One-man department on city budget chopping block

Published On: Oct 10 2012 09:36:10 PM PDT
One-man department on city budget chopping block
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Mayor David Condon's proposed 2013 budget will eliminate 100 staff positions and several departments, including the Weights and Measures Department, which right now consists of one man.

That department has been pared down over the years to just one man, Steve Parker, who, if his job is cut, will mean the city saves $65,000 a year. But those savings may not be in your best interest.

You see, when you go to a gas station in Spokane and are ready to pay $3.89 a gallon, you expect you're going to get every last drop of that gallon. It's been Parker's job for the last 15 years to make sure that's exactly what you get. 

Steve Parker is paid to be paranoid. He checks scanners at grocery stores, taxi cab meters, and gas pumps to make sure they're accurate. In fact, he's checked 95 percent of them in Spokane every year.

"It says 4.99, and because of that spill I'm going to do this one again," Parker said, while trying to measure five gallons into his measuring device.

Like his job, the smallest amount over is too much. That's what the city has told him about budgets and his position as well, it's too much. The proposed city budget announced Monday would give the responsibility to the state. One of the five inspectors in eastern Washington would take over Parker's duties.

"The city does it much more frequently than the state will," Parker argued.

Instead of a 95 percent check rate every year, the state conducts 80 percent every three years. Adding Spokane to the list, may still cost taxpayers.

The Washington State Director of Weights and Measures Jerry Buendel said in a phone interview the legislative budget will determine if they can add more staff.

"It'll be challenging to keep up the three year 80 percent ratio, but we'll have to see if we can add one more person to make sure we can absolutely meet that goal," Parker said.

The percentages are not good enough for Parker.

"That gives the owners who would deliberately cheat the system a lot more time to steal money from their customers," he said.

Parker is now hoping the city changes it's mind before the budget is finalized later this year.