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Greenwich Business Owner Says Tolls Will Cost Company $72,000 Per Year

If you buy heating oil in Connecticut, expect prices to go up once the Department of Transportation installs tolling gantries on the state’s highways and roads.

“If the tolls go in, trucking companies aren’t going to take that expense on,” said Frank Cortese, operations manager for Greenwich-based New England Total Energy. “Everything in the state is going to go up.”

A bill introduced by Greenwich senator Alexandra Bergstein calls for the state Department of Transportation to implement electronic tolls in Connecticut. Last November, the CT DOT released a study that outlined 82 toll gantries on I-95, I-84, I-91, the Merritt Parkway, and other heavily trafficked roads.

Cortese and his mother Yolanda, who owns New England Total Energy, are clear about who will be paying for the tolls: the end-user of anything that travels on Connecticut roads.

“It’s a pass-down tax,” said Cortese. “Prices are going to go up on everything we buy in the state, on every product we can possibly imagine.”

Cortese said he estimates the tolls may cost the company up to $72,000 per year, but that number may prove to be a low estimate.

 

New England Total Energy buys heating oil from wholesalers and then distributes it to customers. Cortese’s 15 trucks drive to Bridgeport, fill up with oil at the terminals on Admiral Street and Eagle’s Nest Road, then distribute the oil to houses and businesses in the Greenwich area. According to Cortese, in the winter the company delivers 50,000 to 60,000 gallons of heating oil daily.

During the cold weather months, each truck usually makes two round-trips daily between Greenwich and Bridgeport, six days a week. At an approximate rate of $0.198 per mile (an average of the CT DOT’s proposed off-peak and on-peak rates for heavy trucks with Connecticut E-ZPass), each leg of the 28.8-mile journey would cost $5.70 or $11.40 round-trip, for a total of $2,052 per week for the 15 trucks.

That adds up to $57,456 for the 28 weeks between October and April.

Both Frank and Yolanda are say they will have to pass that cost on to their customers.

“I don’t see how we could possibly absorb that,” said Yolanda. “It’s not going to be a couple of dollars a day. It’s going to be too much of an expense for us.”

Frank explained that because their business is close to the border, they often sell oil in New York. While there isn’t a tax on heating oil in Connecticut, New York does have such a tax, which is simply charged to the customer.

Frank likened the cost of tolls to the New York tax, and said he would be forced to pass it to his 5,000 customers.

The tank trucks are just part of Cortese’s fleet. In addition, Total Energy has 14 vans for technicians to perform service calls on heating and air-conditioning units. Cortese said they clock a total of 50,000 to 100,000 miles a year, much of it on I-95 or the Merritt Parkway.

And, because the company has diversified into natural gas, HVAC, and energy auditing, Cortese has another three trucks to assist with that work. The energy-auditing business in particular takes Total Energy’s technicians throughout western Connecticut, which will likely add to his costs.

New England Total Energy, which recently changed its name from New England Oil Company to reflect its expanding services, was started in 1939 by Frank’s grandfather as a coal and fruit business. In the 1950s, after Uncle Sam insisted he couldn’t sell anthracite and food off the same truck, the business was divided among his sons, with Frank’s uncles taking the fruit and nursery business while his father took the energy side.

As a family-owned business with just 48 employees, Cortese insisted their margins are too narrow for the company to eat the cost of the proposed tolls, and said Total Energy won’t be the only business to pass the cost onto consumers.

“It’s going to be an expensive proposition for every taxpayer in the state of Connecticut,” he said.

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Jackson Kuhl

(4) Comments

  1. Bob

    February 20, 2019 9:13 am

    We need raises for our 60,000 state employee. That’s were the money goes.With an average salaries of 65,000 a year, you do the math…..

  2. Joseph W Rumore, Jr

    February 14, 2019 9:16 am

    Reliable Oil & Heat Co., Inc. is Stamford based since 1922 when my grandfather, Frank Rumore, founded our company which was originally named Stamford Coal. Today our 3rd & 4th generation continue in the business of delivering Heating Oil and Heating/Air Conditioning service and installation. The Merritt Parkway and I95 are traveled by our fleet of vehicles every day. The added cost is actually an added Tax to all the customers we service.
    CT has become famous for driving business out of the State. Incentives are given to induce new companies to come to CT and in turn the citizens and long time CT established businesses are often forced to close the doors. This equation has failed CT time and time again. Please fight with us to condemn Tolls on the CT roads. Our 5th generation is looking forward to continuing our Family history.

  3. Chet Gerber

    February 11, 2019 5:30 pm

    Folks think toll-tax doesn’t affect them,but it does. Everyone pays in a roundabout way.

  4. Neil Tolhurst

    February 11, 2019 5:06 pm

    “…expect prices to go up once the Department of Transportation installs tolling gantries on the state’s highways and roads.”

    No, no, no! It’s not “…once the…” It is “IF the…” The bad idea of putting tax collection gantries on Ct’s highways must be stopped. We’ve stopped it every time in the past and can do it again this year. Everyone should contact their state rep, senator, and all members of the Transportation Committee to tell them No, No, No to electronic driving taxes on our roads. You can find contact info for those people on the cga.ct.gov web site. If you are in rookie Senator Alexandra “tax those drivers” Bergstein’s district be sure to remind her of how slim her victory margin was despite spending big money on her campaign. Remind her that you are a voter, too.

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