Niagara Gazette — Lewiston officials are working on a way to make sure security at town gas pumps is capable of keeping potential theft to an absolute minimum. Some said it’s going to take a monitoring system to keep employees honest.
Supervisor Dennis Brochey and Highway Superintendent Doug Janese both concur a video camera would be the next logical step the town can take to further prevention of theft.
“As soon as I won the election (in November), I sat down and talked to Doug about what was going to happen,” Brochey said. “We decided on putting a camera system in where we can watch what’s happening from any computer.”
Current procedures at the pumps require an employee with a key anytime beyond normal business hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Besides this, security requires anyone looking to fill up at the pumps to enter a four-digit PIN and the mileage of the vehicle being fueled before selecting either diesel or unleaded gasoline.
Talk of upgrading security measures at the Swann Road pumping station, a part of the highway department facilities, has been around since 2011 when state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office released an audit finding the town’s mathematical calculation didn’t match the actual amount measured in pump storage.
The audit made five recommendations to help in rectifying the situation, from upgrading its requirements to include odometer readouts to access fuel to requiring Janese to delete any old PINs belonging to employees no longer with the town.
Security at the pumps was stressed even more after the town board held a series of executive sessions this past summer to discuss a police personnel matter. An investigation by the Niagara Gazette in October revealed accusations of gas theft were made against a pair of officers in the Lewiston force, leading to disciplinary action taken by the town board despite no formal criminal charges being issued in the matter.
But Janese said the system at the pumps, despite the recent alleged theft, is still top-notch.
“It’s not the system,” Janese said. “The system works perfectly. The problem is people stealing gas in gas cans. No one expects someone to come in to the pumps with a gas can. No system without a camera can stop that.”
He added a standing policy has been in effect since he assumed control of the department in June 2010 ensuring the pumps are secured by the keyed gate anytime highway staff is not present.
Following the release of the state’s audit, the town board members declined to implement any new security feature at the site, instead deferring responsibility for any upgrades to Janese.
Councilman Ernie Palmer said Janese is responsible for coming to the board and presenting a plan to modify any of the security measures, adding he’d be supportive of a camera being installed to monitor any future fuel transactions.
Ron Winkley, a fellow councilman and former chief of Lewiston Police, said responsibility lies with all department heads to continue to monitor fuel usage, not the town board.
“As police chief, I used to check the gas logs everyday,” Winkley said. “The department heads are supposed to keep an eye out. The department heads have better control of what’s going on on a day-to-day basis in the town.
“But I believe we’re looking into improving security. As a town board member, I like to trust my employees. I feel we’re moving in the right direction to make sure (fuel theft) doesn’t happen again.”Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.