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Column: Here's why gasoline is sold in tenths of a cent

Q: Why is gasoline sold in tenths of a cent? Nothing else I know of is sold this way.

Ray Smith

A: There are a couple of trains of thought on this, but the most prevalent says it's all about marketing.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, the practice started in the 1930s.

New "discount" service stations were opening and owners priced their products in fractions to emphasize their lower prices. Sometimes prices were set at half-cent intervals, but often at nine-tenths. Of course, that was when half a cent meant something.

The other explanation is that fractional pricing started in 1933 when the federal government raised the gasoline tax from

1 cent per gallon to 1 1/2 cents.

Some states, including Rhode Island, Hawaii, Georgia and Tennessee, are challenging the status quo with legislation.

In 1985, Iowa even passed a law requiring prices to be rounded up. But it was repealed four years later.

Association explains

Q: I live at Village on the Green in Clearwater. The community consists of four separate areas, each with its own elected board. However, we are all members of the master association, Village on the Green Recreation Association Inc. Under the guidance of its elected board, it covers the recreational facilities, clubhouse, swimming pool, shuffleboard court, lake and surrounding grounds.

Recently the association levied a special assessment of $127 per unit to pay for the repair of our swimming pool. No notice was given to the members and parcel owners 14 days prior as required by FS 720.303.

In addition, our bylaws for capital improvements require approval of a majority of the board and two-thirds favorable vote of the members voting at a meeting and by ballot. None occurred.

In another clear violation of state statutes and our bylaws, the association agreed, at its March 31 meeting, to pay $100 toward court costs of a man arrested for shooting ducks in our lake. Two of our communities donated money, but the master association felt it could spend money from the general membership.

I'm not sure what mental frame of mind is in Florida, but in Illinois, where I spend six months of the year, we would find such an act beyond belief!

John Mason

A: We sent your complaint to the Village on the Green Recreation Association.

President Mary Lou Piercey stressed that absolutely no association funds were spent to help defray court costs for "the duck incident." The May 2008 newsletter includes a note to membership specifically addressing the topic. "The money was privately donated by VOG residents," it says.

As for the pool deck repairs, Piercey explained that the health department required the association "to repair cracks and settlement of the pool and resurface the inside of the pool as well as the decking." The board chose to repair it with a new, and what it considered better, material.

We assume this is why you felt it was a capital improvement.

Piercey cited a similar incident of repair that involved the property's Belcher Road fence. Attorney Anne Hathorn was consulted because the fence would be replaced with a different material.

Hathorn concluded the material change did not amount to a capital improvement. I checked with her about the pool repairs. Hathorn explained that boards have no discretion whether to repair common areas. It's their fiduciary responsibilities to do so.

There are appellate court cases "holding that boards are not required to replace a material that has performed poorly, when there are alternative materials that are comparable, or better in function," Hathorn said.

Funds were insufficient to cover the repairs, Piercey told me, so the members were assessed.

Based on Piercey's and Hathorn's explanations of expenditures, it would seem the mental state of Floridians, at least those at VOG, is just fine.

Who is Jimmy?

Q: I was a Pinellas County resident for 39 years and I'm trying to locate a friend I have not seen for nearly five decades.

I was the class nerd and most of my male classmates rejected me. This young boy was the one who befriended me. I'd like to thank him.

His name was Jimmy. We were in Miss Marie Battaile's second grade together at West Central Elementary during 1959-60. It was razed when the St. Petersburg High School campus was expanded.

I remember he left around February of that year when his family moved to Largo.

The search has been complicated because I can't recall his surname.

I contacted the Pinellas County School Board, but it doesn't have class rosters from that far back. They also said they couldn't release information on him without his permission.

Do you have any advice for how to find him?

T.L. "Lee" Moore

A: Unfortunately, without a last name, the conventional methods of people hunting are closed to you.

I phoned the main branch of the St. Petersburg Public Library on the off chance it might have a yearbook from West Central Elementary for the 1959-60 school year. While it has several area high school yearbooks in its collection and even a few from middle schools, it doesn't have the one you need.

Perhaps someone in Timesland will know Jimmy and drop me a line. If so, I'll be sure to pass the information on to you.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. Write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call, (727) 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request. Complaints can only be accepted by mail. Send only photocopies of personal documents. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Column: Here's why gasoline is sold in tenths of a cent 05/11/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 11, 2008 4:30am]
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