The city aldermen on Monday brushed aside a proposal to ask voters whether they wanted the city to continue adding fluoride to its water supply.
By a vote of 8 to 2, the aldermen defeated a motion that would have asked city voters to decide the issue in November. Aldermen Roy Thomas and Tom DePoy represented the two “yes” votes.
The question of whether or not to continue adding fluoride to the water was first raised two weeks ago by Mayor Christopher Louras who told the board that an increase in the cost of the chemical from $8,000 last year to $14,000 this year prompted him to question the expense.
“For me, it’s gotten to the point where the costs outweigh the benefit,” Louras told members of the aldermanic Public Works Committee last week. “I’m wondering if the rest of the board is at that point where we turn off the spigot.”
But after briefly talking among themselves and hearing from five dentists and oral hygienists who attended the meeting Monday, the majority of the board decided that the cavity-preventing chemical was worth the expense — an expense that one dentist pointed out amounted to less than $1 for each water user in the city.
“If you could follow us around, it would be blatant to you how much of a difference fluoride means,” said Rutland dentist Judy Fisch. “You don’t see the crowns and dental work that so many of us in the room have because the children now have fluoride in their water. To regress 40 years, in my opinion, would be an injustice.”
The majority of aldermen who spoke shared that sentiment.
“One of my duties is to ensure quality of life for the people of Rutland,” said Alderman William Notte, who last week voted in committee to ask voters for their opinions, but changed his mind after hearing from residents. “From what I’ve been told, it would be a real decline to the quality of life to take it out.”
“Without question, fluoride is a beneficial thing. I haven’t seen anything that disagrees with that,” Alderman Henry Heck added.
Thomas didn’t give a reason for voting to make continued fluoridation a public vote, however, Thomas said he only wanted to give residents a part in the process.
“I believe the public will do the right thing,” he said. “It’s not that I support fluoride or I don’t … It’s about including them in the process.”