Don’t be surprised if Hutchinson residents have one more item to vote on in the upcoming Nov. 2 general election.
Opponents of an ordinance authorizing the fluoridation of Hutchinson’s water supply collected 200 more valid signatures than necessary on a protest petition to force a vote on the issue later this fall.
Deputy Election Officer Cindy Moore said Friday that the county clerk’s office had deemed the petition legally sufficient with well over the 998 signatures required from qualified electors of the city of Hutchinson.
The Hutchinson City Council will now have 20 days to either repeal the ordinance or vote to put a question about the ordinance on the November ballot, Moore said. Officials indicated that the council would make a decision at its Aug. 24 meeting whether to have the binding vote.
A petition against fluoridation with 1,561 signatures was submitted Tuesday, and county election officials had 72 hours to certify whether the petition was sufficient.
“I thought we would make it,” said Wayne Logbeck, a petition organizer who believes fluoridation has adverse health effects. “I’m really happy with how things turned out.”
Opponents of fluoridation turned to the petition process after the city council voted to fluoridate the city’s water with help from a United Methodist Health Ministry Fund grant on July 6, following hours of discussion the week before.
The $247,000 grant from the Hutchinson-based organization, which considers fluoridation an effective preventive dental health care measure, would have covered start-up and first-year chemical costs and a reserve for changes associated with city plans to install a reverse-osmosis water plant.
Despite approving fluoridation and deciding to apply for the grant, the city council left the door open for a public vote by deciding to declare fluoridation a legislative ordinance rather than an administrative one, which can’t be protested.
Fluoridation opponents then collected more than 1,500 signatures in less than five weeks, guaranteeing that an election on the issue could take place in November, rather than in a special election at a later day. Petitioners would have had 180 days from the date of the first signature they collected to complete the petition.
Kim Moore, president of the health ministry fund, said he wasn’t surprised that opponents were able to submit a valid petition against fluoridation so quickly.
“I did expect it to happen,” Moore said. “It’s not a very large number of people that’s required.”
He said his organization will work to provide accurate information from trusted sources about fluoridation, but wouldn’t take the lead in promoting the procedure.