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Gas station owners split on pay before you pump

Richmond gas station owners are split over an ordinance that would require gas purchasers to pay before pumping their gas.
All of Richmond’s filling stations were represented last night at a special Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss the issue.
Snappy owner Jodi Duncan said she is in full support of an ordinance because she has lost too much money the last two years.
“I have to sell $300 worth of gas to make up for a $20 drive off,” Duncan said.
She said last year she lost more than $1,000 and almost $2,000 the year before.
At a meeting last month, Police Chief Terri McWilliams said her drive off numbers could not justify an ordinance. She said last year there were 17 reported drive offs in the city.
Casey’s Manager Lane Gerdes said Casey’s wanted him to express that they would go along with whatever the council decides, but personally he would like to see something implemented as well. He said his store sees about $150 a month in drive-off losses.
McWilliams urged the station owners to report all drive offs, but Gerdes said his store does not report drive offs unless they have a license number, driver description and a description of the car.
Duncan said she reviewed a report prepared by McWilliams and said she sees discrepancies between the number of drive offs she is having and what has been reported. She said a $75 drive off last summer that she reported herself was not on the list. McWilliams said it could be listed as something else.
BP station owner John Letzig said he is not crazy about the idea and wanted more time to talk to customers about it. He said he doesn’t report a lot of drive offs because seven out of 10 times the person forgot. He said it’s bad for business to prosecute a mistake.
“They want us to prosecute no matter what, and this is a good customer,” Letzig said. “That’s why we don’t turn most in because it’s just a bad deal.”
McWilliams said the police department used to be able to turn over license plate information to station owners, but regulations have since changed that do not allow her to do that. She suggested coming up with a form for station owners to fill out and then on a bi-weekly basis she would personally investigate the complaints. She said she could not assure it will work but that it’s worth a try.
“I can’t promise we’ll solve it immediately,” McWilliams said. “Let’s try it for a while and see if we can recover some of these losses.”
The station owners came to a consensus to try the new form but some still are against even the discussion of an ordinance.
Ray Carroll’s Bob Littleton said the phones have been ringing in his office in opposition.
“We have had a number of phone calls from customers that wanted to make sure that we were here tonight,” Littleton said. “Our customer base doesn’t want it. They said they would go somewhere else.”
Another resident in attendance backed up Littleton’s claim.
Littleton said his store doesn’t have a problem with drive offs and he doesn’t want the city telling them how to operate.
“Ray Carroll is very capable of running Ray Carroll. Why does the city want to mandate this?” Littleton asked.
Chairwoman of the committee, Councilwoman Melissa Miller said that she would not vote for an ordinance unless there is strong support.
“I think anytime a government entity tells a small business owner what they can and cannot do, I just think it needs to be overwhelmingly supported to go that way,” she said.
Councilman Scott Marshall added,” We’re not saying this is the law. We’re just having a discussion.”

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