West Tisbury selectmen decided this week they will continue to purchase fuel for town vehicles from the Vineyard Transit Authority, despite complaints from the owners of Up-Island Automotive who told the selectmen last week the switch to discounted gasoline has hurt their business.
The decision came after town accountant Bruce Stone and town administrator Jennifer Rand conducted a cost analysis comparing the distances and fuel prices between the VTA and Up-Island Automotive. Ms. Rand said the net savings for fire trucks, the least fuel efficient town vehicles, is around 40 cents per gallon if the town uses the VTA rather than Up-Island Automotive. The town has purchased their fuel from Up-Island Automotive for the past 40 years.
The town spends more than $25,000 a year on fuel and as a result must go out to bid for it. The town has two options — either to issue a request for proposal for private gas stations to bid or join the VTA collective bid and fuel from their facility. Ms. Rand, acting as the town procurement officer, previously opted for the VTA bid. The town spent $33,770 on gasoline last year for police, fire, highway and animal control officer vehicles. Using the VTA fueling station, which sells gas at nearly a dollar less per gallon, Ms. Rand estimated the town will save about $5,000.
The selectmen stood behind that decision.
“At this point it’s an unleveled playing field but it’s a playing field we didn’t create. Unfortunately we have to play on [it],” selectman Richard Knabel said. “I don’t know how we can ask the town tax payers to pay this difference under the circumstances. It’s a bit painful, I just don’t see how we can do it.”
Selectman and chairman of the board Cynthia Mitchell agreed.
“It’s impossibly unfair,” she said. “It’s out of our control.”
Up-Island Automotive owners Pat and Joan Jenkinson and their son, Patrick Jenkinson, left the meeting abruptly.
“There’s no use in us sitting here. We lost,” Pat Jenkinson said.
Ms. Mitchell made a motion to write a letter to the Jenkinsons, thanking them for their service to the town.
“Not only thanking them for the longtime relationship and service, but underscoring that the relationship between the town and the Jenkinsons is about a whole lot more than gas and the price of gas and always has been,” she said, adding the board stands behind Ms. Rand’s decision.
Ms. Rand said it was out of her hands and she felt “constrained by the law.”
“I have not enjoyed this and I feel terrible about it,” she said. “I really felt I had to do this to do my job properly.”
The selectmen will take up the issue of dogs on Lambert’s Cove Beach at their next regularly scheduled meeting on May 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the Howes House.