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Future of Lufkin's full-service gas station still uncertain

March 07, 2012
WHITEFIELD — Full-service gas stations where someone hustles out to pump gas into tanks of vehicles that pull up to the pump appear to be a vanishing amenity in today's world of tight profit margins.

One of the few remaining full-serve stations in the North Country — Lufkin's Gas Station on Union Street (Route 3) on the south bank of the Johns River — was dealt an unexpected and unwelcome blow right before Christmas when Keith Butts of Tennessee lost control of the tractor and flatbed trailer carrying construction steel that he was driving down Route 116 into town, crashed into Lufkin's station, and sheared off a set of gas pumps. Butts lost his life.

At least for the time being, Bradley Lufkin, his son Mark, and grandson Brad and their former part-time employee, Woody Curtis of Groveton, no longer pump gas. No gas deliveries can be made to the facility at the present time.

It won't be until the frost is out of the ground and Brad Lufkin works out with the insurance companies involved what compensation he is due under these unfortunate circumstances that his family and their wide circle of customers will know whether they can resume being a gas station or will have to rely on auto repair, auto inspection, and second-hand vehicle sales to earn their living.

Mark Lufkin also operates a vehicle scrapping and disposal business with out-of-sight storage tucked away off Route 3 South.

"I miss our customers," Brad Lufkin explained in a Feb. 29 on-site interview. "Customers came from Whitefield, of course, and all around for this service — Lancaster, Jefferson, Dalton, Twin, Randolph…. They liked the service, and it helped draw people to downtown."

Some who are willing to pay a small premium for service are too frail to pump their own gas; others like to avoid any possibility that their clothes will pick up the smell of gas, and many just liked to avoid having to step out of their cars into rain or snow.

According to Brad's wife, Terri Lufkin, selling gas made up the bulk of the family's service station business.

There are also some issues to be resolved with the state Department of Environmental Services (NHDES). Two 500-gallon tanks, one for used-waste oil and the other for no. 2 heating oil, must be permanently closed as soon as possible because of corrosion protection system failure on the waste oil tank and interstitial failure of both tanks, according to Supervisor of NHDES' Oil Compliance Section Michael Juranty, P.E. "The owner had expressed his intent to permanently close (the 500-gallon) tanks 9 and 10 this year," Juranty wrote in an e-mail exchange.

The 4,000-gallon gasoline tank would be okay until the Dec. 22, 2015, deadline for closing all single-walled piping, Juranty pointed out. All the public information for this facility (no. 0110338) and all others in the state is available online at the NHDES OneStop site.

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