(WMC-TV) - On the eve of Mayor A C Wharton's budget address, one councilman is asking the city council to reconsider its recent elimination of Memphis' Weights and Measures unit.
The issue impacts every person who buys anything with a weight or measurement, from food in supermarkets to gas at the pump.
The eight-member office checks the accuracy of food weight, gas pump measurements, scales, taxi meters, and similar gauges where people can be cheated out of their hard-earned money.
Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery met with the director of the unit, Martha Lott, on Thursday and has since reversed his position on cutting the program that would result in a taxpayer savings of $376,000 per year.
The mayor said the city faces an $80 million budget gap and the council will have to make some tough decisions.
The council voted to cut the program April 1. Council Chairman Jim Strickland says the city must do all it can to trim.
"It's not a complete worthless waste of money, but when you have a big debt like we do for pensions, you have to cut something," he said.
Strickland says other cities in Tennessee rely on the state for these inspections.
Lowery says state inspectors do not have the time or resources to conduct inspections as frequently and intensively as the local inspectors, and they only have three inspectors for all of West Tennessee.
He is asking the council to temporarily reinstate the unit, lower the city's input into the program to $200,000, and to allow a one-year transition for the state to take over the program.
"To allow our code enforcement officers to cross-train so they can do the functions of weights and measures," he said.
Shoppers and drivers alike have concerns about losing the unit.
"The bottom line is the honesty is going to have to lie with the gas stations themselves to make sure their equipment is properly calibrated," said Memphis resident David Cason.
The mayor is scheduled to submit his budget to the council Tuesday.
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