plan votes on fluoridation
(AP) -- Davis and Weber county commissioners say they probably will put fluoride on the November ballot now that the Legislature has paved the way.
Senate Bill 158, which passed the Legislature this week, gives Davis, Weber and Utah counties the ability to put fluoride on a countywide ballot, a right Salt Lake County has had since 1998. The bill is awaiting Gov. Mike Leavitt's signature.
Utah County commissioners say they do not plan to offer a fluoride ballot measure, since each city there has its own water system.
Salt Lake County commissioners have refused to put the issue on the ballot, saying they wanted to see a petition campaign to assess public support.
Dentists, doctors and public-health officials say fluoride could strengthen the teeth of thousands of children, saving money and pain. Opponents argue fluoride causes brittle bones and adding it to the public water supply would strip them of personal choice.
In Davis County, though, every city receives some or all of its water from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. So a countywide vote would be binding on all cities, said Beth Beck, chairwoman of the county's health board.
The health board estimates the cost of adding fluoride would be $1 to $2 per person per year.
Davis County Commissioner Gayle Stevenson expects fluoride will go on the November ballot.
"I assume we'll be favorable to letting the people vote on it," Stevenson said. "People ought to have that right to make a decision."
In Weber County, commissioners likewise are inclined to put fluoride on the ballot, said Commissioner Glen Burton.
But he wants to make sure the county's health board, of which he is a member and which is advocating the public vote, nails down the costs and mechanics of adding fluoride.
Utahns for Better Dental Health probably will ask the Salt Lake County Commission to reconsider the issue within a month, said Karen Crompton, a candidate for the new office of county mayor who is helping coordinate the petition drive.
Commissioner Mary Callaghan said she still wants to see the petitions.
"In the past, there hasn't been enough public interest," Callaghan said. "But show me enough petition signatures, and if the mayors are interested, sure. Let's settle this issue. It's been boiling too long."
In 1998, Callaghan joined Commissioner Brent Overson in defeating a bid to put fluoride on the ballot that year.
Corbin Anderson, president of the Utah Public Health Association, said even if the commission won't automatically put fluoride on the ballot, proponents should have no trouble gathering enough signatures. The deadline to get on November's ballot is in early July.