While the fate of fluoridation in Hastings won’t be decided until the election in November, the Hastings Utilities Board of Public Works is trying to plan for implementation if it is approved by voters.

Board member Chuck Shoemaker said it would be best to give the community an idea of how fluoridation would occur if not prohibited in the election.

“I think people deserve an answer about how we’re going to implement this,” he said.

Hastings Utilities staff estimate the setup cost of fluoridating the water without a water treatment facility at $1,089,800, with an annual operation and maintenance cost of $91,700.

Waiting until the water treatment facility is built would cut the costs by a third. Startup costs for injecting fluoride at two centralized points, including the future water treatment center, would be $317,700 with annual operation and maintenance costs of about $32,700.

HU manager Marv Schultes said a site has been selected for the water treatment facility and HU continues to move forward on the project because it will be needed as nitrate levels continue to increase. He previously said a treatment facility would be needed within 10 years.

HU board chairman George Anderson asked if a date could be chosen since the treatment facility will be needed at some point, but Schultes said there is no way to know when water treatment will be necessary and it would incur a significant annual cost. Schultes said the rate of speed in building the facility is a political issue and can’t be decided by HU staff.

In addition to the added cost for the facility, Schultes said HU would also have to come up with a place for the waste water after treatment.

In April, the Nebraska Legislature approved LB245, which requires communities with more than 1,000 people to fluoridate their water supply. The law requires communities to fluoridate water supplies in a reasonable time unless citizens vote to opt out by June 1, 2010. The Hastings City Council put the issue on the ballot for November’s election.

Hastings City Councilman Jeff Kully said there hasn’t been a ruling about when the fluoridation must be implemented.

Anderson said knowing the deadline would help the board determine if fluoridation could be postponed until the water treatment facility is built.

Schultes said the main motivating factor behind the facility has been the nitrate levels in the water, which must be less than 10 parts per million, and other solutions are currently being used to hold off the need for a facility.

Anderson put the issue on the agenda for the next meeting for further discussion.