A claim by a pro-fluoride group in Corning to gain support in a Nov. 4 proposition holds no water legally, the Steuben County attorney claims.
Steuben County Attorney Frederick Ahrens Jr. said the authority to fluoridate the city’s water does not shift to the county legislature if it is taken away from the City Council as a result of the referendum.
Fluoride advocates, including former Mayor Frank Coccho, claim the city’s control over fluoride will be lost unless the Nov. 4 proposition is defeated.
The claim is also included on dozens of “Vote No” lawn signs distributed by the pro-fluoride group.
Ahrens referred to a state law that says a decision to fluoridate rests with the county only if the county owns the water system.
“(Steuben County) provides water to not one area in the county,” Ahrens said. “We can not and will not affect this issue. We don’t have, and do not wish to have, an effect on the issue.”
A proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot in Corning asks whether the City Council should be stripped of its authority to fluoridate city water.
If the vote is rejected the council will likely move forward with the fluoridation early next year. The pro-fluoride group has raised $100,000 to help pay for the project but the city would have to cover other start-up costs and annual operation.
If the proposition passes, the fluoride issue is dead.
Tom Curren, a member of the pro-fluoride group, disagrees with Ahrens’ interpretation of the law.
“The reason he (Ahrens) doesn’t know anything about this is because it’s never been done before,” Curren said. “If (the city) were to pass this authority it would go to Steuben County. I’m not naïve enough to think the county would fluoridate the water immediately. Most of the Legislature and the current Mayor (Tom Reed) are both Republicans. But ultimately it may occur.”
Reed, a municipal attorney, said he agrees with Ahrens that the county has no role in fluoridating the city’s water system, regardless of the outcome of the vote.
“The county has no authority to act in this matter, so Curren’s position is clearly erroneous,” Reed said. “I’m just glad the people of the city of Corning will soon be able to vote on this.”
Curren said several attorney’s have reviewed the state Board of Health law and told him the control to enact fluoridation of water would go the the Legislature if stripped from the City Council.
“I can’t say who the lawyers are because some are involved with the government,” Curren said.
Kirk Huttleston, a Corning resident who fought to put the proposition on the ballot, said the pro-fluoride group should stop making false claims.
“I think they should retract their statements, and change their lawn sign or just put ‘yes’ on it rather than ‘no,’” Huttleston said.