A very public dispute between owners of U.P. gas stations and one of the area’s daily newspapers has come to a head.
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community would like to build a gas station in Marquette Township, at the former Los Tres Amigos restaurant site, after placing the property into trust.
The tribe wouldn’t have to charge the 6% Michigan sales tax on its fuel.
The Mining Journal has been very vocal in its support of the KBIC station.
Its publisher and general manager, Jim Reevs, says staff at the paper are seeing overwhelming public support for this position, saying that it’s unlike anything else he’s seen in his twenty years with the paper.
Reevs says as he sees it, Marquette-area residents are tired of being taken advantage of — more often than not, AAA Michigan’s fuel price surveys list Marquette as the place with Michigan’s most expensive gasoline.
The Upper Peninsula Petroleum Association represents 90 u–p gas stations.
The group has said the sales tax revenue that the KBIC station wouldn’t collect would amount to a loss of more than $4 million dollars of Michigan K–through–12 school funding per year.
The group has also said gas station layoffs and closures would be possible.
Reevs disputes the UPPA’s claim that Marquette’s long distance from the nearest fuel suppliers, which are in Green Bay, is the reason why prices are so high.
He says that reasoning does not explain why the Houghton/Hancock area, which is farther from Green Bay than Marquette is, consistently has noticeably lower fuel prices than Marquette does.
Last week, two dozen U.P. gas stations that are part of the UPPA pulled the Mining Journal from their stores.
They include Oasis Fuel stations in Ishpeming and Marquette, as well as 17 Citgo stations owned by Krist Oil of Iron River.
When speaking with the Mining Journal last week, Krist Oil vice president Krist Atanasoff said, “You’re supporting these Indians.
They’re thieves, they’re convicted felons and they’re tax evaders.”
Atanasoff has issued a further statement; he wrote a letter to the editor of the Mining Journal which was published in Wednesday’s paper.
He says, “I regret that the comments attributed to me…were wrongly applied to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as a whole, or any other native Americans.
My comments were directed to one individual.”
KBIC economic developer Gregg Nominelli has a statement from the tribe.
It reads, “The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribe chooses to rise above the attacks made upon the Community from a small group of opponents to the gas station.
The leadership of the KBIC will continue to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the residents and elected officials of Marquette County in a positive and respectful manner.”
Jim Reevs says the door is still open to the UPPA on a standing invitation.
Reevs says the paper is willing to rent a space, invite UPPA representatives who can offer an explanation of why Marquette’s gas prices are as high as they are and invite the general public so that residents can be better educated.
He says the group has not taken the paper up on its offer.
We tried to reach UPPA president Brooke Ferns and Krist Atanasoff for this story.
Neither of them replied to our requests for an interview.
Posted by: Mike Hoey