Fuel Frenzy Reaches Payson

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They circle the pumps -- moving slowly, tenaciously; engines growling; mouths in tight, grim lines, eyes narrow, watching the competition, making sure no one cuts them off.

Gasoline shortages in the Valley are feeding a fueling frenzy in the Rim country.

Not only are local residents making a mad dash to the gasoline stations, people from the Phoenix area are making the 90-minute trip north instead of waiting in lines in temperatures above 100 degrees.

A shortage of fuel supplies hit the Valley two weeks ago when a major gasoline pipeline was shut down.

At the Whiting Service Station, at the corner of Highway 87 and Main Street, the manager is fielding phone calls about every five minutes.

"Payson doesn't have the problem the stations down here in the Valley have," said Whiting's district manager Bill Woodruff. "But we're pretty much at the mercy of our distributors."

The Whiting station gets fuel wherever it can: the Phoenix area, the Four Corners area, Tucson, etc.

"We still have gas, but lots of people from out of the area are coming up here," said Judy Berge, a cashier at the Star Valley Texaco said. "Especially the truckers. They're filling up with diesel, because they don't want to sit in lines down (in the Valley)."

Watson Brown, manager of Express Stop, at the corner of Highway 87 and East Bonita Street, said his supply is so-so.

"We're getting more in the ground," he said. "I just hope people remember who's kept prices low when this is all over."

Gasoline prices might be up, but at least no stations in Payson or Star Valley had shut down as of Monday afternoon, though several were waiting for deliveries.

On Monday, only two stations were actually contending with lines of customers: Payson Marketplace and Safeway. A majority of the customers at Payson Marketplace pumps were area residents, at least two of whom had just returned to the Rim country from day trips. One had been in Phoenix and had seen lots of stations out of gasoline, and those with gasoline had lines backed up into the street. The other had just come in from Flagstaff, where there were no lines that she noticed, however, there was a line at Clint's Well.

The pumps at the Marketplace were busy all day, according to the cashier. She said if the Marketplace didn't get a delivery Monday night, they'd be out of gasoline.

Doing a survey Monday afternoon, both Express Stop and Giant had regular unleaded gasoline for $1.70 per gallon. Other stations around Payson and Star Valley had regular unleaded selling between $1.75 and $1.85 per gallon. The highest priced premium gasoline was at Woody's for $2.09, the lowest price on this premium was $1.92, at Payson Marketplace. Generally, premium is between $1.90 and $2.05.

The Payson Police Department has seen a slight increase in the price it pays for gasoline in recent weeks, according to Lt. Don Engler.

Kim Pappas-Miller from AAA said from what they have heard, the gasoline problem is not having as big an impact on rural Arizona as it is the Phoenix and Tucson area.

"There are two reasons for that," she said. "One is many rural counties get their gas from neighboring states. The other reason is not many rural counties use the Cleaner Burning Gas that is used in Phoenix and Tucson during the summer."

Pappas-Miller said the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in the rural part of the state is about $1.74 per gallon.

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