FARMINGTON — The decision on whether to fluoridate Davis County drinking water systems will once again rest with voters in the Nov. 5 general election.
In the meantime, Davis County Health officials vow to move full speed ahead to get fluoride implemented countywide by an Oct. 15 deadline.
Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings said his office has officially certified more than the 8,630 petition signatures needed to force a revote on the fluoridation referendum that was approved in 2000.
The 8,630 number is based on a formula of 10 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the 2000 gubernatorial race.
Rawlings said the petitions will be forwarded to the County Commission. He said the commission will then have the option of accepting the petitions and placing the revote referendum on this year’s ballot, or taking no action, which would also result in the referendum appearing on the ballot.
Rawlings said the clerk’s office received from fluoridation opponents 11,849 names, with about 80 percent of the signatures, or 9,447, proving valid.
Fluoridation opponents were about a month ahead of schedule in submitting the petitions to the county to get the revote measure on the November 2002 ballot, he said.
“It does not surprise us. It just shows they worked extra hard,” said Davis County election coordinator Pat Beckstead of the number of signatures received prior to the July 8 deadline.
In November 2000 voters by a 52 to 48 percent margin approved a referendum to add one part fluoride per million to the county”s drinking water systems.
Since that time, the public health referendum has come under fire from many directions.
Woods Cross this month won a court ruling allowing it to opt out of fluoridation on the basis that the city has a “functionally separate” water system as defined by state law. Centerville continues to balk at the referendum measure based on cost.
With the exception of Woods Cross and Centerville, south Davis cities have been fluoridating drinking water since late May.
The fluoridation deadline for cities north of Farmington was extended to Oct. 15 after Weber Basin Water Conservancy District experienced engineering delays.
But now with a revote on the horizon, the fluoridation issue in Davis County is more murky than ever.
Clearfield Councilman Dave Monson, who actively worked against the fluoridation referendum by going door-to-door with signature petitions, said he sees the countywide revote as a victory for those opposing the referendum.
“Sure, it’s got to be a victory partial victory, anyway. A total victory when we defeat it,” he said.
Opponents say initial fluoridation costs were underestimated, that fluoridation violates their personal freedom, and that fluoride has a detrimental effect on health.
Monson said he is confident Davis voters will turn back fluoridation.
“The whole thing goes back to rights. No one has the right to medicate someone else’s water,” Monson said.
Davis County Health Director Lewis R. Garrett said he is not surprised opponents were able to collect the signatures necessary to force a countywide revote. But he said he has confidence that voters will once again approve it. Citizens of Davis County were asked this question in 2000 and affirmed it, Garrett said.
Garrett said that is why public health officials have no choice other than to move forward with implementing fluoridation. “We don”t see that the law gives us any latitude not to proceed,” he said.
Garrett said the Oct. 15 deadline for north Davis cities to have fluoridation in place will remain, while south Davis cities will be mandated to continue with fluoridation.
Garrett said cities have invested money, time and effort putting fluoridation in place. “What the voters are being asked to do is scrap this infrastructure and throw this money away,” he said.
Montie Keller, former Davis Health Board chairman, said fluoridation costs being higher than initially estimated possibly contributed to the success of opponents collecting the needed signatures. But still, Keller said, fluoridation, at the cost of two Big Mac sandwiches a year, is a bargain considering the public health protection it provides.
“I think the closeness of the (first election) is the biggest impetus to do it again,” he said.
Although he believes fluoridation will once again be approved.