City councillors want to discuss behind closed doors the ballooning budget for construction of a liquid fluoridation system at the Holmedale water treatment plant.
Council’s operations and administrations committee voted this week to support a motion from Coun. Dan McCreary to defer to an in-camera meeting further discussion on a staff request for an additional $350,000 to install a permanent liquid fluoridation system at the plant.
For decades, the city has used a system of putting sodium silicofluoride powder into batch tanks, which then was released into the water treatment stream. But municipal staff observed particulate fluoride settling out in the batch tanks.
A consultant determined last March that the hardness of the water made some of the powder insoluble. A temporary liquid system was put in place last May, while a permanent solution was found.
Council earlier approved allocating $200,000 toward the installation of the permanent system that would inject the fluoride as a liquid. About $50,000 of the budget was used for consultant design, contract administration and inspection fees, leaving $150,000 to pay for the installation itself.
However, staff said in a report to the committee that it is necessary to increase the budget to $500,000 and add another $350,000.
“The estimated cost to implement a permanent liquid dosing system is higher than anticipated, due to more complex than anticipated changes required at the plan,” the report says.
“The proposed system will not only provide adequate fluoridation of the drinking water, but also address required health and safety measures to protect staff and residents.”
Staff said that they asked the consultant to investigate the use of existing out-of-service systems in other areas of the plant for the new liquid system, but were told all were incompatible.
Councillors Brian Van Tilborg and Rick Weaver balked at the budget hike.
Van Tilborg said he fears the city could be getting itself into a hole.
Weaver said he wants to see what other municipalities are doing to fluoridate their water.
“We had a system that worked for 55 years and now we’re hearing it hasn’t worked,” he said.
“I can’t support this.”
The committee voted 8-2 to recommend taking the issue behind closed doors. The recommendation will be discussed at the next council meeting.