A decision by the Legislature in 2013 to revoke the authority of towns to appoint local sealers of weights and measures has had no measurable effect so far on the state’s ability to maintain quality control over the accuracy of weighing and measuring devices such as gas pumps and deli scales.

In May of this year, local sealers were informed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation that the state Legislature had cut all funding for local sealers in 2013. Therefore, local sealers no longer had the statutory authority to perform the tasks and had to stop immediately.

Steve Giguere, program manager for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations, said the department was not informed about the new legislation and was unable to hire more positions, which must be created by the Legislature. The delay also prevented local sealers from being immediately notified of the change.

While not all towns and cities in Maine appointed sealers of weights and measures, the move left it up to the state to perform work on hundreds of devices in some Oxford County towns including Norway, Paris and Oxford, which had previously been inspected by a local sealer. 

Just in those towns, the state has performed inspections of 96 gas pumps and four small scales in Oxford, Norway and Paris that had once been locally inspected, Giguere said.

“As of right now we seem to be handling the additional work with little effect,” he said.


Giguere said he currently has 22 consumer protection inspectors, which includes eight full-time inspectors dedicated exclusively to weights and measures and others who are cross-trained to test scales and other weights and measures.

While Giguere said he has heard no complaints in the six months or so since local sealers were told they can no longer inspect, at least one former local inspector says he is concerned about the effect of the Legislature’s move.

Former local inspector Vern Maxfield, who also serves as town manager of Woodstock, said he is worried that the removal of local inspectors removes an important link.

“I do think the towns should be able to appoint local inspectors,” said Maxfield this week. “Local people have knowledge of the area and rapport with town officials and business owners. To me that counts for a lot.”

He also said he is concerned the state may not have enough inspectors to adequately cover the state’s needs.

Local sealers were only allowed to test devices for which they had appropriate, calibrated and nationally certified traceable test equipment. In most cases this limited them to testing gas pumps and small grocery and hardware scales.


Local sealers also did not perform retesting of rejected devices nor did they get paid to investigate complaints, Giguere said, so that duty fell to the state’s inspectors, “so we always had a constant presence in those towns.”

There has been no increase in complaints, but, he added, gas pumps will be inspected on a two-year cycle. Giguere said a two-year testing cycle for gas pumps is typical nationally as these devices do not show a high failure rate. They usually fall in the 4- to 5-percent range compared with truck scales that usually fail at a 40- to 60-percent range.

No local sealers were full-time town employees and most performed their duties on evenings or weekends during the summer for a few weeks each year.

Maxfield was appointed in fall 2014 as sealer of weights and measures in Norway, West Paris, Paris, Oxford, Mechanic Falls and Poland, towns that inspector Thomas Verrill of Auburn had served for decades. He was one of 16 statewide who inspected town sealing, including gas pumps and scales, and one of two who did only taxi meters; one was in Portland, the other in Bangor.

The local sealer position was a part-time job that Giguere said many did at night or on the weekends. Local sealers were paid by collecting the testing fees established for the scales tested and by submitting copies of tests performed of gas pumps and were reimbursed state registration fees for each pump tested.

Maxfield said he earned $168 during the eight months he served in the position.


The position of sealer of weights and measures is centuries old in Maine and plays an important function in the state’s commerce.

The procurement of a set of standard weights and measures was established early in Maine’s history to ensure a successful system of commerce, said John Bott, communications director for the Department of Agriculture.

It was one of the first things required to set up Maine’s government in the 1600s, “to establish a free-flow of commerce requires accurate measures,” Bott said when asked about the position after Maxfield’s appointment in 2014.

Towns like Norway have appointed their own sealers of weights and measures for many years, but not all towns have used local sealers.

The job still remains an important oversight in everything from ensuring a gallon of gas at the pump is a true gallon of gas, to whether a pound of hamburger in the supermarket aisle is a true pound of hamburger.

There has been no proposed legislation to reinstate the section of the law, said Giguere.


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