CHIPLEY – In the wake of Hurricane Michael, elected officials say residents are struggling with the cost of repairs and rebuilding and now are facing disproportionate gas prices on top of it. In the same steps as neighboring counties, Washington County Board of County Commissioners has sent a letter to Tallahassee over disproportionate gas prices in the area.
Chairman Tray Hawkins signed the document at a WCBOCC workshop held January 16.
"We're just concerned about our constituents," Hawkins said in an interview Friday morning. "Right now, each citizen in Washington County has more money going out than they probably had budgeted before the storm."
He said county governments in impacted areas had been in talks for more than a month with their state representatives about the issue of the gas price disparity.
As the rest of the state of Florida is seeing the lowest rates in three years, residents of Washington County are paying approximately 40 cent more a gallon than Escambia County which was unaffected by the storm. Escambia also has a higher local gas tax than Washington County.
The board is urging the state to investigate any price-fixing, gouging or potential collusion in the wholesale and retail markets as well as distribution of gasoline.
"I've got a complete and utmost confidence in our legislative partners Senator Gainer and Representative Drake, along with our new governor Gov. DeSantis, that they're going to see the issue, they're going to find it's a viable issue and they're going to take care of it and make sure that our county is well represented," Hawkins said.
As of Friday, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.45 in the county — higher than the state average of $2.23 and the national average of $2.24, according to AAA Florida numbers.
The letter was sent to the Attorney Generals Office, Division of Consumer Services, Senator George Gainer, Representative Brad Drake and Representative Jay Trumbull.
"I have received a tremendous amount of feedback from constituents regarding gas prices in District 2," Gainer wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. "This was an issue before Hurricane Michael and it is a growing problem now. I am aggressively working this issue."
"The last thing our people need is to pay more for gas than most everyone in Florida," he wrote.
In other business, all permit fees will be reinstated on February 1. Commissioners had suspended the fees for electrical and roofing jobs after the storm in an effort to help ease some of the burden on residents.
The Chairman will also be completing a survey from the State Medical Examiner’s Office rating their performance for the county.
Washington County Board of County Commissioners will meet again in regular session at 9 a.m. on January 24.