Of all of the laundry lists of complaints, fluctuating, unpredictable gas prices is always near the top — especially during travel season when high fuel prices can be a major frustration. Which is why one town in Kentucky thinks that it’s found the solution: a municipally owned and operated gas station. And while most stations aim to clear a profit, this one hopes to ease the financial burden for drivers.
Somerset, Ky. is a stop on the way to Lake Cumberland, a popular tourist destination. So while town is only home to 11,000 residents, the stream of tourists passing through the area brings high gas prices with it, especially during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
So the town, under the leadership of Republican Mayor Eddie Girdler, decided to buy a fuel station for $200,000 and spend an additional $75,000 on infrastructure and gas pumps. The fuel station only uses the gas from local supplier Continental Refining Company, and it’s operated by city employees from other departments who rotate working shifts at the station.
Fule prices in Somerset can rise about 20 to 30 cents per gallon on the weekends, so the station is setting prices in order to break even — as opposed to making a profit. The town government also has a little extra incentive in mind: lower, stable prices will encourage more tourists to pass through the area and frequent the station, as well as the other restaurants and businesses in town.
While the other private gas stations aren’t enthused about having a municipal station in town, Somerset isn’t the first town to employ a concept such as this. For example, the Bank of North Dakota is municipally owned and operated, plus there are 2,000 municipally owned electric companies in the country.
The citizens of Somerset view the station as a welcome addition, not to mention as the means to gain a little more control over some of the economic decisions impacting their daily lives. In fact, the gas station may just be a stepping stone to other town-owned projects.
“We are one community that decided we’ve got [a] backbone and we’re not going to allow the oil companies to dictate to us what we can and cannot do,” Girdler tells Yes! Magazine. “We’re going to start out small. Where it goes from here we really don’t know.”