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Gas prices have dipped as holiday weekend approaches

May 28, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - One thing motorists seemed to be able to expect was gasoline price increases as Memorial Day weekend approached.

Now, if prices hold where they were Thursday, even that can't be counted on.

Amanda Knittle, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the average price per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline in Hagerstown on Thursday was $2.06, 5 cents less than the national and state averages. That price is 11 cents less than it was one month ago and 21 cents less than on April 9. On that date, Hagerstown's record high price per gallon was $2.27.

According to an AAA East Central news release issued Wednesday, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in Martinsburg, W.Va., was $2.03 and the statewide average was $2.05, more than 4 cents lower than the previous week. It was the sixth straight week that a price reduction was reported in West Virginia, according to the release.

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Pennsylvania AAA officials for the area could not be reached.

Knittle said gas prices typically have increased during the summer driving season, which she said basically begins on Memorial Day weekend. Knittle said a then-record high was set in Hagerstown last year within one week of Memorial Day.

"It's been somewhat of a pleasant surprise," Knittle said. "I think it speaks to how unpredictable the gas price market has become."

Knittle said there was worry in April when record high prices were set in many areas because some experts predicted additional increases as summer approached.

"Two months back, people were predicting we were going to see $3 per gallon," she said.

She said with an "iffy market," which includes fluctuating prices for crude oil, "the rosy glow of prices not spiking may begin to wane."

Phone calls Friday afternoon to several AC&T and Sheetz gas stations in Washington County showed most were selling regular unleaded gasoline for $1.99.9 a gallon.

The Sheetz on Virginia Avenue was advertising a price of $1.89.9 a gallon for regular unleaded Friday afternoon.

Just because the average price had fallen since the record high was set in Hagerstown and the price at some stations had dipped below $2 per gallon, not everyone was seeing the "rosy glow" of which Knittle spoke.

"It's still terrible," said Paula Nixon, of Maugansville. "I'm an old-school person, I guess."

Hagerstown resident Richard Baymon said he was surprised that prices "aren't up to $2.30" per gallon going into the weekend. Baymon said, however, he does not believe the oil companies will miss an opportunity to raise prices before two holiday weekends in 2005.

"Before the Fourth (of July), I expect it to go back up," Baymon said.

Hagerstown residents Earl and Rose Long said they were pleased that prices at some stations were at $1.99 Thursday. The Longs said the money saved will be used as extra spending money for their trip south.

"We're getting ready to drive to Florida, so the cheaper the better," Rose Long said.

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