Whether or not to fluoridate the Rifle’s drinking water is still up for debate, and city council members have yet to make a decision.
“I’m not prepared to make a comment about it because we, as a council, haven’t discussed it,” said Mayor Keith Lambert.
And, at least from Rifle City Hall staffers’ perspectives, Rifleites don’t seem particularly concerned about the issue.
Rifle public works director Bill Sappington said he has received only a handful of calls from people about the issue.
“How many people are even drinking the water?” Sappington questioned.
The subject of fluoridation came up two weeks ago when city staff at the water treatment plant made a presentation to council members during an informal workshop. There, staff members voiced their opposition to fluoridating the water.
No council action was taken at the workshop.
The city of Rifle has fluoridated its water for years. However, the subject of whether or not to continue the process came up a year ago when the equipment used to fluoridate broke down and staff sought direction from the council on whether to replace it or not.
After little input from the public, council directed staff to replace the equipment and continue with the fluoridation. However, Sappington said that after review, the city did not have the funds to install the proper equipment and the water has not been fluoridated since that time.
“We were under the impression we could install a type of equipment adequate for our needs,” Sappington said. “But in review of the features needed for proper application, there were critical items needed to ensure we apply (the fluoride) at the proper application rate.”
The city of Glenwood Springs has been fluoridating its water for years. The town of New Castle does not fluoridate the water, nor do the towns of Silt or Parachute.
At the workshop, Rifle council members tentatively voiced their opinions, but said they would like to hear more information before making a decision.
“It seems we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” said Councilor Sandy Vaccaro. “It’s weird — there are people at both ends of this. To me, either it’s good or it’s not. I just don’t want the public to think our drinking water is unsafe.”
Councilor Jeff Johnson pointed out that there is no penalty if the city doesn’t fluoridate the water.
“Let’s leave it at status quo,” Johnson said. “Let’s decide not to do it, but that we would like to see what their arguments (in favor) are. It looks like the non-fluoridation for me comes ahead.”
Councilor Jen Firmin is not in favor of forcing fluoridated water on people who don’t want it.
“Unless we know it’s a really good thing, let’s educate the public and let them compensate,” she said.
Rifle city manager John Hier suggested the council listen to experts on both sides before making a decision.
“There’s no right or wrong, simply different opinions about it,” Hier said. “We may conclude to ask the citizens what they want. We’re not qualified to decide — we need to hear from the experts.”
Some have suggested that the matter be put on the ballot in the November 2006 election for Rifle citizens to decide.