The rejection of a bill that would have allowed residents to vote on the fluoride issue got mixed reviews from Timberville Town Council members.
The House of Delegates voted down a proposal Tuesday by Del. Matt Lohr, R-Broadway, that would have posed the question this fall of whether the town should continue to add fluoride to its water supply.
Contacted Wednesday, council members said they would figure out what to do at their next regular meeting on Feb. 12. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall at 392 S. Main St.
Councilman Carl Turner said that with the bill’s defeat, council will have to make the call.
“I’m not really pleased with [the House’s] decision,” said Turner, who made the motion to put it on the ballot. “Personally, I believe a possible health-related issue like that should be decided by the citizens and not six people.”
Other council members were unsure about how the town will move forward.
Timberville decided to revisit the fluoride issue last summer, and a debate ensued in the months following.
Fluoride has been added to municipal water supplies for decades as a way to prevent cavities.
Proponents say fluoridation has been proven safe and effective in improving oral health. Opponents, however, say it can be a dangerous practice, especially for young children and people with certain medical conditions.
The council voted in October to put the issue before residents in a referendum this fall.
However, Town Attorney Mark Callahan informed council at its November meeting that state law does not allow residents to vote on fluoridation as a ballot issue.
Councilwoman Sharon Jones then approached Lohr and asked him to present legislation to the General Assembly so residents could vote on it.
The House voted it down, 50-43; Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, abstained. Dels. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, and Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, joined Lohr in voting for the bill.
“Democracy was done,” Jones said of the vote.
The bill’s critics, according to Lohr, said the council, as the town’s elected body, should decide whether to continue the practice.
That sentiment echoes what Councilwoman Ellen Nash has said in previous discussions on the issue.
“I think it was an appropriate decision,” she said of the vote. “I have felt from the beginning that it was the responsibility of the council to make that decision.”