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Cattaraugus County legislators Wednesday launched an investigation into why gas prices are more expensive here than other areas.

A resolution on the issue was approved by all 19 legislators present.

Minority Leader Charlotte McLaughlin, D-Olean, sponsored the action, which asks the state Consumer Protection Board to investigate why gas prices here are among the highest in the state.

Mrs. McLaughlin did a survey of gas prices in the Olean area, noting they range around $1.27 a gallon for regular.

"There's a monopoly and they are ripping off residents," said Joseph K. Eade, D-Olean. "Only two or three distributors have locked in prices in the county. Gas is a necessity, a cost-of-living item."

"There's a price war going on in Franklinville and it's at $1.19 a gallon there," said Mark S. Williams, R-Hinsdale.

Others noted that in Salamanca, gas goes for as low as as $1.09 a gallon at gas stations run by American Indians.

"We've been paying higher prices in our area since I can remember," said Carol Ginter, D-Allegany. "It's time it was investigated."

Legislators also:

Granted the Environmental Protection Agency access to county property near Main Street in Little Valley, the site of a former cutlery plant, to perform soil borings and soil and gas surveys with monitoring wells to test for contamination that may have entered area water sources.

Requested the state Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of reducing the speed limit on Route 16 north from the City of Olean line to the Route 17 interchange in the Town of Hinsdale. Williams said the area has been the site of several bad crashes.

By a vote of 14 to 4, approved spending $20,000 to hire an attorney to draft an environmental-impact study for a proposed county park in Farmersville, and also extended a contract with Saratoga Associates to also work on the environmental-impact statement through Nov. 30.

The site for the park is the subject of negotiations with Integrated Waste Systems of Buffalo, which has options for about 400 acres in Farmersville, where the company hopes to develop a landfill and recycling center.

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