Brownback monitoring Kansas scale accuracy issues

7/16/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback is monitoring efforts by the Kansas Department of Agriculture to increase the accuracy of heavy-capacity scales.

TOPEKA (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback is monitoring efforts by the Kansas Department of Agriculture to increase the accuracy of heavy-capacity scales.

The department has been criticized for a lack of accuracy in its regulation of more than 4,000 large scales used to weigh scrap metal, recyclables, agricultural products and other goods.

Brownback told the Topeka Capital-Journal that Kansas' system, which uses licensed private inspectors to certify scales with follow-up inspections by state staff, may need some changes. The former state agriculture secretary has met with state agriculture staff about the program about the issue.

However, the Republican governor said the result of the "check the checkers" program is better than when scales were examined only by state inspectors.

"We had a terrible quality program before we made the changes when I was agriculture secretary. We were having inaccuracy of scales at a high percent when it was strictly a state-run program," Brownback said. "It's continued through multiple administrations so people haven't changed the program, but I think it's time to tweak and look at it and see if we're getting it done right."

The governor helped develop the semi-privatized system when he was secretary from 1986 to 1993.

The Division of Weights and Measures oversees the more than 4,000 large scales. Spot checks by the state's three inspectors approved 19 of the 72 large scales between July 2012 and February 2013. Of the 72, records show that 34 failed to meet state accuracy standards. The Department of Agriculture has promised changes in enforcement of the accuracy of scales and inspections.

Mike Beam, vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, sees Brownback's involvement as a sign that scale problems have become a high priority. Accurate scales are important to buyers and sellers who are KLA members, Beam said.

"I think we'd like to see this program tweaked in a way that gives everyone more assurances and confidence that the scale companies are doing a good job in their role as private testing on behalf of the state," he said.

The state has made changes in the program, including limiting the number of times scales technicians can re-take the state licensing test. And compliance rates of scales are being published online and penalties are being formalized for sub-standard work or improper reporting.

Joe Hamilton, owner of UniBridge Scale System, spurred the state to look into changes by filing a complaint last year. He told the newspaper that his concern has always been whether Kansas is doing enough to ensure technicians are complying with regulations.

"I come back to, they've got to enforce the regulations they have and have penalties that go along with it," Hamilton said. "That's where they really fell short, it appears to me."

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