Fluoride appears headed for the March ballot, and an effort to defund it before the issue even gets to city voters failed Wednesday.
A motion to remove $10,000 for fluoride from the Rutland City water-treatment budget was rejected 4-1 in the Public Works Committee, which went on to approve the entire water and sewer budget as written.
Kathleen Krevetski, who has been pressing for just over a year to get fluoride out of city water, told the committee that a petition with 800 signatures asking to put fluoride on the town meeting ballot had been turned in to the city clerk’s office Wednesday. But she urged aldermen to show “leadership” by removing fluoride funding from the budget regardless.
Alderman Christopher Siliski said he had pledged to make such a motion, but he intended to do so before the full Board of Aldermen rather than at the committee level. Alderman Gary Donahue, however, made the motion himself.
“I don’t know why you want to wait,” said Donahue, who was then silent through the ensuing debate and voted against his own motion, joining Aldermen Thomas DePoy, Jon Skates and Ed Larson in the majority.
DePoy said while he intends to vote against putting fluoride in the water in March, he did not want to make a move during the budget process that would effectively take that choice away from the people. The latter sentiment was shared by most of the other aldermen present.
Board President William Notte pointed out that the public had supported fluoridation in two previous votes.
“For the committee to take this (funding) out before any other vote, that turns their back on the will of the people,” he said.
Alderwoman Sharon Davis said such a move would be “irresponsible.”
Siliski replied, “I don’t think it’s irresponsible if you’ve done your homework and you’ve publicly made a stance.”
He said he was motivated by the principal of not having the government telling people what to put in their bodies.
The debate was the only moment of contention in the meeting, which otherwise moved quickly as the committee endorsed $760,624 for water treatment, $571,816 for water distribution, $389,551 for water meters, $2,674,205 for wastewater treatment and $634,533 for wastewater collection.
The fluoride vote would be on a nonbinding resolution: Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg has sole authority to remove it under the city charter.
Wennberg has said he may do so if the public votes strongly against fluoridation and if he believes the decision was sufficiently well-informed.