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For some pumps, $3 doesn't compute

Mechanical flaw discovered in Vt.

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Some Vermont gasoline retailers are unable to raise their pump prices above $3 because their pumps cannot be set that high.

''I didn't know until yesterday that my pumps wouldn't go over $2.99," said Warren Miller, owner of the Elmore Store. ''It caught us by surprise."

When he called a pump repair service, he learned others had the same problem. Replacement mechanisms will not be available immediately, so Miller had to close his pumps.

At least 60 of the 6,000 gasoline pumps across the state have the same problem, said Carl Cushing, director of food safety and consumer protection in the Agency of Agriculture. His office regulates gasoline pumps.

The agency considered allowing retailers with older pumps to sell gasoline by the half gallon, but Cushing said he worried that would confuse customers.

Late Thursday, state officials decided to allow retailers such as Miller to cover up all the price information on the pumps and show only the number of gallons pumped. Retailers could advertise the price per gallon on their roadside signs and compute the charges with customers.

This temporary fix will be allowed for 30 days while the state investigates a long-term remedy, Cushing said. He expected gasoline retailers would then be given 60 days to change their pumps.

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