PORT ANGELES — Former Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand will begin her count of advisory city water fluoridation surveys Monday amid impressions that fewer surveys were filled out and sent to the city than anticipated.
Rosand said Friday she could complete the tabulation as soon as Tuesday.
“I will be surprised if it takes us a day and a half,” she said.
“I was giving myself a week.”
City water customers are being asked if the city should continue the controversial practice of fluoridating the municipal water supply after May 18, the expiration date of a contract with the Washington Dental Service Foundation.
The surveys were mailed Nov. 6 to 8,105 water customers in Port Angeles and 1,564 east of the city limits covered by the Clallam County Public Utility District.
The PUD customers live outside the city limits but are connected to the city’s fluoridated water system.
Surveys had to be postmarked or deposited in a drop-box in City Hall at 321 E. Fifth St. by Nov. 27.
City Manager Dan McKeen said few people were seen by city employees putting advisory surveys in the drop box.
“A large part of that is due to the fact that we had self-addressed and stamped envelopes for people to place them in their mailboxes,” McKeen said Friday.
Rosand said Friday she picked up far fewer completed surveys from the post office last week than she thought would be mailed back.
The envelopes, nestled in trays, did not take up half the space in her Toyota Highlander SUV, Rosand said.
She and six county election helpers who will be reimbursed by the city will begin their hand-count of ballots in the county courthouse elections office Monday after they pick up a drop-box with ballots from City Hall.
The surveys are being stored in a locked cage in the courthouse basement.
Rosand said the tabulation will be conducted much like a standard election, except ballots will be counted by hand.
The process can be observed by one resident for and one resident against fluoridation at any one time.
Observation duties will be alternated by two fluoridation proponents and four fluoridation opponents.
Opponents have likened fluoridation to forced medication that causes a host of health problems, while proponents tout it as a successful public health measure to fight tooth decay.
Once the count is complete, Rosand will fill out a certification form and take it to McKeen’s office.
Dec. 15 meeting
The results will be included in City Council members’ packets in preparation for the council’s Dec. 15 meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall, when they will discuss the results in preparation for deciding whether to continue fluoridation.
McKeen acknowledged there were shortcomings to the survey.
For example, the surveys were mailed to residents who pay city water bills, not to all city water users.
That prevented residents who drink city water from expressing their opinion on fluoridation if they live in nursing homes and group homes or if their landlord pays their water bills.
In addition, just one survey went to entire families, while a business owner with a residence in the city would receive more than one survey because the person pays for more than one connection.
Finally, the 8,105 water customers who received surveys do not approach the 11,439 registered voters in the city who drink fluoridated water.
But City Council members said they wanted all city water customers to participate in the survey, including those who live outside the city limits, and the county elections department could not segregate voters by their water connections to deliver ballots to those outside the city limits.
“I still believe that the process that the City Council had decided to go with is more inclusive than if it had just gone out to registered voters,” McKeen said.
“Everyone that pays for a water bill, that has a water connection and pays a utility bill, could receive a ballot and weigh in on this.
“Even though it’s not perfect, it’s way more inclusive than any other way would have been.”