Good news for taxpayers: Town rides over gas price spikes
The price of gasoline may have motorists hot under their summer collars, but the town is unaffected by the recent spikes at the pump. That's because Wilton purchases the 60,000 to 65,000 gallons it uses to gas up its vehicles in bulk at the beginning of the calendar year.
According to Sarah Taffell, director of human resources, labor relations and administrative services, who oversees fuel purchases, the town negotiated a price of $2.97 per gallon of 87 octane late last year.
"We purchase with a group of towns and cities," she said, adding that Norwalk is usually the lead agency. Over the last decade or so, as oil prices have fluctuated more and more, the process has become more complicated.
"The timing used to be more predictable and seasonal," she said, with heating oil rising in winter and gas prices going up in summer. Towns would issue RFPs (requests for proposals) accordingly. "That distinction has paled in light of other influences," she said, such as world affairs and commodities speculation.
As the market has become more complex, "we've kept to that schedule but built in flexibilities."
Wilton's yearly gasoline purchase fills the tanks of the police fleet, town-owned SUVs and the Dial-A-Ride vans. The highway department trucks and fire engines run on diesel, which the town purchases in tandem with the Board of Education. Diesel, like heating fuel, is purchased on a fiscal year basis. Beginning July 1, the town and schools are paying $3.23 per gallon for a total of 157,000 gallons.
If town vehicles had to fill up at the local station, things would be quite different with Wilton prices among the highest in the state. As of Tuesday, Aug. 14, the highest price in town was at the Mobil station on Danbury Road at West Church Road, where a gallon of regular was going for $4.15, according to the website ConnecticutGasPrices.com. The highest price overall was $4.74 per gallon at a Mobil on Post Road East in Westport.
The cheapest price was $3.75 at a Costco in Enfield and Stop & Shop in Meriden. The cheapest price in Wilton was $3.89 at the Gulf station at Danbury Road and Ridgefield Road.
The price spike is being blamed on oil refinery problems including a fire at a plant in California.
Average retail gasoline prices in Connecticut rose 5.8 cents per gallon last week, averaging $3.93 per gallon Sunday, Aug. 12. This compares with the national average that increased 5.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.67 per gallon, according to ConnecticutGasPrices.com.
Including the change in gas prices in Connecticut, prices Sunday were one cent per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 25.2 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 24.8 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 5.7 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.
"The national average has spiked 25 cents per gallon just in the last month, thanks to an onslaught of refinery problems — mainly in the Great Lakes and California," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "While these situations are temporary in nature, it goes to show this nation's dependence on domestic refineries. While oil prices have gained in recent days, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for motorists: driving season will be over in less than a month and soon thereafter the EPA also relaxes gasoline mandates, meaning cheaper winter fuel," Mr. DeHaan said.
GasBuddy operates ConnecticutGasPrices.com and more than 250 similar websites that track gasoline prices at over 140,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada. In addition, GasBuddy offers a free smartphone app that helps motorists find gasoline prices in their area.