Citizens of Texarkana, Ark., will decide after all whether fluoride will be added to the city’s water supply.
City officials decided during a special board meeting Tuesday to let the issue remain on the ballot for the Nov. 5 General Election.
“We’ve been forced into a leadership position on this issue from the very beginning,” said Mayor Danny Gray. “I think that we should continue being a leader and move forward on this and let the people decide.”
Texas-side city officials initially raised the issue of fluoridation but decided to abandon the subject. Instead, they have opted to focus on the city’s 2002 bond issue, which is also scheduled for a Nov. 5 vote.
“I can’t help it if the Texas-side has chosen not to take responsibility and address this issue,” said Gray.
However, there are some who think the Texas side’s decision to ignore fluoride is a good thing.
“I think the Texas side ignoring this issue is better than them making a decision on it and not asking any of us whether we want it or not,” said Central Bowie Water Supply Corp. Director Hal Harris, in reference to about a dozen communities in Bowie County that purchase water from TWU.
Redwater Mayor Beverly Pharris agreed and expressed admiration for the Arkansas City Council’s leadership.
“I admire them for taking the ball and running with it,” she said. “And I do think the Texas side doing nothing about it is better than them moving forward on this without consulting us.”
The seven other Bowie County cities that also get water from Texarkana Water Utilities and own 12 percent of the corporation would also be affected by fluoridation. Gray said that each city had its own decision to make.
“I’ve sent them all a letter informing them that if they feel strongly about this then they should put it on their November ballots, too,” said Gray. “But it is not my job as Mayor of Texarkana, Ark., to look out for them. I’m doing what’s best for the City of Texarkana, Ark.”
Though Gray and other city officials had previously alluded to the fact that the board might discuss possible removal of fluoride from the ballot at Tuesday’s meeting, the board could take no formal action for lack of a full quorum.
“There were enough members there to actually hold the meeting, but not enough to suspend the rules and have three readings of the ordnance,” said Texarkana, Ark., City Clerk Patti Scott Grey.
Present at Tuesday’s special meeting were Gray, Ward 4 Director Tommy Potter, Ward 5 Director Horace Shipp and Ward 6 Director Sue Johnson.
During special called meetings, the presence of at least five board members is required to have three formal readings of the ordinance and have any action taken on it. Otherwise, the board could only have one reading of the ordinance and be required to meet twice more in order to secure the three readings.
“We really couldn’t take any action on this ordinance to repeal the question of fluoride because there were not enough people here,” said Johnson. “With the number of people that have called me last night telling me that we should go ahead and vote on this thing … I would have conveyed nothing else to the board except that we need to go ahead with this thing,” she said.
“This is going to be voted on by the citizens of Texarkana, Ark., at some point or another. We might as well go ahead and move forward with it,” said Shipp. “Who knows when the Texas side will address this issue or if they ever will.”
Wake Village Mayor Mike Huddleston echoed Shipp’s sentiments.
“TWU is not going to fluoridate the water just based on the results of the Texarkana, Ark., city election,” said Huddleston, “because the Texas side is going to have to pass this, too. The best thing for the member cities to do is just sit tight until the Texas side does something … that is, if they ever bring it up again. And if they don’t, then it will just be a dead issue.”
Roger Davis with the Macedonia-Eylau Water Supply Corp., which purchases water from TWU and serves close to 2,200 people in the Southwest part of town, said that he’s looking forward to the issue of fluoride being over.
“The Arkansas side voting on this is a good thing. It will get voted down, then the Texas side won’t have to fool with it, and it will all be over,” he said.
Texas-side Mayor James Bramlett confirmed Davis’ prediction.
“If it fails (on the Arkansas side), then it will conclude the matter. Then it won’t matter what we do because we can’t make it happen,” he said. “But if it passes, then I feel that we would probably direct some focus to it in the early part of 2003 and have to bring the issue back up.”
Regardless of the outcome, some city officials are upset that they are not being included in the decision-making process.
“I’m kind of shocked that Texarkana, Ark., didn’t take it off the ballot,” said Nash City
Administrator Elizabeth Lea. “And I hate it that only the citizens of Texarkana, Ark., will be making the decision. All citizens using water from TWU that will be affected should have a say-so.”
New Boston Mayor Johnny Branson had similar feelings.
“It’s not just about the member cities, it’s about all the water users that get water from TWU,” he said.
Maud Mayor Robert Wells declined to comment, while city officials from Hooks, Red Lick and Annona could not be reached for comment.
Avery Mayor Jack Williams expressed his feelings about how the issue of fluoridation has been dealt with by the Twin Cities so far.
“They’re not asking us, they’re telling us what they are going to put in the water and I don’t like it,” he said. “We don’t like it and we don’t want it. We own part of that corporation whether they want to believe it or not.
“If we have to take legal action (to stop fluoridation) then we might.”