BROOKSVILLE — Armed with professionally pleasant smiles and new reading material, a group of local dental professionals has asked the Brooksville City Council to reconsider a recent decision to stop adding fluoride to the city's water supply.
During the council's budget workshop Wednesday night, Brooksville dentist Linda Barry said the benefits of fluoridation will outlast any short-term budget savings for the city.
"The money we're putting into it will benefit everyone in the long run," said Barry, referring to a recent study. "For every dollar spent on fluoride, that's $38 saved on dental costs."
Barry and a handful of supporters came to protest the council's consensus during an Aug. 12 budget workshop to cease spending $7,000 annually to put fluoride in the water, something that Brooksville started about 20 years ago.
Council member Lara Bradburn had pushed the council to discontinue the practice of fluoridation because some new studies show most residents get enough of the chemical from their toothpaste. Other council members cited research showing the potential health risks of adding excess fluoride to water.
On Wednesday, Bradburn came armed with a 10-minute video from a U.S. Senate hearing in 2000 on the possible hazards of fluoridation.
"And we don't even know all of the health risks yet," Bradburn said, clutching a tube of toothpaste.
But the council members seemed willing to revisit the issue, asking for more information about the potential risks and taking some of the information handed out at the meeting by Berry and Elizabeth Callaghan, administrator of the Hernando County Health Department.
"I'd like some more time to read some of the materials," Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett told Bradburn. "I hope you don't mind allowing us some more time."
Bradburn was initially resistant, but agreed, saying that she would also provide council members with "reams of information" about fluoridation.
Callaghan told the council that ending fluoridation of the city's water supply would be, in effect, taking a step backward. She noted that about two-thirds of the U.S. population — or 170-million people — receive fluoridated water from their public water systems.
"How can we afford not to do whatever is possible to help our children?" Callaghan asked. "Let's not go backward. Let's go forward."
The council will decide on the issue at its final budget workshop, on Sept. 17.
Also at Wednesday night's budget workshop, City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha formally presented a list of proposed changes to the city's 2008-09 budget, which totals about $9-million for the general fund.
Some of the suggestions included having members of the city's administrative department work directly under the city manager, adding a management analyst position and reviewing the process for the waiver of fees at public facilities.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.