Winston-Salem suspends non-essential operations due to gas shortage

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The City of Winston-Salem has suspended all non-essential services due to the ongoing gas shortage. This means that approximately 1,000 of their 1,800 vehicles will stay parked until the city gets more gas.

“We just felt it would be better to be safe than sorry,” said Winston-Salem Assistant City Manager Derwick Page. “From a precautionary standpoint, it made more sense to try to do something now.”

First and foremost, city officials are maintaining that the public should not panic.

“The ones that we’re parking are non-police, non-fire, non-sanitation,” Paige said.

In other words, first responders will be operating as normal, as the city awaits their next fuel shipment, which is expected to be delivered as early as Wednesday.

“As of 1 p.m., we had roughly 9,100 gallon of gasoline left,” Paige said on Monday.

To put that in perspective, police and sanitation vehicles use approximately 11,000 gallons of gas per week.

The city’s diesel fuel stockpile is stable, with about 17,000 gallons on hand.

Over the last 10 years, the city has addressed an ongoing need to reduce fuel consumption. In 2005, they estimate they were using 510,000 gallons per 10 months. Today, they have cut that number to 209,000 gallons per 10 months.

The services which will not be in operation include things like parks and recreation maintenance, building inspections and pothole repairs.

“So, it’s [going to] be minor from a citizens perception of, ‘Here’s what I’m not able to see,’” Paige said.

If the city does not receive their fuel shipment by the expected date, they have other measures in place. These include things such as police officers eliminating routine patrols.

“You might see police cars parked in those neighborhoods and officers out doing foot patrol as opposed to just riding through some of those neighborhoods,” Paige said.

What officials want to avoid most is people stockpiling fuel.

“We would really appreciate it if you not hoard it, because that could be leading to a potential disaster,” said Mel Sadler, director of Emergency Management for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. “Individuals with a can of gasoline in their trunk, who are unfortunate enough to have a rear-end collision, that’s [going to] certainly bring about a problem.”

If there are emergency situations, such as water main breaks, some crews which are currently sidelined will be reactivated.

“We have sufficient fuel on hand through the end of the week and through the weekend,” Paige said. “Assuming nothing happened, we may have to look at other measures, five, six, seven days out if we haven’t received fuel by then.”