Subscribe for 33¢ / day

FAIRBURY - Rising fuel costs are driving Leroy McPherson batty.

The high price of gasoline and diesel fuel impact McPherson, Fairbury city superintendent, both professionally and personally.

On a professional level, the high cost has caused him to recommend delaying purchases in the Livingston County community. For example, a new police car and street department tractor are among casualties during a summer season in which gas has ranged anywhere from just under $3 to nearly $3.50 per gallon.

"It impacts us pretty heavily," McPherson said.

His colleague, Martin Steidinger, knows this firsthand as Fairbury's street superintendent. He'll make due with a 1992 tractor that had been slated for replacement.

Rising fuel costs affect the two men on a personal level, as well.

"I have a van that gets 14 miles per gallon, so we'll go somewhere close this year (on vacation), Steidinger said. McPherson, meanwhile, pays about $300 a month for gas when he used to pay $100, he said.

According to Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association in Springfield, people will probably have to wait awhile for gas prices to drop significantly. A tight supply and increasing demand will cause prices to remain steady or creep higher over the next 60 days, he said.

If that's the case, Steidinger said Fairbury's garbage/recycling fee of $6 per month might also have to be increased.

High fuel costs also have raised concerns in McLean County's Empire Township, where roadwork has been cut back. Highway Commissioner Dean Buhrke has restricted oil and chip work because of the escalating costs of petroleum products.

"We are skipping some (roads)," he said.

While this will save money, it could also mean more potholes, he said.

Rising fuel costs are more manageable in some communities.

In Pontiac, even though the police and street departments ended the past fiscal year about 20 percent over their fuel budgets, City Administrator Bob Karls said the city has been able to work around the $29,000 overrun and has no plans to curtail any operations.

To the south in Normal, Public Works Director Mike Hall suspects the town might go over its fuel budget by about 10 percent this year. However, this won't result in any program cutbacks, he said.

Dan Augstin, director of fleet management for the city of Bloomington, guesses the city also will exceed its fuel budget by 10 to 12 percent. But, like in Normal, no program cuts are planned.

They're taking the spike in fuel costs in stride in LeRoy, as well.

"We're not limiting services or cutting programs. It has not affected our day-to-day operations," said City Administrator Jeff Clawson.

School districts are not immune.

Unit 5 budgeted $744,000 for fuel for the current year, a jump of more than 40 percent from the $525,000 the growing district spent just two years ago. And officials predict next year's budget will be bumped 20 percent, to $893,000.

Bill James, superintendent of the smaller El Paso-Gridley school district, is a bit apprehensive as the district, which runs about 20 buses, looks for new fuel bids next month.

Statewide, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services is budgeting $6 million more for fuel this year.

Sgt. Brian Ley, an Illinois State Police spokesman, said he's not heard of any plans to cut consumption for troopers, who burned 2.8 million gallons of fuel last year.

But Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said grass along state highways would be cut less often.


Load comments