Concern is growing in at least one corner regarding the Meadville Area Water Authority’s plans to discuss and make a decision regarding the fluoridation of the water supply.
In response to a letter of concern from Meadville resident and Clean Water Meadville spokesman Christopher Knapp, Meadville City Council members and city officials expressed confidence regarding those plans last week while also making clear that any decisions on fluoridation were the responsibility of Meadville Area Water Authority (MAWA), not City Council.
Knapp acknowledged MAWA’s jurisdiction over the issue in his letter but concluded with an all-caps request: “I am appealing to the mayor and council for help in making this process fair to all.”
Clean Water Meadville opposes the addition of fluoride to the water supply and hopes to play a role not just in any public forums on the topic but in the planning for such forums as well.
“Clean Water Meadville should be involved in the discussion about the framework of a community discussion and we should have a say in the experts who are chosen to lead these educational efforts,” Knapp wrote in his letter to City Council.
“I’d like to see that everyone is heard,” councilmember Nancy Mangilo Bittner said. “The water authority has the final say on it, but if there’s groups that want to be heard and they want to pay to bring in their own experts, I feel everyone should be heard, and then the water authority makes the final decision.”
Mangilo Bittner compared the situation to the recent discussions about whether the city should allow Crawford County 911 take over its police dispatch duties. The city held a town hall meeting in May to allow public input on the dispatch discussion.
City attorney Gary Alizzeo described such an opportunity as “a public forum where they could bring anyone they like to advocate for their position.”
“It has to be very public, the whole decision process,” agreed Deputy Mayor Sean Donahue, “so everyone knows it’s not going to be done behind closed doors.”
“There are specific DEP regulations that require public outreach, notice as well as a hearing process,” Alizzeo said. “The water authority is aware of that. I’ve discussed that with their (attorney), so I’m expecting that their process will include input from groups including Dr. Knapp’s.”
In its meetings over the summer, the MAWA board mentioned the possibility of town hall meetings and discussed how the ground rules for such meetings would work. No final decisions on a framework were reached.
The topic came up again more recently in the MAWA’s Operations Committee meeting on Oct. 12, according to MAWA Board Chair Tim Groves, though no decisions have yet been made. MAWA Operations Committee meetings are closed to the public. Any recommendations from the Operations Committee would have to be voted on by the board at a public meeting.
Groves, who is also the city treasurer, reiterated the need for transparency following the City Council meeting.
“We want everybody to be informed,” Groves said, “so that the correct decision is made.”