PORT ANGELES — Four City Council members dug in their heels Tuesday, standing firm on the decision to continue fluoridation of the municipal water system despite a recommendation broadly supported by city staff that the practice be stopped.
At their regular meeting, Mayor Patrick Downie joined Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd and council members Dan Gase and Brad Collins to reaffirm the decision to continue the city’s commitment — though not under contract — to fluoridate city water to prevent dental disease through June 2026.
Council members Lee Whetham, Sissi Bruch and Michael Merideth were opposed.
Council members also agreed to explore forming an ad-hoc committee to examine fluoridation alternatives.
The city is under a 10-year contract with the Washington Dental Service Foundation to continue fluoridation until May 18, when the contract expires.
Nine department heads including City Manager Dan McKeen had recommended discontinuing fluoridation and committing $400,000 over the next 10 years to an “Oral Health Care Initiative,” the details of which would be worked out by city officials in concert with other area agencies.
But during three hours of public comment Tuesday that zeroed in on fluoridation, the compromise received little support.
Fluoridation opponent Dr. Eloise Kailin wanted fluoridation to stop and expressed misgivings about spending city funds for the initiative in a tight-budget climate.
Fluoridation proponent Dr. Tom Locke said the proposed amount would not be nearly enough to tackle the problem of tooth decay and that communitywide fluoridation is far more effective.
Opponents had threatened to throw out the entire seven-person City Council in the wake of the council’s Dec. 15 decision to continue fluoridation despite the results of an end-of-2015 survey of water users who soundly rejected the practice.
Passionately critical of the council for rejecting the overwhelming wishes of survey respondents, opponents were seen signing their names to mount the change-in-government effort after the meeting.
If successful, the city would lose home-rule authority and, according to city staff, could threaten the city’s bond rating.