The more than 14,000 South Blount County Utility District customers will soon be receiving something extra in the water supply — fluoride.

According to County Mayor Jerry Cunningham, the utility’s Board of Directors reversed its long-standing opposition to fluoridation at its January meeting, voting to begin fluoridating the water treated at its plant.

The unexpected news came after the end of the Blount County Commission meeting on Thursday. When answering reporter questions, Cunningham confirmed the end of a long-running controversy

“It’s not a big change to implement, so I think it will be in the very near future,” Cunningham said.

The utility issued the following statement Thursday night:

“After the careful consideration of a request from the Blount County Mayor’s Office to reconsider fluoridating the county’s water system, SBCUD felt it was no longer in our best interest to exhaust the time and efforts of our executive staff in another public fight over such a divisive issue.

“We understand that our decision will be disappointing to many of our customers and for that we are very sorry. We regret that we are not able to meet the individual desires of each of customers on both sides of the issue.”

The addition of fluoride to the water supply, a method to reduce dental cavities in widespread use around the country, has been the subject of local controversy since the SBCUD board voted not to fluoridate the water when the district opened its new plant in July 2004.

In other business, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve selling the Highway Department facility, located at 415 Louisville Road in Alcoa, to the developer of Hamilton Crossing for $3 million.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to build a new joint Highway Department and Blount County Schools Maintenance Facility on Wright Road near the city of Alcoa’s new public works facility.

Commissioner Joe McCulley questioned whether the property was worth more, saying that commercial properties were selling for much more per acre. According to Bryan Daniels of the Economic Development Board, however, there are environmental issues with the property, including it being the site of an old landfill and containing soil contaminated by spilled fuel, that lower its value.

“Our appraisal was about $1.6 million and we’re getting $3 million,” Finance Director Dave Bennett said. “This is a tremendous deal for the county.”

Bennett also said the property, once it is fully developed, will be expected to generate about $1 million in tax revenue per year for the county.

The property will be transferred to the Economic Development Board, which will then sell the property to Knoxville-based Jay Dunlap. The sale will close in about 180 days.

The County Commission approved the concept of the sale in 2006. The city of Alcoa will lease property for the new facility to the county. The lease will be for 50 years. Jay Dunlap, no relation to Blount County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap, developed Hamilton Crossing at the intersection of Alcoa Highway and Louisville Road and is working with Merit Construction to build the new Dick’s Sporting Goods store adjacent to the PetSmart store that recently opened in Hamilton Crossing Plaza.

For the past 2 1?2 years, Jay Dunlap has developed the 101,000-square-foot “phase one” of Hamilton Crossing Plaza, which officially opened last September and houses Circuit City, Ross Dress for Less, Old Navy, Shoe Carnival, Rue21, Fusion Tanning, PetSmart and other retail stores.

The County Commission decided to defer a vote on regulations that would prohibit most construction within 60 feet of stream banks and asked the Planning Commission to discuss the proposal.

Currently, the county only mandates a 25-foot stream buffer zone during construction. The proposed regulation would mandate a 30-foot zone that would include trees and native vegetation and an additional 30-foot zone that consists of mowed grass. The resolution is a requirement of the Clean Water Act as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program.

Several commissioners expressed concern about the proposal. Commissioner David Ballard said he could be comfortable with a 60-foot buffer during construction but has misgivings about making it permanent.