Fluoridating the city’s water will likely be going on the November ballot in Hastings.
On Wednesday, the Hastings City Council discussed the idea of putting the issue on the ballot rather than making the opponents circulate a petition to take the issue to a vote.
The City Council has been discussing this issue since before the Nebraska Legislature passed LB245, a bill that now requires all communities with more than 1,000 people to fluoridate their water supply by June 1, 2010.
At the June 9 council meeting, Butch Hughes, local spokesperson for Nebraskans for Safe Water, presented the council with his proposed fluoride ordinance to be put on the ballot. If the City Council did not put the issue on the ballot, Hughes warned that he would start circulating a petition immediately.
During Wednesday’s meeting, city administrator Joe Patterson said he spoke with the Nebraska League of Municipalities, which provided him with a copy of the ballot language as recommended by Attorney General John Bruning.
“I believe that the one the state provided is the one you put on the ballot, not one originated by someone in community,” he said referring to the ballot language.
Patterson said the decision the council needs to make is not what ballot the issue should go on. Instead it should simply what ballot language the council wants to see on the ballot.
He said other communities across the state have already passed motions to put the issue on the November general election ballot. Those communities include North Platte and Grand Island, which are using the attorney general’s ballot language. Communities in the area that already fluoridate their water include Kearney, Holdrege, Minden and Superior.
The council has been discussing this issue since March, when the Hastings Utilities Board of Public Works asked for the city’s opinion on LB245. At the time, the council unanimously approved a resolution stating its support of the concept of fluoridation.
However, at the time, the council had concerns with how this would affect the city’s past three votes in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to keep fluoride out of the water.
Council member Jeff Kully asked Wednesday if this order by the state overrules the 1974 vote in Hastings when a measure to add fluoride was defeated.
Patterson said the state’s law trumps that and now the community must vote again if it does not want fluoridated water.
Council member Roger Glen said if the council made a decision on the issue at Monday’s meeting that would either give opponents time to circulate a petition to put the issue on the ballot or give proponents time to educate the public on the benefits of fluoride.
The council agreed to put the issue on Monday’s agenda for further discussion and a possible vote.