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History of Weights and Measures
Weights and Measures is mandated by state law to protect the interests of the buyer and seller to ensure honesty and integrity of everyday business transactions. This protection is accomplished through our continuous and systematic inspection of all equipment that weighs or measures a commodity that is sold. Every transaction involving the exchange of goods, property, and service is affected in a very vital way by some form of weights and measures.
John Quincy Adams once said “Weights and Measures may be ranked among the necessaries of life to every individual of human society. They enter into the economical arrangements and daily concerns of every family. They are necessary to every occupation of human industry; to the distribution and security of every species of property; to every transaction of trade and commerce; to the labors of husbandman; to the ingenuity of the artificer; to the studies of the philosopher; to the researches of the antiquarian; to the navigation of the mariner and the marches of the soldier; to all the exchanges of peace, and all the operations of war. The knowledge of them as in established use, is among the first elements of education and is often learned by those who learn nothing else, not even to read and write. This knowledge is riveted in the memory by the habitual application of it to the employments of men throughout life.
Weights and Measures began in Sonoma County in 1916; nationally, the first Weights and Measures law dates back to March 2, 1799. The Sonoma County Weights and Measures Division consists of a staff of six inspectors, now titled ‘Standards Specialists’, headed by Chief Deputy Sealer Fernando Vasquez and overseen by the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer. In 1980s the Weights and Measures Department was consolidated with the Department of Agriculture as part of a national trend. The Division budget is comprised of 70% general fund and 30% user fees and equals about $1.00 per citizen, per year. County programs are supported by the California Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Violations of Weights and Measures laws are criminal misdemeanors. The Sealer can levy civil penalties of up to $1000 per violation. Civil actions filed by the District Attorney can amount to $5,000 per count. Inspections are conducted unannounced so devices or business practices are evaluated on an “as used” basis.
The Standards Specialists are licensed by the State of California in three areas, Weight Verification, Measurement Verification and Transaction and Product Verification. Inspectors who drive the heavy capacity weight truck and trailer must also have a valid Class A drivers license. Inspectors who tow the propane meter testing unit must also qualify for a hazardous materials endorsement. Management positions require additional licenses such as a deputy sealer license and a sealer license.