Ormond Beach voters will have a chance to vote, for the first time since 1957, whether or not to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply.
The Ormond Beach City Commission moved, instead of discussing the draft of a letter to be sent to the city’s fluoride provider, to draft a referendum that could be put before voters.
The referendum will likely come before the commission during its first meeting in December, and then again for a second reading two weeks later.
The issue on the agenda for the Oct. 16 meeting was the draft of a letter the commission would send to Harcros Chemicals Inc., the city’s hydrofluorosilicic acid supplier.
Roughly two minutes into the discussion, Commissioner Bill Partington said: “I’m not sure that we need to send this. I kind of see it as a futile effort. They’re not going to respond to it. I’m almost confident of that. To me, the bottom line is are we going to keep the fluoride in the water or are we going to take it out.”
Commissioners James Stowers and Rick Boehm both agreed with Partington, and supported the issue as a referendum.
The fluoridation issue was brought to the commission’s attention, mainly, by Commissioner Troy Kent, who sent a letter, May 19, to Harcros, and later to more than 40 other fluoride manufacturers, requesting information about its compliance with state law and for specific data about the chemicals being purchased.
Kent didn’t receive a response from Harcros, and presented research to the City Commission, Sept. 18, raising concerns over the safety of fluoridated water and urging the commission to push for more information before approving the purchase price of the fluoride, which it did by a 4-1 vote, Kent being the only vote against.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in April 1999, listed fluoridation of drinking water was one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, but there have also been concerns raised by groups over its safety.
The commission, on Oct. 16, discussed an adopted version of the letter Kent sent, reasoning that if the entire commission, City Manager Joyce Shanahan and City Attorney Randy Hayes signed it also, the letter might carry more weight and elicit a response.
It became increasingly clear early in the discussion Tuesday night, however, that Kent was the only one who still wanted to send the letter.
“What’s the harm in sending this letter to Harcros?” he asked.
Kent said he wasn’t against allowing residents to vote on the referendum, only that he still wanted adjustments to the letter to be discussed, and for it to be sent.
Once the referendum’s language is approved by the commission in December, it will be sent to the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections.
When Partington said he thought the issue should be presented to voters, he added he would be willing to do so as long as there was a mechanism in place to provide topical fluoride treatments to kids who couldn’t afford to receive them.
He said he envisioned a voucher system for dentists to provide that treatment, with the funding coming from the money saved by not purchasing fluoride for the water.