PLANT CITY – City commissioners voted Jan. 25 to pursue a state grant to help pay for equipment to fluoridate the municipal water supply.
Outgoing City Manager David Sollenberger had recommended that the city pass on fluoridation due to the ongoing budget crunch. But the possibility of state grant money that would cover some of the expense kept the option alive.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to pursue the grant and to have the city staff looks for ways to find the money needed to implement the project if the grant is secured.
Plant City is one of the few governments in the area that doesn’t put fluoride into its water to fight tooth decay.
In spite of the advantages cited by health care studies, Sollenberger balked at the expense, including an initial outlay for equipment that could be as high as $386,000. He said the city may be able to trim those costs.
Supporters of fluoridation convinced the commissioners to apply for a state grant that would help fund the initial cost of constructing a fluoridation injection system at the city’s water stations. Terry Buckinheimer, line officer of the Florida Dental Association, urged the city to purse a grant to partially finance the program.
Others who joined Buckinheimer at the meeting included Kim Herremans, a dental health consultant with the Florida Department of Health, Karen Pesce, executive director of More Health, a teaching organization in Hillsborough County, and Ervin “Charlie” Cerveny, a member of the Suncoast Community Health Center.
Buckinheimer said the state allotment of grant funds earmarked for such projects totals only $150,000. But he felt Plant City would rank high on the list for funding since it doesn’t have a fluoridation plan in operation.
“Plant City could gain a priority if a grant application is submitted soon,” Buckinheimer said. “The potential funding streams exist. We could provide assistance in the application.”
Nearby governments that fluoridate their water supplies include unincorporated Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace, Lakeland, Bartow, Winter Haven, Haines City, Lake Alfred and Auburndale.
“Without the grant I would not recommend the expense, in spite of the proven advances in public health,” Sollenberger said.
Commissioner Michael Sparkman said he considers it important to add fluoride to the drinking water.
“I would ask the city staff to find a way to go forward with this fluoridation effort,” Sparkman said. “Even if we can only find half of the funding necessary this year and half next year we could then implement the project during the 2010-2011 fiscal cycles.”
Sollenberger estimated the capital cost to be at $386,000 including a 30 percent contingency for unexpected expenses. The cost could be reduced by using city staff members for some of the work and through other measures to cut costs.
The annual operating cost is estimated at $36,500 to $46,500, including allocating $9,000 for equipment replacement.