BENNINGTON — A committee of “prominent impartial citizens” created by the Select Board will study dental needs and possible solutions in Bennington.
The board voted unanimously on Tuesday night to create the committee and to undertake a survey of the dental problems among school children and the elderly.
The committee will be composed of impartial, prominent citizens who are fair-minded and have some stature in the community, according to the motion proposed by board member Ron Hall.
The board members will come back to the table in two weeks and each recommend two committee members.
Although pleased with the proposal in general, Linda Crawford, of Vermont Citizens Against Fluoridated Water, said she was concerned about who will sit on the committee. “What does he (Ron Hall) mean by prominent citizen? What does ‘prominent’ mean?” said Crawford after the vote was taken.
Despite her misgivings, Crawford, and Dr. Mike Brady, the dentist who originally presented the town with a plan to fluoridate the water system, both supported the idea of a survey.
“It’s a very wise move on the part of the Select Board,” said Crawford.
“A survey will show us just where we are now.”
A previous study of Bennington children was completed in 1993 and sampled fewer than 50 children, according to board member Joe Krawczyk.
Brady suggested that the state help with the survey by directing more resources to two state-employed dental hygienists who currently work in the school.
“They do surveys now of who goes to a dentist … . With just a little bit of money they can expand those surveys,” said Brady.
Krawczyk, who immediately expressed support for the study, said the committee must focus on what is best for Bennington. “We’ve heard a lot about (fluoridation in) European countries and big cities,” said Krawczyk. “We need to know what’s it going to do for us?”
The primary goal, said board members, should be to address a serious public health problem. The solution may or may not involve fluoridation.
“We might be surprised when we hear the results,” said Krawczyk. “The recommendation might not be fluoridation. It might be education, nutrition or more money into dental resources.”
Krawczyk said he expects that a thorough study will take at least one year to complete.
Hall also cautioned against personal attacks in town discussions and said he was ashamed of some of the rhetoric during numerous public meetings and hearings on fluoridation.
After the meeting, Brady and Crawford agreed that the rhetoric was hard to take.
But they said that with recent discussions they had found common ground.
“We have a common goal,” said Brady.
Both agreed that the key issue is balancing public good with freedom of choice.
Crawford said her issue had always been freedom of choice.
“I’m not against fluoride, I’m against fluoridation,” she said.