LAYTON — Frustrated over rising costs to fluoridate the city’s drinking water, Layton City leaders will swim against the tide of what has become a controversial public health mandate.
Council members at a Thursday work meeting balked at fluoridating the city’s five wells, citing implementation costs they say are four times higher than Davis County health officials’ estimates. The council also said the cost per resident per year is nearly double what health officials presented in a November 2000 voter information pamphlet.
“This is not the same thing we voted on. This is different,” said Mayor Jerry Stevenson, who will challenge the public health mandate by enlisting the support of the Davis Council of Governments this Wednesday and state lawmakers in this legislative session.
The state Legislature could amend Utah law, opening the door for a countywide revote to take place on the fluoridation referendum.
“I don”t think we should move on this until we get some questions answered,” Stevenson said.
In November 2000, voters countywide approved by a narrow margin adding one part per million of fluoride to the drinking water systems to prevent tooth decay in children.
But court challenges of the measure by cities and residents and water engineering delays by Weber Basin Water Conservancy District have resulted in most Davis cities still being without fluoridated drinking water.
Health officials are hopeful cities will have fluoridation in place by spring.
But before Layton City invests $800,000 in up-front costs to add fluoride — and assess each resident $3.63 a year to pay for it once it is in place — Stevenson said he wants some questions answered.In response to Stevenson”s concerns, the City Council pulled off the table a $135,000 bid award it was to make to the engineering firm of Hansen, Allen & Luce Inc. for design work to fluoridate the wells.
County Health Director Lewis R. Garrett said the fluoridation referendum vote was 26 months ago, and all of the cities, including Layton, were aware they were to have fluoridation in place.
“This is a law that was passed by the citizens of the county, including Layton City,” he said. “I have confidence in the elected leaders of Davis County that they will follow the law.”
Garrett said he also believes the cost estimates by Layton City officials are high, and when they price the work out, they will discover that.
Garrett said he would be willing to sit down with city leaders and discuss their concerns.
Garrett said the mayor may have become upset with the fluoridation referendum because he was surprised by the high cost figures the city engineers revealed, which are not consistent with fluoridation implementation costs across the country. “Nationally, it costs about $2 per person,” he said.
Stevenson said he also has concerns with opening the city”s water wells to daily outside fluoride deliveries.
He said he believes this runs contrary to the Homeland Security Act recently enacted by Congress.
“This thing has more tentacles than an octopus,” Layton City Manager Alex Jensen said.
Jensen said implementing fluoridation has been a frustrating process and he believes the measure was not well thought out.
Stevenson, who has been quiet on the fluoridation front to date, said he does not want to be defiant with health officials. But he believes that had all the facts been put on the table during the 2000 election, the vote may have been different.
“The longer this goes, the less sense it makes,” he said.
Councilman Renny Knowlton said it is laudable that health officials are trying to get fluoride to each child. But at this point, Knowlton, who is a firm believer in fluoride, is questioning if other alternative measures should be considered, including the possibility of supplying each family fluoride tablets.
Stevenson said he realizes the county fluoridation issue is an emotional one. “But nothing will quell the emotion like some facts,” he said.
You can reach reporter Bryon Saxton at 629-5227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.