SHERIDAN — City council held a public hearing on the fluoridation of the city’s water Monday and ultimately voted not to put the issue on November’s ballot or conduct a public survey on the issue.
Council voted 4-2 not to pursue the issue further.
Mayor Roger Miller and Councilor Thayer Schafer voted against the motion to take no further action.
Councilor Patrick Henderson explained that science supports the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation and he believes the majority of city residents support keeping fluoride in the water.
“I spoke with dozens and dozens and dozens of people on this subject and by far the majority of the persons with whom I spoke, probably on a five-to-one basis, wanted fluoride in the water,” Henderson said.
“I really think we need to look at the facts and the facts are that fluoridation has been proven up by 70 years of research. And everyone is entitled to their opinions, but what I don’t think what they’re entitled to is their own pseudo-scientific opinions. I think the facts are the facts in this case.”
Henderson also said fluoridation provides the greatest benefit to economically disadvantaged populations who cannot afford consistent dental care and removing it would hurt vulnerable members on the community.
He added that if citizens still want to put fluoridation on the ballot they can circulate a petition and collect the requisite number of signatures to put the question on the ballot as a citizen’s initiative.
Councilor Alex Lee pointed out that in December 2014 a petition to place the removal of water fluoridation on the ballot was submitted to city council and was invalidated by several false signatures.
Councilor Erin Hanke agreed with Henderson that in speaking with community members she has found an overwhelming majority of them support continued fluoridation. She also reiterated that science strongly supports the safety of water fluoridation.
“I have spoken to so many health providers, both medical and dental, and if even one was even lukewarm on it…I could maybe see continuing to bring this up again,” Hanke said. “But not one has.”
Schafer said he believes the science on fluoride is still ambiguous and noted that the American Academy of Science has published articles that cast doubt on the efficacy of water fluoridation. He said, considering this, he would like to see the issue put on the ballot.
Miller said he would also like to see the matter put to a public vote so the community could settle the matter.
Citizens who spoke during the public hearing were responding to a proposal to conduct a survey of city residents by mail that would ask them whether they supported the continued fluoridation of city water. The motion not to pursue the issue was not made until after the public hearing. However, during the hearing, citizens, including several dental professionals, largely expressed support for the continued fluoridation of the city’s water.
Sherry Hotchkiss, who said she has a master’s degree in oral biology and practiced dentistry for 40 years, stressed to council that a large body of evidence supports the practice of water fluoridation and pointed specifically to the American Dental Association’s support of the practice. She urged the council not to put the matter to a vote, claiming that the citizens opposing fluoridation are a vocal minority.
“I just think, will it end with the ballot?” Hotchkiss said. “Or will it continue and prevent us from moving on to other things.
Janet Berry, who said she practiced as a dental hygienist for 40 years, and David Bailey, who said he is a pediatric dentist in the city, also expressed support for the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation.
Community member John Fafoutakis strongly condemned the practice, claiming fluoride was a drug that can have harmful side effects when ingested.
• City clerk Cecilia Goode presented council with examples of municipal handbooks in response to Miller’s request that city council work to create a handbook that would lay out the duties, authorities, roles and responsibilities of both the mayor and the city administrator. Lee said he was only willing to discuss the matter if the mayor agreed that the city administrator would remain the director of day-to-day operations in the city.
“I have no interest in having a discussion where the mayor supersedes the city administrator in the day-to-day operations of the city,” Lee said. “…You don’t want duties, roles and responsibilities, you want the elimination of the city admin.”
Miller said that he disagreed with the city administrator form of government and would like to see the city return to a strong mayor form of government.
“Our charter ordinance has taken away much of the authority of the mayor and has assigned it to our city administrator,” Miller said.
He added that while he would like to see the mayor return to conducting the day-to-day operations of the city, Miller believes there are still areas where the distribution of authority between the mayor and city administrator is unclear and he would like to see council clarify those authorities in the current city government.
• With the departure of council President Kelly Gooch, council voted to name Vice President Richard Bridger council president and Hanke council vice president.
• Council also unanimously decided it would not fill Gooch’s vacant seat because it did not want to influence the upcoming election for the seat. City attorney Brendan Kerns explained that the procedure for appointing a new council member would likely take three to four weeks. Miller pointed out that would mean council would appoint the new councilor right around the time of the primary elections.
• Council voted to appoint Todd Windsor to the Sheridan Travel and Tourism board and and re-appoint Mark Demple and Dave Hubert to the board.
Miller proposed appointing Bruce Moriarty to the board, saying he that while he believed both candidates were worthy, Moriarty’s qualifications made him a better fit. Lee pointed out, however, that members of the STT board recommended appointing Windsor and council voted to go with the STT board’s recommendation.