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Emotions sizzling in fluoride debate

Some Davis officials are getting angry letters and phone calls

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FARMINGTON — The contentious debate over fluoridated water has made some county commissioners the target of hostile letters and phone calls.

A monthly meeting for the Davis County Board of Health Tuesday morning became emotional after board members heard a tape recording of a hate message left on a county commissioner's answering machine following the commission's decision last week to place on November's ballot the issue of whether to fluoridate county water.

Commissioner Gayle Stevenson, who is also a member of the board of health, was visibly distressed after he played a lengthy message left for Commissioner Carol Page, calling her and the other commissioners "scumbags," "bozos" and "flaming idiots" and which threatened to have the three commissioners removed from office.

"I only use it as an example of the kind of volatility this thing has," he said after the meeting. "It's almost daily we get somebody calling or giving us a letter."

Board of health Chairwoman Beth Beck was tearful after hearing the recording and listening to Stevenson's remarks. She says she has also been somewhat of a target, as have other members of the community who have been fighting to get the issue on the ballot this year, including dentists, she says, whose tires have been slashed and lives threatened.

"It's not just going to be you guys who are going to get it," she said.

Rae Howard of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, a group adamantly opposing fluoridating public water supplies, says she does not know who is making angry phone calls.

"Obviously the leader of a group doesn't have complete control over every member of that group," she said. "(But) our methodology is definitely not to make angry phone calls."

Members of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water themselves have been the target of name calling, she said.

"We have had very demeaning, falsely accusatory statements made in meetings," Howard said. "We are emotional about it . . . but we don't deal with it that way."

Stevenson said he has had calls both at his home and at his commission office from people threatening to sue and telling him fluoride will poison them. But none of the calls to him have been as dramatic as the man who called Page.

"You just don't know what crazy people would do," he said. "We were all obviously nervous. But what can you do? No names, you can't trace it, you can't track it."

Stevenson expects he and the other commissioners will continue to take the brunt of the opposition's anger, but he says he "can live with that." He just wanted the board of health members, who have been strongly pushing the issue, to know that the decision to place fluoride on the ballot wasn't easy.

"I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but I wanted them to know that this is not just a simple thing. It is a major matter of concern on the part of the public, and people are going to be lined up on both sides — and we are the target."

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com