Water bills to cover cost of fluoride debate

Red Deer residents will pay for additional public input on Red Deer’s water fluoridation debate through their water bills.

Red Deer residents will pay for additional public input on Red Deer’s water fluoridation debate through their water bills.

City council decided this week that up to $30,000 should come out of water utilities rather than the municipality’s tax stabilization reserve.

Environmental Services manager Tom Warder said people will not see any impact to their water bills.

“It’s $30,000 over $20 million — the whole revenue piece,” Warder said on Wednesday. “So it won’t make any difference. It would be less than pennies on a bill.”

Warder said this cost could come through the tax base or through utilities, and typically “we would pay for things related to the utilities through the utilities.

“So it would make sense to me that the utility would pay for it,” he said.

Last month, council decided it would implement further public consultation and education about fluoride and apply for a reduction of 0.1 mg per litre in the amount of fluoride added to the city’s water. The decision for further input came after some public consultation was done from Nov. 1 to Jan. 25.

Council initially sought input on whether to go to a citizen vote on fluoride or decide the issue without a plebiscite.

The second round of consultation, starting April 1, will now look whether to keep fluoride in the water or take it out.

Findings will come back to council later this year.

Warder said he understood the $30,000 was originally set up through the tax base because the public consultation was being run by the city’s Communications and Strategic Planning Department.

Chris Stephan was the sole person on council on Monday to vote against changing the funding source for public consultation on fluoride.

Stephan maintains that funding should still come from the Communications and Strategic Planning Department.

“I don’t think there should be a funding requirement for the public consultation,” Stephan said.

During discussions at the Feb. 6 council meeting, council was asked to consider spending up to $30,000 to poll the public about whether fluoride should be taken out. Coun. Paul Harris suggested an amendment for up to $10,000, with Stephan seconding the amendment.

Councillors Tara Veer, Dianne Wyntjes, Harris and Stephan voted for the reduction, but the amendment was defeated on a tie vote by Councillors Cindy Jefferies, Lynne Mulder, Frank Wong, and Buck Buchanan. Mayor Morris Flewwelling was absent.

“Even though we haven’t made a decision on how we’re going to make a decision, it was then recommended from administration to do further consultation on whether to remove fluoride or not,” said Stephan.

Supporters of fluoride, including dentists, say it’s great for fighting cavities.

Besides the issue of personal choice, fluoridation opponents believe the chemical is toxic.

The city adds fluoride to its municipal water supply in a concentration of less than 0.8 mg/L as per Health Canada guidelines. However, the city will now apply to the province to reduce this amount to 0.7 mg/L.

Council was also told this week that reducing the fluoride level from 0.8 mg to 0.7 mg per litre would save money that should be used towards public consultation and education.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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