Outsourcing Sealer Delivers Weighty Results

As you may have heard, this week’s City Council packet weighs in at a hefty 421 pages. Image Hopefully none of the councilors will drop it on their toes.

The electronic version is much safer and can be found here: Council Packet 8-14

With the focus this past week on the continued discussion of kiosk-gate and Friday’s move by City Manager Bernie Lynch requesting the resignations of License Commissioners Wally Bayliss and Ray Weicker, one item that has flown under the radar is the one-year progress report on the city’s decision to outsource sealer of weights and measures duties to the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments.

According to the report, prepared by Assistant City Manager/DPD Director Adam Baacke, revenues brought in through the sealing of 966 devices in the 2012 fiscal year (which ended June 30) total $32,500 — a 151 percent increase above the $12,935 brought in during 2011 when 401 devices were sealed and a 71 percent increase over the $19,015 realized in 2010 when 770 devices were sealed.

What is of greater importance is the sharp decrease in how much the Lowell taxpayer is subsidizing the service. In 2008, the cost was $60,652 which included salary and benefits for a full time city employee; revenue brought in totaled $11,621, leaving the taxpayer footing the bill for $49,031.

Under the contract with NMCOG, the city agreed to pay a flat fee of $40,000 annually. With revenue coming in at $32,500 this past year, taxpayer subsidy fell to $7,500, or 19 percent of the cost, compared to 81 percent in 2008 and 76 percent in 2011.

Baacke wrote in order to completely eliminate the taxpayer subsidy, fees would need to be increased, a move he does not recommend at this time.

“Based on the first year’s results it appears that participation in NMCOG’s regional weights and measures program has achieved the city’s goals of lowering the taxpayer subsidy of the weights and measures function while improving and increasing service to taxpayers and consumers in Lowell,” Baacke wrote.

The sealer inspects business devices to make sure they are properly calibrated to guard against consumer fraud. Common devices inspected are gas pumps, grocery-store scanners, taxi meters, home-heating oil-truck meters, and supermarket, deli, apothecary and jewelry scales. The sealer also verifies unit pricing.

NMCOG also conducts the service for the towns of Dracut, Billerica, Chelmsford, Littleton and Tewksbury.



2 thoughts on “Outsourcing Sealer Delivers Weighty Results

  1. When this change was proposed, I believe that the $40K charge from NMCOG may have been higher than the recurring annual cost since there were some non-recurring costs in the first year of the transition. This may be offset by a cost-adjustment for the service, but that data (the amount of non-recurring cost to be saved, and the cost-adjustment in the annual recurring effort should be identified. If the non-recurring effort that may be no longer needed is taken into consideration, there may be even less taxpayer subsidy required in the next year.

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