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Gas prices lowest in a decade

November 19, 1998|By SCOTT BUTKI

At least eight self-service gas stations in the Tri-State area were selling unleaded gas Thursday for 89.9 cents per gallon, the lowest price in more then 10 years.

Experts say an oversupply of crude oil and lower then expected gas demand due to a sluggish economy has caused a nationwide reduction in gas prices, said Elizabeth Valuet, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

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The Sheetz Convenience Store at Cannon Avenue and Washington Street in Hagerstown was one of at least three Sheetz stores in the Tri-State area, including one in Martinsburg, W.Va., that was selling gas for 89.9 cents per gallon.

Dick Myers, 70, of Hagerstown, said he was driving on Dual Highway on Thursday when he noticed the price and decided to stop and take advantage of it. With a 30-gallon tank, any change in the gas price makes a big difference, he said.

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"It is terrific. The prices are great," said Russ Robinson, 50, of Hagerstown.

The last report of unleaded gas being sold below 90 cents in the area was in May 1987, Valuet said.

The average price of gas in Maryland in November dropped to $1.037 per gallon, according to a survey of gas stations, she said. That is 1.6 cents less than last month's average and 16.8 cents lower than last Thanksgiving, when prices averaged $1.20 per gallon, she said.

Forecasters predict prices will remain low through the holiday season, Valuet said.

Another factor, competition, is also at work locally.

Sunoco gas stations at Dual Highway and Sharpsburg Pike dropped their prices to 89.9 cents per gallon Thursday morning after local Sheetz and AC&T stations did so, said Steve Ladd, district manager of Ocean Petroleum, which owns the stations.

It was the third price reduction, each triggered by competition, in the last week, Ladd said.

Operators are reducing their profit margin in order to avoid losing customers to other gas stations, he said. "This is a little bit on the extreme end, though," Ladd said. It is possible that gas prices will drop further, he said.

Outside the Sunoco on Dual Highway, customers were pleased with the move.

"I think it is great. I just wish it would stay like this," said Curtiz Foltz, 40, of Hagerstown.

"This is the lowest I have seen for a long time," said George Murtz, 78, of Hagerstown.

Among the other gas stations selling unleaded gas for 89.9 cents were AC&T at 1615 Wesel Blvd. and 1702 Dual Highway, Sheetz Convenience Store at 700 Potomac Avenue and 7-Eleven at 1637 Dual Highway.

The low gas price was not just a Washington County phenomenon.

Gas prices were 89.9 cents at the Sheetz store on W.Va. 9 in Martinsburg.

"We have never been this low," said an employee who would not give his name. The store has been open for 2 1/2 years.

Beckners Wayne Avenue Sunoco in Chambersburg, Pa., was selling unleaded gas for 97.9 cents per gallon.

"I honestly think it hasn't been that low for at least several years," said owner Roger Beckner. Customers were happy with the low prices and everyone, himself including, is hoping the price will drop still further, he said.

Not everyone pulled up to the pumps because of the prices, however.

"I didn't notice," said Brian Smith, 38, of Hagerstown.

Smith said he wondered why, if stations can sell gas for 90 cents now, they can't sell it at that price the rest of the year.

"It is just a rip-off game," he said.

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