(The Center Square) – The Spokane City Council is set to spend nearly $600,000 on a technical study to determine what it will take to fluoridate the water system, but officials want the public to know they have not yet given the project a green light.
“I just want to make sure that everyone realizes this isn’t implementation,” said Councilor Lori Kinnear at Monday’s meeting. “This is us going forward with a study to find out what the process is and what the cost is.”
The official decision to spend $599,300 to hire Murraysmith, a public infrastructure engineering firm, for a feasibility and design analysis of about 18 months is set for Monday. The Feb. 14 meeting begins at 6 p.m. and Council President Breean Beggs said he expects a significant amount of public testimony on the controversial issue.
“It’ll probably be a late night,” he warned the council and city staff.
Kinnear said she hoped an advisory ballot would be sent to voters once the fluoridation study was complete and all the costs and details about installation were known.
Mayor Nadine Woodward has strongly stated her belief that the community be allowed to make the choice about implementing fluoridation in light of the fact Spokane voters have rejected proposals three times in the past.
The latest push for fluoridation began in the fall of 2020 when the city council voted to accept a $3 million from the Arcora Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Delta Dental, and $1 million from the nonprofit Better Health Together, to pay for installation.
Woodward insisted that the council modify its agreement with Arcora so grant funds used for the feasibility study would not have to be repaid if the council decided against fluoridation.
Last year, the council gained an amendment to the agreement with Arcora that allowed the city to spend up to $600,000 for the study without being obligated to proceed with fluoridation.
Spokane is the largest city in Washington to not add fluoride to its water, a process that supporters and opponents agree is made complex by the fact that the city has seven separate wells, and another one coming, instead of one single water source. That will require each well to be outfitted with the equipment to add fluoride.