The fluoride question will not be posed to voters on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The City Council decided Tuesday that it would be too logistically difficult to include in a ballot question those Clallam County Public Utility District customers who drink the city’s fluoridated water.
Instead, they decided that all city customers as well as the 1,550 PUD customers who use city water — including unregistered voters and businesses — will be asked by mail if fluoridation should continue after May 18.
That’s the expiration date of the city’s 10-year pledge to the Washington Dental Service Foundation to fluoridate city water.
Forks and Port Angeles are the only two cities in Clallam and Jefferson counties that have fluoridation.
City staff will discuss specifics of the poll with PUD officials, while council members will take up the issue further at next Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Council members had decided July 21 on a 4-3 vote to put the question on the Nov. 3 ballot as an advisory measure to evaluate the opinions of city water users, including those outside the city limits.
The results would have been nonbinding, as will those of the poll.
City Council members are looking for direction as they face a deadline on continuing the practice of adding the mineral to the city’s water supply to prevent cavities — a practice opposed by many city residents who believe fluoridation instead harms them.
Council members changed their minds about how to get the information after hearing from City Attorney Bill Bloor on Tuesday during a special half-hour session.
It was called to appoint chairs for and against committees on fluoridation and adopt a resolution approving ballot language for the Nov. 3 election that the county Auditor’s Office had to have by Aug. 4.
Bloor told the council that the Auditor’s Office could not include PUD customers in the advisory ballot.
Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs has said voters are mailed election ballots by precinct, not geographic area.
In preparation for Tuesday’s meeting, Bloor consulted with the state Attorney General’s Office, the elections division of the state Auditor’s Office and the county Auditor’s Office.
“The bottom line is, it is not practical to include the PUD,” Bloor said.
“We cannot give you what you want.”
Before the decision to drop the advisory ballot measure, council members discussed the language of the proposed ballot measure.
Councilwoman Cherie Kidd said the July 21 motion for the advisory ballot “was incorrect and can’t be carried out.”
Kidd and Councilman Brad Collins said they had thought the motion included allowing PUD customers to take part in the advisory ballot.
It did not.
Kidd also questioned the fairness of an election that included the PUD.
PUD commissioners in 2004 unanimously approved a letter to the city asking for an environmental impact statement on the then-under-consideration fluoridation of city water.
The letter called the practice “enforced medication.”
“I would hate to put the city in a position where we would be exposed to litigation or have an appearance of bias either way,” Kidd said.
Council members voted down motions to reconsider their July 21 action and accept ballot language as proposed that included only city voters.
The two votes were 3-3, which meant both motions died.
Council members Patrick Downie, Kidd and Collins favored reconsideration.
Mayor Dan Di Guilio and council members Lee Whetham and Sissi Bruch opposed reconsideration.
In a second vote, they voted down a resolution to accept the ballot language as proposed that included only city voters.
Along the same lines, Di Guilio, Whetham and Bruch favored the ballot language.
Downie, Kidd and Collins were opposed.
Councilman Dan Gase was absent after informing city officials he would be traveling when the meeting was to be held.
Bloor said if the resolution accepting the ballot language was not approved, the city cannot proceed to the Nov. 3 ballot, even though council members voted for an advisory vote July 21.
In a final 6-0 vote, council members directed city staff to skip the Nov. 3 election and conduct an advisory poll by mail with a return deadline convenient for the City Council.
The City Council on Tuesday also named longtime anti-fluoridation activist Dr. Eloise Kailin to head a committee opposing fluoridation and Dr. Tom Locke, the public health officer for Jefferson County, to head a committee opposing fluoridation.
An informational hearing on fluoridation also will be held.
PUD Commissioner Hugh Haffner estimated Wednesday that about 3,000 adults are at the 1,550 addresses that received city water.
The customers are just east of the city limits in the eastern urban growth area.
As of Monday, there were 7,000 water meters within the city limits and 11,388 registered voters.
Port Angeles voters overwhelmingly voted against fluoridation in a 1975 advisory ballot.
“More than likely, our people aren’t going to approve it,” Haffner predicted.
“Ten years ago, [the city] approved this, basically because of the dentists.
“Now, I think they need to do a vote.”