Officials: Town's equipment wasn't inspected for 17 years
Officials: Town's equipment wasn't inspected for 17 years
NORTH PROVIDENCE - Equipment used until last year to test and inspect gas pumps and store scales across town hadn't been certified since 1996, according to the man now doing the work of checking up on local vendors.
Anthony Goes, the state sealer of weights and measures who is currently filling in for the town's vacant position, said that the equipment, which includes large weights, small gram kits, and one- and five-gallon test measures, should be certified at minimum every two years, and should ideally be certified every year.
Goes said past North Providence sealers failed to have the equipment certified, despite frequent notices from the state informing them that it needed to be done. Goes said he discovered that the equipment used by those sealers is defective, with missing weights and broken pieces, meaning the equipment can no longer be used. He is now using his own equipment to do regular checkups of local pumps and scales.
Mayor Charles Lombardi confirmed that the equipment hadn't been certified since 1996. He said the news about the faulty equipment raises questions about how long the items were in poor condition. It also begs the question of who will pay for new equipment, which he estimates will cost anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000.
John Shaw, who oversees Goes in the Department of Labor and Training, said officials regularly sent letters to North Providence sealers reminding them to get the inspection done, but to no avail. The law doesn't call for fines or other penalties for a community like North Providence that fails to get the equipment checked, he said.
"We try to police it the best we can and that's it," said Shaw. He added that his office has "a little more control" over sealers appointed by state officials than the ones appointed at the local level.
Shaw said that without a paper trail of recent inspections, it's impossible to say how long the North Providence equipment was broken. He is not concerned that past testing was inaccurate due to the equipment being faulty.
Armand Milazzo, the former head of school facilities who was appointed by the North Providence Town Council last September to be the local sealer of weights and measures, still hasn't earned his certification for the position, according to Shaw and Goes.
Lombardi, impatient with the lack of progress in getting Milazzo certified for the sealer job, and concerned about the potential cost of buying new equipment for him, is calling for the state's sealer to do the job on a long-term basis. The mayor said he planned to send a letter asking that Goes, who already does the service for Cumberland, Lincoln and a number of other towns, also do it for North Providence.
Shaw said Milazzo is "welcome to take the exam any time he wants to become a sealer."
Milazzo could not be reached for comment.
Town Council President Kristen Catanzaro said that council members have referred the matter of the equipment for the sealer to its finance subcommittee. They did so after confusion arose over who should pay for the new equipment, the town or Milazzo, said Catanzaro, especially since the sealer is paid by the businesses he visits for the work he does.
"We didn't know whether or not the town purchased the equipment or the person," she said. "We don't see it in any guidelines."
Both Goes and Lombardi said a primary motivation for other municipal leaders to bring in the state sealer instead of having their own is that the city or town in question no longer has any liability if something should go wrong.
Catanzaro said that Lombardi doesn't have the authority to give Goes the keys to the sealer duties.
"It's a council appointment, so I would say the mayor doesn't have jurisdiction," she said. "I'm not in favor of giving that position up."
Catanzaro also claimed that the state sealer charges higher fees to businesses for his services than the local ones have, begging the question of why Lombardi would want to bring him in on a permanent basis. The claim of higher fees could not immediately be confirmed.
Catanzaro said that Milazzo did "a copious amount of research" and "a lot of work" to get up trained in how to be a sealer of weights and measures. She's not sure why he isn't a certified sealer yet.
Goes, who worked with Milazzo to get him the training hours required for the sealer position, told The Breeze he's been regularly filling in for the North Providence sealer position to ensure that town residents are being charged fairly for the products they buy.
"No community goes uninspected," said Goes. "I'm doing whatever needs to be done right now."
Goes indicated he would be willing to keep servicing North Providence businesses if that's what town leaders desire. He said he doesn't know why Milazzo hasn't received his certification yet, but guessed that it could have something to do with questions about the sealer equipment.
Lombardi, long a critic of Milazzo, said his selection last fall to replace longtime sealer Anthony Mariorenzi, after Milazzo had lost his job as North Providence school facilities director through a consolidation process with the town, was a "political appointment." Further irking Lombardi, Milazzo won a $41,000 severance package from the town even though his contract was up when his job was eliminated.
The appointment of a trustworthy sealer "is serious" business, said Lombardi, as a sealer makes sure that those who are buying in town are "getting the fair amount of product for what they're paying." Gas pumps and scales can be thrown off track over time, he said, and it's important to make sure issues are addressed as quickly as possible.
Sealers are responsible for checking everything from large shipping scales and laundromat scales to small scales for weighing precious metals at jewelry shops and drugs in pharmacies.