School buses filling up on cheaper gas at highway garage

Andrew Wagstaff
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Wheaton's Irving owner Leigh Wheaton has not seen a school bus at his service station since the local buses began filling up at the local DTIR garage last month.

PARRSBORO - Leigh Wheaton used to see school buses regularly lining up for fuel in the yard of his gas station, but now it seems they have found a better deal at the local highway garage.

Since late February, the school buses have been fueling up with snowplows and other Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) equipment at the local garage in Cross Roads.

"It's quite a loss in sales," said Wheaton, who estimated a loss of about $2,500 every two weeks. "It's going to hurt because we're a small business."

Wheaton's Irving, the town's last surviving gas station, has not seen a school bus at its pumps since Feb. 16.

Wheaton said the new policy had been rumoured for awhile, but he was then told by one bus driver that it was not going to happen. Then plans changed again.

Losing business to a private competitor is one thing, but losing out to the provincial government is something else, he said.

"It's not the way it should be," said Wheaton. "The government should be helping, not taking away."

The policy is not a new one, according to Chignecto-Central Regional School Board spokesperson Carolyn Pierce. She said that the DTIR gets its gas through provincial procurement at a lower cost.

"So throughout the school board region, wherever it's reasonable to get access to their fuel, that's where we purchase because obviously it's more economical for the school board," said Pierce. "In that area it took us awhile for the school board to co-ordinate access to the local DTIR, and now we have that access."

The policy is not sitting well with Cumberland County Council, which agreed at its March 7 meeting to write a letter to Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie and the school board to offer their protest.

"Why would they pick on a small businessman providing employment in a small town, and start using taxpayer money to buy fuel from another provincial organization?" asked Coun. Ratchford Merriam. "I imagine it would be less per litre, but what would be the reasoning for doing that?"

For one government department to subsidize another is really "pushing a button" for Coun. Gerald Read.

"It's almost like unfair competition," he said. "They threw out all the private operators as far as buses go, and they weren't allowed to use anything other than regular, high-priced gas. Now they're taking and subsidizing in that respect? I don't think it's right whatsoever."

Coun. Ron McNutt said the school board and the province should be reminded that the school board is funded by more than one level of government.

Organizations: Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Central Regional School Board, Cumberland County Council

Geographic location: Cross Roads, Chignecto

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Recent comments

  • Tim brewer
    March 14, 2012 - 22:04

    Mr. Wheaton has no control of gas prices, it's regulated by the government. The same government that is using tax exempt fuel. This is the only reason it is cheaper.

  • Another Thought
    March 14, 2012 - 08:31

    It makes sense to save cents!

  • Doug Forbes
    March 14, 2012 - 06:51

    Just another example of how government shows its concern for local business especially given that is t the NDP which prides itself on small business entrepeneurship that they would stoop so long as to run in competition to s small family run biusiness that is has been there over 25 years.

    • just me
      March 14, 2012 - 08:55

      Well not good for sure but MR Wheaton should be putting his prices to the same and as other towns like amherst or truro or springhill its not right we have to pay higher than other town schoolbord has to save money where it i can not blame them ..I would like to see more people go to NB and get there gas much cheaper than parrsboro for sure extra gas jugs do not cost a lot .......