ROCKPORT — The voters have spoken: Rockport will continue adding fluoride to the town water supply.
The oft-contentious debate, which ran the gamut from dueling letters on the editorial pages of the Gloucester Daily Times to personal faceoffs over the scientific benefits or dangers of adding the compound to the public’s water, was settled Tuesday as part of the town’s first elections to employ voting machines to cast votes and tabulate results.
The official vote, pending write-ins and hand-counted votes, was 1,186 to 800 in favor of fluoridating the town water, a practice initiated decades ago under the belief that fluoride helped prevent cavities in teeth.
The issue was seen as the driving force for the unusually large turnout — 36.6 percent of registered voters — for a town election that featured only one contested race. Of the town’s 5,430 registered voters, 1,989 cast ballots.
In that School Committee race that featured three candidates — Heather Jean Nelson, Rebecca Mead Sly and Henry R. Strzemlowski Jr. — for two positions, voters elected Nelson and Sly. Nelson was the top vote-getter, with 1,023, followed Sly with 988, and Strzemlowski with 726.
Voters also approved the ballot question of whether the town should accept the portion of the state law allowing it to allocate money to clear snow and ice from private roads, and thus open them to the public, by 1,554 to 351.
In uncontested races, voters returned incumbents Wilhelmina Sheedy-Moores and Sarah Wilkinson to the Board of Selectmen, as well as electing Timothy W. Good IV as tax assessor, Cameron L. Smith to the Planning Board, Lana Razdan as library trustee and Bethany A. Brosnan to the Housing Authority.
Tuesday’s election marked the town’s maiden voyage into the realm of electronic voting machines and reports from City Clerk Pat Brown’s office during the day reflected a smoothly run election, not to mention far quicker final results than in elections past.