Unexpected gasoline shortages may force the city government to cut back snowplowing and other public works programs this winter, city officials said yesterday.
City Manager John H. Corcoran said the situation already is "critical" because of a new "quota system" for gas allocation initiated last month by Texaco Inc., the city's gasoline supplier.
He said Texaco set a 25,000-gallon limit on gasoline sales to the city for November without informing Cambridge officials. The new figure is 8 per cent less than the city's October supply, Corcoran said.
"Texaco called us last week saying we'd purchased our quota of gas for the month and that we couldn't buy any more until December," he said.
"We confronted the energy crisis without choice. The city usually operates on about 30,000 gallons per month and we were caught short on gas last week," Corcoran said.
Negotiations with Texaco last Friday resulted in a purchase of an additional 5000 gallons from the company's "special reserve" supplies, which should last the city through this week, Corcoran said.
He said he expects Texaco to set a new, lower gas quota for Cambridge early next week. "This is a very serious problem and I can't see an end to it just yet," he said.
Richard McNamara, city purchasing agent, said the city pays between 27 and 29 cents for each gallon of gas. Cambridge is not required to pay federal taxes on the purchases.
McNamara and Corcoran both said distribution of gas to most city departments will be reduced considerably in the next month. City employees will be asked to drive city-owned vehicles less often to control gas consumption.
Police, fire and sanitation department employees will not be affected by the gas-saving measures. "We aren't cutting back on these priority services unless the situation absolutely warrants such a drastic step," Corcoran said.
McNamara said cutbacks on snowplowing service in Cambridge are inevitable if Texaco continues to restrict its sales of gas of the city.
"During the winter months, we normally consume 40,000 gallons of gas because of the snowplows," McNamara said. "We're really going to be in trouble with a rough winter ahead."
J.G. Costos, assistant regional manager for Texaco, said yesterday his company "remains uncertain how the levels of gas will change" in the coming months.
"We take care of all our customers equitably," Costos said. He declined to discuss the matter further, saying, "Our product allocation is private business between the company and our customers.