Meadville Area Water Authority board member Mark Gildea offered a defense on Wednesday of the board’s absence from a recent presentation held by a local anti-fluoridation group.

“That was somewhat of an informal thing that they were doing on their own,” Gildea said immediately following the board’s meeting on Wednesday. “We’re waiting to hear the official positions from both sides at our meeting that we’re holding as the water authority.”

The April 8 presentation was sponsored by Clean Water Meadville, a group that that has consistently opposed fluoridation since the topic was raised with MAWA in 2013. Retired chemist Ron Greinke’s 90-minute presentation drew about 30 audience members, including elected officials from the West Mead Township Board of Supervisors, Meadville City Council and Crawford County Board of Commissioners.

As both Clean Water Meadville leader Chris Knapp and invited speaker Greinke pointed out, however, none of the MAWA board members attended.

“I guess my feeling on it is this is an issue that there’s some difficulty in forming an opinion in one exposure,” Knapp said Wednesday regarding the absence of MAWA board members, who are appointed by Meadville City Council. “My concern — particularly with those who say they are undecided on the issue — is that they were going to base that (decision) on a just one exposure.”

Knapp pointed to the recent example of Greinke’s lengthy talk on just one side of the issue, saying it was “a lot to digest.”

“If you’re undecided can you really form an informed opinion in 30 minutes on such a complex issue?” he asked.

Despite Knapp’s doubts, MAWA board chair Tim Groves believes board members will have all of their questions answered by the opposing presentations on May 4.

“Hopefully we won’t have a whole lot (of questions) if they’ll do a good job covering the presentation,” Groves said after the meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. May 4 at the Lew Davies Community Center, 1034 Park Ave., Meadville. At the meeting, representatives of Clean Water Meadville and Meadville Smiles, the pro-fluoridation group that originally brought the issue to MAWA’s attention, will each offer 30 minute presentations on the issue. Ten to 15 minutes of rebuttal from each group will follow the presentations. Audience members will have the chance to voice their opinions or ask questions on the issue following the group presentations.

If board members have questions, they plan to submit them in writing to both groups following the meeting, Groves said.

The ultimate decision on fluoride may come at MAWA’s June meeting. It is unlikely to come at the May 17 meeting just two weeks after the community discussion, Groves said, as board members will probably need more time to consider the issue.

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