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Davis to put fluoride to vote

Weber County may not be far behind to do same

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FARMINGTON — Davis County officials have agreed to put the question of whether water systems in Davis County should be fluoridated on November's general election ballot.

And it appears Weber County is not far behind.

Davis County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a resolution allowing a Nov. 7 vote on the controversial issue of water fluoridation.

"I am confident the people of Davis County will speak to this issue," commission chair Dannie McConkie said. "The heartbeat of the county could best be determined by a public vote."

Weber County commissioner Camille Cain said commissioners will have a public hearing and possibly take action on the fluoride voting issue at their Aug. 2 meeting, and she expects it will likely pass.

"If we can run it as a general election issue, then yes, there's no reason it can't go on the ballot this fall," she said, also noting that commissioners are waiting for a recommendation from the attorney general before taking any action.

Attorneys and commissioners in Utah, Davis and Weber counties have spent the past several months studying the language and intent of SB158, the bill passed this year that gives second-class counties the right to place fluoride on the ballot. At a meeting last week county leaders said they wanted to make sure the election process would be legal and fair before they placed the issue on the ballot.

McConkie said his uncertainties about issues surrounding the vote were essentially put to rest after meeting with legislative legal counsel and lawmakers, including the sponsor of SB158, Sen. Edgar Allen.

"They told us it was the clear intent to provide this forum for the voter," he said. "It's a pretty simple process, really."

But Utah County commissioner Gary Herbert says the process really isn't that simple, particularly in his county.

"There are essentially 23 cities with 23 water systems. It's a very different situation in Utah County . . . and we really believe that there are some questions that have not been cleared and answered," he said. "I can tell you it will be legally tested."

McConkie says he is not worried about lawsuits and that it isn't the commission's job to worry about the legal issues anyway — he has just been trying to decide whether to put the initiative on the county ballot.

In addition to being reassured by legislators and legal counsel, the Davis County Health Department reported to commissioners that the water systems in Davis County rely on one another and are not functionally separate, meaning that no area or district could be excluded from water fluoridation. According to the resolution passed Wednesday, it is for these reasons that a countywide vote is permissible.

Richard Harvey, interim director for the Davis County Health Department, applauded the commissioners' decision to place the issue on the ballot this year.

"We understand the difficulty of this issue, and we appreciate the consideration and courage you have shown," he said.

Fluoride opponents, who say the substance can be harmful and that putting it in a public water supply infringes on residents' rights, will be continuing their campaign against fluoridated water through education, says Rosemary Minervini with Citizens for Safe Drinking Water.

"We don't mind if it goes on the ballot, but the people need to have information on both sides to make a decision," she said. "If they had accurate information, that information would speak for itself, and it would not pass."

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com