Hike funding

Midland County doing well so far during gas ride

MIDLAND — Residents are feeling the brunt of soaring gasoline prices.

On Thursday afternoon, AAA Auto Club reported a Tri-Cities average of $5,127 for regular gasoline.

The Midland Daily News spoke to agencies and organizations in Midland County about how business is doing in the face of record fuel costs.

City of Midland Dial-A-Ride

“We are definitely feeling the effects of the fuel price increases,” said Amy Bidwell, director of Dial-A-Ride. “Fortunately, we haven’t reached our full pre-pandemic ridership yet.”

Services operated at around 90% of pre-pandemic levels. Bidwell said that helped offset fuel costs, for now.

Next year, she said Dial-A-Ride will likely readjust its budget mid-year to account for rising gas costs. She said an increase in one area of ​​general operating costs would likely affect all three sources of funding, from federal to state and local governments. On Wednesday, Bidwell said the actions went as follows:

  • 50% of funds are federal
  • 34-36% of the state
  • The rest comes from the City of Midland’s general fund

She estimated that annual fuel costs could range from $150,000 to $200,000 next year.

In terms of local share, Bidwell said costs are being monitored and the transportation department is incorporating increases into future planning and budgeting.

“We’re definitely talking with the city and looking at what we need to adjust or do differently because of these increased costs,” she said.

However, passenger fares have not yet been adjusted and Bidwell said it does not anticipate any adjustments relating to services provided by Dial-A-Ride. Over 70% of the overall traffic is made up of seniors and people with disabilities.

“Fares are actually a very small part of our revenue,” she said. “People who use Dial-A-Ride (services) are generally people who may already be part of a disadvantaged community. We try to protect these cost increases as much as possible because we know it will have the most impact on these people.”

Bidwell said Dial-A-Ride applied for funding in hopes of getting two electric vans with the help of a federal grant program. By the end of the summer, the local transportation department should have a better understanding of the potential of low-emission vehicles.

“We are looking to the future and believe that the ability to diversify our fuel sources could help smooth out the cost swings we are seeing in the industry,” she said.

Midland County Highways Commission

Fuel costs are estimated to have increased by approximately $50,000 for the past month, compared to a typical month of services provided by the Midland County Road Commission (MCRC).

Comparing the first six months of 2021 to current prices, Road Commission Director Donna Lowe said diesel fuel costs have increased by 42% and unleaded fuel costs have increased by 36% for first six months of 2022.

“At the moment, we’re doing well for the year, as we’ve anticipated rising costs,” Lowe said Wednesday.

The State of Michigan pays for maintenance, and locally there is road mileage paid for by taxpayers. Lowe said the commission does not currently plan to adjust its budget in the immediate future.

“Our hope is that the community wouldn’t even see an impact,” she said. “We just try to use our funds as wisely as possible.”

Non-profit senior services

Senior Services of Midland says it’s the only organization in Midland County to provide the wide range of services needed to help people age “where they want to be: home.”

The nonprofit is able to do this by having both volunteer and paid drivers drive to the given location of Midland residents. In general, executive director Charlie Schwedler said senior services are “always short of drivers”, and not necessarily because of fuel hikes.

Although the number of drivers is generally down, gasoline prices have had an impact on the number of drivers showing up each day. Some drivers run more routes than they want, just to make sure those receiving services are well taken care of.

“Our volunteers are so amazing, frankly, they keep going,” he said.

“It’s also a burden for a lot of our employees,” Schwedler later added. “We’re a non-profit, so it’s not like people make a fortune working here. I’m worried about gas prices for our employees, getting to and from work. “

The only recent budget cuts at Senior Services were made due to COVID-19, he said. Senior Services closed briefly during the pandemic.

In terms of external support, Schwedler said the federal government just raised the cost of gasoline reimbursement to 62.5 cents per mile. Locally, Midland County residents contribute just under 60% of the seniors’ services budget.

“There are specific dollars that are used to cover those costs, either through state and federal grants, or through United Way, or through millions of dollars,” he said.

One of the senior services programs, Meals On Wheels, serves approximately 700 eligible clients throughout the year. Regarding this service, Schwedler said that if a customer participates in Meals On Wheels, “they are going to be checked, because they are checked every day.”

Midland County Sheriff’s Office

While other sheriff’s offices in the area have faced challenges with fuel prices, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that it is able to continue operations as usual.

As for dealing with fuel hikes, Mark Bone, chairman of the Midland County Board of Commissioners, told the Daily News last week that the county would help the sheriff’s office with fuel costs as needed.

County Connection did not return calls from the Midland Daily News in time for publication.

General cost overview: What is happening?

Some blame President Joe Biden for high gas prices. Others say it’s because Russian President Vladimir Putin recklessly invaded Ukraine. It’s not hard to find people, including Democrats in Congress, who accuse oil companies of price gouging.

Gasoline prices have been rising since April 2020, after the initial shock of the pandemic caused prices to fall below $1.80 a gallon, according to government figures. They reached $3.00 per gallon in May 2021 and exceeded $4.00 in March 2022.

State averages ranged from $6.43 a gallon in California to $4.52 in Mississippi as of June 11.

The AAA Automobile Club reports Michigan’s average rose to $5.21 on Wednesday.

Photo provided Triple A

Who’s wrong?

Rising energy prices are hitting low-income families the hardest. Retail and fast food workers cannot work from home – they have to travel by car or public transport.

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association estimates that the bottom 20% of families could spend 38% of their income on energy, including gasoline this year, up from 27% in 2020.

When will this end?

It could depend on motorists themselves – by driving less they would reduce demand and put downward pressure on prices.

“There has to be a point when people start cutting back, I just don’t know what the magic point is,” said Patrick De Haan, analyst for gas-shopping app GasBuddy. “Is it going to be $5? Is it going to be $6 or $7? That’s the million dollar question that nobody knows.”

Why does this happen?

Several factors combine to drive up gasoline prices.

Global oil prices have risen – unevenly, but strongly overall – since December. The price of international crude roughly doubled over that period, with the U.S. benchmark rising almost as much, closing Friday at over $120 a barrel.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have contributed to higher gas prices. Russia is one of the main oil producers. The United States is the world’s largest oil producer, but the United States’ ability to turn oil into gasoline has shrunk by 900,000 barrels of oil per day since the end of 2019, according to the Energy Department. .

Tight oil and gasoline supplies are hitting as energy consumption rises due to the economic recovery.

Finally, Americans generally drive more starting on Memorial Day, adding to the current high demand for gasoline.

Julie Walker in Brooklyn, New York, contributed to this report.