A referendum on fluoridation could be in Holmen’s future.
Holmen Village Board members got a chance to brush up on their fluoride facts at a recent public hearing. But the hearing left at least two members unsure about how Holmen residents feel on the matter.
Quite a few of the people who spoke at the hearing, including people on both sides of the issue, came from outside the village, and speakers were pretty evenly divided. At the risk of prompting a deluge of phone calls, both Village President John Chapman and Trustee Rich Anderson admitted they haven’t heard much from their constituents on the matter since the meeting.
Anderson chairs the Public Works Committee, which will take up the fluoridation issue at its April 5 monthly meeting. By that meeting, Anderson expects to have some answers on the cost to begin fluoridating Holmen’s water.
But he’s not so sure he’ll have any answers on whether Holmen residents support adding fluoride to the water supply.
“I think a referendum would be a good idea,” Anderson said. “I think it’s the only fair way to do it.”
Chapman generally has been against holding referendums. “My philosophy has always been that we’re elected to make decisions,” he said.
But Chapman thinks a referendum might be useful in this case. “This is a situation where it affects everybody in the village, and we don’t really have a feel for how people want it to go,” he said. “I don’t know what the consensus is in the village.”
On the other hand, Chapman said, with typical voter turnout being pretty low, a professionally done scientific public opinion survey actually might get a better picture of what villagers want.
A professional survey also has another advantage: It can be done at any time, whereas the village would have to wait until next spring’s county office elections to hold a referendum, unless the village held a special election.
Chapman said he uses prescription-grade fluoride toothpaste, but has mixed feelings about fluoridating the village’s water.
“I believe in fluoride, but I do have a little problem with subjecting people to medication they don’t want,” he said.
While it seems to Anderson and Chapman that people on the street have been quiet on the matter, the fluoridation has been a topic of heated debate on this newspaper’s Web site.
By Tuesday afternoon, readers had tacked 40 comments onto the end of the online version of last week’s fluoridation hearing story. But the vast majority of them came from a small core of online readers, and it’s impossible to know whether the people posting opinions actually live in Holmen.