BROOKSVILLE — The debate raged on for weeks, with opposing sides waging a fervent battle of statistics, scientific studies and personal beliefs before the Brooksville City Council.
But the proponents on the council wishing to restore fluoride to the city's water supply had more than persuasive arguments. They had the votes.
Monday night's 4-1 decision to resume fluoridation reversed a unanimous vote two years ago to end the city's 25-year-old fluoride program, a vote that came as the city attempted to balance its budget.
This time, the majority included Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn, who previously had opposed putting the tooth decay-fighting chemical into the municipal water supply as a "matter of public policy."
Prior to the vote, Mayor Lara Bradburn reiterated her position that putting fluoride back into the water supply was something favored primarily by "outsiders," and that she had not heard a single Brooksville resident come forward in favor of it.
"The citizens aren't asking for it at all," Bradburn said. "So why do it?"
Council member Joe Bernardini said he had heard just the opposite when talking with residents.
"It's not something that they think about, but quite a few people said they liked the benefit of having it," Bernardini said. "If the citizens opposed it, I think we would have heard from them."
Over the past several months, the subject of fluoridation had become a hot-button issue that attracted attention from area dental professionals, as well as nationally known author and antifluoridation activist Paul Connett, who was invited by Bradburn to take part in a presidential-style debate before the council in September.
Unable to entice an expert from the pro-fluoride side, Connett instead delivered an hourlong presentation that many in the dental community later refuted.
Monday night's meeting was attended by several people from the county's dental community, including Dr. Pedro Lense, senior dentist for the Hernando County Health Department, who said he was happy that the council chose to side with scientific facts over rhetoric.
"The people who will benefit the most from this will be children who have no other method of dental security available to them," Lense said.
City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said it will take 30 to 45 days before the fluoridation program resumes.
Utility bills will carry a notice that the chemical is being added to the water supply, she said. The fluoridation program is expected to cost less than $10,000 annually.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.