Palm Beach County expected to delay vote on gas station signs again

Reasoning for delay questioned

WEST PALM BEACH - Right now, gas stations in Palm Beach County are using different ways to tell you the cash or credit price of gas.

A proposal to more clearly display what you will pay could be costly if owners have to change their signage.

The industry successfully delayed a vote last month at the last minute, and the Consumer Watchdog learned a second vote scheduled for next week is also delayed.

"I'm not surprised, but I'm very disappointed," said driver Andy Botwick.

The gas stations are in the driver's seat driving the county's conversation on cash and credit pricing.

"Something has to be done," said Botwick.

Even though Botwick knows stations advertise the lower cash price on the street side sign, he still gets duped at the pump when the price is higher for using a credit card.

"I pulled in and started pumping and thought damn if I wasn't snookered again," said Botwick.

Botwick took pictures of the sign at night, clearly unable to see the the unlit cash sign.

The county wants stations to light up their cash only price signs, but this and other changes to how cash prices are displayed concern gas stations.

"We are just looking for fairness and looking to cut costs. We are all mom and pop shops," said gas station owner Kevin Dalton.

Dalton already invested $15,000 in new signs at two of his stations.

"I don't know where in the world I would put the word cash," said Dalton pointing at his new sign.

While the county has debated the cash and credit pricing for months, gas station owners didn't organize and voice concerns until they realized the ordinance was close to reality. Their efforts are paying off for them.

The county is delaying the vote another 90 days because of concerns from the Florida gas industry. The next expected vote on a proposed ordinance is in July.

"Their claim is that there is at least some level of government, there is a federal standard for gas stations and pricing of signs working its way through the bureaucracy up there," said commissioner Hal Valeche.

There have been national conversations about pricing, but two national agencies that deal with gas station issues tell me there is nothing pending on cash and credit pricing.

I spoke with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Conference on Weights and Measures. The Florida Department of Agriculture which regulates gas stations in Florida said "there is no current proposal to change the cash vs. credit price at the moment, state or national level."

The county is still investigating the claim. Calls to the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association were not returned today.  

"I guess we'll give them a reasonable amount of time if something is going to happen, but at the end of the day we can't wait years to get this done," said Valeche.

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