Gas prices fuel Smith’s fire

Published 7:11 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

WINDSOR – Bertie County Commissioner Charles L. Smith is normally a low-key public servant.

He debates issues, but rarely has gotten into heated debate and is normally chooses his words carefully.

At Monday night’s meeting, Smith was upset and he made his feelings crystal clear. During the commissioner comments section, Smith berated the local price of gas and questioned why fuel prices in Bertie County far exceeded neighboring areas.

“I do a lot of riding around in the east, but in North Carolina and Virginia,” Smith said. “Gas here is higher than any other place. Why is gas here 30 cents per gallon higher than in Edgecombe County?”

Smith said U.S. 17 and U.S. 13 running through the county offered Bertie the opportunity to have people stop in Windsor for gas and to shop for other items, but the high gas prices did not encourage that.

“If gas were cheaper, people might stop here more,” he insisted. “They might even drive a little further to come here. A lot of things could happen if gas were cheaper. Business and everything here could flourish.”

Smith said there was a gas distributor in Bertie County, but it was still much cheaper to drive to Martin County.

“I don’t know why they are punishing us in Bertie County – one of the poorest in the state – by having gas cheaper everywhere else,” he said.

Other commissioners said they agreed with Smith’s concerns, but the two-term member of the board wasn’t finished.

“I don’t care who I’m talking about,” he said. “Poor people here are paying more and it has been going on too many years. People who have money want to save it too, but those who are poor can’t afford to drive somewhere else and get gas so they pay more.”

Commissioner Norman M. Cherry, who resides just outside Lewiston-Woodville, said he normally filled his gas tank in his home community, but didn’t that day because gas was seven cents per gallon cheaper in Windsor.

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked if anything could be done about it and County Attorney Lloyd Smith said the board could direct him to write a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

“The Hess station here and the one across the (Roanoke) river are significantly different,” Smith said. “Prices are lower 15 miles away. You can get it 15 cent per gallon cheaper.”

Commission Vice Chairman J. Wallace Perry made a motion to have attorney Smith write a letter to the attorney general to check into the gas prices and Harrell offered a second. The vote passed without objection.