An initiative that would add fluoride to the Big Butte Springs water system that serves Medford and beyond won’t qualify for the September ballot.
Backers of the proposed measure said they have collected about 1,000 signatures, less than a third of the 3,606 verified names they need to put the initiative to a vote.
“It’s going kind of slowly, actually,” said Lee Murdoch, a Medford pediatrician and member of a small group of dentists, doctors and social workers behind the effort.
“But it’s not because of lack of support.”
Murdoch said the measure could make it to the Nov. 4 ballot, but is more likely to qualify in time for a March 2004 election.
Deadline for signatures for the November election is June 20, said Medford City Recorder Beverly Sandblast.
So far, organizers have gathered signatures only through local doctors? and dentists? offices, Murdoch said. The offices are busy and medical personnel don’t want to unduly influence patients? decisions to sign, he added.
Soon, the grass-roots group behind the measure will expand the search for signatures to more public venues, Murdoch said.
If the effort succeeds, Medford voters will decide whether to authorize the city’s Water Commission to add fluoride at a rate of .7 parts per million to the Big Butte Springs Water system.
The system serves some 100,000 Jackson County customers, including 35,000 outside of Medford.
Because the system is owned and maintained by Medford, only Medford residents will vote on the measure.
City officials estimate it will cost about $500,000 for equipment and modifications to add fluoride. The average household bill will go up between $5 and $12 annually, depending on costs.
Proponents of fluoride, which include most mainstream medical and dental associations, argue that it is a safe, inexpensive, effective way to prevent painful and costly tooth decay in children and, to a lesser extent, adults.
Critics of fluoride claim that its safety and efficacy are unproven by current medical and governmental studies and that medications shouldn’t be universally dispensed through the public water system.