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Fluoride foes may get fresh ammunition

HB64 would give voters more say over water system

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Fluoride opponents may get a second chance, a third chance, and as many chances as they want to overturn the public vote two years ago that supported fluoridating water in Davis County.

Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, has proposed a change to the Safe Drinking Water Act that would allow voters in a county, municipality or water district to place ballot initiatives to remove fluoride from the water system. Currently, the law only allows local initiatives for the addition of fluoride to water.

Barrus said that the motivation behind HB64, which was forwarded to the House of Representatives Tuesday despite Barrus voting against it after it was amended, was the number of people who have told him that they voted for fluoride in the 2000 election based on "misinformation."

Of greatest concern is the actual cost of putting fluoride into the water, which he said is as much as four times the annual water rate increase of $1.93 per person that fluoride supporters touted.

"It was grossly under-estimated and is costing the residents far more than it should," Barrus said. "They would like to go back and revisit the issue with the right cost estimates."

Ironically, because of an amendment to the bill that would require five years between votes, Barrus was the only member of the House Political Subdivisions Committee who voted against moving the bill forward. He said that he did not want to limit the voice of the voters, and that the procedures of putting an initiative on the ballot would place the proper time restrictions.

Bountiful city manager Tom Hardy said that while he generally supported placing the government into the hands of the populace, without restrictions on the number of years that were required between votes the issue would create chaos for local officials.

"This would be placed on the ballot at the next chance, and if it fails, it will be back on the ballot two years later," Hardy said. "That is untenable for a city."

The biggest problem would be the perpetual uncertainty about fluoride, especially for cities where voters have approved it for the water, but opponents plan another petition. Essentially, the city would be faced with saving the money that would be required for the implementation until after the next election or abiding by the current will of the people.

Lloyd Selleneit, a lobbyist and former legislator, said that the bill accomplished the very important task of putting the important issues in the hands of voters.

"The process is that people should have the right to change their mind," he said, noting he was speaking as a citizen and not on behalf of a client. "If you accept the democratic process and the initiative process, people should have the right to vote again."

E-MAIL: jloftin@desnews.com