By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
Most people are familiar with the Latin phrase that translates into “let the buyer beware”.
When buyers across Indiana and most of the country purchase a gallon of gas, they expect to receive a gallon of gas or a pound of groceries at the local market.
For the past 37 years, Gary Gist has been checking gas pumps and scales in a variety of sizes for accuracy.
“I really enjoy the work,” Gist said, while checking gas pumps in Kokomo Jan. 17. “I’m making sure people get what they pay for.”
Last year the Howard County Department of Weights & Measures became totally funded by the county after the city of Kokomo terminated a decades old inter-local government agreement.
Gist was working for the Kokomo City Street Department when an opening became available in Weights & Measures and he applied for the position.
State law requires that every gas pump and scale be inspected on an annual basis.
“We check as many times as deemed necessary or if there is a problem like a complaint or request is made,” Gist said. “We used to check more than once a year, but now that there is one person in the department it will be once a year.”
The Indiana State Board of Health certifies Gist as an inspector.
Gist said there are 51 gas stations in Howard County with 1,500 pumps and countless scales in grocery stores, convenience stores, pawn shops, jewelry stores and large truck scales.
He said normally when a gas pump doesn’t dispense the right amount of fuel it is because a meter has worn out.
“It’s not intentional,” Gist said. “Nine times out of ten people get more gas because it bypasses the meter. It works both ways depending on the metering device.”
Each gas pump is checked for leaks and the metering device is inspected and a tag is placed on the meter.
To check a gasoline pump, Gist pumps five gallons into a tank on his truck. He does it twice for each pump.
“It has to be within 6 cubic inches over or under to be legal,” Gist said. “With each gallon containing 230 cubic inches, 6 cubic inches amounts to a teaspoon.”
He said at a station that pumps 100,000 gallons of fuel per month a 6 cubic inch error amounts to 519 gallons of gas.
Once the pump is checked an inspection sticker is affixed to the pump. When the inspection is completed, the gasoline is returned to the station’s storage tanks.
At grocery stores, Gist checks the scales at every cash register and throughout the stores for accuracy. He said if a scale is found to be faulty, it is closed until the repairs are made.
Gist also checks on a monthly basis at the ten major grocery stores in Howard County 300 packages to make sure consumers are not being charged for the container.