Allegheny County council votes to shift responsibility for weights and measures to executive
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Names of elected officials will disappear from the stickers placed on store scales and gas pumps under an amendment passed this week by Allegheny County Council.
Councilman Matt Drozd, R-Ross, proposed the ban on Tuesday, and his council colleagues approved it. He presented it as an amendment to a bill that shifted responsibility for assuring accurate weights and measures back to the office of county Executive Rich Fitzgerald. That ordinance also passed, despite a final plea from county Controller Chelsa Wagner that checking measuring devices remain with her office.
Ms. Wagner described the job, which includes the annual inspection of more than 10,000 gas pumps, as an auditing function that should stay with her. If council wished, she said, she would remove her name from the stickers that indicate the measuring devices are accurate.
"The only time I want to be talking about stickers is with my 3-year-old," she said.
The majority of council disagreed with her request, voting 14-1 to take away that duty. "Weights and measures is an administrative function," Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park said.
The controller's job is to check on the efficiency of county operations, Councilman James Ellenbogen, D-Banksville, said. He asked, with controller's office employees carrying out an administrative function, who is checking up on their work?
Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, cast the lone vote against shifting responsibility for weights and measures to the county executive's office. "The controller's office has been doing a good job," she said.
Mr. Fitzgerald had said previously he had no plans to replace the controller's name with his own on the inspection stickers. New stickers would instead have just the name and phone number of the county office responsible for inspections.
Ms. Wagner told council the change was "a solution in search of a problem."
The task of keeping scales and gas pumps honest is handled by three full-time employees and a shared assistant. Salaries, benefits, travel and supplies total about $250,000.
Since the controller's office took over the job in 2008, the process has been more efficient and transparent, Ms. Wagner told council. Computerized scheduling of inspectors' visits allows them to spend more time in the field and less in the office, she said.
Weights and measures had been overseen by the county executive until then-Executive Dan Onorato and then-Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty persuaded council to shift the job to the controller's office in 2008. Mr. Fitzgerald, then president of council, voted for the change.
In asking for the switch back to the executive's office, Mr. Fitzgerald said the move would restore governmental checks and balances and had the potential to save money.
Correction/Clarification: (Published June 28, 2012) Allegheny County Council voted June 19 to shift responsibility for weights-and-measures testing back to the county executive. A headline on a story that appeared June 21 incorrectly said Pittsburgh City Council had approved the switch. Annual spending for the operation, including salaries, benefits, travel and supplies, totals $250,000. The same story reported that amount covered only salaries and benefits.
First Published June 21, 2012 12:00 am