Gas prices big topic

Town of Blountsville

Blountsville Town Council held its first meeting of the new year Jan. 3. All members were present.

The council approved a proclamation recognizing Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Mayor Danny Baker read the proclamation, which concludes with a charge to the community to be vigilant. “We must work to ensure that all residents are aware of this problem, how to spot it, and how to report it. We must work together as a community to bring victims to safety and to punish human traffickers… we ask all residents of this community to join us in raising the visibility of this crime, whose victims are all too often invisible. Together, we can become more informed and work to combat injustices.”

Council member Tyler Cantrell added, “Parents have to be aware of what their kids are doing and who they are connecting with in the community and on social media.”

The council also applauded the fire department for paying off its loan early. This will save the town $64,366.80 a year.

Other agenda items approved were:

• town’s participation in Severe Weather Preparedness weekend, Feb. 25-27.

• changing the next council meeting to Tuesday, Jan. 18, for the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday, Jan. 17.

• purchase of 16 air purifiers for police, fire, and street department vehicles for a total of $3,200.

• K9 training for dual purpose of track/trail and narcotics for a total of $4,000.

• hotel and travel expenses plus meals for the police chief conference, which allows Chief Thomas Mullins to obtain his required executive training hours.

Before the meeting ended, the council addressed a recent Town of Blountsville Facebook post which said, “Large price discrepancy in our local fuel prices compared to neighboring cities. Many citizens have voiced their concerns to local officials and on social media. We understand those concerns and have been working to obtain answers.”

Council member Shannon Elkins addressed comments a few residents made about “governmental over reach.” He said, “I am speaking for myself and not the rest of the council. I feel like it is my mission as a council member to try everything in my power to lower the cost for the people that live in this town and if anybody out there feels that is something negative or wrong, you have the right to feel that way, but I believe that I am doing what I was elected to do. We didn’t vote; we made a phone call to express our concerns about it. We didn’t take governmental action in any way.”

“I’d like to add,” said council member David Blaxton, “not only does it take money out of the back pocket of our citizens, but it also takes money out of the town’s revenue. We don’t get our gas tax when people boycott the pumps. So, it’s a two-fold problem and I am glad we stood up and said that’s enough.”

Council member Tyler Cantrell said, “I agree wholeheartedly and I know the mayor took the initiative to make that call and we all had talked about it. It was something we all cared about as a group. We are asked to be physically conservative with our budget and to be good with our taxes, and I had a few people comment to me, either publicly or privately, if restaurants went up in prices, would we be calling restaurants. I haven’t seen line items for restaurants in our budget the way I see gasoline for the police department, street department, fire department, and the water board. Those increases affect our budgets, not just the revenue coming in, but what’s going out and that means our services go up.

“You can go somewhere and get gas cheaper, but that doesn’t mean the streets can be patrolled, that doesn’t mean the fire trucks can come cheaper because that gas is generally going to be bought local. I believe it is our duty to know there is a lot of folks in this town that maybe can’t go any further and we have to think about them. And I thank the mayor for making the phone call. We saw an almost immediate change.”

Baker said, “A lot of people were blaming the station owner. It was discovered this was not the facts. The oil company regulates the Texaco and the Shell here. They set the prices. The oil company agreed to work with the town and lowered the rates significantly at one station.”

Council member Ray Baxley added, “I was surprised at the amount of negativity that came out of the phone call with some saying we didn’t have prices lowered enough. But that was up to the distributors to lower the prices. All we did was make a request.”

In conclusion, council member Debra Sorrell said, “All we did as a group was discuss the subject and the mayor took the action to make a phone call. Sometimes that is all it takes to get to the bottom of something. After the phone call, the price came down 15 cents and that means they reviewed that and looked at their policies. Again, thanks Danny for looking out for our folks.”