At Quality Fuels, on the corner of Highway 12 and Louisville Street, the price of regular gas listed on the elevated marquee Thursday was literally too good to be true — .9 cents.
Of course, the actual cost per gallon at Quality Fuels was $3.389 per gallon, comparable to the elevated gas prices across Starkville and across America in the wake of political upheavals in the Middle East. Brenda Saleh, cashier and wife of the owner at Quality Fuels, said the sign had to be reset to zero after a lightning strike caused it to fluctuate between the correct price and $2.
“We had a lady who kept coming in and saying, ‘I want the $2 gas,’” Saleh said. “I had to take her out there and show her the price on the pumps.”
Throughout the rest of Starkville, however, gas prices in excess of $3.30 per gallon are all too visible and all too real, taking their toll on Starkville’s citizens.
That includes gas station owners like Saleh. She said the high prices weren’t hurting her business. “When they need gas, they tend to come get it anyway,” Saleh said.
However, she said they were impacting her own commute from her home on Highway 50 between Columbus and West Point.
“It still costs me about $40 per week to get here,” Saleh said. “People that commute, it’s really going to hurt them.”
Heather Malley, a junior at Mississippi State University majoring in elementary education, illustrates just how hard commuters are hit. She said she is caught between these gas prices and a practicum for MSU that requires her to travel to Maben regularly.
“It’s taking me up to $50 to fill up my little car, and I’m filling up at least twice a week,” Malley said. “It’s not affordable, and yet, we have to do it, or you don’t pass the class.”
Further, Malley said she had not taken a part-time job to cover such expenses, out of concern that it might interfere with her studies. She said she has a William Winter scholarship and other financial aid to take care of her tuition, but these extra expenses are driving her to borrow money from her mother, a single parent and teacher.
“I’m having to ask my mom for money, and that’s then taking away from bills and things she has to pay for,” Malley said.
Prices across town were similar to those of Quality Fuels as of approximately noon Thursday. The combined Sprint Mart and McDonald’s station at 817 Highway 12 West was at $3.37 per gallon for regular, and the Mobil Sprint Mart at 868 Highway 12 West was at $3.35 per gallon.
MississippiGasPrices.com listed the national average price per gallon for regular gas at $3.441 as of 5 p.m. Thursday, as well as an average price of $3.382 per gallon for the state of Mississippi.
At approximately 10 a.m. Thursday, the Shell station at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and North Jackson Street was at $3.39 per gallon. There, Taketa Mullins was refueling her sport utility vehicle, which she said she uses to go to and from her work at Kentucky Fried Chicken and to take her children to the doctor. She said this often leaves her returning to the gas pump once or twice per day.
“If I fill it all the way up, it’ll be like once a day,” Mullins said. “I wish the prices would go down to where they normally were. It’s like almost $4 per gallon now, so back down to $2 per gallon, like it used to be.”
As painful as gas prices are in Starkville, it’s tougher in other areas of the country. Jeff Monroe, a senior majoring in electrical engineering at MSU, said prices were much worse when he visited his hometown in Michigan.
“You guys are lucky down here,” Monroe said. “I was up in Michigan a few weeks ago, and it’s $3.70 per gallon. The gas has always been 30 or 40 cents more expensive around there than here.”