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Local Gas Prices Trend Downward, Lower Than Normal for Columbus Area

Ron Williams

These days, you have to be really careful reporting on gas prices. You can blink an eye and they may change, quickly, overnight. I’ve been following gas prices [As have most consumers who have to keep an eye on their pocketbooks. RW] for many years. In Columbus, many have complained for years that our prices tend to be some of the highest in the state most of the time. But in the past three weeks, worldwide crude oil prices have been in decline. Usually, the price at the pump drops much slower than the worldwide per barrel prices, especially in Columbus…but not this time.

A check of Mississippigasprices.com on Wednesday indicates that Columbus area pump prices, on average, are in the middle of the pack statewide, whereas they are usually among the highest. In fact, on a trip to Tupelo Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice prices there were averaging between $3.49-$3.59 a gallon. While in Columbus, prices were down to $3.36-$3.45, and had been for nearly a week. Granted…that’s a long way from a station in Southaven selling unleaded regular at $3.07 a gallon on Wednesday, but local prices are much better than the norm over the past several years.
As of Wednesday, worldwide per barrel crude oil prices were still in decline, dropping to near $87 a barrel for the first time in months. In fact, that price is down from a peak of $110 a barrel about eight weeks ago. The bad news is, though crude prices continue to fall, oil companies switch to a summer blend right after Memorial Day. That particular grade of gasoline is more expensive to refine…which means the price at the pump might slow its dropping pace to offset higher refinery cost. Worldwide oil prices, as usual, are also heavily dependent on stability (or lack thereof) in the Middle East. And, to top it off, the official hurricane season officially begins Friday, June 1. A threat of a Gulf of Mexico hurricane always has an effect on oil prices because the biggest majority of refineries are located in the Gulf near Louisiana/Texas coastlines.
It still needs to be pointed out that Columbus area prices are down lower than usual. What has long been referred to as the ‘local gas cartel’ [Newman, SOCO & Dutch Oil. RW] has often been criticized for being in cahoots and keeping prices higher than most other areas, but they now should be complimented. For years, Columbus area gas companies have kept their prices no lower than 10 cents below the national average at the pump. This past week, the national average at the pump was $3.64 a gallon for 87 octane. In Columbus, the average of $3.39 a gallon beat that price by 25 cents a gallon, which is nearly unheard of around here.
And please remember…a local merchant, gas hauler, convenience store worker, etc. have no control over the price of gas at the pump. So when you believe prices are higher than they should be, don’t take it out on them.

Several State Democrats Switch To Republican Party
Now that the Mississippi Republican Party has control over both the state Senate and House of Representatives, more and more county elected officials are switching parties. Yesterday, Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef released the following announcement:
‘Today the Mississippi Republican Party welcomed several former Democrat elected officials to the Republican Party at a news conference held at the State Republican Party headquarters in Jackson. Several Republican elected officials were on hand including Senator Roger Wicker, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Central District Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey, as well as members of the state legislature.
‘ “I would like to welcome these fine public servants to the Republican Party,” Chairman Nosef stated. “They have realized what many other former Democrats have learned before them – there is no longer a place in the Mississippi Democratic Party for a conservative Democrat.” ’
‘The following Democrats announced that they are switching parties:
• Jones County Justice Court Judge David Lyons
• Jones County Constable Mitch Sumrall
• Leake County Sheriff Greg Waggoner
• Leake County Coroner Randolph Scott
• Leake County Supervisor Tony Smith
• Leake County Justice Court Judge Ken Adcock
• Newton County Sheriff Jackie Knight
‘ “These elected officials are great additions to the Mississippi Republican Party,” Governor Phil Bryant said. “We are committed to winning elections at every level and are glad to welcome conservative Democrats in Mississippi who can no longer support the liberal policies of Barack Obama and the national Democrat Party.” ’
Since Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have taken over the national Democrat party, more than 50 Democrats in Mississippi have joined the Republican Party.

Crime Forum To Be Held This Evening (Thursday, May 31st)
A public forum on crime issues will be held this evening at 6 p.m. at the Columbus Municipal Complex. The forum was set up after members of The Columbus, Ms. Facebook Watch online group went before the mayor and city council with crime concerns during the last city council meeting back on May 15. Mayor Robert Smith, members of the city council and Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen should be present at the forum. Some prepared questions will be discussed. Concerned citizens of Columbus are invited to the forum.

District 3 Supervisor John Holliman Says Only Brooks & Smith Have County Phones
District 3 Supervisor John Holliman contacted me this week to clear up something I wrote in last week’s column. In the article about District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks demanding an I-Phone from County Administrator Ralph Billingsley, I wrote that county supervisors are provided county cell phones. Holliman said that only Brooks and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith carry cell phones paid for by the county. He says that he has an I-Phone, but it is his own and that he pays the bill. Holliman also said that when he attended a supervisor forum about the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of what is expected of supervisors about the use of a county-issued cell phone, he said he was told that when someone calls them (supervisors) to just talk, he’s supposed to tell them that he can’t do that. The phone is supposed to be used, strictly, for county-related business.
Though the issue will likely be brought up at the Monday, June 4th supervisor meeting, it’s not even the issue for me. Brooks magnified the problem in the way that he spoke to Billingsley, at the time, reportedly cursing and screaming at him. Preventing that type of behavior is more important, to me, than limiting use of a cell phone.

Supervisors Meet Monday, Mayor & City Council Meets Tuesday
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors will meet for their first of the month meeting (June) on Monday, June 4, at 9 a.m. inside the boardroom at the Lowndes County Courthouse. Mayor Robert Smith and the Columbus City Council will meet for the first council meeting of June the next day, Tuesday, June 5, at 5 p.m. at the Columbus Municipal Complex.

Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com

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