left over for a piece of Bazooka Joe.

Robert de la Cruz filled up both his pickup and his wife's sedan at an HEB outlet on San Antonio's west side Thursday. The price: 93.9 cents a gallon.

"I try to save every penny I can, and when I see these prices, I know someone is working with me," he said. "I'm going to be stopping here for a while."

Statewide, the average price for self-service regular is $1.18, about 7 cents below the national average, according to AAA Texas. But in San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley, as well as in part of Houston and Fort Worth, drivers are finding stations asking less than $1 a gallon.

Gas prices cover a wide range across the country, from Hawaii's $1.93 average to the $1.10 found in Indiana and Georgia. Generally, the highest prices are on the West Coast and northern Rocky Mountain states.

Locally, gas prices in the Pecos area haven't dropped as low as those in Southeast Texas, but they're 40 percent below the levels prices hit on Sept. 11, the day of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and below the statewide $1.18 average.

Prices for unleaded regular that afternoon reached as high as $1.79.9 for a gallon of regular unleaded. This morning, regular unleaded was going for as low as $1.07.9 at the two Allsup's stores in Pecos, and between $1.10.9 and $1.17.9 at most other gasoline stations in the city.

Prices elsewhere in the area can still range as high at $1.37.9 a gallon, mainly in the rural area to the south and west of Pecos.

Back in mid-May, gasoline prices in the state were at a record high of $1.61 a gallon, and experts were predicting that number would continue to climb. But prices ended up going the other direction. By early August, the Texas average was down to $1.26.

Several factors help explain the downward movement in prices in recent months, beginning with that most basic of economic principles - supply vs. demand.

Refineries running at near capacity for months produced more gasoline than the driving public needed, so prices went down, said Scott Fisher, spokesman for the Austin-based Texas Petroleum Marketing and Convenience Store Association.

On top of that, Fisher said, oil prices have fallen significantly and the competition in gasoline retailing continues to grow as more companies like HEB, Albertson's and Wal-Mart open up pumps that yield only pennies per gallon in profit.

"The new entrants into the marketplace have built their facilities to be high volume with low margins," said Fisher, whose members sell some 9 billion gallons of gas annually. "They've definitely driven down the price of fuel."

Generally speaking, prices tend to be lowest where there are a number of retailers in an area. When a station is off by itself, he said, it typically charges more.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks also put pressure on gasoline demand and prices, said Rose Rougeau, a spokeswoman for AAA Texas in Houston.

"People are not traveling as much after the attacks," she said. "It's after the summer travel season, and now they tend to wait until the holidays to start traveling again."

So does that mean drivers can expect to see prices rise in the coming months?

"We don't know which way prices are going to go," Rougeau said. "We're dealing with something we've never dealt with before, and that's the uncertainty following the attacks."

That uncertainty includes the fortunes of the national economy, which at best is teetering on the edge of recession. Consumer spending fell nearly 2 percent in September and companies continue to lay off workers and cut back production.

Tara Ford, spokeswoman for Ultramar Diamond Shamrock, the state's largest gasoline retailer, said Thursday that her company hasn't felt any impact from a slowing economy, though she wouldn't provide any numbers on the volume of gasoline being sold.

Of course, drivers are always on the lookout for cheap gas, regardless of what the overall economy is doing.

Beatrice McHazlett lives in LaPryor, about 85 miles southwest of San Antonio. Gas there is selling for about $1.20 a gallon, so when she brought her sister back to San Antonio on Thursday, she made sure to fuel up.

"I'm going to fill it to the top," she said.

Hospital board gets report on dialysis center for RCH

Staff Writer

The Reeves County Hospital Board of Directors received a report on the feasibility of constructing a dialysis center in Pecos to serve dialysis patients in the community and the surrounding areas during the regular meeting last night in the classroom at the hospital.

Former Interim Administrator Richard Murphy gave a report on the feasibility study that was done by a consultant, and told the Board that having a dialysis center in Pecos would be very feasible due to the number of dialysis patients in the state at this time.

"Right now there is a lot of activity in the dialysis business all over the state," he said.

The consultant researched the number of patients in Reeves County and the immediate surrounding areas and discovered that there are 25 people who have to travel to Odessa to get dialysis treatment.

"Right now it's apparent that there is a significant number of patients in our immediate service area," Murphy said.

He added that there could be more potential dialysis patients who right now choose to not receive treatment because of the time it takes for the treatments and having to make the trip to Odessa.

"My concern is how many patients that choose not to go to dialysis," he said.

Murphy explained that if the hospital built a 12 to 15 station dialysis unit it would be enough for the hospital to break even on the cost to build and run the facility.

"This is really more of a service to the citizens of the community than to make money," he said.

Board President Linda Gholsen said that she wants the community to know that the Board has considered the importance of having a dialysis center in Pecos well before steps are taken to start construction.

"It's important for the community to know that this has been considered well before anything is done with it," she said.

Gholsen also agreed with Murphy in saying that it is more important to the Board and the hospital to provide this service to the community rather than to just make money.

In other action on Thursday, the board renewed the interlocal agreement with the City of Pecos for the use of the ambulance service.

Board members told several representatives from the ambulance service who were present that they appreciate the work the ambulance crews do for the community and the surrounding areas.

The Board also approved purchasing a new 50-ton chiller to replace two current units that have deteriorated and need replacing.

Administrator Robert Vernor informed the Board that Honeywell, the company currently maintaining the hospital's cooling system, submitted two proposals, one to replace the system and another to rebuild the current system.

"I would recommend to go ahead and replace the chillers with a new one," he said.

Vernor assured the Board that replacing the chillers is a budgeted item at the amount of $50,000.

Honeywell's proposal to replace the chillers totals $52,000, just over the budgeted allowance, which Vernor said would not be a problem because it would save money on repairs in the future.

The board also approved advertising for bids on an oil and gas lease for property owned by the district in Culberson County, as well as the financial statements and the payment of bills.

Church schedules annual garage sale Saturday morning

Members of St. Catherine Church are having their annual garage sale from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on Saturday at the church.

Money raised from the garage sale will go toward buying blankets for the needy in Pecos this winter.

Firemen select new officers for 2001-02

New officers were elected at the regular meeting of the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department.

Roy Pena was once again elected as fire chief, with Arturo Granado chosen to be first assistant.

Second assistant will be Jim Riley; secretary, Javier Contreras and fireman rep., will be Salvador Carrera.

Flower girls, or members on the benevolent committee will be Cesar Zermeno and Noe Ybarra. Rocky Matta will serve on the pension board.

Training officer will be Lynn Foster; safety officer one is Gabriel Gonzales and safety officer two, Harvey Gonzales.


PECOS, Nov. 2, 2001 - High Thursday 88. Low this morning 56. Forecast for tonight: Becoming cloudy. Lows around 50. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. Highs 70 to 75. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Mostly cloudy. Lows around 50. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. Highs 65 to 70. Monday: Partly cloudy. Lows 45 to 50. Highs 70 to 75.

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Pecos Enterprise
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