Fluoride Action Network

San Antonio: BexarMet needs more than PR

Source: San Antonio Express-News | December 28th, 2010 | EDITORIAL
Location: United States, Texas

The Bexar Metropolitan Water District board of directors took one sound and one troubling action last week.

Board members voted to continue fluoridating water. The vote reversed a previous decision and eliminates the potential for a costly and futile fight with the city of San Antonio.

In August, the BexarMet board voted to stop adding fluoride to the water it provides to customers. Board members who supported the move to end fluoridation cited cost savings, estimated at $110,000 annually.

That put the struggling utility in clear violation of a San Antonio ordinance that requires all water providers to fluoridate water for customers within city limits. About 60 percent of the utility’s 90,000 customers live in San Antonio.

Avoiding a legal battle with the city was the prudent thing to do for the utility. Continuing the fluoridation is the right thing to do for BexarMet’s customers.

The decision by board members to award a $45,000 contract to an Austin public relations firm is, on the other hand, highly problematic. How exactly can board members who only a few months ago were pinching pennies on fluoridation, a public health issue, now justify a hefty expenditure on public relations?

After years of scandal, state reprimands, service problems and more scandal in recent weeks, no amount of public relations work is going to suddenly make BexarMet look good.

As an old Texas saying has it, you can’t polish a cow patty.

The public relations expenditure is especially pointless since BexarMet’s days are likely numbered.

Legislation that would place the utility under a conservator and allow ratepayers to vote in a dissolution election finally has a solid chance of advancing in the upcoming session.

Rather than waste money by trying to burnish BexarMet’s bruised public image, the board should be focused on the management crisis at the utility.

Ending the scandals, improving service and working with lawmakers on the conservator process are the best ways to cast BexarMet in a positive light.