Seward residents voted down an ordinance to stop fluoride from being added to the city’s water.
But city officials are unsure about what those results really mean.
The vote was 1,478 against and 1,239 for the ordinance.
The results mean the City of Seward will need to install a system to add fluoride to the water.
In Milford, voters approved the resolution to prevent the addition of fluoride to the city’s water.
City of Seward Water Superintendent David Lathrop said cities are required by state law to begin fluoridating their water by 2010 if they do not pass an ordinance to opt out.
Seward City Administrator Dan Berlowitz said the city may explore putting the issue up for another election.
“The wording on the ballot was somewhat confusing,” he said.
Since the vote was on an ordinance prohibiting fluoride in the city’s water voting yes on the issue was a vote against fluoride in the water, while a no vote on this issue was a vote in favor of adding fluoride to the city’s water.
“I have yet to get a sense for where the community stands, where the community is in terms of fluoridating water,” Lathrop said. “There may be some political second thoughts.”
Lathrop said he hasn’t received any feedback from the community on the outcome of the election.
“The community may have misinterpreted what the vote means,” he said. “I want to make sure this is what the community wants.”
Berlowitz said the city may put the issue up for another vote to get a clearer picture of what the community wants.
“Some voters many not have understood the ballot language. We can’t know that for sure,” he said. “The only way to determine that would be to put it on the ballot again.
Berlowitz said if the fluoride issue is put up for another vote the plan would be to use language that is easier to understand.
“So that a no vote means no to fluoride and a yes means yes to fluoride. Then we’ll clearly know what the will of the people is,” he said.
Berlowitz said the city could hold a special election on the issue, but would prefer to put it on the ballot as part of a normal election between now and June of 2010.
The public could also petition the city to put the issue back up for a vote, he said.
Berlowitz said the issue will be discussed by the city council, and they have about a year and a half to decide.
Lathrop said the city couldn’t put in a fluoridation system this budget year anyway.
“We haven’t put it into this year’s budget for a fluoridation system,” he said.
Lathrop said it will cost about $38,000 to install a fluoridation system. In addition, the chemicals needed for fluoridating the water will cost $5,000 per year.
Because the city’s budget year runs from October to October, the system was not included in this year’s budget.
“The plan is to get the system installed during the 2009-10 budget year,” Lathrop said.
He said fluoride does have an excellent track record in the dental and medical communities and with the Center for Disease Control.
There is already a certain amount of fluoride in Seward’s water before it comes out of the ground, but not enough to be at the required level.
“Seward’s water is already fairly expensive and a system like this will add more,” Lathrop said.