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Filling station operators split on pay before you pump issue

A recent discussion by the Richmond Public Safety Committee has caused some gas station owners to be concerned.
Representatives of Ray Carroll Fuels, Bob Littleton and Paul Harris visited with the committee Monday night to express concern over a pay before you pump ordinance that was discussed last month.
Littleton told the committee their main concern is losing business if an ordinance is put in place. He said his customers have heard about the ordinance and have expressed their disapproval.
“People have told us if you do this we will drive to Excelsior to fill up,” Littleton said. “We really don’t need to run our people off to another town for their business.”
Police Chief Terri McWilliams asked the men if they thought their customers were sincere when they told them they would take business elsewhere.
“Most of them are working in the city and they’re going to stop there,” Harris said about some of the customers.
McWilliams said according to her statistics there have been 17 drive offs in the last year that were reported. She said according to those numbers she cannot recommend an ordinance.
“From my standpoint I can’t justify an ordinance for it,” she said.
McWilliams said the idea was visited about two years ago, but said the feed back she received from gas station owners at that time was that they did not want an ordinance.
She said now, two of those owners have changed their minds.
McWilliams said the first time the issue was brought up the numbers were a lot higher for reported drive-offs. She said many times however, station owners did not want to press charges but just wanted them to tell the people to pay for their gas. She even admitted several years ago she drove off accidentally without paying for gas, and didn’t realize it until she got home and said it became a funny joke with the store manager.
“We were becoming a collection agency and we can’t do that,” she said laughing, but still in a serious tone.
Littleton said some of his regular customers do the same thing from time to time. He said his store is not having drive off problems and thinks if each individual store wants to do pre-pay then that can be their choice.
“It’s not that I don’t care about them, but that’s their problem, that’s not our problem,” Littleton said.
City Councilwoman Melissa Miller said she supported not making it an ordinance.
“I think if you’re going to inconvenience people here in town, then you need to justify it with a reason to do so,” she said.
Councilman Scott Marshall said other gas station owners who do want this need to be consulted before any recommendation is made to the council. He said if only one store has to do pay before you pump because of theft and another does not, it puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
“I don’t think the numbers are going to correlate with what you’re saying according to (the other gas station owners.)” Marshall said. “If they have a problem with pay at the pump then people stop going to their business. It’s not fair to them.”
Marshall said a couple of years ago drive-offs were not as expensive as they were last summer.
“It’s not like it’s a $10 or $20 drive off,” he said. “It’s more like a $75 drive off.”
The committee agreed to consult the other gas stations further before moving forward.

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