A Hutchinson-based organization that supports preventive dental health care is offering the city of Hutchinson a $247,000 grant to help fluoridate the city’s water supply.
The offer, one of several being made across the state to encourage communities to fluoridate their water to help prevent tooth decay, comes five years after the Hutchinson City Council rejected a similar grant by the Hutchinson-based United Methodist Health Ministry Fund in 1999.
"Water fluoridation is safe, effective and saves money," said Kim Moore, president of the Health Ministry Fund. "In fact, every dollar invested in fluoridation saves $72 in treatment costs of cavities and dental problems."
The fluoridation proposal, which will be taken up by the city council at its June 29 meeting, is already drawing fire from some opponents of the procedure, including Hutchinson resident Wayne Logbeck.
Logbeck, who believes exposure to naturally occurring amounts of the chemical in Hutchinson’s water caused him to be sick, said he believes that fluoridation is ineffective, unnecessary and harmful to public health, and wants to present his side of the story to the council.
"The facts are going to be against it," said Logbeck, who expects a significant number of fluoridation opponents to show up at the June 29 council meeting.
The organization’s grant offer of $247,534 will cover the equipment costs, first-year chemical costs, and reserve for any necessary changes in fluoridation equipment when the city’s proposed reverse osmosis plant is constructed and goes into use later this decade, Moore said.
Virginia Elliott, Health Ministry Fund senior program officer, said the grant would ultimately be negotiable to reflect the actual costs the city would incur by implementing fluoridation.
"Our belief is that prevention dollars are the most important long-term investment for good oral health," Moore said. "Cavities are preventable in large part, and community water fluoridation is the basis of a successful prevention program."
Across the state, 170 communities have implemented fluoridation or have a sufficient amount of naturally occurring fluoride in the water to be considered fluoridated, according to the Kansas Dental Association, which supports the idea of community water fluoridation.
The Health Ministry Fund has offered grants to start up community water fluoridation in Kansas communities since 1998. Nine Kansas water systems, including Newton, Hesston and Maize, have received those grants.
But Logbeck said he believes that the benefits of fluoridation being espoused by proponents are more of a matter of opinion than science.
"That’s just the way you believe, and you’re not going to change," Logbeck said. "Neither one of us is going to change."
City Manager Joe Palacioz said that city staff would not be making a recommendation as to whether the city should fluoridate its water or not.
He said that policy decision would be entirely left up to the Hutchinson City Council, who could decide to accept the grant, reject the grant or put fluoridation up to a citywide vote.