(09/06/2005)
By Bob Weaver

Sky-rocketing gasoline prices are creating lots of fall-out in rural areas like Calhoun County where there is already historical unemployment and workers have to drive great distances to reach employment.

Labor day weekend prices at several stations were $3.30 or more for low test, and some did not have gasoline.

Prices, at the very best, will "stabilize" high.

The high price of gasoline is causing retail prices on food, goods and hardware to increase, and Calhouners are struggling to travel to their out-of-county jobs.

Most of Calhoun's workforce drives out-of-county, usually 100-175 miles a day.

While Calhouners have demonstrated unusual survival skills over the years, the ability to "hunker-down" and still make it, there seems to be little light at the end of the tunnel with high gas prices.

It is likely that many workers, both blue-collar and white-collar will have to quit and move closer to a place of employment.

The cost of gasoline and oil is plunging the Calhoun County school bus system into financial problems, according to Donnie Pitts, director of facilities.

"The costs from 2003 to last year doubled, and now they are going to double again," he said, indicating there is no money in the budget to cover the additional costs.

Pitts said the county gets reimbursed 90% of their gas and oil costs from the state, but the county has to pay all the bills as they go along, and cannot get paid back until a year later.

"It certainly is putting the state transportation budget in the red," he said.

The county was spending $75,000 annually for fuel, but after the price rising to $3 a gallon, that amount will be doubling, maybe even more.

The gas crisis is affecting other vital services in the county, ambulance, fire and police protection, the doubling of costs unforeseen in budgets.


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