STUART — City voters came out in favor of adding fluoride to their municipal water Tuesday, with 52 percent of them telling the City Commission to adopt an ordinance requiring it.
“Stuart has given itself and its children a gift for a lifetime,” said dentist David Bowden of Stuart, with the pro-fluoride Healthy Smiles Project committee. “Over time it will pay off for them. They will have fewer cavities.”
Stuart mayor Jeff Krauskopf said the results of Tuesday’s ordinance are binding — and would have been binding no matter which way the vote went. He said the results will be drafted into an ordinance and the City Commission must approve it.
Meanwhile, Pat Arena of Jensen Beach, one of the leaders of the anti-fluoride forces, was skeptical of the final 3,910 ballot count given by Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis. It gave his side 48 percent of the votes.
Arena pointed to another part of the elections Web site that showed 4,588 ballots had been cast — 678 more than the total of 3,910 votes for and against the measure posted on the same page.
Davis said the 4,588 number was incorrect and would be changed.
“If it was voted in, there’s a whole lot of problems the city is going to have to address,” Arena said Tuesday night.
He said these will include health issues and Martin County residents on the city water system who couldn’t vote and are now saddled with the results of Tuesday’s decision.
Dr. Harry Davis, dental director of the Florida Department of Health, noted the state has long supported fluoridation of community water systems.
“We applaud the people of Stuart for recognizing the benefits of fluoride in their water system,” Davis said in a prepared statement. “Currently, nearly 13 million people are benefiting from fluoridation in Florida.”
Stuart’s water system has almost $112,000 invested in fluoride equipment that has been sitting idle awaiting Tuesday’s decision. Part of that is a $59,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health.
The success of Tuesday’s referendum will not immediately result in Stuart water customers receiving fluoride. It will take between 90 and 120 days after the City Commission directs fluoridation to begin before it is added to tap water, said Dave Peters, city assistant public works director.
“There’s a lot of testing that needs to be done,” Peters said.