Thursday, July 19, 2018

NorCo May Soon Be Checking Lehigh County Gas Stations

John Keppel
Two years ago, in a different time and different County Council, Northampton County's Department of Weights and Measures was denied a modest rate increase in a 5-4 vote. In fact, three members of Council (John Cusick, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn) wanted to abolish the department completely and let the state get to it whenever it can. But times change. Recently, a Wind Gap gas station was shut down by Weights and Measures because, through no fault of the owner, there was water in the holding tank. After the water was pumped out and the tank was retested, the gas station was back in business  After that event, a county department of weights and measures began looking like a pretty good idea after all. In fact, it looks so good that Northampton County might soon expand into Lehigh County.

Weights and Measures is a county department that makes sure you're really getting a gallon of gas and that a pound of balogna is not just baloney. It even tests the parking meters to make sure you get an hour when you pay for an hour. Northampton is one of just 13 counties with its own Weights and Measures Department. Elsewhere, including Lehigh county, that function is now performed by the state Department of Agriculture thanks to a change in state law that allows counties to opt out ofproviding this service to consumers and businesses. 

"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" when he was on Council two years ago.

There are only 37 inspectors statewide. Lehigh County gets a half inspector from the state. Northampton County's Sealer, John Keppel, has told Council 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."
Two years ago, Ken Kraft delivered a withering criticism of  abdicating this department to the state in the name of  less government.

"[Y]ou'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." He later added, "As long as I'm here, there will be a Department of Weights and Measures."

Last night, a wary Keppel was before County Council again, but let Administrator Charles Dertinger and Executive Lamont McClure do most of the talking.

"We're protecting consumers," McClure said. Administrator Charles Dertinger told Council that the state would like Northampton County to take over inspections in Lehigh County. To do inspections in Lehigh County, Dertinger said there would need to be a memorandum of understanding  with both Lehigh County and the state. He said the state wants counties that still provide this service to expand into adjoining counties because its own manpower is stretched too thin.

Keppel's two-man department will soon be a three-man department, with a weights vehicle and a measuring vehicle. He said he already has made forays into Lehigh County to check the scales at some PIAA wrestling matches.

As Weights and Measures explains on the county website,
We belong to a unique group of professional regulatory officials that perform a valuable community service through out the country. In some states over 50% of an average family's income is spent on items sold by weight, measure or count. The program provides a set of weights and measures standards to which industry adheres to and consumers can count on. What would consumers do if this system did not exist? Bring their own measuring devices to make certain that they got their fair share for each purchase? It is not something each of us considers, but applying uniform weights and measures standards to commercial transactions is one of the most important supports to a strong national economy.


Anonymous said...

More government? Do people want this?

Anonymous said...

1:11 am, it’s not more government, we have had a weights department forever

Anonymous said...

Protecting me while you raise my taxes. McClown the spending clown!

Anonymous said...

Complete waste of money.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious, no taxes are raised and you are not effected at all, only effect on you is that when you buy something, it is what it is supposed to be, not shorted and you are not cheated. It costs you nothing and ensures that business follow rules of sale and commerce

I cant believe the comments on this blog half the times

is this all you have to do with your time Trish?

Bernie O'Hare said...

From time immemorial, there has been a need to check the weights and measures used to do business. This protects both consumer and the merchant. We just saw a very good reason why this service is needed in Wind Gap. How many stores in Lehigh County are giving you what you order? Even parking meters are tested. In Allentown, Fed Ed installed meters that do not gove you an hour's worth of parking for an hour's worth of quarters. In Lehigh County, gas stations and other businesses are not being checked at all. The cost for this is part of the annual licensing fees.

Anonymous said...

I think it is absolutely necessary this service during Super storm sandy there were stations overcharging. Who knows how many could be cheeping the citizens on gas. You have to have standards and hold people to them or else people will be ripped off.

Anonymous said...

At $3 per gallon we are talking money. Water in the gasoline, we are talking major engine damage. Yes, in this free-for-all economy, Weights and Measures remains relevant.

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:40, conversely, a good business will want its customers to know that it does its best to be fair and honest.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

There are some functions of government that are supported by the vast majority, this one of them.

Anonymous said...

As with all governmental oversight of commerce, if the weights and measures department cost more than the amount we're being cheated...I'd rather be cheated.

Anonymous said...

Well spoken, Bernie. Norco W&M is a hard working, efficient and self-sustaining division. Keppel runs a good operation. Regional approach benefits Lehigh Co.