October 26, 2003 11:00 pm

Georgia gas at $122.9

To the Editor:

In response to the story The Observer ran on gas prices Friday, fuel prices in Georgia are not approaching $1.42 per gallon, unless one lives in or near Savannah. The current price of unleaded regular 87-octane fuel ranges from $122.9 to $1.33.9 per gallon.

I was certainly entertained by Wes Kalmbach's published statement: "Gas prices go up in the summer, down in the fall," because the last time I visited La Grande's gas prices was in mid-July, and I paid $157.9 at the Exxon Station just off the east exit of Interstate 84.

Also, Mr. Kalmbach was quoted as saying that the media "makes too much fuss over the price of gasoline." The truth about gas prices is that everyday people are adversely affected by fluctuations in gas prices. I don't believe that we have shortages because I have never seen any signs posted indicating that no fuel was available, well not since the late 1970s.

When discussing fuel prices, it is wise to remind folks that Georgia (the state with the lowest retail price) has the lowest state tax on motor fuels, which is 7.5 cents per gallon, while Oregon imposes a 24-cent-per-gallon tax.

Other notable considerations that affect the price of fuel in La Grande is transportation costs and overhead. La Grande is somewhat isolated, and tanker trucks must haul product several miles through difficult terrain, and Oregon law includes provisions preventing non-commercial (PUD) individuals from dispensing fuels, so retailers must bear the cost of qualified labor.

In closing, I wish to ask Mr. Kalmbach one basic question with regard to gasoline prices, which is: "Regarding the differences in retail gasoline prices in the United States, specifically the price difference between Oregon and Georgia, which state is physically further (in miles) from the dinosaurs?"

William (Bill) Hill

Otis, Ore.

(and) Winder, Ga.

UO locker rooms extravagant

To the Editor:

We have been hearing the sad song regarding how taxes need to be raised because there isn't enough money for education, and "college tuitions are too high."

During the game (blowout) between Washington State University and the University of Oregon last Saturday, they showed the locker rooms for the Oregon football team.

They look like something out of a James Bond movie and you can bet the expense to build them was something similar.

If education money is so plentiful that it is being used to build palatial locker rooms, it is obvious no more money is needed.

It just needs to be allocated a lot more wisely.

Gary Poole


Grow small businesses

To the Editor:

Do we really want a new super Wal-Mart store in La Grande? We read that the new store will employ some 450 people. But when we discount probably 200 who will lose their jobs in existing stores put out of business by the new Wal-Mart, that number is less appealing.

Before the current giant arrived, we had a lovely assortment of local businesses. The big store brought us few items we couldn't already find in Union County. But with its arrival, one local store stopped carrying its line of beautiful fabrics, and within a year or two, Wal-Mart cut back on the fabrics it was selling.

It also wasn't long before the new Coast-to-Coast Hardware store, across from La Grande Town Center, folded. If a super store comes to La Grande, we can probably say goodbye to Shop'n Kart, and perhaps other local groceries as well.

Liza Featherstone, writing in "YES!" magazine, tells us that Wal-Mart has recently been hit with more than 30 class-action suits, charging that employees were not paid for overtime work.

She reports that Wal-Mart has been found guilty by the National Labor Relations Board of firing workers for trying to organize employee unions, a violation of federal law.

Featherstone writes that other communities have successfully defeated attempts to build Wal-Mart stores, charging that Wal-Mart "drives out local businesses, creates sprawl, and destroys the unique characters of towns."

If you agree that we need to keep our beautiful town diversified and charming, that we do not need another commercial giant sending millions of our local dollars each year back to Bentonville, Ark., and that we would rather create our jobs through normal growth of small businesses, please write the city council and urge them to say "no" to another Wal-Mart.

Graham Hicks

La Grande