After a few months’ hiatus from the fluoride issue, Jonesborough officials expect to get back into the discussion in their February meeting.
The question of whether or not to continue fluoridating the town’s water supply was presented at the board’s April meeting last year. After public outcry slamming both sides of the issue, the board held a public forum for citizens to get their say in July last year.
The board tabled the issue in late summer, but Mayor Kelly Wolfe said board members are now prepared to bring the issue back to the table and make a decision at their next meeting.
This board is different from the board that initially considered the issue — Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald was added to the board in this year’s elections, while former Alderman Adam Dickson was voted out — but Wolfe said Fitzgerald has been briefed with the progression of the issue, including the public’s comments and water customer surveys.
“This is a topic that has some pretty strong opinions on either extreme side of the issue,” Wolfe said Tuesday. “I think for us, what we have to do is keep in mind what our main goals and objectives are. We want our water to be as safe as it possibly can be for our water customers, we want to make as good of a product as we possibly can … and we want to look at the input that our community gives us and factor that into any decision we make of this magnitude.”
When the issue first came to the board, Wolfe said that neither he nor the aldermen expected such a strong response from the public.
The move was proposed initially to save the town about $12,000 a year, but the proposal soon turned into a debate of personal freedom versus public health within the community. A flurry of letters and emails to board members followed the April meeting, and a public forum drew dozens to debate whether or not the town should keep fluoridating the water supply.
Almost 20 speakers had their say at the public forum, with eight speakers voicing concerns against the discontinuation of fluoridation and 10 speakers pushing for its removal. Some argued that the extra fluoridation, as natural water contains trace amounts of fluoride, is harmful, while others in the health community argued that removing the extra fluoride will yield a drop in dental health in the community.
The February meeting will allow for the public to get a final word in before aldermen vote on the issue.
Residents shouldn’t expect a complete rehashing of the issue at the meeting, but Wolfe said he is inviting two citizens from the community — including a local dentist — to the meeting in order to summarize both sides of the issue and the water plant director to answer any questions before the vote.
The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.