In November the public will have a chance to put its money where its mouth is.
Independence City Council resolved Monday to open up the fluoride debate at a public hearing.
Council Member Jason White suggested the city appoint a health advisory board on fluoride and begin sifting through the information on both sides of the fluoridation issue.
White said the city should host a public hearing in November to give the city an idea of where to take the fluoride issue.
The Independence public water supply currently has trace amounts of naturally occurring fluoride.
In the spring, a group of local dentists and supporters, led by Dr. Kenneth Weinand, began soliciting public support for the city to add one part-per-million in fluoride.
Since The Examiner first reported the story June 6, citizens on both sides of the issue have written or spoken publicly about fluoride and its effects. Several have spoken at City Council meetings.
White suggested the proper public hearing process be maintained, including a 10-day time frame after the hearing for written rebuttals.
Council Member Don Reimal said the council should do its best to listen to all sides of the issue before making a decision.
“I don’t want to see us accused of cutting the issue short,” Reimal said.
Council members have avoided making any public comments on the issue until they get more information.
Council Member John Perkins wondered why the council has not formally dealt with the issue even though the public has been debating fluoride for a few months now.
Mayor Ron Stewart said the council will not form an opinion on fluoride until after the hearing.
“I don’t have an opinion at this point,” Stewart said.
City Manager Larry Blick said each council member has begun receiving information from the American Dental Association and other sources about fluoride.
Citizens with an anti-fluoride stance have also brought printed materials to City Hall for study by the council and staff.
“The discussion about fluoride is pretty typical in communities where the issue is raised when there is no fluoride in the water,” Blick said.
Perkins asked why the city of Independence Health Director Larry Jones was spending time promoting the fluoride issue.
Blick said Jones was acting on the general assumption that the public health community supports fluoridation.
“He is not trying to sell the issue of fluoride,” Blick said.
Opposing claims about the safety of fluoride are likely to fuel the public debate, council members agreed.
Stewart said the public will be given time to speak on the issue at the hearing, which will also include presentations from health and science experts.
Council Member Renee Paluka wondered what role the council will play in the final decision.
“Do we vote to fluoridate the water or do we vote for the public to vote to fluoridate the water?” Paluka asked.
The council asked City Attorney Bill Moore to look into what role the council is allowed to take while preparations begin for the hearing.