MARTINS FERRY Enough is enough.
That's the opinion of Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland when asked about the ongoing gas war between the Starfire Gas Station on the southern edge of town and the adjacent Sunoco Gas Station across the street in Aetnaville.
With prices threatening to dip below $2.90 per gallon, motorists are lining up on Aetna and Broadway streets to take advantage of the savings.
But what's good for motorists and surrounding business has been a large headache for the Martins Ferry Police Department.
What's worse? Not only does the problem show no signs of getting better but it appears the president of the Hartley Company, based in Cambridge, is not interested in assisting the local police with the problem.
"Myself and Mayor (Paul Riethmiller) called the president of the Hartley Company (Thursday) and pretty much begged him to try and resolve this," McFarland said. "They are not compensating the city or police department for the increased manpower needed down there.
"Who knows how long this is going to go on for. Eventually, we're going to go broke.
"You have two companies there with plenty of money. They are being stubborn, doing what they wish and don't seem concerned about safety or cars blocking the road. It doesn't seem like they want to assist in the matter."
The competition to see who can sell the cheapest gas has entered its second week.
As stated previously, one issue appears to be that the Harley Company, a privately owned grouping of multiple gas stations in Eastern Ohio, has taken exception to the Sunoco station's breaking of the unwritten rule of gas pricing.
Being that Sunoco is not privately owned, the rule stipulates that Sunoco should keep its prices a penny or two higher than Starfire. That's no longer happening.
"He made it clear that this will continue until the other station agrees to go back up to the national average and allows his station to stay a cent or two below Sunoco's price," McFarland said of Hartley's president.
"They are not concerned about traffic, possibilities of accidents with injuries they are just worried about one outdoing the other and it's a shame. It upsets me."
McFarland stated that at one point Wednesday, motorists in the northbound lane of Ohio 7 that were attempting to turn left onto Aetna St. were backed up clear to the area surrounding the Bridgeport Water Plant. Considering the turning lane begins roughly around Bob Evans and you can imagine the potential danger of northbound traffic in the passing lane being forced to come to an abrupt halt from speeds in excess of 55 mph in order to account for the traffic jam.
The situation is no better on Broadway St.
Ferry police tried a different tactic Thursday, closing the Broadway St. entrance to Starfire and routing gas seekers around the back on S. Zane Highway and turning onto Crawford St to enter the station. This alleviated the traffic issues somewhat on Broadway, but it's far from perfect.
And the police aren't the only ones taking exception to the increase in traffic either.
"I know the guys from Nickles (Bakery) are not happy," McFarland said. "I can't believe the guy just doesn't seem like he cares."
McFarland has spoke with Bridgeport Police Chief Andrew Klotz about possibly assisting in traffic control, considering one of the stations lies within the Bridgeport jurisdiction.
But McFarland noted Klotz's budget and manpower situation is not as favorable as Ferry and, thus far, Bridgeport has been unable to assist.
It may soon get to that point for Ferry officers.
McFarland is either going to have to run up an exorbitant bill in unexpected overtime costs, or, be forced to pull regular patrol officers of their normal duties. That's a decision he'd rather not have to make.
"We'll be there for the safety of the motorists as much as we can, but with my budget, we just can't forsake the rest of the town," McFarland said. "We can't have regular patrol officers that handle calls, perform investigations, etc., standing around directing traffic all day. I've been down there myself directing traffic.
"I'm not going to win. It goes to show you the power that people with money have."
McFarland said he inquired about Starfire possibly bringing in some private security to assist with traffic control. That was brushed aside without further discussion.
According to McFarland, Hartley's president did say he'd ask the staff if they'd be willing to volunteer their time to assist with traffic, without pay of course. That's not likely going to happen either.
McFarland is hoping for a quick end to the gas war and a return to normalcy on the south end of town. Unfortunately, he doesn't believe it's going to happen anytime soon.
Hughes may be reached at email@example.com