By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
Red Rock Oil Co. on Monday removed its fuel pumps in Grady, leaving the northern Curry County village without a fueling station.
The nearest place to buy fuel is San Jon or Clovis, more than 30 miles away.
Red Rock Oil owner Darrell Cook said he reluctantly shut operations in Grady because of thefts and vandalism. He said in four incidents over a month’s time, more than 800 gallons of fuel was stolen and his equipment sustained more than $30,000 in damage.
Cook said he closed the unmanned self-serve station because no arrests have been made, though he believes law officers know who’s responsible.
“I felt like I was on my own up there, so I just closed it down,” Cook said.
Cook said he has provided the Curry County Sheriff’s Department a credit card number and video footage of a Feb. 12 incident showing a man using bolt cutters and a crowbar to steal fuel. He also has a close-up picture of the suspect.
Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray said his office is investigating the incidents and is gathering evidence to pursue felony charges against the suspect. Murray said no charges have been filed as of Wednesday.
Cook said the station has been closed since Feb. 21, when someone stole $6,000 worth of surveillance cameras and destroyed two fuel pumps.
“This time he just took a big pry bar and destroyed my pumps; stole another 200 gallons of fuel and then went in there and tore my building all up, stole my cameras — just wiped me out,” Cook said.
Cook said he kept the Grady station open as a way to serve the citizens of the village and not for profit. The Grady location dispensed about 12,000 gallons of fuel a month, which is about 10 to 15 times less than two other locations in Clovis and Portales.
The fuel station has been in Grady about 20 years, Cook said. It was the only one on N.M. 209 between Clovis and Tucumcari, a distance of 81 miles.
Grady Mayor Wesley Shafer said the village will stock up on fuel for its fleet, which includes five fire trucks, an ambulance and a senior citizen van. He said the village buys about 300 to 400 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 300 gallons of diesel every six months.
Shafer said the village is discussing applying for a government grant to purchase the property from Cook and lease it out to set up a gas station in Grady.
“It hurt the community,” he said.