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Mayor faces challenge as Brooksville council members seek to reopen fluoride discussion

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn, a strong opponent of returning fluoride to the city's water supply, may have a new battle on her hands.

Speaking during his closing comments at Monday night's City Council meeting, council member Frankie Burnett adamantly stated that he felt there was nothing wrong with reopening the debate over fluoride, and he said the issue should be discussed sooner, rather than later.

Burnett said he favored holding a workshop in the next month or two to allow experts from both sides of the fluoridation debate to present their views before the council, "so that we can get the information we need to make a decision."

Burnett's proposal, which had the backing of fellow council members Joe Johnston and Joe Bernadini, is an about-face from his position two years ago, when he was part of a 5-0 decision to quietly drop the $6,000 annual allocation for fluoride from the city's utilities budget during a budget debate.

As she had at previous council meetings, Bradburn objected to bringing the matter up for discussion until budget season. She also said that doing so any earlier might not provide enough time to notify those who oppose fluoridation to present their side of the issue.

Earlier this month, Bradburn denied a request from Hernando County Health Department dental program manager Teresa Keenan to have the issue revisited during the April 1 council meeting. Appearing along with Palm Harbor pediatric dentist Johnny Johnson, Keenan said that not providing Brooksville residents with the tooth decay-fighting benefits that about 78 percent Floridians currently enjoy with fluoride was a public health concern.

Bradburn has long opposed adding fluoride to the public water supply, saying that numerous studies show the chemical is a health hazard. In 2008, she led an unsuccessful attempt to persuade a majority of council members to discontinue the city's nearly 25-year practice of fluoridation.

However, Bradburn may have little leverage when it comes to preventing fellow council members from bringing the subject of fluoridation up during non-budgetary meetings.

While the City Charter allows the mayor to set the order of business for each meeting, there is no wording that prevents specific items from being added to the agenda if requested by a council member. The charter also states that special meetings may be called at the request of a majority of the council.

City Manager Jenenne Norman-Vacha said Tuesday that she is researching open dates in April and May for the council to consider holding an informational workshop, should the need arise.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Mayor faces challenge as Brooksville council members seek to reopen fluoride discussion 03/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 8:17pm]
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