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Pain at the pump

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LCOs say they may have to increase prices if the cost of gas continues to rise.

Havelock News | March 11, 2011

The price of gas is shooting up like a weed, which means the price you pay for mowing that weed may also be going up.

For local lawn maintenance business owners, the recent spike in gas prices is coming at exactly the wrong time, when temperatures are warming and property owners are considering their lawn care needs for spring and summer.

The owners say they may have no choice but to raise rates if fuel prices continue to soar.

On Tuesday, some Havelock stations listed a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $3.54, 78 cents a gallon higher than this time last year, according to NorthCarolinaGasPrices.com.

Some economists predict even higher prices.

"Our business is 100 percent gas," said Darrell Perry, of Perry’s Lawn Service of Havelock. "It has already affected me. The vehicles that I run have to consume gas. Even if I’m not consuming fuel on the property, I’m consuming fuel to get to the property."

He worries high prices could make lawn service unaffordable for some.

"You don’t want to put the price up to where people can’t afford it," he said. "It’s a double-edged sword.

"Just because gas is going up again it doesn’t mean people’s income is going up, too. We’re stuck between a rock and rock. There’s no hard place."

Perry, in business since 1997, said he is considering increasing his prices.

"It’s just going to be a moving target as we move through the season," he said. "Everything is real iffy.

"The other thing is a lot of the customers here in Havelock are retirees and senior citizens. The senior citizens are on fixed income. This area has mostly retired military and they are on a fixed income, and we’re going to have to work it out to where they are going to be able to afford it."

Charles Herman, owner of Top Choice Lawn Maintenance and Debris Removal of James City, said he would consider a surcharge if prices top $4 per gallon.

"It’s going to affect us big time and unfortunately it’s going to affect our customers," he said. "The last resort would be to charge the customer."

Herman said he’s been in business for six years.

"We’re a small business growing, but it hurts the small businesses," he said. "We want to absorb that for the customers until we can’t do it anymore.

"I’m trying to be the one to absorb it so that they don’t have to absorb it with their family. They are getting the expenses themselves just like we are. The local people out here just going back and forth to work are hurting. It’s hurting everybody."

Herman said he would organize his route more efficiently to cut gas costs in getting to jobs.

"If you use you routes wisely, you can actually save on fuel," he said. "With any business that you start, there’s going to be good times and tough times. You’ve got to be ready for both."

To continue reading this story, click here.

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