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Signs of cross-border price war at the pumps - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Signs of cross-border price war at the pumps

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WELLS RIVER, Vt. -

It's a sign that no Main Street community wants to see-- "For Sale" on a closed Jiffy Mart in downtown Wells River.

"It's kind of sad to see it sitting there empty," said Glenda Hofmann of Wells River. "You know you go by at night and it is dark."

"It's really kind of depressing because there is no other store in town," said Susan Acheson of the Walter Jock Oil Company.

Those living and working in this border town say an increase in the Vermont Gas tax, which went into effect this year, is partially to blame. Industry officials say New Hampshire now has a 15-cent advantage at the pump and the prices on this day reflect that-- $3.33 across the river in Woodsville compared to $3.51 at the closest station in Vermont.

"You are going to go over to Wal-Mart and you are going to bring your shopping and your dollars there. So, Vermont loses every time they raise taxes," said Jonathan Rutstein of Topsham.

But they say there's another issues at play-- lack of competition. It's a problem well known to this lunch crowd.

"The problem here in exit 17 and 16, Bradford and Wells River, is that it is controlled by just a few companies and so our gas prices are really high," Rutstein said.

We looked at the numbers. Again-- $3.51 in at the P&H at Exit 17. A comparable $3.49 at the next station south in Bradford. But further south in White River Junction the price plummets to $3.35, which is actually right in line with nearby Lebanon, N.H. So, there's a clear difference further north and customers say the closing of this station mean one less option. The store closed Sept. 9 and has sat idle since. The town has been meeting to discuss the future. Those we spoke with said it's essential it reopens.

"Every little place that is open, it brings somebody else into my business or their business," Hofmann said.

"I think it is a prime location for another gas station there because, you know, people come off the interstate here and they go right by the place," Acheson said.

A station that used to be the only place in town to buy a gallon of milk. But the price per gallon of gas may be a bigger factor on how quickly a new owner moves in.

Vermont's increased gas tax is expected to bring in $25 million a year to pay for transportation costs.

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