|John Keppel, NorCo Dep't Weights|
"I do not think we need this service, this cost, this additional government in Northampton County," said Hayden Phillips, arguing instead for "less governmental oversight."
Statewide, there are only 37 inspectors. Northampton County's Sealer, John Keppel, told Council in June that the state simply lacks the manpower "to do the in-depth testing that we do. Once you're two blocks off Main Street, for the most part, they don't know you exist."
Keppel went on to say that the state is so strapped for manpower that it actually certifies sellers and installers of scales, pumps and timing devices in use in many stores.
"That's like me coming into your store and saying, 'This scale or timing device is not any good. I'll sell you a new one.' It's like having the fox in the henhouse."But that obvious conflict of interest makes no difference to Council President John Cusick. Noting that this is no longer a "mandatory county function," he "just can't square the fact that this is something that we do that 3/4 of the other counties don't."
Executive John Brown previously told Council that this is a "matter of consumer protection." Ken Kraft drove that point home in a withering criticism of the trio who wants to pass off this department to the state in the name of less government.
"You want the state to protect our citizens from being ripped off when they buy a gallon of gas or they weigh something on a scale that could be tipped the other way and you're going to put your faith in the state when they can't even pass a budget for 15 months and they can't do anything like fix their own bridges and their own roads. That's a foolish road to go down."
Agreeing with Kraft, Peg Ferraro doubts that the state would hire more inspectors for Northampton County.
Mat Benol noted that in New Jersey, everyone was buying gas at a station whose prices were lower than everywhere else until the state determined that customers were getting short-changed. He said this department plays a valuable role "for the citizens." He added, ""I have no faith in the state to handle the business of NC."
Glenn Geissinger agreed that the department is "valuable" and "pays for itself," but opposes fee increases. Matt Dietz echoed Geissinger's argument.
With Geissinger and Dietz opposed to the increase, and the Cusick-Phillips-Vaughn trio opposed to the department itself, there were five votes against the rate increase when Council voted.
Beaten but unbowed, Ken Kraft made a promise. "As long as I'm here, there will be a Department of Weights and Measures."
In other business, Council introduced an Ordinance calling for a $5 hike on vehicle registrations every year, a measure that Cusick advocated in June as a source of revenue for bridge and possible road repairs. He named himself and Bob Werner as co-sponsors.
There was no discussion of the ordinance. But Pen Argyl's Jeff Fox urged Council to vote it down when it votes on this matter in two weeks.
"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should," he said. "These hurt the poorest the hardest. Many of the biggest users have vehicles not registered in the county. You can call it a fee or whatever you will. It is indeed another tax. If you call yourself a fiscal conservative or care about the less advantaged within our county, vote it down."