CENTERVILLE — Despite two votes to the contrary, one countywide, the other for Centerville city, officials have decided to temporarily delay fluoridating the city’s water. At Tuesday’s city council meeting the purchase of about $500,000 to $700,000 worth of fluoridation equipment was put off.
The council will address the purchase question at its next meeting, in two weeks. At that meeting, Assistant City Attorney Lisa Romney will present them with whatever legal options the city has with respect to fluoridating the water or avoiding doing so.
Mayor Michael L. Deamer and most of the council members said they want to be cautious in spending tax dollars until they are absolutely certain the city will be forced to fluoridate.
“My problem is that 70 percent of the residents didn’t vote. I’m getting hammered with calls from residents begging me to block fluoridation. I doubt the elections actually reflect the will of the people,” explained Deamer.
“I ran on a platform openly opposing fluoride. I was elected. It’s a mixed message we’re getting,” he said.
Last month the Health Department responded favorably to the city’s request for a reprieve from the May 1, 2002 fluoridation deadline. However, the letter imposed some stringent guidelines on the city.
Deamer called many aspects of the letter, signed by Health Department Director Lewis R. Garrett, “offensive.”
The letter set out specific deadlines for fluoridating each of Centerville’s seven wells. It further instructs the city to utilize Weber Basin water, which is already fluoridated, to maximum capacity.
“It seems to imply that the county, better than our own city staff and officials, understands the complex water system we have here. And that is not true,” said Deamer.
The letter from the health department also tells Centerville officials they will be cited for non-compliance if the extended deadlines are not met.
“Let them cite us. All we are trying to do is be responsive to our residents,” said Deamer
Public Works Director Randy Randall came to the council meeting prepared to proceed with the purchase of fluoride equipment. He had obtained the necessary state approvals of the plans, but had no objection to the delay.
“Further,” said council member Nancy Smith, “I’ve been told by county commissioners that the fluoride question will be on the ballot again this fall. I think it is fiscally responsible to wait until we know we’re spending money that actually needs to be spent.”
What rankled Smith most, however, was what she interpreted as extremely misleading information, put out by the county, about fluoridation costs per resident. “I don’t think voters had accurate information on which to base a decision,” Smith said.
The vote in many cities, including Centerville, was so close, officials hope to receive the results of the next election before spending substantial taxpayer money. In Centerville 51 percent of those who voted wanted fluoride in their water, 49 percent did not.