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Committee Passes Bill to Change County Weights & Measures Oversight

A committee of Allegheny County Council has given an affirmative recommendation to a bill that would transfer the Weights & Measures Division from the Controller's office to the administration. The bill now heads to the full Council for a final vote.

Controller Chelsa Wagner tried unsuccessfully to persuade committee members that the bureau should stay under her purview. Wagner argued that the Weights & Measures employees now handle more work under a more efficient automated sytem; the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) can't handle the extra work; and the county has larger issues to deal with, as the bureau represents about .0167% of the $1.5 billion yearly budget.

"This really looks to me like a solution in search of a problem," said Wagner.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald sponsored the legislation. The administration contends that regulating weighing and measuring devices are executive functions inappropriate for the Controller. DAS Director Tim Johnson said his agency can handle the Weights & Measures duty while maintaining the improvements made by the Controller's office.

Wagner said she's hoping Council will look at the "mountain of evidence" supporting her when deliberating the bill, but she had some doubts.

"The reality is that this is a structure of government in which the executive has a lot of power," said Wagner. "So, if the executive conveys to Council that that's a function that he wants, in most instances it's something that he's able to effectuate."

One point of contention is the name that appears on the Weights & Measures approval stickers; currently, they bear Controller Wagner's name, as was the case under former Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty. Wagner said she's willing to change the stickers to whatever design is approved by Council and the administration.

"I'm used to going home and having my two-year-old talk to me about stickers," said Wagner. "I don't like the fact that this is something that's consuming County Council, the administration, and the Controller's office. It's part of my questioning on why this is being done."

The Weights & Measures Division consists of three full-time staffers, who are supported part-time by two administrators at a total yearly budget of $250,000.

The oversight of the three primary employees will be determined by a full Council vote, scheduled for the evening of June 19.