Asking residents of Delhi, Courtland, and Simcoe if they want fluoride to remain in their drinking water will be an expensive and time-consuming task, a report to council warns.
Simcoe Coun. Peter Black is proposing the question be put on this fall’s municipal election ballot.
But the logistics of carrying out the vote is complex, the report going to elected officials on Tuesday night says. The plebiscite will cost $37,000-$52,000 and require county staff to go through nearly one-half of the list of electors ahead of time to compare their addresses with water bills to see who is and isn’t on the Simcoe-Delhi water systems.
Special ballots would have to be prepared for those voters and election day staff be given special training. Time and money would also have to be spent on advertising and public education.
What’s worse, the report said, is that the voters list won’t be given to the county until the middle of August, at a time when county staff will be “fully engaged” and “working extra hours” to make the election come off.
“Due to this, there is no capability to dedicate staff time or resources to consolidating the . . . voters list with water billing records,” the report says.
More staff would be added to polling stations in Simcoe, Delhi, and Courtland, but confusion could in theory arise at any polling station in the county because citizens are allowed to vote at any location.
Questions also loom over how to word the question. The report offers four different versions of ballots. One would have the Simcoe, Delhi, and Courtland voters decide together on the future of fluoride, another would allow voters in each of the Simcoe, Delhi, Courtland wards to choose just for their individual wards, while another would ask all Norfolk residents to decide together.
Some voters not living in the fluoridation wards, the report notes, may want to take part in the ballot because they still work or send their children to schools in parts of Norfolk with fluoridated drinking water.
Adding fluoride to drinking water has courted controversy for decades. Proponents say it has been successful in preventing tooth decay while others warn potential health risks outweigh any good it is doing.
The report to council notes elected officials have another option: under law, they’re not required to hold a vote on the issue and can decide themselves to end fluoridation of drinking water, if that’s what they want to do.