The decision on fluoridation is in the voters’ hands.
The Beatrice City Council voted 7-0 Monday evening to authorize a resolution to allow Beatrice residents to either reject or adopt an ordinance to prohibit the addition of fluoride to the city water system. The issue will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.
In April, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB245, which requires fluoride to be added to drinking water in cities and towns with more than 1,000 residents by June 1, 2010.
Under the state law, cities and towns would be able to opt out of the requirement if residents vote it down or if there is there is enough naturally occurring fluoride already in the water supply.
Most of Nebraska’ population — more than 942,000 people — is served by 65 public water systems that add fluoride to water. Forty-one systems are naturally fluoridated.
But 64 Nebraska communities with more than 1,000 people, including Beatrice, don’t add fluoride or have enough on their own. Beatrice water’s natural fluoridation level is .25.
If the city does add fluoride, residential water customers would see an increase of about 25 cents on their monthly bill, Water Superintendent Steve Kelley said. Commercial customers would see about a $1.50 increase each month.
Beatrice Public Water would likely have to spend about $88,000 to buy and install equipment and put up a building to fluoridate, Kelley said. After that, he said, he would cost about $15,000 a year to fluoridate.
City Councilman Ted Fairbanks asked how much responsibility the council would have for disseminating information to the public on the matter.
Beatrice Mayor Dennis Schuster said the council should provide factual information about LB245 and the cost to fluoridate.
The public should also ask questions and do its own research, he said.
As a city, Schuster said, it would be unfair to advocate one side over another.
“I would be very uncomfortable advocating one position or another,” he said. “There are two positions. The best that we can do is provide what factual information we have.”
Councilman Alan Fetty agreed.
“It’s also important that we let the people make the decision,” he said.
Beatrice fluoridated its water from April 17, 1950, to Nov. 23, 1954, as recommended by the Gage County Dental Association. Fluoridation stopped in 1954 after a petition was circulated in the community and the issue was placed on the ballot, Kelley said. Voters chose 2 to 1 to stop fluoridation. The issue was on the ballot two or three other times as well.