The fluoridation debate is over, at least for the November election.
The Erie County Board of Elections on Monday voted 3-1 not to put the issue on the Nov. 6 election ballot. Erie County Councilman Fiore Leone voted for placing the issue on the ballot while County Council Chairman James Terrill and County Councilwomen Joy Greco and Carol Loll voted to keep the issue off the ballot.
The vote ended a petition drive led by Erie City Councilman Mario Bagnoni, an opponent of fluoridation, which he and others began in late September after the Erie City Water Authority voted Sept. 20 to fluoridate the metropolitan water supply.
“The issue is definitely dead as far as the (Nov. 6) election is concerned,” said Greco during a telephone interview Monday. Greco said that although she is not in favor of fluoridating the water system, she “was obliged to vote against” the ballot question because the petition missed a 90-day deadline for such questions.
“We were told by (Erie County Solicitor Elizabeth Malc) that the petition had to be presented to the board 90 days before the election,” said Greco, who noted that the petition with the required 1,400 signatures was presented to the board in early October.
“That deadline was obviously missed, so I felt duty-bounty to vote against the referendum,” said Greco.
Loll, who also is chairwoman of the election board, noted that Erie County Council has no authority to dictate policy to the water authority. “They are a separate entity and we can’t tell them what to do.”
She also noted that it was not clear to her whether the signatures presented to the board were, as required by law, only from people who use city water. That would include the city and all or parts of Millcreek, Harborcreek, Lawrence Park and Summit townships and Wesleyville Borough.
“I asked the question and nobody seemed to know the answer,” said Loll.
“I don’t feel that it’s bad to have fluoridated water,” said Loll. “But I really can’t comment further on the issue because we have well water (at her home).”
“This is the final act in the fluoridation issue,” said David Shapter, a pediatric dentist and co-chairman of the Citizens for Better Dental Health who attended Monday’s meeting. “The Erie City Water Authority made the right decision (in voting to add fluoride to the water system). This is a health issue not a political one,” he said.
Shapter said the fluoridation of city water will begin in Spring 2002.
“I’m a little ticked off about this,” said Leone, the only member of the election board who voted for placing the issue on the ballot. “We still have a representative government and I believe people have the right to make decisions like this.”
Leone noted that at one time he was for adding fluoride to the water supply. “But I studied the issue and I discovered that there are at least as many people against fluoridation as there are for it (and because of that) it should be on the ballot.”
Bagnoni, who helped gather signatures on the fluoridation petitions, said that attorney George Schroeck will try today for an injunction to place the question on the ballot, either for the Nov. 6 election or for the election in Fall 2002.
Bagnoni also questioned the 90-day rule. “How could I meet (the deadline),” he said. “I only had two days at the end of September to gather the signatures.”
The fluoridation issue was one of three items on the election board’s agenda Monday night.
The board also approved the layout of the election ballot and approved a voter location change involving Millcreek’s 16th District.
Greco said the voters in Millcreek’s 16th District will cast their ballots during the Nov. 6 election at the Millcreek Youth Athletic Association building at 2614 Colonial Ave. and not at the Suburban YWCA at 4247 West Ridge Road.
“The voters in that district will be receiving a notification about that change,” said Greco.